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:
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 theand 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.
“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 orinvariance; regardless of the length 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).
“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 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.
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.“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.
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.