Compiled by Todd McGown
There must be horizontal and vertical movements. The shape of the positive and negative “circles” is that of an egg. Not a true circle and not a 2D oval. The horizontal movement is mainly achieved by the hand, shoulder, waist, opposite kua, opposite knee, opposite foot line of the body while the vertical action is achieved by the shoulder, waist, kua, knee, foot line of the body.
Movement should be like a timing belt, not too slack or too tight. If too slack there will be uncontrolled friction and the rubber will start burning. If too tight the belt will break. This is especially important in push hands. The level of pressure on your opponent must be governed by this principle. This is how your energy is transferred to your opponent.
External martial arts have too little biting of the gears. Wrestling has too much. In Taiji we search for a happy medium between these two extremes.
Taiji is like an idiom. Idioms are couched with cultural references. There are many, many things synthesized into one simple idiom. This is hard for North Americans to understand, although they are often better learners of technique.
People who do Taiji have less mental degradation than people who do other types of sports. In Taiji the mind is more involved with the movement of the muscles.
The circle is never off on the outside, but on the inside it is on and off like peddling a bicycle. The chain of the bike is a continuous circle even though the power alternates from one foot to the other.
Upon touching your opponent, your own power must go directly to the ground under your own feet. If not the top will become heavy and will float. Top heavy is caused by putting power and pressure on your opponent through the use of the contacting point as a source of power. The contacting point can only be used as a conduit. When you use a hammer, the hammer does not power up, you power it up.
The goal is to be totally solid from the base up, as if submerged in concrete. Master Hong’s dantian had moved up to the around the center of his collar bone and the rest of his body was like a thick tree with deep roots.
When you achieve this, you must be able to rotate on your center. If not, the solid state becomes a liability of double-heaviness.
“The arm cannot move.” Many argue with Shifu and say, “Your arm is moving! What are you talking about?” What he means is that the arm (or any other body part) can only move within limited confines. If it departs from the confines it is said to be moving. The same thing goes for the knees. At the beginning the knee must move in order to “turn” at all. Later, this knee movement must be decreased.
The ability to move within the confines of the requirements of Taiji is the demonstration of one’s level of skill. The exact measurement of the “confines” is called the “rules”. These are the secrets of taijiquan.
Neither kua moves, but merely shifts internally. The two hips have to be one up, one down all the time. Every action must be accompanied by a kua sinking. The motion of the kua must be continuous. There must always be an opening and closing relationship between the area directly above and below the inguinal crease.
Foot doesn’t move, but the knee can adjust. If you move the foot you nullify yourself. The knee is always at 45 degrees.
Create a pivot point (on the forearm for instance) and move the body behind it. Aim the power that is generated from pressing off the ground and moves up through your body through this point.
Find the tunnel through the opponent’s center. There is always a vulnerable point on his body depending on how he is moving. The more training a person has the more they tend to rotate around a central point. A person with no training is all over the place and has no clearly defined center. Through experience one can intuitively see where this point is at all times. This is how Hong made the 10th Dan Karate sensei jump back. When the sensei advanced to attack he could feel Hong’s intent upon his center and felt too uncomfortable to keep advancing. Shifu is able to see a condensed dark spot on his opponent’s body. Whenever he touches someone he immediately measures their body. The ability to perceive the opponent’s intent of attack paired with the ability to instantly identify his center allows one to be relatively quicker, albeit he may be physically stronger and faster.
Monkeys can swing from branch to branch and choose the best branch to swing to next in a split second. They can judge for sturdiness using a number of criteria such as thickness, color, texture, etc. If a city-dwelling human was to try this it is highly probable they will grab the wrong kind of branch and fall to the ground. We must develop our sensitivity and our ability to identify that “spot” on the opponent. Shifu says this ability is like seeing a candle no one else can see.
Partner drill for locating the center:
o Both partners power up. As always, the “shoulder well” acupuncture points must be on a plumb line with the kua. Shrink the imaginary box formed by the shoulders and hips. One tries to line up with the other’s center and split yin and yang. If done correctly, one should feel as if there is a “hump” that is suddenly overcome at which point the opponent is uprooted.
o When you want to extend energy into and through your opponent’s body imagine something you desire immediately in front of the fingertips and slightly out of reach. Touch it!
The Taiji “zero inch punch” is like a hollow-tip bullet. The gunpowder is packed into a small container, when it explodes and exits the body it leaves a big hole. Power must be directed through a small aperture, like the compressed air powering a pneumatic nailer or the increased water pressure created by putting a nozzle on a hose.
When done correctly, it is like the energy is pulling the opponent from behind.
If the arm is held straight and power is transferred from the earth through the waist the result is pretty powerful, but if other mechanics of the punch are added it becomes at least 70% more powerful.
A fist is small. By opening up the hand it opens the way for energy to pass through, the wrist expands. The leading hand “let’s go” into the target. Energy is like water, if the hand is held with tension it will not come out. By fanning out each finger your intent should be to aim at multiple places on their body. Five ropes extending down through your arm. The five fingers aim at the five zangfu organs.
Most martial artists use excessive heart. They turn red in the face, huff and puff, suffer heart attacks, etc. The goal in Taiji is to use the five zangfu organs in a balanced way to derive power.
By using mind intent, one can move the point of strength or energy around on your body. For example, the point may be moved from the elbow to the fingertips with little to no perceptible external movement.
o Most students are only fighting on one plane. Thus, no one can defeat Shifu. He works on at least 2 planes (vertical and horizontal). Most do Taiji like they are driving a car. They think they go up because they go over a hill, but are nonetheless bound by the surface of the road beneath them. Shifu, however, is not limited and could be said to resemble an airplane.
By short circuiting the incoming push you can diminish its power. If you are pushed against your chest, then put the energy back onto their shoulder.
Extend the arm but do not move the torso forward. If done correctly there is much power. If the opponent tries to push into you while you extend they will begin to corkscrew.
Developing shaking power and a mobile waist:
o Start with big, relaxed movements in the upper body. End with shaking movement of the waist and dang. This is similar to “Golden Cock Shakes Wings” in the Hunyuan Qigong set, except do it in the half-horse stance with arms at a 45 degree angle.
The circles should be able to be done with a pole inserted behind the shoulder and in front of the kua. The position of the pole should never change, even if you take steps. Eventually, you must be able to establish this plumb line anywhere on your body.
My knees should be more closed. If too open then the kua cannot be locked or stable. When someone presses into your kua you should not lose your feet.
The body must be restructured gradually. If you try to immediately assume the correct structure, you may not be able to stand or move at all.
The goal is to squeeze in close to the other’s body and to become comfortable with this position. Squeeze in by increments. Gain one, lock it in place, then gain another…
Yilu trains the energies involved in Taiji and develops stickiness. Erlu trains crisp, clear moves for combat usage. In Erlu there is no more grasping.
Rapid positive circle practice. Don’t worry about how correct it is. If holding a towel in your hand it should fling out to the farthest point away from your body. The towel should hit the same point again and again.
At the beginning the energy cannot leave the structure. If you get embedded in the format you’ll never get it. Do the form feeling as if you are carrying weight. Do it slowly to understand the techniques. Do it fast to get over the “hump”. At this point energy will begin to come out of the frame. It is if you are trying to reach the boiling point so that the water begins to boil over the rim of the pot. It can also be likened to peddling a bike up a steep hill. After crossing the apex you effortlessly coast down the other side.
Falling into a half split. You cannot be afraid of falling and hitting the ground. If you cannot fall you can never get over the “hump”.
All too often I fight from the chest or the upper body. What I must learn is to pull from the hips by sinking and turning. This requires lots of training in which I must “hit” the floor with my hips.
Peng is the energy. All others are directional manifestations of this one energy.
The power must be consistent when doing the circle. We are always powering up and then going slack. Whether a car is going uphill or downhill the engine is always on. You don’t turn the car off when you descend down a hill because you’ll lose control.
Many bicyclists only ride vertically. When they need to round a corner, they slow down and continue riding plumb to the ground. For others, they round corners without slowing down by leaning into the turn. This was Shifu’s analogy used to describe the ability to access different dimensions as well as the consistent power that should be present in the circles.
“If you don’t believe me why are you here? If you really believe then you can do what I do.”
In the west, everything new (science, medicine, etc.) is highly valued and the things of the past are seen as out-dated and obsolete. In the east, the things created by the ancients are held in high esteem and as time goes by they are further elucidated and penetrated into deeper and deeper.
Many times you read and study only what you resonate or agree with. In this way you will never learn anything new. We can’t understand extraterrestrial things because as humans our reference is the earth. We look for things on Mars that are familiar to us on Earth. If you can break from this you can achieve enlightenment.
Yilu is railway construction. If someone touches you they’re on the tracks. You have to coax your opponent into boarding the train and then close the door behind him.
High level masters split the space-time continuum. It feels like they suck you down into a black hole or up into a tornado.
Double heavy is when two gears move in the same direction. It doesn’t matter whether this happens horizontally or vertically.
Acceleration without proper distance is useless. Your speed could be 500 m/hr., but if your target is 100,000 miles away then who cares.
The point at which two circles on your body intersect is known as the “agile pearl” or the “red bullet.” The most common place on your body is the kua for this action.
The arm continues to lengthen and chase without 1 mm of retreat.
Eventually there is no movement, only mind intent.
When you stand, the idea is to round things by stretching. This is not meditiation, but a strengthening exercise.
The goal is to move differently. If the opponent moves in a jerky manner, then you move in between his jerks. Do not try to be a bigger jerk.
You must always be powered up (“tense”), but constantly turning. The schools that advocate relaxation go into a push hands competition and tense up when they touch. In the beginning your body will appear very stiff. If you do it right it won’t look very good at first.
It is preferable to start without slack. If this is not possible, take it out as soon as possible. It is impossible to move without slack, however. Maintain contact points and move into an empty space.
The most difficult thing to do is rotate on a point that is not there, such as a point on your arm between the two hands of the opponent.
Make the center appear real. The opponent then aims for it, but it is never there. Your job is to surround this fake center. The higher the quality of skill you have, the closer you can be to this point without ever actually inhabiting it.
If the center is moving there is no power, but if it doesn’t toss you may turn without vulnerability.
Basic requirement: shoulder and elbow must disappear. “Feed your elbow and shoulder to the dog.”
If he is drilling then I go straight and vice versa.