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.)