Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Don't put.拳 quán before the Taolu

Don't put.拳 quán before the Taolu a video

As someone who has experience with freestyle Tuishou,, sparring, getting hit with short-duration fajin, being knocked down with long-duration fajin sometimes. I caution the following as wishful thinking until one has become aware of their humility in wanting the .拳 quán before the Taolu...aka, c'mon you want to put the cart in front of the horse? Oh, you see, now you understand you merely wish to "illustrate" the necessity of having the cart behind the horse's behind... to the horse. That should probably work, given that the horse will hopefully, let's hope quickly, realize they can't move forward the other way.
Master Stephen Hwa talking about 推手 Tuīshǒu: "In old times teachers considered it to be extremely advanced. If you are talking about a Tai Chi family style's experience to do this. Regarding the 纏絲 chánsī exercises. I find that beginners take to it easier with the right explanation and the right methodology. For some of you that do the exercise, you should understand that it is a very important supplement to the form.
Now regarding 推手 Tuīshǒu Nowadays, almost 99% of Tuīshǒu taught has nothing to do with the Tai Chi form. The Tuīshǒu is completely divorced from the form. One sees a lot of people doing Tuīshǒu who have big muscles or they learn wrestling beforehand. They do not follow Tai Chi’s way of doing things.
Now, in the early days, the Tuīshǒu and the form were intimately related. In fact, the early masters did not let students do tuishou until they had quite a bit of experience with the form. Now in those same early days, the masters were very skimpy on their words, they did not really explain. So only the ones learning the form already can do the form.
Now, however, I’m thinking with a good explanation, one can bring in tuishou early with the caveat we can use that to illustrate why we do the form. I have explained this before. Now, this is very important, we can use the tuishou to teach people to be more careful in their study of the form. The tuishou can be used to emphasize what seems to be the not very important aspects of the form but in this regard, the tuishou can be very important. You see, I know that there are many who have the problem doing tuishou because you use it by itself."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Now, for the bad news!

 The bad news is you cannot do just any movement and do Tai Chi Forms, Push Hands, Applications, Weapons, etc. The synecdoche of "Just do it" has sprouted everywhere and one is faced with an infinite variety of Tai Chi Forms. Youtube is the epicenter of the belief that "...any movement is a Tai Chi movement as long as one has the right mental state..." I call this a major foible and although most assuredly ubiquitous, it is nevertheless Woo Woo Tai Chi predicated on belief. If you wonder why there are so many flavors of Tai Chi in 2021, take heart it was not always that way and there is still logical reasoning available. The Woo Woo, unfortunately, is also the bane of modern Tai Chi practitioners to be hoodwinked by belief. Master Hwa published "Uncovering the Treasure" in 2010. 2021 gives us Youtube's panorama of nonsensical belief and wishful thinking as the prime ingredient. I would season the ingredient with the proverbial grain of salt called logical reasoning before giving in to wishful thinking, wasted time and effort.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

First lesson: It's hard work to "get it" that less is more

 Doing push hands with Master Hwa and he is teaching at


UPDATED on this morning of Inauguration Day, 2021: First lesson: It's hard work to "get it" that "less is more", so do not expect anything from Classical Tai Chi. You will "get" only what you uncover when you engage in "Uncovering the Treasure".

This is meant as a friendly but personal (for me and you) synopsis: What’s the hardest thing about Tai Chi, you ask? Since you are asking me, the hardest part for me has been in gaining a visceral understanding that less is more. That getting small gains in proficiency and understanding is actually "more"...and the best way to learn.  It is not a simple thing but in the process which stretches back some 40 plus years I have gradually included Tai Chi into my life.

This has not stopped me however from also gradually learning to understand the struggles of the majority of students I have encountered. Although I studied in Canada with the Wu Family all of my students have been in America. . For the most part, they seem to rebel against following any instruction that is not accompanied by some sort of personally agreeable reasoning as to why they should do it. Fortunately, there have been a  number of students who did not react in this manner. Some have gone on to be teachers of the art as well.  For the most part, some few get on the path without complaining incessantly about “why?”. I think of Master Hwa's statement when he said "those that wish to be proficient practitioners". I am quite convinced that those with that "wish" put their egos on the back burner because it acts as a stumbling block to being a "...proficient practitioner..."  I have to wonder about the folks that balk and fight the instruction however.  Has their intuition ever told them anything (like it has told me)? Has intuition said something inspiring...perhaps:   "Don’t expect anything, you can only be pleasantly surprised at what you perceive as the worst… and experience as best".

I used to think I needed to have a modicum of structure in order to start my day. I am retired now and that has not been the case for some time. I do still manage to understand however how people need this structure. Tai Chi can provide the structure but even when I was working the “9 to 5” it was not in a manner that gets us flying out of bed in the morning. In doing so, I discovered it is possible to gradually see a palpable tempo to Tai Chi. Will you get a gold star or a series of belts for your efforts? No, and there are no yardsticks to measure how well you are doing.

Look at it this way. Why do you think, Stephen Hwa called his fine book “Uncovering the Treasure” instead of “There is a treasure in Tai Chi” or “Tai Chi is laden with treasure”? It is because Tai Chi shows you the treasure as you “uncover” it, not because you “expect” it. In the demands to get through college, we all had to engage in competitive testing to prove our competence and that testing was measured and evaluated by the powers that be. On the other hand, one only has to take a drive in the country to find places where there are no road signs for where we are, no one to tell us our driving is in the wrong direction. I am reminded of the motorist who stops by a farmhouse and asks the person on the porch: “do you know where bug tussle hollow is?” To which the farmer replies “Yep” with no accompanying explanation.  The conspicuous absence of “road signs” such as “now entering bug tussle” puts us in a position where we have to drive slowly. Driving slowly, not expecting any signs of progress in Tai Chi allows us to gain awareness of things in mind and body that we would never have paid attention to.

While there will always be those who wait endlessly for inspiration, energy, etc. There are those few of us who stick with the Tai Chi and begin to see the value of the little changes that are made rather than the earth-shaking ones. There are those of us who come to gradually appreciate, even acknowledge the “discovered treasure” in the little things. 

Feeling healthy, small gains in internal strength, acknowledging there is an “other” strength than external. Seeing the gradual fruition of an awareness of our bodies. While I will always agree with Master Hwa on how reasoning abilities are not ubiquitous, I’m quite sure he also urges us to put doing something because we agree with it  on the back burner when it comes to enjoying the art and appreciating it simply because it is a good thing.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Linking arm and core as a unit


Link arm and core as unit

Students at Buffalo State College learning


We have spent considerable time on the topic of learning internal discipline and how to apply it in the tai chi movements. I realize many of you are still have difficulties in this area. I have been examining my own movements and trying to come up with a better way of teaching this. I think I have found an approach that can accelerate the learning curve. I have tested it out on my students in the class, and it seems to work. I want to share this with you.

(Some of you may already practice what I am going to talk about. After all, you will develop this naturally by just practicing what I have shown in the video. My desire to shorten the learning curve might have been viewed with a disapproving eye by the old masters of the past. They believe in diligent practice and self-discovery: not handheld by their teacher. I hope I am not doing Mencius’ story about a farmer who was impatient watching his seedlings grow so slowly that he went to the field and pulled the seedlings up to help their growth.)

At the beginning of the learning process, you are instructed to relax or forget about the shoulder and the arm, just concentrate on the abdomen and the back for the internal movements. This is to eliminate the common habit of moving from the arm or shoulder. The shoulder and arm just follow the movements from the internal core. (My student Ernie said that trying to relax the shoulder did not work for him, because of the act of “trying to relax” placed too much attention on the shoulder which kept the shoulder in play.) For most people, the difficulty here is to find the neural pathways in the core which can make the internal move you intended.

After you practice the form in this way for a while you will develop some knack for moving from the core. Now comes the second stage of learning that is to integrate your arm with the internal movements and to expanding the circulating internal energy and qi from the torso to the arm, the palm and the fingertips. In Forum 6, I talked about the incorporation of “yi”, or martial art intent, in the movement. With practice, one will achieve the state where the arm and the internal core move as “One” and, that the internal energy and qi flow with the “yi” of the movements to the palm and the fingertips.

By examining my own movements I found that, in this state, my arm constantly exerts a slight stretch or pull on the shoulder. This stretch firmly engages the arm to the shoulder. Since the elbow is always lower than the shoulder, there is a downward stretching force on the shoulder causing the shoulder to sink which in turn connects it to the core enabling the arm and the core to move as “One”. The stretching force involved here is quite subtle and small, just sufficient to achieve the engagement. Those of you who have already achieved such engagement in your practice probably do not even know it. You can sense the difference if you purposely left out the stretch.

Example 1: Hand at the face position such as “walking forward brush knee” (see Figure 1.)

In Lesson 3 and 4 of Vol. II, I describe the desirable position of the elbow and arm in relation to the body. When you achieve that position, you are exerting a downward as well as an outward stretch of the shoulder. Similar situation in the “parting of wild horse mane”, outstretching of the downward-pointing elbow will sink the shoulder and connect to the core. Now, the arm, the shoulder and the core are all firmly connected into “One”.

Example 2: The punch movements with arm at the side of the body, see Figure 2, and the arm at forwarding position, see Figure 3.

If you maintain a constant downward stretch of your shoulder through the elbow, in other words, when the arm is bent, just lower the elbow to engage the shoulder and the core. The arm and the core will be engaged whether the arm is moving forward or pulling back.

Example 3: When the arm is at a downward position, such as the arm in “brush knee”, (see figure 4,) or the folding move after the “single whip”, (see Figure 5,) or the downward rotation of the arm in the “cloud hand”, (see

Figure 6.)

In all these cases, you just lightly stretch the shoulder using the arm, which will naturally sink the shoulder and engage the core. The arm itself does not have to be straight in order to exert the stretching force.

The above examples show how to engage the arm, the shoulder, and the core to move as a unit, following the “yi”, or intent. Since, in the entire 108 forms, the elbow is always lower than the shoulder, the engagement can be maintained throughout the form. Therefore, the first major goal of practicing tai chi form is to achieve the level that every move is an internal move and that in every move, the arm and core are engaged.

Among arm, shoulder, and core, it is often difficult to tell which part is leading or following. It is best to always keep the shoulder passive as a follower. But the arm, the elbow, or the finger, filled with “yi”, may sometimes give the sensation of leading the movement. The synergistic effects between core movement and engagement of arm and core give unexpected results. When I try the engagement exercise on students new to my class, it seems to help them to learn how to make the core move.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A shooting, anger, then realization...it's body and mind


Tai Chi is a "mind/body" discipline, and if you want to do things like push hands then you have to learn to get emotions under control. Someone was shot on my street on New Year's day and I heard the anger in my own voice as I talked to the police.
So how about ANGER? For push hands, for life one needs to learn that thinking about anger and being angry are 2 different things. To paraphrase the neuroscientist Sam Harris “The half-life of negative emotions is incredibly short If you’re not continually thinking about all the reasons you should be anxious (or angry, etc.), the emotion dissipates very quickly. If you are still "ANGRY" after the "half-life" then what you are doing is merely thinking of reasons why you should be angry. and you need to ask yourself are you angry or only thinking about anger" Sam Harris
That's why even anger is called "Tao". If you don't understand why the Tao is to be found even in your anger, the sky, the trees, even in a turd, ...well that is why it is the Tao, it would not be the Tao if it was not so, but it does not absolve you from "emptying your boat" (for example, realizing that you are merely thinking you are angry when you are not really angry).

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you

 The way of  Chuang Tzu, translated by Thomas Merton.

" Chuang Tzu also continually reminds his readers that what is important is not his words, but what lies behind them. “Words are like the waves acted on by the wind.” Absorb their substance, then discard them.
And so it is with the Sage; his is not abstract wisdom, but the concrete reality of day-to-day life lived moment by moment. Fully human. Foolishness, pettiness, and anger are part of the character, as they are part of all of us. The essence is naturalness. Frowning when disturbed, laughing when happy, sleeping when tired. The Tao is there, and here, in all of this - in the sky, in the trees, in this blade of grass, even in this turd."

Lui, H. H.; Horwitz, Tem; Kimmelman, Susan. Tai Chi Chuan: The Technique of Power (Chinese Taoist Texts) . Cloud Hands Press. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Liked on YouTube: step back and punch

step back and punch
One cannot do the Form much less the application unless the weight transfer to the right foot consists of a proper step back that lands on the heel first. Concurrently, this proper stepping is not developed unless the student trains in the Classical Tai Chi basic walking. This is dependent on one's skill with basic walking, not the ability to punch and kick. The stepping back and punch in the video link can only be accomplished with absolutely firm footing. Get good at Classical Tai Chi basic walking forward and back before thinking about something like this as an application. In both photo and video link, one can see from this initial position of Master Hwa's foot that the intent is to land on the heel first and not on the toe or even the ball of the foot. There are many reasons to do this, for application and health purposes. For improving balance the training is a panacea. For application, the training of landing on the heel first puts the move into one portion, not two. One does not land on the ball of the foot then heel making it two moves and not one. Internal Exercise for Power and Vitality course https://ift.tt/3kDHye4... Small Circle Tai Chi Form course part I https://ift.tt/3kDHye4... For more info https://ift.tt/36WwzHk Classical Small Frame (Circle) Tai Chi Form has many dimensions. These Youtube videos try to show some facets of it:
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rm41J6QBGI

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Classical Tai Chi an art of peace


Mr. and Ms. Sifu, a beautiful picture with beautiful people: Here is my wish for today, next year, and years to come: Let us do our "Chuan" as a beacon and as an art of peace in an unsettled world where there are acts and potential acts of violence at every turn. It is true as Master Hwa says that although the old masters went out of their way to test the art by asking for fights. there are still "rules" to be followed in our art. "... and the rules form and follow a logical structure with calculated scientific reasoning behind it...". How fortunate, that in Master Hwa we have had a top-notch scientist to guide us along the road to reason. To quote an ARTICLE by Tim Chan: "We live in a different world today. We are more restrained and much less inclined, for various reasons, to using the same approach as these masters. That said, we should be looking for a less violent and more structured approach to understanding the art. And I find we can achieve this objective by expounding Chinese wisdom through Western science such as relying on the discipline of physiology and mechanics."

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Liked on YouTube: How does one get from "Form" to "sparring" then to "self defense"

How does one get from "Form" to "sparring" then to "self defense"
There is no mystery to be good at martial art application. This is discussed in the book, "Uncovering the Treasure" by Stephen Hwa at Amazon and video available at Youtube and classicaltaichi.com. You need to go through three steps: 1. Develop internal energy or power through Form practice, so that one can deliver the power at any angle and position. 2. Practice the form such that the ability of delivery becomes instinctive, no need to think. 3. Practice push hand and sparring to develop sensitivity and finesse. One needs to at least master step 1 as a reasonable start. One needs to aspire to make and use internal discipline in all moves and all angles. One must also aspire to not need to think when you move in doing the form and doing an internal movement. Multiply that by a factor of 10 when it comes to sparring and/or combat. If you have to think even before moving in the form it is no wonder one will always be one step behind, and being controlled by the opponent. Step 3 needs a partner to practice. There is no short cut to that. The traditional method of teaching and the current method of teaching which Master Stephen Hwa is using. https://ift.tt/2OfwbtJ For more info https://ift.tt/36WwzHk
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez2AgXMr-1Q

Monday, December 7, 2020

Fajin is not from a "coiled spring" in Classical Tai Chi

To quote an ARTICLE by Tim Chan:  "We live in a different world today. We are more restrained and much less inclined, for various reasons, to using the same approach as these masters.  That said, we should be looking for a less violent and more structured approach to understanding the art. And I find we can achieve this objective by expounding Chinese wisdom through Western science such as relying on the discipline of physiology and mechanics."

Tim Chan continues: "Let’s consider a spring coil that is compressed tightly as depicted in the diagram below. An inward force from the wall equally balances the inward force from the compression. This creates inertia within the coil. When the spring is released, acceleration creates a net outward ‘explosive’ force. This is shown in the diagram where the coil springs forward.spring
There are quite a few  Youtube videos on the subject of Fajin, Fajing, Fa-Jing, etc. Like the Tai Chi itself, the word "internal" is spoken of in those demonstrations. Usually what we see is the solid rooting of feet in order to generate power from the legs and push or punch something. I did this for years in both Yang Style and Wu's Style Tai Chi "large frame" forms. On the contrary, the Compact Form of Classical Tai Chi as passed on from Wu Chien Chuan to Young Wabu to Stephen Hwa and his students uses the compression and decompression of the torso to generate Fa Jing power.  
There is also discussion in books and articles about the use of a "reaction force". Said reaction force uses the legs to transmit power from the ground as a solid base. Some of these same documents have even attempted to show the "physics" of Fa Jing. One sees this in many demonstrations where a Master pushes against the outstretched arms of his disciple and sends them flying..." Fa Jing".

There is an excellent video and explanation of Fajin by Master Stephen Hwa at   Besides the fact that Master Stephen Hwa demonstrates with Tom Kostusiak that Fa Jing can be done with a less than "solid base" to use his terminology. His technique reflects a fa jing that can move in both a 2 dimensional and 3-dimensional fashion as he demonstrates. He had a slight upward force which then lifted Tom and then drove him back. I do not recall ever seeing this lifting and driving of the opponent in Boxing where one sees knockouts most of the time.  Which brings up the next point of how Classical Tai Chi might design a scientific "diagram" that illustrates this. It seems that what his diagrams demonstrate is at best a fa jing of longer duration. They do not demonstrate a burst such as he did with Tom. In his scheme, one has to be pushed in order to effect a rebound by using the ground aka the spring is compressed before it can fa jing. 

How one might design such a spring to reflect the internal energy of Classical Tai Chi is beyond my drafting capabilities at this point.  Such a spring would have to reflect itself in more than 2 dimensions. It would have to reflect how internal energy is generated from inside the spring itself.  It would have to show that it is not entirely dependent on a "solid base".  It would have to show however that a "solid base" is necessary to fulfill Newton's law of action and reaction since there is still a brace needed at times. 

Further: We, of course, have the inevitable referral to the "Tai Chi Classics" as the final authority of what the old Masters required. It is interesting to note however that those same old Masters had to rely on fighting in order to prove their arts.  Many, to this day,  still feel that fighting is the only way to prove the effectiveness.  Yet how does this hold up in today's world?  For one thing, most of today's "combat" in Tai Chi is done under controlled conditions.  Safety equipment, gloves, footpads, rings, antibiotics, timers for "rounds" and more are required. If that same "combat" is not adhering to "tucking", being "upright", etc. how is it showing the "effectiveness"?  In my humble opinion, it looks more like flailing with no glimpse of a tuck to be had. If the old masters had no technology to prove or refine the art, what does it say if it is not being refined or proven in this era of overwhelming technology?

Friday, November 27, 2020

Liked on YouTube: 3 dimensional push hands

3 dimensional push hands
Jim R: Good streamlined lessons available online: classical-tai-chi.teachable.com. In the martial applications of when the opponent comes high and comes low at you, there is a correlation to the practice of Tai Chi Form movements. Accordingly, there is a correlation to Push Hands training. As one does with “coming high/coming low” there is also a correlation to whether one uses a 2 dimensional or a 3-dimensional response. In a 3 dimensional attack or defense, one has to “lean back” sufficiently when pushed and when attacked also train to keep the other hand up and protecting the face. Remember that in going high and going low whether in Form, Application, or Push Hands there is the all-important connection to the core to initiate ALL movements of the arms. The “cloud hands internal discipline as seen from the back” video is a good example of core movement with arms moving up and down along the “Y” axis.
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az-KDi8NN3I