Knowledge : Articles

This section contains serious articles on all aspects of taijiquan.

Drilling Down 1

by Kelvin Ho on 2019/04/06

DrillingDownThis week, I found myself able to drill the opponent down causing him to eventually fall vertically to the ground. Read more

Foundations corrections

Positive circle correction (3-count):

  • Before I start the first positive circle the middle finger of the front hand must concentrate on a dot. The front middle finger is no higher than the eyebrow. The elbow and palm of the front hand are directed towards the floor. There is a stretch from the front middle finger to the rear foot. The front forearm is stretched and the front shoulder is pinned down (it does not move).
  • Keep wrists straight throughout.  Read more

20181225_103048~2Today, I trained with John Dahms. We discussed about creating a shell around ourselves to prevent ourselves from moving. Creating such a shell is only half of the equation, the other half is that we must stretch/expand the inside as much as possible. This is like a fight between containment and breakout. It is a conflict that we must find a resolution. I think of it as building up a bomb, and then doing a controlled release of the energy through a narrow tube aimed at the target. For this to work, the person doing the containment should be different from the person trying to break out, so that each person is not affected by the other person when performing the desired function. The difficulty comes when in reality there are no two people, but just myself. Ideally, I would be required to split myself into two. In actual practice, we need to use different body parts to perform these separate functions, so they don’t interfere with each other. These actions must be clear. Read more

What is Fajin? 2

by Kelvin Ho on 2018/12/01

Toronto Oct 13, 2018

Toronto Oct 13, 2018

Master Chen has stated before fajin is doing an action fast. How do we do an action fast?
Read more

Clarity 1

by Kelvin Ho on 2018/11/30

Toronto, Oct 23, 2018

Toronto, Oct 23, 2018

When I first heard Master Chen Zhonghua talk about clarity, he was referring to our movements which needed to be clear, meaning that if we wanted a body part to move in a particular way, no other body part should compete or be dragged into that movement. For hand-out, the hand must clearly be the leader, whereas for elbow-in, the elbow must clearly be the leader. When we practice yilu, we must learn to do it in a segmented way, like writing block letters rather than cursive. We must first establish a train track in our bodies, so our actions will cause our body parts to move along the track (in other words, according to specific principles). The opponent may be fooled by our actions, but we certainly must be very clear on what we tried to do. In practice, we must have a clear goal, so our practice is focused and can take us there.
Read more

Read more

Beauty of Taijiquan i

by Kelvin Ho on 2018/04/22

KelvinHo_HollywoodSign

More and more I find that the beauty of the Taijiquan lies in its simplicity. Read more

KelvinHo_PiShenChui_20180112cIn the Ottawa Mar 24-25, 2018 workshop, Master Chen Zhonghua re-emphasized the importance of creating a differential. He mentioned that steam would always rise up through an opening in a pot, and water would always run down a fall. These are examples of having a differential. We don’t force the steam up or push the water down. It is the property of steam or water given the situation. As long as the particular situation happens, the steam or water will simply behave that way. Steam and water are examples of a differential in position. There are also timing differential, power differential, length differential, movement differential, etc.

Read more

Rotation is the result of linear movements v2

Recently, I understand more about the statement:

“Rotation is the result of linear movements.”

Our actions are like on the tangent of a circle. The non-moving dot is the centre of the circle. Every linear action is very small. The direction changes all the time. The sequence of such actions along with non-moving dot cause the rotation. The actions are continued on top of each other, and they have a relationship with the non-moving dot. In the form, it is like dragging the flesh around some non-moving rod or dot. It is almost like someone pushes the arm on one side for elbow in, and someone else pushes the other side of the arm for hand out. This is related to the stretch that Master Chen Zhonghua showed on the inside or outside of the forearm. Another example is that if someone touches me in the front, I don’t move the front, but I stretch the back over or around that non-moving front.
Read more

KelvinHoProfile1Yi (intent) is not just a thought. In my current understanding, yi describes an ability for your body to do a precise action as you command it to do. In other words, your body listens to your brain. It takes training to get to that state. Master Chen Zhonghua has said before, “the real intent is no intent”. Think about riding a bike as an example. After you have learned how to ride a bike, you don’t think about how to coordinate your hands and feet, how to balance, you only think about where to want to go. You appear to be able to do it with ease. For taijiquan, we need to train long enough to make an action habitual, so that we don’t think about it when we need it, and it just comes out.
Read more

True Disciple i

by Kelvin Ho on 2017/08/04

Who is a true disciple?

A true disciple is someone who follows the teacher based on the principles of the teachings. When the teacher evolves in his understanding, a true disciple will do the same. Even if the teacher and the true disciple don’t see each other for an extended period of time, their evolutions will still head in the same direction.

Taiji Trinity i

by Kelvin Ho on 2017/08/04

Principle: Separation of Yin and Yang
Concept: Indirect Power
Action: In with elbow no hand, out with hand no elbow.

These are three ways of describing taiji. They are one and the same.

Master Chen Zhonghua discussed the above during a Q&A session at the North American Practical Method Training Camp from Jul 29 to Aug 2, 2017.

Master Chen teaching in Jimo, Shandong

To link movements together is to become double heavy.  Instead of moving together, each body part must complete its’ designated role to complete a function.  Desynchronized synchronization – first we must learn how to take our body apart before we can put it back together.  Like a machine, the power only comes from every piece doing it’s job.  One thing can only do one thing.  The piston in an engine only moves up and down; it does not try to turn the wheel or to move the car forward.  Within taijiquan, the machine does not fight.  None of the actions of the body relate to fighting the opponent, only completing its’ designated job.

Within a one dimensional movement everything is connected.  For example, as the hand moves forward in a push, the torso also moves forward, typically followed by the rear knee.  In this way, everything moves together in order to generate power, this power is generated by strength and expressed through speed.

A two dimensional movement compounds the power of each body part by creating a non-moving piece. Each piece is able to successively ground off the last piece by creating a ‘wall’ to push off of. To create fewer or an unstable wall is to merge pieces together, resulting in power leaking out of the body or rebounding back. Power is dependent on the stability of the last piece. While we are learning to create this separation, our power is often not consistent enough to maintain the stretch. As we encounter power we revert back to a single dimensional push.  A true two dimensional stretch is to maintain the separation despite obstacles.

IMG_7305

The creation of the non-moving part is a stretch by definition.  Power is a differential; most commonly it is a differential of space by using speed.  Within taiji we are creating a differential using stability, with each piece not merging.  To merge powers is to create an unstable wall

In the previous example of a push, a two dimensional movement would separate the arm from the body.   As the arm pulls or pushes, the torso remains unaffected.  The torso not moving creates a ‘wall’ that the arm is able to push off of.

To be able to move in this manner is to move like a rotary saw.  With a rotary saw the blade does not move on its’ own.  The blade only rotates and spins, while the saw is pushed onto the wood.  The cutting of the wood does not have to do with the blade rotating, it has to do with the wood being pushed onto the blade, or the saw being pushed onto the wood.  The saw must move independent of the blade rotation – if the blade moves forward it is unable to rotate. Similarly, the torso does not move, only remains upright and rotates.  The legs move the body forward/backwards, while the arms cut.

Therefore we must find a method to define the separation of our movements.  Separation of the body applies on both a macro and micro scale.  Not only must we separate in the cardinal directions (top/bottom, left/right, front/back), but also differentiate the role of the hand from the role of the elbow; what the purpose of the front shoulder is vs. the rear shoulder, etc.

Relevant videos:

http://practicalmethod.com/2015/01/no-tossing-separated-movements-online-video-trailer/

http://practicalmethod.com/2014/06/dimensions-5-points-online-video-trailer/

Brennan Toh at the Vienna Workshop 2017

Brennan Toh at the Vienna Workshop 2017

Within Chen Style Taijiquan, an important aspect is that all our movements must be our own movements.  We never move as a result of an external stimuli.  This requires we bring extreme awareness to every body part – those which are moving and especially those which are non-moving.  When we go out with the hand, we must not forget about the elbow; as the torso closes the distance, the hands can’t also be moving forward, etc.  As soon as we engage with our opponent, we naturally want to fight power with power.  This immediate response is something we must eliminate through our training.  Learning to create a stretch within our body in the form and foundations, is to learn how to move past the point of contact.

To never lose control of our body, even when engaging with an opponent, is to change our responses from a reactionary response to an active response.

A reactionary response is to retreat back, and then move in; or to match their push directly with your own push.  A push from the opponent does not result in a fight, or a retreat backwards.  An active response it to decide where to move, and to go their of your own choice – not from the initiation of the opponent.  If we are pushed and the shoulder moves back, we move not because we are pushed, but because we decide to move there.

IMG_5327

Brennan Toh with Shawn Lee

We must change from following the pace of the opponent, to leading our own movements.  Within the rhythm of a fight, when you are able to dictate  your own moves, the opponent will then follow (fall into rhythm).  Movement is not a non-pressured release, but a pressured release like a hydraulic press where it must be evenly matched and paced (led).  The intent of the movement is therefore only indirectly related to the opponent, and the decided movement is not at all resultant from what the opponent chooses to do – they are only an obstacle in place to overcome.  This is a change from passive control over our body to active movement.

To train this, we must train to never close, and to continue to stretch and expand in every movement of the form.  As our understanding of Yilu deepens, body mechanics and details that we were previously unaware of become more and more important.  But before we can focus on the small details, our understanding of positioning of the ‘big pieces’ must be precise – which is why consistent training of the full form is required.  As we continue to train to open our joints, positions and movements that we were previously incapable of will allow us to improve our structure and power.

Video references:

http://practicalmethod.com/2011/07/shoulder-movements-in-positive-circle-online-video-trailer/

http://practicalmethod.com/2014/11/pressure-and-release-indirect-power-online-video-trailer/

I had an interesting experience lately. I took singing classes with a professional classical singer. It was only one single event, but I learned two important things in those one and a half hours which are not only reflecting back on my Taijiquan but also on my life in general.

Western Learning Methods
Everything is about intellectually understanding things. After listening to my singing for a short time and before the teaching started I got two or three pages of text describing how the breathing organs work and how those relate to singing. Doing Practical Method for a while now and being in contact with eastern learning methods I just skipped through the pages to see if there’s something useful. I asked the teacher whether knowing this stuff is of any importance, especially in the beginning. She said, being a little puzzled, that most people want to know what they are doing, first. Intellectually. I explained, that I do PM and I trust her as a teacher to lead me through exercises which she figures are important for me at my current state. She started teaching me.

Feeling Awkward
With different exercises she tried to get me in a mode where the voice was full. She put me on a stepper on which I had to walk while singing. At some point I had to lean forward in a shoulder wide stance. Singing “dui dui dui” up and down the scale in this position felt strange and she directed me saying “try this” or “try that”. At some point my voice felt awkward. The setting of my muscles in my vocal tract was so wrong. I even got a little scared somehow. I stopped after being in this state for not even a second. Suddenly the teacher almost shouted at me: “why did you stop?! That was wonderful! Do it again!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that setting during the remaining 15 minutes of the lesson.

This moment, when the awkwardness was on its peek was the moment when the door opened. I didn’t step through it, but now I know it’s there, at least. Even if I would have find this door without the teacher, I would be convinced that it’s the wrong door.

S-Curve

Read more

Ca1ptureMany years ago when I was just learning Yilu, I had questions about how the “Second Closing” (the move after fetch water) was done properly. I was just imitating the movement, the hand was waving from one place to another place. I had no idea where was the energy alignment in that particular move. Master Chen explained “Second Closing” with its application and tried on me. He turned and I was on the ground. It was that simple. I didn’t know, I could not figure out how Master Chen did. But I did know how powerful the “Second Closing” was.

Read more

Choreography and Power i

by 胡歌 on 2016/06/28

Instructor: Hugo Ramiro
Location: Toronto

Make sure you have annotations turned on for this youtube video.

For those who do not have annotation, this is the content:

“Choreography is the first thing we learn. If we stop there we have a form that is ‘empty’.

After we learn the basic choreography we must input alignment (tracks) and power.

Enter the Dragon – Hong Kong 2015 Workshop Review

January 19, 2016

Nearing Christmas, under the bright festive lights of Hong Kong, K.T. Lin and Nicholas Fung (馮嘉傑) from the Hong Kong Chen Style Taiji Practical Method (香港陳式太極實用拳法) organized the year ending workshop with Master  Chen Zhonghua. On a mild weekend, more than thirty participants from Hong Kong, the Mainland, USA and Canada gathered to train with [...]

Read the full article →

Be Mr. Tombstone

January 16, 2016

  I had the good fortune of being able to attend the Autumn 2015 Ottawa Seminar with Master Chen. I was kindly offered the opportunity to bunk up with my Taiji brothers John and Brennan while I was there – one of the several things that made my trip possible at all. On the second [...]

Read the full article →

Practical Method Negative Circle 101

December 12, 2015

Negative circle is likely the second thing one learns in Practical Method.  The following are some starter instructions for a right-side negative circle: The right side is considered the front side, and the left side is consider the rear side. Find a line that is parallel to your chest on the ground. Put your right [...]

Read the full article →

Practical Method Positive Circle 101

December 6, 2015

Positive circle is likely the first thing one learns in Practical Method.  The following are some starter instructions for a right-side positive circle: The right side is considered the front side, and the left side is consider the rear side. Find a line that is parallel to your chest on the ground. Put your right [...]

Read the full article →

Learning Yilu…15,000 times and counting

October 17, 2015

When I first studied practical method in Nov. 2009, there were a few things that made a long lasting impression. They were: In with elbow no hand, out with hand no elbow. Don’t move Yilu, which is made up of only positive and negative circles. Many beginners including myself usually ask the following questions: How [...]

Read the full article →

Learning step one – comfortable in the dark?

October 10, 2015

Already some time ago now I had an interesting discussion with another person from Germany. There was one aspect showing up, which in principle could be very interessting for all of us who want to learn Taiji. Here and there Master Chen did point out that in Taijiquan (or at least our style of Taijiquan [...]

Read the full article →

Using mirror neurons to learn Taijiquan

July 21, 2015

Shifu Chen Zhonghua often emphasizes how to learn Taijiquan. This web site has a great article called 6 Methods of Learning Tai Chi. (Read this if you hav not already.) It expands and elaborates on Grandmaster Hong’s Look, Listen, Ask, practice method. I am working on a PhD in Exercise Science – Sports Biomechanics at Auburn University. A related field [...]

Read the full article →

Let the Principles Do the Talking or The Floor Becomes the Teacher

February 24, 2015

Last Sunday I made arrangements to have coffee then train with my elder disciple brother, Levi. He teaches Practical Method at The University of Iowa’s Chinese Martial Arts Club. We decided to train during his regularly scheduled class time as it provided a good space to practice. A new student arrived wanting to check out [...]

Read the full article →

Report on the Second Workshop (1/31/2015) in Irvine, California

February 5, 2015

After two and half month passed since my first trip to Irvine, I went back on January 31. This time, Edward came to join the group. We worked briefly on foundations. Mostly, I focused on teaching Yilu. Foundations are important. Yilu is the core. The more students know about Yilu, the more fun they can [...]

Read the full article →

Why cancer patients should follow T’ai chi for rejuvenation

February 4, 2015

From lowering stress to strengthening muscles, the Chinese marital art can help patients overcome the side effects of chemotherapy. Sensei Sandeep Desai@TAICHIINDIA http://www.dailyo.in/life/why-cancer-patients-should-follow-tai-chi-for-rejuvenation/story/1/1815.html

Read the full article →

About Challenges

February 3, 2015

What they are is simple: challenges!  This information is for the few who don’t know. The case of study used is the challenges that happened in Yishui, Shandong, China on Feb. 1, 2015. The two videos are included below for references. There are lots of comments at the youtube site where the videos are.

Read the full article →

What is your 2015 New Year Resolution?

December 31, 2014

This is mine. What is yours? Continue to watch my masters’ original videos and read their original writings. Teach sword and broadsword. Stay away from the corruption of the society and of the taiji world. This means I will not copy or forward anything from the web. Every word must come from my heart, from [...]

Read the full article →

There has to be real power

December 10, 2014

We must train to use a lot of power. If you want to learn how to move a big rock and you just go up to it and use your hands to tip it back and forth, you are wasting your life. You have to get a good grip on it and try to lift it. [...]

Read the full article →

The Light Body in Taiji

November 27, 2014

Lecture by Chen Zhonghua 25 November, 2014, DQS [This was a talk given over dinner here on the mountain. The article is a paraphrase based on my memory. ] In Taiji there is an idea of a nimble or light body quality. This quality commonly conjures images of clouds and light breezes. When practitioners of [...]

Read the full article →

Spiral Lines in the Body

March 27, 2014

I came upon this picture from Chen Xin book 陈氏太极拳图说 Illustrated Canon of Chen Taijiquan. It strikes me that the spiral lines is drawn carefully to go through the major joints. Spiral is the structure that allow to return incoming force outward, think of drill bits that extract material upward as it drill inward. Master [...]

Read the full article →

Levels of Training

February 13, 2014

Master Chen has said in an interview that at certain stage he felt his overall strength get much better. I asked him how was his training different after that stage. His reply is that the training progress to a different dimension. Each dimensions becoming less physical. However student must complete the first level,

Read the full article →

Relationship of Taiji Movements

December 19, 2013

 By John Upshaw and Levi Sowers The interaction occurring amongst the various elements of our body are numerous and complex.  This is especially true when applied to the movements, and thereof lack of movements, in Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.  The purpose of this article is to provide a framework that will allow the reader to [...]

Read the full article →

Avoid Pitfall in “Don’t Move”

November 1, 2013

We all understand the importance of “don’t move” in Practical Method. To achieve “don’t move”, there’s a pitfall need to be aware.

Read the full article →

The Trampoline Effect

October 20, 2013

I believe that what happens to a connected person’s body when being pushed can be understood by understanding how a trampoline works.

Read the full article →

Listening

October 2, 2013

Any serious Taijiquan practitioner should develop the ability to listen and observe.

Read the full article →

Changing Habits

September 3, 2013

If I were asked what I thought the key to learning Taijiquan was, I would have to say that it is the ability to break and change old habits, both physical and mental. Because habits are usually formed at a very young age and have gone unnoticed for so many years, most people are slaves [...]

Read the full article →

Visualizing an Opponent

August 26, 2013

Once the student is more advanced and the process of opening up the body is well under way, the body will naturally start adopting many of the fundamental principles of Taijiquan. When the practitioner is able to demonstrate that his mind and body both have a good grasp of such things as connectivity, separation, differential [...]

Read the full article →