Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What happened to Yang Shao Hou Taiji?

Very interesting post! But my Taiwanese sources tell me, that Xiong Yanghe's Taijiquan has many origins, from some nephew of Yang Luchan (named Liu Zhongfang), from Yin Tianxi (in the Gan Fengzhi lineage) and finally also some Yang Jianhou. On Xiong's website from his students, their is nothing to be read on Yang Shaohou. Do you know anything more? After Chinese Newyear, I'll start in the Xiong system, after more then 20 yrs. of 37, 64 and 108 (all YCF linegae). Happy holidays! Hermann from Taiwan
By Anonymous on What happened to Yang Shao Hou Taiji? on 12/28/10

Thanks Hermann,

I don't believe I ever stated Xiong only had one "origin" for his Tai Chi.  Actually, I was excerpting bits about him from an article submitted to me by Michael DeMarco of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

Actually, I think that Xiong’s origins of his  lineage are still open to question.   In Michael DeMarco’s contributions for instance we see that Liu Zhongfang is not listed as a Luchan nephew but a disciple of a Shaolin Master named Liu He.  DeMarco’s report states that Xiong was learning Shaolin at age 12.  As far as influence from Gan Fengzhi,  DeMarco reports that this came from Yin Wanbang of Jiangnan Eight Harmonies Boxing.   It is clear therefore that Xiong had quite a bit of exposure to Shaolin at an early age.

You may be interested in Chessman’s statements  at Formosa Neijia that he “found a teacher of Xiong-shi system that teaches four hours a day, everyday for free…it’s hard to pass that up”.

 An interview from China Wushu Magazine as translated by Key Sun and Leroy Clark, from the mid seventies was done with a  Chang Yiu-Chun a student of Yang Shou-Hou.  In the interview he states: 
“ My teacher was Yeung (Yang) Shou-hu the grandson of the founder of the Yeung (Yang) style, Yeung Lu-sum. (Yang Lu-Ch'an). I was with Yeung from 1911 until his death in 1930”. 

Finally: The interview  lists the following as being disciples of Yang Shao Hou:

 Wu Tunan (beijing),  Ma Runzhi Tian Zhaolin (shanghai),  You Zhixue , Dong Runfang,  Liu Xizhe,  Xiong Yanghe (Taiwan) , Li Shouqian (Taiwan),  Miao Lian,  Gu Lisheng , Cao Lianfang

Monday, December 27, 2010

Classical Tai Chi is minimalist


The above characters stand for simplicity and simplicity defines minimalism in Classical Tai Chi. For any style of Tai Chi to be done correctly it has to fulfill the Yin/Yang requirement.  One part of the body is moving (Yang) while the stationary part of the body (Yin) supports the moving part and provides the majority of the power.
We do not always see this requirement being fulfilled in Tai Chi.  More often than not what we see is a form of “externalism” where the entire body is moving with momentum. “Externalism” as in a jumping forward type of attack that is mostly seen in external martial arts. Where minimalism comes in is when the Yin/Yang requirement “minimizes” any movement of the body which normally would move with momentum.
As it is said in The Art of War: ”bait him with easy gains. Set out after he does, yet arrive before him.”  The “sit back” posture is yielding  and yielding gives him the “easy gain”. When the opponent commits his attack with momentum the Yin is the prime facet that allows you to give him an “empty” reception and “bait” him. So as you see, we can respond with internal power to the opponents momentum force because one part of us is connected to the ground.  We are also powerful because of our “intent” and lack of tension in the muscles.  Classical Tai Chi does not tense up muscles and becoming proficient at being still or Yin frees up muscles to simply relax.
Minimalism in movement eschews exhausting one’s energy.  The internal discipline inherent in Classical Tai Chi keeps us moving but  with a minimal range of motion.  Turning at the waist rather than at the hips, lifting the legs using back and abdominal muscles rather than purely leg muscles, strictly using the core of the body to power all movements, etc.,  are typical minimalist concepts. Our power is enhanced because we do not waste our movement by using an extreme range of motion.  Our power can be economized because of this allowing us to direct more energy onto the opponent when it calls for it (fa jin).
If I do not move by adhering to these minimalist concepts it is more difficult for my opponent to induce me to momentum or to upset my balance.  I cannot be pulled or maneuvered by the opponent.  My overall energy remains intact, I do not run out of breath nor do the muscles tire.  With minimal movement I can remain calm which enhances my ability to sense (ting jin) my opponents movements. If I am not waving my arms, kicking my feet high, etc., my movements are minimalized to the core until I can lightning strike…the opponent cannot know my intentions.  Giving no “telegraph” of what I am going to do, makes any counter of mine very surprising besides being loaded with additional power.
The minimalist credo:   “If my opponent does not move, I do not move. If he moves, I arrive first.” – The Tai Chi Classics.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What happened to Yang Shao Hou Taiji?

The question I asked some time ago and in the context of a series of articles on Yang Cheng Fu’s Taiji, was “What is Yang Shao Hou’s Taiji”?  Just yesterday, I  received a very nice letter and attachment from Michael DeMarco who is the publisher of the prestigious  Journal of Asian Martial Arts:

“Hello Jim,

…Because of your professional involvement in taijiquan, 
we are sending you this attached article gratis for  your own reference. We welcome any article ideas you may wish us to consider for possible publication…”

Xiong Style Taiji in Taiwan: Historical Development
Author: Michael DeMarco — Date: Vol. 18 No. 3, 2009 
Copyright: All Rights Reserved 

Here we have Yang Taiji that is not heard of but is nevertheless is an evolution of Yang Shao Hou’s Taiji.  Xiong Yanghe is listed as a disciple of Yang Shao Hou who emigrated to Taiwan.  He was a published writer of Taiji and DeMarco’s article also includes Xiong’s writings, “disciples writings, Taiwanese websites, personal observations and photographic observations”.  

What I found of particular interest is DeMarco’s use of English information that gives us a look into the socio-political background of the earliest Yang Taiji.  Here we have a clearly shown link to Yang Shao Hou, the lesser known brother of Yang Cheng Fu. In my humble opinion,  it is certainly a welcome respite from  looking at all the little criticized and varied  manifestations of  Cheng Fu’s incredibly popular (just for health) art.

Xiong himself as well as his teacher’s in the Yang Family had much to contribute to Taiji, but little known is the influence that their time and circumstances had on their Taiji as well.  This provides a better map of Taiji territory since that is what is really needed  because we do not want to get stuck on half baked notions about the art, its founders or contributors.  As a work in progress, or better yet a  work in process, we eventually start to understand  that our perspective is in continual flux but also hopefully in continual development.

Understandably the incredible amount of  as DeMarco puts it: “…nearly incomprehensible violence from the downfall of the Qing Dynasty to the founding of the PRC…” was an overwhelming influence on early Yang Taiji.  China was once referred to as “sick man of Asia” because of  not only the social unrest but also the many foreign incursions. I believe DeMarco when he says that Taiji history in China is “…influenced by a sense of nationalism and (an overall ideal) of self-strengthening for the country itself…”.  With these factors in mind we begin to see a glimpse of  what Yang’s Taiji evolved from .   Certainly Yang Lu Chan gave us an art that was used for fighting but what present day practitioners largely fail to comprehend is those fighting functions have a profound impact on the way they practice the art. 

As we have said before, taking the art that Yang Cheng Fu practiced, removing the martial influence and watering it down even further to various ethereal offshoots does a practitioner little good. In many cases these diluted versions may be harmful to health.  It appears from DeMarco’s article that he has captured the flavor of what Xiong taught as a fighting art that is also good for health benefits.

As Classical Taiji is being taught by Stephen Hwa and his disciples, it is also good for martial purposes, health and longevity.  The vast majority of practitioners in the world today under Yang Style and the influence of Yang Cheng Fu’s “self-strengthening” are practicing Tai Chi that bears little to no resemblance to that of Yang Lu Chan.  How can it, with no recognition of the principles provided by its martial origins?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Tiger's Mouth revisited

You can link to the Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo Facebook Page.  I made a video in order to thank my teacher Hwa Laoshi for his analysis and articulation of the following rationale.  It is very appreciated.  This gives me a sense of wonder now as well at all the many arm rotations in the Classical Tai Chi form.  In particular, the aspects of arm rotations that accompany the complexity and combinations of internal discipline.  Wherein, I never had pause to reflect on this in the past, now more than mere explanation, his statement motivates further investigation.

We are speaking here of the photo of Wu Jianquan in the most recent blog preceding this one.  The photo above which shows Hwa Laoshi gripping the arm of a student was taken at a workshop given on his birthday.

I quote my teacher, Hwa Laoshi:  "There is another important reason to have an open grip.  If Wu uses a tight grip on the white shirt arm.  The white shirt person could simply rotate that arm. This rotation, due to the physics of leverage, is much more powerful than the power of the arm with the grip.  This means Wu's grip will have to move and follow the rotation.  Now the white shirt is controlling Wu's movements instead of Wu controlling the white shirt.  With an open grip, Wu is not affected by the rotation of the arm and can keep his control on the white shirt"

The Tiger's Mouth

Classical Tai Chi is based on Wu Style Taiji. It has a rather unique palm and in particular a unique thumb position. A student expressed puzzlement over this in comparison to what he experienced in Hung Gar Kung Fu. He states that students are told to keep the thumb close to the hand so it cannot be grabbed or broken. The thumb is open from the index finger in Wu Style and the space in between is called the Tiger's Mouth or Hu Kou 湖口.

The very gentle grip is seen in the photo of Wu Jianquan. 

The open thumb is seen on his left hand and you can see him gently gripping the opponents right wrist with a small tiger's mouth. This gentle grip allows for the maintenance of extreme sensitivity or "ting" jin, wherein there is no muscle contraction that would interfere with sensitivity to opponents movement. I'm sure that students can now intuit the advantages of this...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Implications of incorrect "peng" or "ward off"

Implications of “Peng” or “bing” also called “Ward Off”
A graphic representation of the problems encountered:

The vast majority of videos on Youtube show Peng as a defensive movement with no explanation that it is also the central component in the offensive aspect or “one inch punch”.  To further complicate matters, Peng is most often not even explained defensively as one sees “Masters” bouncing “disciples” backward.  For the most part, the arms of the “disciples” are tense and rigid as the teacher pushes them backward. being done with a stiffened and tense arm.  Or, the arm of the student or even the teacher bends excessively at the elbow  in the defensive posture and one sees It seems to me that an explanation of the implications of Peng is warranted here:
Implications of correct “Peng”:
·         Its integrity demands that the arm neither bend or become tense.
·         At the most basic level, learning Peng starts with the arm in one hand push hands.
·         Essentially, a primary implication is that the student keeps the form of their movement as they either yield or generate an offensive movement.
·         Collapsing the arm means the form of movement or its “shape” is being altered.
·         Tensing the arm means the form of movement or its “shape” is being altered.
·         We do not want the opponent to reach our body by collapsing the elbow so the arm has to be “firm” but not tense.
·         When we use “Peng” as a “push” or “one inch punch”, we maintain our form but the arm is not tense as well.
·         Collapsing the arm results in the use of external or arm strength, we feel tremendous pressure to use muscular force of the arm.
·         As we sit back or yield defensively our force is less than our opponent but we still have to maintain our form or shape.
·         An analogy here comes from the Tai Chi writings: “Peng is like the water that supports a boat”.  The water yields to the force of the boat, yet it supports the weight and shape of the boat but yet  it does not lose its own overall shape or form.
·         Tensing the arm during cooperative push hands results in our partner feeling tremendous pressure to use muscular force as well.
·         Implication here is either tension or collapse is that a player does not have “internal discipline” of movement and therefore no “internal energy” is being generated to either fend off an attack or push. 
·         In the same token there is an implication that a player does not have “internal discipline” of movement and therefore no “internal energy” can be generated to “push” or “punch”.
·         Another implication of faulty peng is that the player is not able to “ting” jin or “listen” to what the opponent is doing (we refer primarily here to a rudimentary sense of touch that is lost when either collapsing or rigidizing the arm, “ting” jin at higher levels is beyond the scope of our discussion).
·         Implication for faulty peng can often be traced to such deficiencies (among others) as not sitting back correctly.
·         Sitting back correctly demands that a crease appear in the trousers at waist level.
·         Sitting back correctly demands that the player not remain perpendicular to the ground when sitting back, the “crease” is achieved when there is a slight lean forward of the upper torso even while sitting back.  This slight lean forward also acts as a counter balance to the backward momentum that is generated when pulling with the rear foot.
·         We have only touched on some implications here but overall, the deficiencies we mentioned can always be traced back to problems with the Classical Tai Chi form playing.
·         Maintaining “form” or “shape” during push hands is directly relevant to maintaining “form” or “shape” during solo practice…after all, why do you think they call it the FORM?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Classical Tai Chi basic walking training (2)

Tai Chi Walking: Note what Master Hwa says in this video at the  about keeping the head up, not watching the feet. Now take a look and scroll to  2:45 of this Brain Fitness video 
Youtube link and you see what can happen when watching the ground while walking. Note the methodology that is employed in "internal discipline" of walking, how one lifts the pelvis which really offsets the body to first one side then the other...but how this ingenuity of training acts to improve balance. The caveat here is that one first must learn where they are unbalanced to learn how to balance themselves. This type of walking is not everyday walking where we move by an act of "controlled falling" through the constant movement and putting one leg in front of another...this is far from it, everything is under control and command from the core.

Student's may struggle in the beginning to not watch the feet or ground.  Just as in learning to keep the weight back while basic walking, this requires patience and consistently reminding oneself to keep the gaze up.  It is the kind of practice however, that one can integrate into daily activities.  It can be "practiced" anywhere/anytime and is called "offline" practice.  If you will see p. 68 of Uncovering the Treasure you can see the encouragement that Master Hwa offers in this endeavor.  

He says: "The advantage of (offline practice) this is not only to have more time to practice, but also to get used to the idea of incorporating internal moves into everyday life.  The other advantage is that such offline exercise is carried out in a casual and relaxed mood with more of a chance to let the subconscious play a part.  The objective is to learn internal moves piecemeal and then integrate them into form play".

He speaks of offline practice as being a means to learning internal and this "keeping the head up"  falls well within that "internal move" category.  One actually learns to right the head not only subconsciously but learns to do it from the core of the body.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

There are indeed "downsides" to Tai Chi, none for Classical Tai Chi

                    On the "outside looking in"...

          A "Downside to Tai Chi? None That I See"...Not

I think that research on Classical Tai Chi is on the "outside looking in" but one day things will change from the seeds planted here, and it will be on the "inside looking out".  Nowdays  I do not see a downside to Classical Tai Chi, on the other hand there are indeed plenty of downsides to Tai Chi per se:

In the Times article and stating: "It places minimal stress on joints and muscles and thus is far less likely than other forms of exercise to cause muscle soreness or injury."  

This is simply not true, wherein 98% of Tai Chi that is taught will indeed put stress on joints, particularly the knee joints and will indeed cause muscle soreness or injury.  External Tai Chi of these varieties does little to insure that there is no shear force directed toward knees/hips, etc.

The Times article states: "There is no “fake” version that could serve as a proper control to be tested against the real thing". I agree in principle just not with the "principals" used in the studies.  It is indeed true however that it is virtually impossible to design an ideal study of tai chi but not for the reasons of the Times article.  It is because there have been no studies of Classical Tai Chi which uses internal discipline, only of external styles of Tai Chi.  A study of Classical Tai Chi which used external Tai Chi as a control group would show the true "fake". 

I'll let you read the rest of the article:  Downside?

Also, do a search of "Uncovering the Treasure" at Amazon, you can search through the "Look inside" feature for such things as "shear force", "knees", etc.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tips on Classical Tai Chi basic walking

Neither "lurch forward" nor "walk like a duck" when practicing the Classical Tai Chi basic walking. Video demonstration

"That (keep your weight back) while walking, takes a lot of patience" Hwa Laoshi

If you do not keep your weight back THEN place your entire foot on the ground, you not only lurch forward but succumb to the "rocking chair" effect. One's weight is actually rocking forward as the weight shifts, makes it easy for an oppone
nt to pull you over.

Also, "they do not stand up" in regard to keeping a consistent knee bend. Constantly standing up results in a kind of "duck walk" wherein the body is bobbing up and down.

Imagine each of those people keeping their head level with a line drawn across that mirror. While watching their reflection in the mirror their head would not rise above, nor below that "line" as they walk.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Classical Tai Chi THE Martial Art

I find it fascinating that Classical Tai Chi (Taijiquan)was once so highly regarded as not only the  most capable but also the most polished martial art of its time.  The royal families of China were undoubtedly protected by individuals who were extremely proficient in the art. When the sun set on the need for personal martial skills the door opened so that the general populace could be taught.

One does not hear the use of the word "chuan" along with Tai Chi in most classes today, however I always heard it used in my study of the Wu's Style.  A statement might be: "It is time to do our chuan" which would precede the group playing the form as a whole. I wonder if the term is still used because I see a store full of so called "competitive" and "shortened" versions being touted.

However, with the teaching of the world as it were, the degradation and demise of the art thus began. What we have nowdays as a supposed "legacy" is in the majority of cases merely a shallow and insipid caricature.  I am not impressed whatsoever by even the most "athletic" performances as competition routines, to say nothing of so called "new age" Tai Chi.

Having studied the art on both sides of the fence as it were, I do not subscribe to the general tendency to augment my practice with additional "Chi Kung" or "Qigong" practices to develop internal energy.  Or for that matter do I subscribe  to the supposed need for the various "standing post" practices.  Quite frankly, Classical Tai Chi does not need them and it is sufficient unto itself.  I'm often inclined to think that an overall deficiency in the understanding of Tai Chi principles is the precursor to thinking that one needs these additional practices.  I also think that one's own recognition of a supposed "lack of progress" or a "better way" makes one feel the need for what appears to be an easier way to do things.  Therein, I feel lies much of why the art has begun to suffer...everyone is looking for an imaginary shortcut to learning.

I also defer to my teacher Stephen Hwa (Hwa Laoshi) and his teacher Grandmaster Young Wabu.  I'm sure if they wanted disciples to do these practices they would have told us to and laid out a path for us to follow.  I think, that adding these additional practices on one's own and still calling it Classical Tai Chi,  is a disrespect of the art and shows disrespect to teachers.  It cries out that the student knows better than the can that be?

If you want "internal energy" it will come with extended practice of the Classical Tai Chi form. Not the "short", or coupled with "breathing/qigong/standing/etc" practices but the 108 movement "long form".  How on earth does anyone purport to know better than the grandmasters of the art who were the geniuses that gave it to us in the first place?  Think of what existed in the Qing dynasty and shortly thereafter before the floodgates were opened to the public.  No one would have dared to suggest augmenting or shortening it to those individuals.  

In addition,the fact that large numbers of technocrats have set arbitrary standards and shortened what really looks like "dancing" competitive routines certainly does not impress me. Albeit "athletic", still  very pretty, very dance like, very choreographed (much like a Broadway show).  THE martial art is absent and one sees no martial intent in these carictatures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The love of paradox in Taoist thought and Tai Chi

Taoist thought  loves paradox but seems to eschew logical explanations for things. Yet, the use of logic in the explanation of Tai Chi principles is unquestionable, it is absolutely essential.  Compare the use of logic to explain something vs. Taoist thought. From a famous story of  Chuang Tzu: 

Long ago, Chuang Chou dreamed that he was a butterfly. He was elated as a butterfly--well pleased with himself, his aims satisfied, he knew nothing of Chou. But shortly he awoke and found himself to be Chou. He did not know whether as Chou he dreamed he was a butterfly, or whether he actually was a butterfly who now dreamed he was Chou.If a sleeper can dream so vividly that he is unable to ascertain that his experiences are actually unreal, how can he ever be certain that anything he experiences is real? 

So...Sifu Jim Roach is dreaming that he is teaching a class. In the dream he sees a former Tai Chi student teaching in the same building.  Jim is holding forth to his class how absurd the student's ideas are.  However, while still in the dream he believes the student to be teaching in Studio A.  To emphasize his point, he writes on a giant piece of paper the single sentence:  Everything written on the paper in Studio A  is false. But Jim  has made a mistake. He, himself  is in Studio A. So is what he has written on the paper true or false? If it’s true, then since it itself is written on the paper, it’s false. If it’s false, then since it is the only thing written on the paper, it’s true. Either way, it’s both true and false, is it not?  

However, when Jim wakes up he thinks  that although he was asleep he can still dream so vividly that he is unable to ascertain that his experiences are actually unreal, how can he ever be certain that anything he experiences is real? How can he be certain in light of that if anything is either true for false...or both true and false?

Descartes stated "i think, therefore I am".  He attempts to use logic to verify what he perceives he is sensing. Chuang-Tzu responds with a Taoist acceptance of the conundrum, and prefers not to value the dream as any less "real" than the waking state, and vice-versa. It suggests that all natural life and all experiences are in essence interchangeable. A butterfly's existence is just as valuable and meaningful as a human one, and a dream is just as valuable and meaningful as an experience one has while awake.

It is hard not to think that  we now see a little more into why a glass can never be empty nor can it be full, since we know (even though we cannot see the air)  that the existence of the air on top of what we perceive as a "half full or empty glass of water" is still as  valuable and meaningful as the experience of seeing the glass as either half full or empty.  

This is an intuitive and instinctual understanding of reality, it is not dependent on logic.  In one sense however, we have used logic to state our case and then we have no more use for the words...they are just words.

From page 201 of Uncovering the Treasure by Stephen Hwa: We see how to play the Tai Chi and that is to do it subconsciously and conduct martial applications instinctively.  For that activity, we essentially discard our intelligence.  As Chuang Tzu relates: Yen Hui told Confucius "I cast aside my limbs, discard my intelligence, detach from both body and mind and become one with Tao.  This is called sitting down and forgetting everything".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's good for you in Classical Tai Chi?

It occurred to me just recently that there is no one getting large stacks of money for research into Classical Tai Chi.  Of course, I have already stated in previous blogs that I am skeptical of the so called research in which claims are made about Tai Chi’s benefits.  Nevertheless, I still think some things can be said about the efficacy of Classical Tai Chi as compared and contrasted with exercise that does not use internal discipline.

For example, I really like what a new student said about internal discipline vs. external movement in his review of Stephen Hwa’s book Uncovering the Treasure:

This form uses "small circle" or "small frame" movements which rely on more use of "internal discipline" versus most other forms. Internal discipline in my humble understanding is the use of "core" muscles in the abdomen and back to add remarkable power to the already maximally optimized mechanics of Tai Chi moves. The small movements actually allow the core muscles to kick in and increase the power of the moves. Conversely large frame movements are great for strengthening the limb muscles but may dissociate their movements from the core. The core movements elicit an unusual sensation of flow through the torso and in the body which feels like stretching and tingling like an energy flow. The true health benefits and the foundation for martial arts application of Tai Chi can only be achieved when the practitioner incorporates "Internal Discipline". That is, using internal movements and internal power to direct and empower external movements into Tai Chi practice.

If there was anyone who had to rely on “strength of the limbs” it was Sophia Delza who taught both Wu’s style Tai Chi and an incredible dance curriculum in New York city for decades.  Delza wrote the book,Tai Chi ch’uan (Wu Style) and on page 15 she says: In his book “The Body” Anthony smith writes that in strenuous exercise the muscles need more and in fact get more of the body’s blood distribution but at the expense of the other organs: kidneys, skin, digestive system and stomach.  As one example, the abdomen which ordinarily receives 24% gets only 1% during supreme exertion. Classical Tai chi as an internal art increases the blood circulation and activity of the glands, nourishes muscles, facilitates joint action and stimulates the nervous system, all without increasing the activity of the heart or breathing rhythm.

Finally, we defer to a statement by Stephen Hwa in the book Uncovering the Treasure, page 17:

“modern exercise, including martial arts, is long on external movements and short on internal movements.  In other words , exercise the parts of the body which are already overused for an active person while neglecting the portion of the body which needs exercise. Worse yet, these routines often subject the shouldr, knee, back and other joints with ill conceived, repetitive, unnatural movements.  No wonder so many active people develop joint problems”

As a former long time practitioner of large frame Wu’s Style Tai Chi, I contend that it also is “long on external movements and short on internal movements”. What is said about the benefits of such “external” Tai Chi can without equivocation be attributed to Classical Tai Chi. My teacher, Hwa Laoshi has told me that a healthy nervous system is very prized in China.  In Classical Tai Chi the nervous system is tuned to a great degree, but not as a result of overall strength of the limbs.  For martial purposes the power comes from the moving part of the torso, while the remainder of the body is still and thus relaxed.  Relaxed, because its role is to remain still and provide the stability of the external limbs, not the use of their brute strength. So this is really quite a step up in the source and use of power and energy as opposed to the tension of isolated movements of the limbs and extremeties.

 As external styles and even such external Tai Chi (which looks like a “bad” Karate) uses back and forth straight line attacking, it results in blasts of power.  Such power has to be re-chambered by once again tensing the muscles before attacking.  As my teacher states, this results in “seams” or gaps in the attack and the power use is drained off in any attack.  We often see the practitioner being out of breath and panting, hence it is easy to see that the majority of blood distribution is headed to the limbs and not the internal organs.  How can this be good for you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Classical Tai Chi is systematic and conceptual

From time to time I recruit students who tell me they can attest to Tai Chi as a kind of spiritual practice which is loosely based on the New Age Movement and I quote here from Wikipedia and a definition of "New Age Movement":

"New Age movement is a spiritual and quasi-religious Western movement that developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Its central precepts revolve around "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-helpand motivational psychologyholistic healthparapsychology, consciousness research andquantum physics"[2] 

They will undoubtedly be saddened by what I write here which will  lead to the failure of their expectations:

First of all and I quote from the Classical Tai Chi Forum by Stephen Hwa:

Volume 7, December 2003

"... writings about the current practice of Tai Chi only date back about three hundred
years, with a majority of Tai Chi books published in the last seventy years in China. From
the writings I read, I have not seen any tie in between Tai Chi and Taoism aside from
those mentioned above. None of the writings cross over the boundary into metaphysical
or spiritual writing. It seems that only very recently, especially in the west, that
association between Tai Chi and Taoism and spiritualism becomes more common.
Several times when I gave a talk about Tai Chi in public, I was asked about the spiritual
side of Tai Chi. I know that my answer disappointed the questioners..."

Second, and I quote from "Uncovering the Treasure" by Stephen Hwa

Page 137

"Chinese philosophies are well known for their profound visions and eloquent ideas.  They often appear to be abstract and distant from personal practical application.  Yet in Classical Tai Chi, these philosophies are applied systematically not just conceptually, but in actual physical applications where the practitioner can personally sense and appreciate the implications of these philosophical ideas".

To sum up this systematic aspect of the philosophies of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Sun Tzu, I Ching, Kongfuzi (Confucius).  I offer the following poem from Young Wabu (Young Laoshi) who was Stephen Hwa's (Hwa Laoshi) teacher. I quote from Classical Tai Chi Forum 13, August 2005 and in Memoriam to Grandmaster Young:

"In Memory of my beloved teacher, Grandmaster Young Wabu
My teacher, Grandmaster Young Wabu passed away on April 18, 2005 at age of 101.
With his passing, we have lost a precious link to the golden age of tai chi, the period from
Yang Lu-Chan to Wu Chian-Chuan...


Lao Tse, I Ching, Confucius, Shuan Tse
Studying Tai Chi you follow all these.
Within the rules any movement is tranquility,
Outside the rules any quietude is turmoil.

Solid but not dull.
Familiar yet retaining details.
Hands never above head,
Elbows never behind waist,
Knees never beyond toes.

Square and Round, Right and Left
Large, Medium, Small and Compact
All forms follow the rules.
The Square exactly
The Round more freely, yet precise.

Hands and feet have Yin and Yang,
And segments of the 4 limbs match the 8 trigrams
In harmony with the Universe.

Mind and body return to Nature
Mind leading, movements following,
Fitness, defense and healing result.

Neither detaching from nor blocking an opponent,
Leam to yield while retaining control.
Increase in sensitivity allows use of strategy
And virtue grows along with technique.

Each moment treasure and perfect the art.
Difficult diseases will be cured,
The Tai Chi Way will be perpetuated
And all will benefit.

Recorded by Leung Chan Ying and translated by Linyi Yeung & Paul Maslin

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Classical Tai Chi is not for stress relief or inner peace

I'm not a diplomatic teacher, and that sometimes turns people off...I can make no apologies.  I am not diplomatic here.  There has been too much belittling of Tai Chi and I explain that below. I teach students to also check their reasoning in Tai Chi.  My teacher does not pussyfoot with me either, he calls me on it when my reasoning is wobbly or way off.   

 When you read my blog and facebook, in depth,  I think you'll find the raison d'etre of Classical Tai Chi is not stress and inner peace.  There are many things that call themselves Tai Chi but are merely execise or "wine and cheese" excuses to socialize...they are not Tai Chi.    In my experience, those Tai Chi's all cut corners in the learning. Take out movements here, take out movements there, pretty soon it does not resemble what should be passed on.  You do all that cutting of corners and the whole logical structure collapses. There has been way too much of that  

In my experience, those things like stress relief are "perks" however that come with much, much time, not a fad of the month club.  The reason for Tai Chi's existence is to enable one to attain longevity while living like a young person ( while living in the springtime of one's life). This does not come overnight. 

Many people don't think Tai Chi is a martial art.   Yang Wabu (my teacher's teacher) was a top notch martial artist when he met his teacher Wu Chien Chuan. Yang was already a Master of Pekkwar Monkey Boxing and versed in numerous other external style martial arts .  He was well known in Hong Kong. Yang told my teacher that he could not mount an attack against Wu because Wu would just keep him off balance.  That is Tai Chi as a martial art. 

 I talk to many people who not only don't think Tai Chi is a martial art, they run the other way when you tell them it is.   In light of things like Tai Chi for seniors, Tai Chi for spiritual growth, Tai Chi for stress relief, Tai Chi for idiots (name of book on Amazon) Tai Chi for arthritis, Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia, Tai Chi for kids, etc.  is there any wonder why people think that way? I am a martial artist but above all I'm here to right the Tai Chi ship not cater to Heinz 57 varieties of Tai Chi. 

Tai Chi has to achieve 2 purposes, be there for martial ability and be there for health.  It comes from martial artists, for instance Wu Chien Yau and his son Wu Chien Chuan were body guards in the Imperial Palace and officers in the Manchurian Banner Guard.  They learned from Yang Family (martial instructors of emperor's family), Yangs learned from Chens . Wu Chien Chuan (bodyguard/soldier) was teacher of Young Wabu who was teacher of Stephen Hwa who is my teacher.  

This is all laid out at Master Stephen Hwa's website   Sifu James Roach's website    Facebook  Youtube