Friday, October 30, 2009

Classical Taiji Video Instructions for: 8. White Crane Spreads Wings 白鶴亮翅, 9. Brush Knee Push Step Left & Right 4 Times 摟膝拗步左右四度

Many thanks to Joe Milne and Master Hwa for this great information they published in Forum 17...
At the bottom of this Blog is a video with subtitles on how to perform ROUND FORM 8. White Crane Spreads Wings 白鶴亮翅, 9. Brush Knee Push Step Left & Right 4 Times 摟膝拗步左右四度. There are numerous clips here and all are performed in slow motion with overlay written instructions. One should pick an arbitrary direction such as North and start there, with the turning done to the primary and secondary directions such as North West, East, etc.

The following are really written instructions for the Square Form but should give practitioners much in the way of insight to the nuance of the movements.

8. White Crane Spreads Wings 白鶴亮翅

9. Brush Knee Push Step Left & Right 4 Times 摟膝拗步左右四度

Posture 9 – Brush Knee Push Step
White Crane and Brush Knee, Push

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Taiji is not the form?"

This Blog has generated some very classy comments from some very nice people, take a look at our comments below the Blog itself. A recent visit to a popular Tai Chi Blog Wujimon found me responding to someone's
assertions from The Role of Physical Conditioning in Taiji. that Taijiquan needed much in the way of "physical conditioning".This means the addition of such things as Zhan Zhuang, Weight Lifting, Running,
Situps, Training with Rubber Bands, etc. Of course when one says as Master Hwa says here:

"The practice of internal movement in Tai Chi form essentially is the practice
of fa jin in a slow and methodical way, without the issuance of power. When you
can play the form instinctively without thinking, then you can do fa jin
instinctively.If you try to do fa jin without some form of internal discipline
(neigong), then you will push with your arm strength and acquire a bad habit for
the use of the arm..."

This then becoming a hindrance as it makes the learning of

internal discipline more difficult. The matter of not wanting more "external"
strength as a part of that equation, stands to reason."

Then one can expect to be stereotyped as a "long form" lover and through
REDUCTIVE reasoning somehow against all other types of physical activity. What
a crimp this is going to put in my watching of College Football on Saturdays.

Then I wrote: "Unless, there is some caveat which mandates (wink, wink) Tai Chi
is really only "internal" in the mental realm, eg. "He does his Tai Chi with an
inward looking demeanor", then "internal" means the "physical" internal

Further: "It is not possible to do an internal movement and an external one at
the same time, an external can precede or follow an internal but they cannot
coexist in the same space and time. Also, when one's internal discipline
permeates the body, it becomes next to impossible to even raise one's arm to
scratch an itch without engaging the musculature of the core. Rhetorically
speaking, what does one do with "arm strength" if it cannot be used in the same
space and time as "internal"? For example, if I push against a wall using my
arms, I will push myself away. However, (internally) using the core to engage
the abdomen and back muscles as I push and relaxing the arms, I feel a
tremendous surge going into the wall. There is nothing that super arm strength
can add to the internal aspect, in fact it works against it if I strain at the
arms. Of course if one does not subscribe to a physical internal discipline,
then the point is moot."

I then received a reply that (yes, I spell this correctly but I understand the author's intent)
"Tiaji is not the form... if one chooses to develop the connection and internal movement
correctly... both physical conditioning and health can be by-products... the
deeper issues is understanding... what correct movement is... anyone who has
gotten a good adjustment form a highly skilled teacher can tell you that it can
be a pretty good workout... even something as simple as standing practice can be
a pretty good workout... just my thoughts."

Ended of course on the note that this is just their "thoughts" ("opinion"?), so
by virtue of saying that qualification it somehow relieves them of the burden of
defending it. So, rather than attack their "opinion", I agreed with them:

"It is indeed "not the form" for a vast number of students in Taiji. This is why
Young Wabu (disciple of Wu Chien Chuan) was unhappy with the fecklessness of so
many Taiji students.

Or, why Sonia Young (Yang Wabiu's daughter) asked Eddie Wu (gatekeeper of Wu
Jianquan Style) why she saw the lack of attention paid to the form at the Hong
Kong Wu Style Studio." Oddly enough he agreed with her.

One might also "not disagree" by saying: Or, why Young Wabu told my teacher Hwa
Chiping (Master Stephen Hwa), that Wu Chien Chuan insisted Young learn Square Form first. Or why Young insisted Hwa learn square form first. Or, why Young Wabu said Wu Chien Chuan had him repeat form movements hundreds of

times before he taught him new ones.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A little History of Classical Tai Chi

Young Wabu and Wu Jianquan Hong Kong

I excerpted
the following from a website and it gives another perspective on both the practice and evolution of Square Form and Round Form, that are the primary course of study in Classical Tai Chi (See picture above) Grandmaster Yang Wabiu (Young Wabu) is spoken about in the article as being "Dr. Young" and Wu Jian Quan is referred to as Mr. Wu. It speaks of how Wu Jianquan developed the "small frame (small step)" from the "large frame (large step)"...and more.

Dr. Stephen Hwa who is my teacher is featured in the Square and Round Form link in the above paragraph. He also studied with Young Wabu (Dr. Young made his living as an Osteopath in Hong Kong before moving to Rochester, NY and Dr. Hwa studied over 30 years with him. Visiting Young Wabu's house for a memorial service a few years ago, I had quite a discussion with both Dr. Hwa and Young Wabu's daughter Sonia about this history)

A little different perspective on Classical Tai Chi

Mr. Chow: "Yes, we both started Tai Chi Chuan in 1949.
Stephanie: "Who was your teacher?"
Mr. & Mrs.: "Dr. Young"

Stephanie: "He was teaching Wu Style Tai Chi?"
Mrs. Chow: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Stephanie: "Because I know Yang Style is very popular now."
Mr. Chow: "Dr. Young was last student of Mr. Wu who started Wu Style Tai Chi in Hong Kong."

Stephanie: "Why and how is Wu different from the other forms? How is it different from Yang or Chen?"

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu, he was yang (master) with big steps. After sixty years he developed smaller steps."

Mrs. Chow: "He thinks when you getting old you don't like to do big steps. See?"
Mr. Chow: "Don't expend the energy. We want to get more energy not to expend."

Stephanie: "So, the circle (in Wu Style) is smaller. Does that mean the energy intensifies inside? You once told me, Mr. Chow that our style is the healing tai chi and you can feel warmth emanating through the fingertips and sometimes people lay hands and make people feel better. I've seen you do that."

Mr. Chow: "Yes, yes."
Stephanie: "And you get it from the chi?"

Mr. Chow: "Energy."

Mrs. Chow: "Tan-tien." (Area of chi energy)
Stephanie: "Which are about two fingers beneath the navel?"

Mr. Chow: "Important with this energy is your angle and timing, co-ordinate."
Mrs. Chow: "Together."

Stephanie: "Your angle and timing. And that's why our tai chi takes such a long time to learn when compared to other styles. Our angles are very important?"

Mr. & Mrs.: "Yes, yes."

Mr. Chow: "This is very scientific."

Stephanie: "When we learn, we're taught Right Hand Square Form first."

Mrs. Chow: "Mr. Chow, you tell them why! Must teach them square using numbers (counting the steps) because it's easier to remember."

Mr. Chow: "Never gets lost!"

Stephanie: "Mr. Chow it was your idea to count while you were teaching?"

Mr. Chow: "Yes, I started. Even square. The old fashioned don't teach square! When your teacher decided you were very good student and you could become teacher, then would teach you square."

Mrs. Chow: "Square is good foundation."
Mr. Chow: " We turn it upside down (referring to teaching square before round). The square let the student really understand first (the tai chi form.)"
Stephanie: "So you did that or did your teacher turn it around?"

Mr. Chow: "Ya, ya."

Stephanie: "So your teacher Dr. Young. "

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu's family even now, only teach round, no square!"

Stephanie: "They bend deeply and it looks different from our round."

Mr. Chow: "Mr. Wu when Japanese attacked, (he) came from Shanghi to Hong Kong. My teacher lived in his house all day long. He taught one student at a time. He (Mr. Wu) taught our teacher square first and ordered him to teach square first."

Stephanie: "So that's how it started. That was a big change. Now, we learn Right Hand Square first, then Right Hand Round. People think that round is beautiful but I think square is beautiful, too. But the most important aspect is to always practice both. Then the student is taught Left Hand Square and Left Hand Round. Why is that?"

Mrs. Chow: "Because of the circle, you know!"

Mr. Chow: "Because of yin and yang, contrast and balance."
Stephanie: "I think that's good, it exercises the other side of your brain."
Mrs. Chow: "Yes, yes!"

Stephanie: "I remember when I learned Right Hand Square and then when I began to learn Left Hand Square, I thought I should know what I was doing. But I would get very mixed-up as if I was exercising some other part of my brain. And I do feel more balanced now."

Mrs. Chow: "Some people difficult to learn the left."
Stephanie: "You have to once again have the patience."

Mrs. Chow: "Yes."

Stephanie: "What was the school's name in Hong Kong where you learned tai chi?"

Mr. & Mrs. "No, no. No name, just Mr. Young."

Stephanie: : "How long were you students of his?"

Mr. & Mrs. "Seventeen years, sometimes two times a week."

Stephanie: "When did you both start teaching?"
Mrs. Chow: "Teaching?"

Stephanie: "Teaching."
Mr. & Mrs. "After we moved here."
Stephanie: "So you never taught in Hong Kong, tai chi?"
Mrs. Chow: "No! We were too busy to teach art."

Stephanie: "What year did you move to America?"

Mr. Chow: "1967"

Stephanie: "In 1967, you came to Miami?"

Mr. Chow: "No, no, no. We came to New York."

Mrs. Chow: "The end of 1968."

Mr. Chow: "We came to United States invited by TWA for art exhibit in Kennedy Airport."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All New Students...Welcome to the Internal Dynamics of Tai Chi

Ms. E. Marie Koepsell wrote the following article which appeared in Tai Chi Magazine some time ago but I think it speaks volumes about what new students can look forward to in their study. We are also grateful to Rick Matz at Cook Ding's Kitchen for publishing this on a previous occasion. Rick mentions his current training with the Classical Tai Chi DVD's in one of his most recent Blog's...he talks about his training in basic walking using such "Internal Dynamics" (Internal Discipline).

Master Stephen Hwa has taken on the difficult but rewarding work that his teacher Young Wabu learned from Wu Chien Chuan. He teaches Classical Tai Chi to hundreds of students worldwide via sets of his great DVD series Teaching primarily at Faust's USA Karate in Rochester, NY, he now has certified teachers of Classical Tai Chi in Buffalo, NY, Rochester, California and Massachusetts. He is Master Stephen Hwa to his many students since he is truly deserving of the title.

The remainder of the article can be found at Martial Arts 101

"The following article is based on the lectures and my studies and discussions with him" (E. Marie Koepsell speaking about Stephen Hwa, Ph.D. when he was teaching Tai Chi at the University of Buffalo).

"The internal physical discipline of T'ai Chi Ch'uan" according to Dr. Hwa, "involves the intensive training of the body and mind to develop discipline in movements so that the movements originate from the abdomen (dantien) and back, in addition. the energy flow of these movements are developed in a relaxed body, giving an appearance of effortlessness".

As a reference point for correct movement. Dr. Hwa used the example of the movement of children, who use much more of their torso for initiating action. He said when children are using their arms or legs, the motion originates from the torso, the strongest part of the body. He said the arms and legs should he treated as appendages that must be taught to move in coordination with and under the direction of the torso.

"As we start aging,” according to Dr. Hwa "less and less of our movements come from the waist and back. We hold our middle stiffly, and more of our movements originate from the shoulders and the hip joints. This puts pressure on joints and we lose strength and mobility. Ultimately, we may stop using these area, of our bodies altogether, Atrophy sets in, creating the major problems of aging.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Video of Basic Walking for New's not "Like" anything you've done before


Can any of them formulate a good "concept" much less a "true" one of what the elephant is? There is a saying in Chinese (pinyin) which is zhǐ lù weí mǎ…”pointing at a deer and calling it a horse”…literally twisting the truth. This is only remedied by wǒ zuò wǒ liǎo jiě…I do and (only then can I say) I understand. The basic walking we are going to show below is not "like" anything you have done before and neither is the vast majority of the Internal Discipline we show in this Blog... We'll also attempt to explain here why students should not fret over "concepts".

"The study of Classical Tai Chi in the beginning through advanced stages is as logical and rigorous as the study of any scientific discipline"...Master Stephen Hwa, Ph.D. What beginning students run up against however is the desire to conceptualize something that is based almost entirely on an individual's personal experience. 3 blind men will surely each have a different "concept" of an elephant when touching it for the 1st time, how should the zoo keeper provide a "concept" of the elephant for them by mere explanation? Won't their "concept" be considerably different in 1,3,5 years if they faithfully come back each day and touch more of the elephant each time?

The other problem is that a lack of a concept sometimes seems to spur students to try harder to intellectualize what is experiential. For instance, one hears pronouncements or affirmations about what "Qi" is from beginning students. Or one hears "conceptualizations" from beginning students about the Internal Discipline. "Oh, that is like belly dancing", "Oh, that is like an exercise I used to teach in Karate", "Oh, that is like the 24 Forms of Wu Style Tai Chi, etc. Or regarding the subject of "Qi": "Oh, I know what that is, it is like energy, it is air, it is like...", or "I teach Karate and since I have experience with that it stands to reason that I can not only teach Tai Chi but I can articulate what "Qi" is..." Let me get this straight, science cannot thoroughly articulate what "Qi" is but you can? The question I have to remarks like that is, "Why is it such a persistent issue that everyone assumes they can explain "Qi" or teach how to cultivate it, when they have not gone through the "beginning through advanced" stages we mentioned previously? Science has no answers at the level of understanding we talk would someone who has not studied Classical Tai Chi or Qigong in depth have an answer. It is only when one reaches the advanced stage and contemplates such problems as by example "conceptualizing what Qi is" where one truly sees Science has no answers... it should be a humbling experience. How then is there any "conceptualization" to be had for the beginning practitioner?

What the blind men actually said:
“This queer animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it’s not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy.”
“No, no!” the first blind man shouted in disagreement. “This queer animal resembles two big trees without any branches.”
“You’re both wrong.” the third man replied. “This queer animal is similar to a snake; it’s long and round, and very strong.”
How they argued! Each one insisted that he alone was correct. Of course, there was no conclusion for not one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant. How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts.
(Kuo, Louise and Kuo, Yuan-Hsi, Chinese Folk Tales, 1976, Celestial Arts: Millbrae, CA, pp. 83-85.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Free Downloads of "Qi" Magazine Courtesy of Wujimon

wujimon taiji blog | Download Issues of Qi Magazine

Download Issues of Qi Magazine

A big thanks to Wujimon and this was Posted: 29 Sep 2009 06:10 PM PDT at Wujimon's Blog, please pay him a visit, drop a line or a thank you.

Qi Magazine was founded in 1990 by Michael Tse as a means of helping his students learn more about Chinese culture. Often his students would ask the same or similar questions in class and so he felt he could benefit more people with his knowledge by offering the Qi Magazine to them and also a wider audience. The magazine grew from a small black and white booklet to a proper magazine that was distributed all over the world.Sadly Qi Magazine has now ceased production, but not after 18 years and 90 issues all packed with rare and unique articles covering all aspects of Chinese Qigong, martial arts, culture and philosophy.

This wealth of information is now available to everyone as you can now download every single issue of Qi Magazine ever produced, in pdf format for free.

Some of you however may prefer to hold the real thing. A number of printed issues are availalbe to purchase in sets. You can find details of these at our online shop.

What are you waiting for? Head on over to the Qi Magazine Download Page and get them while they’re hot! Gracious hat tip to Michael Tse for his generosity! [via @ila]

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Open/Close (Folding Like a Door) Exercise for New Students

The 纏絲工()[silk reeling work]demonstrated here is based on the same principle of movement in Classical Tai Chi we described in the recent "Hand follows foot..." Blog. The principle being one which folds the body at the spine. In this instruction however, the feet/legs are not moving. Unlike "Hand follows foot..." however, one side of the body is truly kept as still as possible while the other side is moved. An often used simile is that of "folding the body like a book". Master Stephen Hwa here uses the phrase "folding like a door"

The exercise demonstrated here is a "pure" silk reeling, since the movement can and should be continuous with no interruptions or breaks.

In particular you should look for a sensation of "folding" at the lower back. Gradually, one notices this sensation moving from more near the upper back to the lower as they become more proficient with the exercises.

As you see Master Hwa do here, you can use the free hand to "feel" exactly where the sensations of "folding" are taking place.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wuji (無極) Positions and Zhan Zhuang (站桩)

Adirondack morning... Meacham Lake Wilderness (Sept. 09)

To those that do not know, Wuji (無極) Positions and Zhan Zhuang (站桩) are present in every posture of the "Square Form". At the heart of this is an awareness of whether one is doing any Tai Chi posture correctly.

It is said in Classical Tai Chi that one does not learn to go fast by going fast and one might also say that one does not learn to go slow by going slow. How then does one get "faster", how then does one get "slower"? What is not understood by most students is that the ability of the practitioner to generate (internal energy) and control (internal discipline)the Qi is the major factor. Such Qi is developed over a lifetime of practice, not weeks, months or even a few years.

Students can however take measures so that the movements are being done correctly and it is in this correctness that one can insure the development of the Qi. The square form obviously is not learned by everyone, but all students learn the basic walking which is really Square Form.

Take the time to pause and simply stand still (Zhan Zhuang (站桩)while doing the basic walking practice. When the body is perpendicular to the floor and one is "sitting back" (see figure 3 & 4 of Forum 10)you can pause. Check your posture in this position, there is plenty of time especially if you incorporate this more and more into the practice. You are not trying to set a record for how long you stand, try holding for 10 seconds then move.

Take the time to pause and simply stand still (Zhan Zhuang (站桩)when the body is tilted forward over the front foot as well. Check your posture in this position as well for 10 seconds then move. It is in those 2 essential components of the basic walking that such pauses and self correction that one begins to plumb the depths of the practice...improvement comes from such contemplation.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Yang Style or Wu Style,what's in a name... because the art itself cannot be changed

I have heard many people say things like: "we stand perpendicular to the ground because that is what you do in Yang Style", "we don't stand perpendicular to the ground because it is Wu Style". As we have outlined in a previous blog "We have hips", we have not heard functional justification for standing perpendicular to the ground in postures.

By functional we mean a coherent and comprehensive rationale directly related to why one should stand perpendicular to the ground. Frequently we hear: "Yang Style always stands this way", "my teacher said so", "it is for centering", "it aligns the acupuncture points with the ground", etc. and it leaves us wondering.

As in Hong Kong reports:"In 1916 Grand Master Wu Chien Chuan, along with other famous Wushu experts of the time Yang Shao Hou, Yang Cheng Fu, Hsu Sheng Chi Tzu Hsiu, Sun Lu T'ang, Liu En Shou, Liu Tsai Chen, Chang Chung Yuan, Tong Lian Chi, Chiang Teng Tsui, Hsing Shih Ju and others established the Beijing Institute of Physical Education."

These most famous teachers from "Yang Style", "Wu Style", etc., taught under the same roof. If I had to venture an opinion, I would say the teachers themselves were not going around saying, "I'm teaching Yang Style and because of that, the correct way to stand is perpendicular to the ground". My other opinion would be that it was not teachers but it was students who came up with the names, like: "I'm studying something from Yang", "I'm studying something from Wu". I would also venture another opinion and say, those gentlemen did not develop their arts in a vacuum...they also trained with each other, compared arts, pushed hands with one another, etc. That itself has profound implications.

Finally, I quote Master Hwa in answering a student's question:

Q. Why do you emphasize "classical" Tai Chi; and not "Wu" Tai Chi?

A. According to my teacher Grand Master Young Wabu, he heard his teacher, the legendary master Wu Chian Chuan said that Wu did not change the Yang Tai Chi learned from the Yang’s. In fact, Wu Chian Chuan emphatically said, "It can not be changed".

The fact is that the knowledge cycle of learning the classical Tai Chi to understand its eventual consequences is very long. To learn the Tai Chi form takes several years to be proficient. To test the effectiveness of what has been learned in actual martial art application takes another few years. To confirm what the health implications are, especially during older age, requires a human generation. Here we have the classical Tai Chi with its numerous components meticulously optimized to satisfy both the requirements of martial art application and health benefits. It must be a multi-generation effort. When Wu Chian Chuan taught my teacher, Tai Chi was already in such an advanced state. One can fully appreciate what he said, "It can not be changed".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Turn at Waist vs. Turn at Hip


Discipleship Ceremony 1986
Wu Hsia Fung ... Jim Roach ... Wu Kwong Yu(Eddie)
(I am no longer a disciple but I treasure this gray hairs...)

“When you teach or demonstrate the internal move “turning at the waist” in Classical Tai Chi, you likely will encounter questions “why not using kua/hip”. Most external martial arts and large numbers of tai chi schools practice the use of kua or hip for that turning motion.

One example of such discussion could be seen at "Rum Soaked Fist"

Jim Roach, our first certified instructor, spent his early years of martial art training using “turn with kua/hip”, then switched over to learn Classical Tai chi using “turn at the waist”. He has good insight to the discussions in the above link. Here’s his comments regarding such discussion.” Master Stephen Hwa

Jim Roach on Turning at the waist vs. turning using Kua/Hip

It is said nowadays in Wu Style that one cannot develop any power (to do such things as punch) from turning at the waist, that one must “use the hips”. Wu's Style

Another Wu Style says one must "turn the body around the waist not using the hips.” Wu Style
That commentary says one will lose their balance if they turn in those postures from the hip.

"Ma Jiangbao: This is connected to the last question. In the Wu style the feet are often parallel. If you turn in these postures from the hip, you will lose your central equilibrium. So we turn the body around the waist. In this way it is also easy to divert an attack and let it fall into the emptiness without losing your own central equilibrium."

Anatomically, the hips and waist are different but one could certainly turn the waist without turning the hips but the reverse is not possible. "Distinguishing the Hip and Waist"

May I humbly submit, I have direct knowledge of that apparent conundrum. I studied with both sides of that question with the Wu Family, then with Master Stephen Hwa.

Not stated is how frame size has such bearing on whether unjudicious, called “overturning” hip causes feet to move upsetting the balance. Also, one can indeed turn such amounts of hip in a larger stance. What is also not mentioned is that the legs play a major role in such movement. What really happens is that one leg is literally pushed down at the ground resulting in the body moving into the other leg. However, in the smaller frame of Classical Tai Chi, one leg is used to pull the body into the other leg.

Left unsaid is proper “timing” use of the hips. For instance one can turn the waist, THEN turn the hips in a follow up movement. Another example is the fact that the hips always turn by default when one does such movements where “hands follow the feet, elbow follows the knee”

Proper use of hips in coordination with waist as shown in the cooperative push hands (although push hands is not shown in this clip one can certainly see the up close "fa jing" power and it is minus ANY hip it not?) training of Tao of Martial Applications DVD . This is indicative that turning the hips is not eschewed, it just means that it should be done with right timing.

For example, one could offset an opponent’s balance in a close up confrontation using internal discipline (internal movement) then a much larger step (stance) could be taken whereby the opponent is thrown to the ground using motion of the hips in the process (external movement). The motions of the "repulse Monkey" section of the form come to mind there as an example "Repulse Monkey"

Jim Roach