Monday, March 18, 2019

Push Hands or NOT to Push Hands, that is the question!

Push Hands
Push hands is really an application of Tai Chi form practice. Usually, a student is not taught push hands until the student has practiced tai chi form for a while and has a feel about the form movements, in particular: a. The sitting back movement appears very frequently in the tai chi form and is not easy to master. It is the defensive position in the push hands. b. The forward movement when you move your body weight to the front foot, such as in the walking forward brush knee is the offensive position in the push hand. c. Turn of the upper body with pelvis essentially not moving as shown in the section of Internal Discipline in the Tai Chi Overview is the ward off move in the defensive position and push off move in the offensive position. d. There are several other more subtle moves. All these moves you will learn in the form practice. What is unique about the push hands is that it provides the opportunity for extended contact time with your opponent, so-called stick to your opponent, when you can learn how to control your emotions, your body, and how to detect your opponent's intention and respond accordingly. Other kinds of sparring exercises all have such short contact time with the opponent. There is no time to learn such subtle aspects about yourself and your opponent in sparring as opposed to push hands. 

Liked on YouTube: Qi and Internal Energy In Classical Tai Chi

Qi and Internal Energy In Classical Tai Chi
The interaction between Qi, Internal Energy, Martial Art Intent (Yi), and movements which could block Qi flow, inherent in Small Frame (Small Circle Tai Chi) are discussed. More detail learning: More Information:
via YouTube

Liked on YouTube: Learning Push Hand Fundamentals

Learning Push Hand Fundamentals
Learning Push Hand Fundamentals from Tai Chi Form practice. Some notable examples are shown here. Learning Tai Chi Form see For more information see
via YouTube

Monday, March 11, 2019

Some footwork fundamentals

Tai Chi Walk

A question from S.T. "The beginning forms of Classical Tai Chi are very difficult to learn. There are just too many things going on at the same time, without even including any internal discipline yet. The few movements that I think I can do feel very awkward, not the smooth movements shown in your video. Help!" 

MASTER HWAíS REPLY: "One way to simplify the learning process is to first concentrate on the footwork and the corresponding shifting of body weight, pay less attention to the upper body movement. In that way, the amount of complexity is reduced greatly. Once you are more comfortable with your footwork and its corresponding shift of body weight, you can pay more attention to the upper body movement. A common mistake of the beginner is that they are attracted by the graceful upper body movements and therefore eager to learn the upper body movements. The footwork appears to be unremarkable and attracts less attention. The fact is that footwork and its corresponding shifting of body weight is the foundation of tai chi and any glitch in that area will result in a loss of balance, awkwardness, the heaviness of the foot and worse, a foot glued to the ground cannot be moved. It is very important to practice the Tai Chi Walk. This will give you a good foundation in footwork. "

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

No winning applications, only winning execution of applications

Jim K. said:  I fluctuate from wanting to be a Tai Chi fighter to just being happy mastering the 108 forms.  This dilemma comes from my age. When I hear you learning push hands, and sticking to your opponent takes a long time, it seems that in my late 60's, I may not have enough time to accomplish my first love - martial application. So the question is: Should I take on a lesser goal of mastering the form or should I when the time comes to push on to do push hands, sticking and sparring?
Master Stephen Hwa's reply Hi Jim: Practice of Tai Chi form is to develop power, especially explosive power such as fa jin. Practicing the form cultivates the internal power and the ability to maintain a relaxed body with the flow of internal power. This enables one to develop explosive power and the ability to deliver it. All these are best accomplished by practicing Form only, not depending on practicing push hands or sparring. Push hands and sparring are important to develop the "Timing" - when to use the power, the "Strategy" - how to take a position of advantage and put the opponent in an inferior position and the "Sensing" - knowing what the opponent is trying to do. When one reaches the stage that internal discipline becomes second nature, then one could concentrate more on push hands and sparring. Otherwise one might develop bad habits of using external move during sparring. The problem is that people try to study and learn the 13 Movements: "peng, lu, etc." without first developing the internal energy for fa jin.  It is like putting the cart before the horse. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Turned on sole in Karate, turn on heel in Tai Chi

Tom L. writes:
"I am enjoying learning your lessons very much. As you said the internal movement especially gives a good feeling, even though I can only do just a few of them. I do have problems turning on the heels. It seems that I can not cleanly turn on the heel and some time I find that I am really turning on my front sole or the entire foot is in contact with the ground during turning.
I took several years of Karate before and familiar with several other martial arts, very seldom the turning is done on the heels. In fact, most of the stance is on the ball of the foot. I know you said that the power comes from the heel. Could you elaborate?"
"Difficulties in turning from the heel are often due to the following factors:
1. Too large a stance or not sufficient knee bend. In this situation, when one shifts the weight to the front foot, the back footís heel will not be able to touch the ground.
2. Not able to lift the front of the foot off the ground. Lifting the front of the foot is not an everyday movement. Some people have difficulty in executing the lift in a timely fashion, especially when the leg is at an acute angle with the ground as in the case of the back foot when all the weight is at the front foot. Without the lift, one cannot turn on the heel cleanly. That is why the Tai Chi Walk lesson practices the lift movement.
3. Not using the power from the waist region to make the turn, instead of using power from the upper b

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Is every Classical Tai Chi movement internal?

Internal Discipline in Tai Chi walk (see the link) "Very good discussion here and even bobbing the knee up and down while "walking" is a clear case of what is called localized nerve activity that one needs to minimize and eventually stop. Other foot movements really involve the power from the torso which moves the entire leg. Even the lift of the toe when sitting back should be an integral part of the sitting back and engaging the torso, not an isolated move of lifting the toe. The Tai Chi Form is developed such that every arm movement, every leg movement is initiated from internal movement so that the circulation of internal energy and qi will maintain continuity during Form playing. My students in the class often mention that they thought I just externally moved the arm or the foot in certain Form movements, but later realize that it is actually internally driven. They would ask, "Is that internal, is this internal?" My answer is always yes. "  Stephen Hwa, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

ALL senses are needed with an opponent

 This is indicative of modern-day Tai Chi where mistakes are made, no one is there to correct, it ends up being good exercise but it is definitely not Tai Chi. Classical Tai Chi has to be good for both health AND martial purposes. The martial teaches one to "stick" by first touching then following the opponent's movements. Why practitioners are not being corrected when the arm goes way behind the back and the hand is touching one's own body (which muddles your senses and one can infer they are training to follow only themselves, not an opponent) is indicative of modern Tai Chi.  A good example of sticking shown in the video of Master Hwa is that in certain instances Tai Chi trains one to vigorously follow the opponent. For example in a Forum, Master Stephen Hwa said:  (as shown in the video) " Tai Chi uses the ball of the foot to push off such as the skipping steps after Needle at Bottom of the Sea. This enables one to pursue the opponent quickly. The purpose is to maintain "sticking"  to the opponent; not letting him get away from one's touch. It is not used to build a momentum of the body; that is against the principle of Tai Chi. Also, before the nineteenth century, the Chinese did not have the habit of inventing new words whenever new things came along. So, they not only borrowed old words for new uses but also avoided the use of misleading words. For example, a student mentioned  “ting jin”. That literally means listening (ting) to the opponent’s power or force (jin). In other words, you will sense what the opponent is trying to do so one could respond accordingly. All senses are needed to get the information: touch and feel, look, and anticipation based on experience with that person. Early masters avoided the use of the word "feel". Because, if one uses the word “feel”, then students will concentrate on touch and feel, and lose out on developing other senses. So they picked a neutral, completely abstract word “listening” (ting) as a name"

Friday, February 1, 2019

"Tell me how to open meridian?" and "Why did Wu change Yangs Style"?

Develop Internal Energy and open your meridian.

Mr. Hwa, could you tell me how to open my meridian?  "Learn the internal discipline of Classical Tai Chi. When you practice Tai Chi this way, you will develop internal energy circulating in your body which will open your meridian.  I encourage students to look at my YouTube channel found in the hyperlink above"

A student some time ago asked me via email: "How does the second generation of Wu's family change the posture from the original upright posture of Yang's Tai Chi to a straight lean?"  Perhaps one answer is to ask why ask this question before you practice instead of practicing and finding the answer for yourself? 
I have expanded on my original response to this individual for a more detailed answer.
The modern-day Tai Chi Classics do refer to "not leaning" when doing the Tai Chi, but who knows what those words were before the work was "interpreted" by various authors. I did Yang Tai Chi before Wu, I never cared for the way it made my back feel. Also, "Leaning" to me is leaning as in "he was leaning on me". I think of the postures as "tilted" but one does not say he was "tilting on me". The Classics also refer to postures as being "straight" and the misconception is that a "tilted" posture is not straight. Note you do not even see the word perpendicular in the Classics. However, "straight" could also be a flagpole planted in the ground at a 45-degree angle could it not?
Regarding any questions about why "the second generation "changed" from upright to lean: I can only repeat what I am told to my limited understanding and ask you a couple questions: Don't you think Yang Family would have plenty of opportunities and objected strenuously since Wu's later did many push hands with them? How could it be changed when it was already in a state where it was far ahead in its progress? My teacher tells me Wu Chien Chuan told Young Wabu "it cannot be changed". I see he did not say it was changed or it was not changed... he said: "it cannot be changed". Over time, I eventually began to understand this when I realized not only the learning is multi-generational but the eventual consequences...the "benefits" as well..."time" invested is the ultimate and deciding factor to all understanding. In other words, since "time" is the catalyst, asking such questions early on in one's study leads inevitably to a bitter taste as one will not like any answer that is given, asking when one is experienced will always leave a good taste in one's mouth.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What a versatile move is Cloud Hands

Cloud Hands

It has been said in so many words that Jazz is the epitome of variations on a theme. I believe that good Tai Chi can encompass such spontaneous embellishment or variation of a preexisting theme as well. Note in the video link above what a beautiful combination of movements goes into Cloud Hands. Also an epitome of good ways to practice by practicing one move over and over. That first walking step is a thoughtful addition which mobilizes the internal because of that initial stretch where you see "ah ha" expressions on smiling faces. That first motion made by Master Hwa is a quarter body movement that connects the arm to the core.  His motion of pulling something with both hands is what he actually does gently to arms of students so they can feel a connection from arm to the core.  The great thing about this is that the more you initially stretch forward, the more you feel the stretch pulling backward.