Ottawa Workshop March 11 – 13, 2011 Summary

by Ming on 2011/03/15

Daniel and Rachelle once again organized a great seminar weekend with Master Chen. For three days, Ottawa Chen style taiji practitioners as well as special guests from Toronto and New Hampshire were able to benefit from the extensive knowledge and expert guidance of Master Chen.

The training for the three days are summarized as follows:

  • On Friday, the topics include the fundamentals of the Taiji Ruler (bang) and various qigong forms and theories.
  • On Saturday, we started with the Foundation exercises, practiced the Yilu after lunch and finish with push hands and practical Taiji applications.
  • On Sunday, we started with Yilu, push hands, then advanced Foundation exercises.
  • The benefits of the seminars were of course training in the Practical methods under the careful guidance of Master Chen. As always, a deeper appreciation of the art was conveyed when Master Chen explained the theory and philosophy of authentic Taiji practice.

    The following is some my personal notes and observations:


    “Want to be good at Taiji? Be a dummy!”

    Master Chen uses the action of a vanka-vstanka (a Russian type roly-polly toy) as a physical representation of the structure ideal for Push Hands and Taiji applications. In a roly-polly toy, the top is light and the bottom is heavy. So no matter how hard a person pushes the top, the object will not fall down. This idea is repeated in push hand practice by making the top soft and the bottom strong.

    “Taiji practice is two panes …”

    … of glass separated by vacuum. Each glass pane is an efficient heat conductor but the space between the panes represents resistance to energy transfer. Taiji practice is to increase the space between the two window panes; to increase the resistance to energy transfer.

    How a Roly Poly toy works

    “The Taiji form should be self-similar (scale invariance).”

    One of the basic ideas when practicing the form is that “distance is not relevant – as long as the aim is established.” The mathematical expression is the idea of self-similarity or scale invariance; regardless of the length scale the form is preserved

    “Make the square a circle and chop off the corner!”

    A basic property of a Taiji form is to have the kua and shoulder rounded. Normally, the kua and shoulder is angled and therefore the structure is not conducive to energy transfer. So Taiji training is to pull the kua forward (making the square a circle) and dropping the shoulder down (chop off the corner).

    Square to circles

    “Tied the ends”
    Once you have achieved the curve structure in the kua or on your shoulder, then you need to move the curve towards an imaginary line that connects the end of the curve. This is like a bow. The tension between the ends represents structural power (or peng energy).

    “Taiji is as easy as 1,2 3 Part 2.”

    In the last seminar, Master Chen uses the numbering of 1, 2, 3 as a basic idea in Taoism. This idea reappears in the concept of locking.

    In order to develop structural energy, the student should understand the concept of locking body component in place. The concept of locking is defined as holding a particular body part in place.

    Visualizing the concept in Grandmaster Hong

    In Taiji, there are three types of locks denoted by the number 3, 2, 1 and the corresponding name “deadlock”, “double lock” and “single lock”. Each number represents the dimensions that must be kept constant.

    In a deadlock, the part of the body must be kept stationary in space (three dimensions) and therefore cannot move. In a double lock, the part of the body must be held in place in a plane (two dimensions) and move in one dimension (along a line). In a single lock, the part of the body must be kept stationary in one dimension but allow to move in two dimensions (alone a plane). Taiji training is the manipulation and rearrangement of those types of locks on different parts of the body. In most situations, the Taiji form is performed with the rear foot being deadlocked, the dantian double locked and the hand single locked.

    Using the bow as an image

    “How to learn real Taiji? Stay on task, no deviations, if the Taiji principle does not work, try again and again until it works.”

    There is no need to come up with anything new, the system is already in place. Any changes are a deviation that prevents you from reaching your destination. This idea is often repeated by Grandmaster Hong, he provide the following reminder:


    A deviation of one millimeter at the source,
    Will cause an error of a thousand miles at the destination.
    Learners be aware.

    This concept is applicable to the philosophy of training and not just on the accuracy of a movement. Trust in the Practical method and you will progress.

    The three locks as seen on Grandmaster Hong

    How do you know when you actually get it (achieve a certain level in Taiji)?
    If you are persistent, and correctly apply the principle of Taiji, then all actions will use structural energy. As Grandmaster Hong said

    “Naturally wonderful, appears to be effortless.”

    The analogy is that of a professional carpenter who can hammer endlessly without tiring or being injured because he is using and manipulating energies in the correct manner.

    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }

    QueryQuirk March 16, 2011 at 4:47 am

    MING, thank you for a great summary. It is concise and clear. The figures were great for understanding. There were two parts, however, that I do not understand well. The different types of locks and the details about the goal AFTER cutting the curve. In the latter case, how do you (a) actually move and (b) which part of the imaginary line do you aim, with respect to the description “then you need to move the curve towards an imaginary line that connects the end of the curve”? Thanks.


    Ming March 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I have added two new figures to try to explain the concept.

    In the figure ” The three locks as seen on Grandmaster Hong”, you can see the representative dimensions that must be fixed and the corresponding dimensions where movement is possible. Remember, you need to apply this concept to many points on the body.

    In the figure “Visualizing the concept in Grandmaster Hong”, the imaginary line represents a line of force. Like the analogy of the bow, the end of the bow moves in a line but as a result of the action, it brings the center towards this line. I will add another picture to help people visualize this.


    Daniel Mroz March 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Ming, thank you very much for taking the time to make those diagrams. As you say, it was a very good workshop. The university students all felt it was the ‘best one yet’; I think they are starting to understand Master Chen’s perspective and are beginning to be able to respond to what he is showing.


    Alex March 18, 2011 at 8:35 am

    thanks for the notes…..and pictures! Nice.


    Paddy Hanratty April 6, 2014 at 5:48 am

    Thank you very much for these great notes and diagrams. I really appreciate the effort you, and many others, put into sharing with other students what you’ve learnt from Master Chen.


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