Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Get a crease while sitting back

Get a crease while sitting back

Sitting back see video at 30 seconds with a prominent "crease" in the clothing comes from sitting back correctly. It is very easy to get rusty with push hands and crimping (bending) your own arm at 60 seconds in if there is no opponent to practice with. Reasoning logically, however, shows that is a "red herring" since "sitting back" correctly comprises half of the movements in the Tai Chi form...quite an implication. I practice it while waiting for water to boil, the dog doing business, in line at the supermarket, etc. It is logical to think that we all have a subconscious fear of losing balance. Good to lightly touch something which relieves subconscious fear of losing balance and frees up the mind to check your structure so see the picture of Master Hwa's at the post which shows legs even with one another. He tells me Wu Chien Chuan told Young Wabu to constantly check this point during sitting back by examining the upper part of both legs to see if they were even with each other. I quote: "Sitting back and turning is an important move to neutralize and ward off an incoming thrust and destabilize the opponent. If the body is not facing the opponent squarely, one will not be able to turn the upper body on the weak side sufficiently to be effective."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Keep good structure while lower body moves

Internal Discipline and good structure

Sifu Jason Bulger is demonstrating a practice I devised for the internal movement in the core that takes place right before you take any step in Classical Tai Chi whether "walking", "Form", etc. Note he turns the foot to several angles, has toe down when lifting, toes up when "stepping". But actually, he could be kicking at any angle. Also, a signature sign that internal movement is taking place in any movement is the "crimping" movement that one's clothing in the torso makes before a limb moves and that can be seen by even the uninitiated. There is a definite "crimp" and not just slight movement. This is why Master Hwa has on repeated occasion, urged me to wear close-fitting shirts in order for students to not only see the movement but to see that internal precedes external. In other words, in the case of Classical Tai Chi walking the core movement precedes/leads the lift and lower of the leg, arm, etc.

In Uncovering the Treasure p. 16 by Stephen Hwa Ph.D., re. health benefits of Classical Tai Chi: "We often see the elderly walking with a shuffle -- the walking movement no longer extends into the may assert that the onset of internal rigor mortis actually precedes death!"

Additionally, not only is the "internal rigor mortis" he speaks of an issue, but being challenged by balance problems with everyday walking is an issue as well. When we consider that putting one foot in front of the other requires balance, when we consider that day to day walking requires us to balance on first one foot then the other...aren't we always doing this with the risk of losing our balance?

Monday, April 1, 2019

"Preparation Posture 太極起式" Martial Application

 Preparation posture

See "how to do it" in the link You are invited to learn this and more at absolutely free Classical Tai Chi classes Buffalo State College. Sunday, 10 A.M - 11 A.M. Rockwell Hall, Room 302. Cold weather we are inside at BSC but during warm weather also across Elmwood Avenue and outside at Marcy Casino. Free parking either location. Please register: and/or 716-241-1845, Information:

The teachers are Sifu Jim Roach with Sifu Tom Kostusiak and Sifu Jason Bulger. Master Stephen Hwa Ph.D. is doing much more in online instruction at
 The preparation Form 太極起式 Posture 1 – The Preparation Form although called "preparation" really feels and looks like 2. Raise Hands 提手上勢, using relatively the same "internal discipline", engaging the core where the difference can be seen and felt in the angles of the arm. Of course, the "form" is done slowly as seen here not done by using such a burst of energy as in martial application. We are using this as a martial application to "ward off" an opponent and illustrate the "form". Here the bending of wrists being used first "forward" "Z" axis then on a vertical or "Y" axis, then forward on a "Z" axis is beneficial as opposed to what we spoke about in the previous Facebook discussion of Master Hwa's "Fundamentals of Push Hands" Without the inward contraction of the abdomen and stretching down of tailbone to raise the arms using other Tai Chi one is relegated to an "external" motion of the body even actually tilting forward and back to move the opponent.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Turning at the waist for push hands

Fundamentals of Push Hands (turn at the waist)  Click link for video

Jim R. Wu's Disciple and then 1st Certified teacher of Classical Tai Chi

“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.

Jim Roach, the author of this Blog is the  first certified instructor of Classical Tai Chi. Jim 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 many discussions whether one should use  the hip or the waist in push hands. 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's Style that one cannot develop any power (to do such things as punch) from turning at the waist, that one must “use the hips”. 
Another Wu Style says one must "turn the body around the waist not using the hips.” 
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, 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 the 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 the 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"

Monday, March 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

Liked on YouTube: Learning Push Hand Fundamentals

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Some footwork fundamentals

Tai Chi Walk

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

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

No winning applications, only winning execution of applications

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Is every Classical Tai Chi movement internal?

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

Thursday, February 7, 2019

ALL senses are needed with an opponent

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

Friday, February 1, 2019

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

Develop Internal Energy and open your meridian.

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

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What a versatile move is Cloud Hands

Cloud Hands

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Neuromuscular Control via Classical Tai Chi

A Facebook link: Neuromuscular control
Aging is associated with a progressive reduction in neuromuscular control, but it can be headed off. "A healthy nervous system is prized in China", Stephen Hwa Ph.D. Try an easy movement to test yourself: Raise your whole arm out to the side...easy? Now raise to the side and stop, note where your elbow is, hold it completely still and raise just the forearm...harder? Master Stephen Hwa: "Explanation is that you have to tune your neuromuscular control (using principles of Classical Tai Chi) so that you move one but not move the other".

Monday, January 7, 2019

New to Classical Tai Chi? Start here!

New to Classical Tai Chi? Click here!

"Classical Tai Chi's Square and Round Forms are critical to learning Internal Discipline. Square form is taught first because it is easier for a student to realize if they are making an error due to the specific robotic nature of the move. Comparing several general characteristics between the Square Form and the Round Form: Every movement in the Square Form has a clear starting point and
ending point. The movement between these two points is usually in a straight line and done very crisply and resolutely. Directional changes are usually carried out at these two points. These characteristics are completely opposite to the Round Form, which should have a continuous movement with no apparent starting point or ending point. The hand movements are mostly rounded with few straight-line movements. Therefore, directional changes do not appear at a point rather it is incorporated into the movement itself as a smooth curvature. The movement in the Round Form instead of
crisp and resolute should be deliberate and thoughtful. People are often surprised at the directly opposite requirement between the Square Form and the Round Form. Actually, this is not unique, just think about how you learned the art of calligraphy.  You first learned how to write in print form. Then, you learned the cursive form. The differences between these two writing forms are very much analogous to the
differences between the two Taiji Forms.

The Square Form also avoids the use of upper quarter body movements and other
advanced internal movements present in the Round Form. These advanced internal movements will only be taught in the Round Form. As a result, some of the movements in the Square Form are different from the Round Form. In the Round Form, one does not touch oneself, however, there is no such restriction in the Square Form. Since the Square Form is for beginners there is no internal Chi flowing in
the body.

In the above discussions, I have emphasized the differences between the Square Form and the Round Form. Actually, there is more sameness than differences. The lower body movements are identical except at certain places that the pivoting on the toe  is different between these two forms. The starting point and the ending point of every movement in the Square Form provide definition to the curved movement in the Round Form since the curved movement has to pass through these two points.

Therefore, the Square Form is a template for the Round Form.

One of the most important missions of the Square Form is to learn how to keep the nonmoving part of the body (yin) still. It is the nonmoving part of the body that defines the junction between moving and nonmoving (yin and yang junction.) Any movement of the yin part alters the junction and thereby changes the character of the movement. To achieve the stillness is almost as difficult as making the correct movement. Both requires intense tuning of the neuro-passage way and neuro-muscular control.
The “full stop” between Tai Chi moves is important in preparing the next move by gathering the energy for the coming move. That is why the moves in the Square Form are resolute and abrupt. Many students are impatient about the “full stop.” which results in tentative and weak moves.  The Round Form,  generates energy or power continuously and smoothly which shows in the movements of a seasoned practitioner"

Master Stephen Hwa

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Stephen Hwa, p. 50 Uncovering the Treasure " To be able to keep part of the body still, by itself, is also important training to eliminate unwanted habitual motions (some disciplines call the unwanted habitual motions "Parasitic movement") "Sometimes it is more difficult to train students NOT to move than HOW to move" For example is Yin/Yang pairing of the quarter body: "Burst of energy" or "Fajing" impact force of a strike or punch then equals the amount moved in the desired direction by 1/2 of the "pair" minus the force generated by not moving the muscle of the other 1/2.