Friday, November 27, 2009

Effigy

My entry for contest at http://www.martialdevelopment.com

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.-Leonardo da Vinci


Poor is the master whose pupils do not surpass him. One devoted student is worth ten thousand halfhearted students. A student no more accepts a teacher than a teacher accepts a pupil.

In the Mahabharata there is much that relates to martial arts. In one particular instance a man sought a renown teacher of archery who was a vassal of the royal family. The would be pupil was essentially turned down by the teacher who having many wealthy pupils had no need or even time for other students.

So the would be pupil built an image of the teacher, a mere effigy and trained by it with devotion. His skill surpassed that of even the best student of the teacher who had denied him instruction. Truly it was his dedication to practice, and not his allegiance to a teacher or an effigy that resulted in his great skill. His actual loyalty to the instructor whom he had made an effigy of was his undoing for when the foremost pupil Arjuna, of the great teacher Drona, who was under the impression he was the greatest archer in the land, learned of the skill of the would be pupil; he confronted the man and asked who his teacher was.

The man replied that his teacher was Drona, the same as the teacher of Arjuna. Arjuna went and confronted Drona and Drona went to the would be pupil to ask for his payment for instruction as was his right as a teacher. For this payment Drona had the man, who had become the best through practice before the statue; sever his tendons in his arm rendering him incapable of using a bow. Thus Arjuna became the best archer.

This story illustrates the relationship of practice to skill, and of the nature of loyalty being both a benefit and a weakness.

In these modern times we often hear people say that they know but a fraction of what their teacher knew. And yet knowledge is nothing compared to practice. It was said by early Yang family Taiji players that if the first four energies alone were mastered, then a persons skill would be tremendous. And yet how many teachers teach their students endless material? Far too many, because now martial arts is not about practice, it has become about information and instruction.

It is said that the student gets the instructor they deserve, when it is said that Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master consider not only the instructor the student gets, but the student the instructor gets. To be blunt students who lack devotion never become masters and the amount of people called master far exceeds the number of those who have mastered even the basic techniques of their myriad respective arts.

A teacher is something you learn from. A dojo is a place you practice. The universe is both. Do we hope to surpass the very skill of nature? Let people suffer their loyalties. Let their scope narrow to depend upon information and not practice. Ultimately we are but our own instructors and our own pupils and cannot learn or be taught anything by another. Shall we hope to surpass ourselves? Indeed to surpass ones self is to refine ones being to improve in skill and method, something arrived at by practice over time and no other way. In this age, thanks to the internet, the amount of formerly inaccessible information is more than adequate to facilitate all a person needs to practice and develop the skills of their choosing. Perhaps all we really need for a teacher; is an effigy after all.

Wang Yongquan
St
udent of Yang Jianhou, Yang Shaohou and Yang Chenfu
Showing us Yang Family postures


Taiji applications of Grasp Sparrows Tail, Yang style.
This is Andrew Chung who has recieved transmissions of the lines of Cheng fu, Shao-hou and Ban Hou, making this rather definitively Yang Family style taijiquan.



Note that the applications lack the impacts seen with tree training, this is for saftey.

Saturday, November 21, 2009



This is tree training from the line transmitted by Yang Ban-Hou in his home town.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When an forward momentum is encountered the course it takes can be altered by slight pressure at specific angles, this creates a new axis point for the movement and if the angle and pressure is applied constantly this results in spiraling of the momentum via the control of a slighter secondary force.

With a forward momentum the angles that work are those that do not oppose the momentum, the first angle that becomes effective is at 45 degrees to the line of the momentum. This pressure to the momentum if maintained at a 45 degree or so, to the primary momentum, causes an arc or a spiral to form.

Perpendicular to the path of momentum is a potential field in the shape of the movement that will control the movement via secondary and slight forces to the initial force or momentum, this field starts and ends at the 45 degree line running through the center of the momentum. This allows variable angles to be used within the field in a successive manner while still in the ideal area and at the ideal angles for controlling the initial momentum and mass. The two successive pressures should be at about 90 degrees to each other, but neither more acute to the center axis of the initial momentum than 45 degrees. This results in an S shaped movement to form, instead of the arc or spiral caused by one pressure alone.

These angles and fields can be used with every energy of taiji.
Knowledge of them is of use only to those who practice.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Infinite knowledge is worthless without application.
No truth has any meaning without practice.
No answer will suffice without purpose.
Without context truth is just a word, a concept and nothing more.

Delusion or clarity, what is there but action?
Regardless of intent, what is there but motion?
The momentum of things is all that is.
It will never cease it's flow, why offer resistance?

To maintain position a trout moves no more or less, than the current itself.
And so by staying in the same spot, endless river rushes past it.
To resist is to be pulled along by the current.
To yield to the current the fish ripples with the waves, becoming as one with the river.

And while the trout maintains it's position because it too flows
stick and stone are swept along mercilessly by the force of the current
their rigidity helpless upon the water.

What truth helps the fish thrive?
No truth will, for truth is nothing without context, without motion.
without context truth is just a concept, a word and nothing more
the momentum of things is all there is,
why offer resistance?

Even the hardest wave has softness in it.
Touch the water and it yields, slap the water and it yields, and yet its force is apparent.
Water contains the hardness of stone within the softness of fog.
What truth does it maintain to abide in this way?
It is because it is without intention of its own that it is this way.
it is strong because it is soft and yielding
while weakness is resistance,

A firm branch can be broken, one that flexes cannot be broken.
In every case there is momentum as a wave
when the wave hits rigidity it is absorbed, when it hits softness it is propagated.
The rigid tree breaks before the storm, while the supple tree dances in the wind.
One dies and the other thrives.

The tree that lives: moves no more than the wind moves it.
The tree that dies resists until it is broken.
A rigid tree may endure many storms
indeed it may appear to be strong and mighty
but before a wall of water, no mighty tree can stand.

In context strength is often weakness, and weakness often strength.
Even water holds its own weight without tiring.
A tree can stand for a thousand years without aching.
Are we not as bodies of water?
Are our bones not as the trees?
Therefore our own weight should not burden us
but neither should we fight it,
we do not fight gravity to stand, we employ it.

To employ gravity one must find ones center.
Only by flowing like water and by standing like a tree,
can our center be clarified.
To know this is worthless, truth is nothing without context.

practice alone is true,
without practice:
truth is just a word.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teachers

I am going to address the topic of tradition and teachers with an analogy, see if you can figure out what I am saying.

Anyone who has played a guitar knows that the basic design of a guitar is the same, despite variation as well.
Imagine then that you have a version of the instrument, your own version of course. And you learn to play it, and play it well.

In learning to play this instrument you draw from many sources. You do not learn from just one person, or learn just one style, but instead become skilled through trial and error and experimentation.

Now imagine that you want to play the instrument for some people and they stop you before you do so and ask you: "who taught you?" You reply that you are self taught but that you picked up a little here and a little there. Then suddenly they dismiss you entirely and won't even give you a chance, they won't even listen to what you can play because you did not learn from someone that they consider authentic.

After some time you come up with a solution. The next time you get asked who your teacher was you reply that he was an unknown man who was a student of a well known master. Suddenly people are willing to listen to you play and when they do they like what they hear. Now your ability to play has not changed, your skill has always been a reflection of your hard work and insight as well as dedication. But what has changed is that now people give you a chance, whereas before they did not.

Now lets say that there is no record of your teacher, so nobody can prove they did not exist, you see you cannot prove what does not exist, to not exist. The universe is funny like that. But some individuals take notice of this and start to question your ability to play, because they cannot find proof your teacher existed.
They assert that what you play is not really music, because you cannot prove you were taught by someone they can find a record for. And worse, since what you play is unique to a degree, they assert that it cannot be music because it is a bit different here and there. Lets say you favor a different scale than many others do, and so people say that you are not playing music because your scale is a little bit different.

In my last article I wrote about the test of a martial art and the test of a martial artist. While I condemned some tests and testers as being ignorant, I need to assert something. The test of a martial art has nothing to do with teachers or lineages. It has nothing to do with names or terms or forms. None of that matters. Like with music the test of skill is found in listening, not questioning. Questions are good, but cannot replace attention and an open mind.

Now consider that in my analogy the main character lied about his teacher, just to be considered fairly. Think about that, what is less ethical, lying about a teacher or failing to give someone a chance because they do not fit your idea of what something should be for it to be effective and authentic. To me if anything a person who has developed their own skill through questioning convention and by trial and error is far more authentic than someone who inherits a system or is the great grandson of some famous person. To me, to dismiss a person or their skill and artistic abilities because they do not have the connections that we associate with skill is far worse than lying about a teacher to be considered in a fair light.

Skill and effectiveness in martial arts has nothing to do with lineage. Often people in lineages reply upon the name of their teacher far more than their own skill. Often they take things for granted, failing to question what they are told and then have no personal understanding, instead they just repeat what they have been told. Think about this, who is more dishonest? A man who lied about his teacher so as to be given fair consideration for his hard work and effort, or a man who repeats what he was told, passing along as if it was personal knowledge, having never questioned it. To me the latter man, who merely regurgitates teachings, is far less honest than the man who, in order to be able to demonstrate his personal understanding must misrepresent himself. One of these men has walked the martial path and must test himself and his art constantly to prove himself, the other is far from the martial path and must repeat the names of his teacher and their claims constantly to prove themselves. One man believes that the test is in the art and skill, the other believes that the test is in the names.

These two types are those who will listen to the musician who drawing from many sources is self taught, and those who will not because the person is not a student or family member of a famous person.

Of these two types, which are you?
Think about it.
I am surprised how many people are convinced by false tests of a martial art.

I was told recently that a martial art "sucked" because when someone asked another person to kick very hard on a pad, the person holding the pad moved the pad and let the kick hit their head, and found the kick wanting in power. I note first that the power delivery of a kick to the head is something few arts lack, but does require training in delivering strong kicks to the head. It certainly is not a test of an art. More interesting perhaps is how the test of power was implied. The person holding the pad seemed to think that a powerful kick continues through the target, which is not always true and is a gross oversimplification. A precise kick would be powerful, but to catch it 2 inches past the target it would not have the same power. But more interesting is the concept of following through or as I like to call it: driving. This style of having power is purely external, it is how people tend to hit a heavy bag. It has a 2 main phases, contact/impact and pushing. However some styles of hitting have different phases, these are contact, and transmission. Notice that impact is absent from contact and there is no push phase, rather a wave transmission phase. The two types of energy have a sort of exclusivity and one cannot be seen easily and does not work on a pad, nor does it work at any point after the targeted area because of the very nature of the blow. If anything hearing about this pad "test" makes me think the person holding the pad was and perhaps is still; ignorant when it comes to how to test a martial art. It is no wonder they are the Carlos Castaneda of martial arts.

One of the main points here though is how people believe that a test of a martial art is a test of a single persons ability to hit something. While this is obviously flawed, many people buy into it. Worse still is the mentality found all over the internet. People perpetuate the downright ignorant view that a sporting contest between two people of different martial arts is a test of the two martial arts. This simply put is stupid, a fight is not a test of a martial system, it is a test of a person and a test of skill. Any martial art has people who are better or worse. Just because you beat one person in a given martial art does not mean you can defeat the martial art, to think so is both arrogant and rather stupid.

I am acutally shocked how common martial art dismissals take place based on ignorant anecdotes. People will say that they know someone: who knows someone in system X, and they think the person in system X sucks, so they conclude system X sucks. This is actually common, despite how ignorant it is. A lot of this is that people sell their own art and basically talk down all others, you can tell when it is pure ignorance when they dismiss all martial arts that are not their own. This is as common as it is stupid, one of the most common forms being gross oversimplifications such as "I can beat a grappler because I know anti-grappling moves" or "Anybody who can't beat a grappler does not know how to fight" All systems seem to have someone stupid enough to do this too, no one system is guilty of this while others are not. These people are ignorant of the simple fact that a test of a martial art is not the same as a contest between two people. Beware those ignorant people who insist that nothing can hold a candle to their system, especially those who dismiss other systems because they claim to know people in other systems who they think are not skilled because they don't share the same opinions. There is always someone bigger, faster stronger and better, even outside of martial artists. No person, and no system is invulnerable and those who claim that their system is superior to others are ignorant, there are no superior or inferior martial arts systems and mistakes occur in all systems. The signs of martial arts ignorance are certainty and a lack of humility. A wise martial artist never claims to know they can beat any system, because they know that is not how things work.

I know that martial artists have to sell their art, after all when you pay a man hundreds of dollars to work with him for a day or two you want him to represent the best. However it is common for this type of situation to be like a naked emperor, you are led to believe that you are wise for paying the money, not because that is true, but because your being convinced has far more to do with what is happening than your being skilled. This works best if you can be persuaded that other martial arts are inferior to the one you are paying for. This is unfortunately as common as it is ignorant and foolish.

One thing wise martial artists seem to know is that the test of a martial art is in reality a life long test, not a fight or a contest, but the actual life of the martial artists once they have undertaken that path. It is deeply personal and has nothing to do with how hard someone hits or their application theory. It is an ongoing thing as well, the true test never ends and those who boast of their skill or dismiss other martial arts are already failing it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The water hammer effect, wherein the kinetic wave of the momentum of an object continues on when the mass of the object is stopped suddenly and the result is an increase in the frequency of the energy is a useful but evasive martial method.

But what about using water hammer methods regarding the momentum of the duifang?
You see with training one can learn to cycle impact energy up into higher frequencies, but it is also possible to cycle your duifangs energy up from their own momentum and prevent it from exiting their body, thus inducing the water hammer effect from their movement but in a manner that works against them.

The trick is perhaps found in the method where you stop their momentum but allow no energy to be transmitted into you. I call this a trick because it is tricky.

I was hitting an object the other day that was giving me instant feedback in the form of audio sound waves. I found that when I surged forward and relaxed on contact, I barely felt the contact at all, however this light touch aspect had the most profound result in terms of the sound it produced. The trick of the method was to relax, to have no tension whatsoever in the striking arm, otherwise the wave of energy I was sending bounced back into me. I found that when I relaxed as I struck that I would make contact and then a split second after contact the wave of momentum would transmit, the most curious aspect of this was the delay between contact and the wave. If I tried to hurry the slap/palm technique then the result was not the same, if I tried to use force then the result was not the same.

The required relaxation is like water, you must splash and relax like water. Your hands must wave forward like water, if they use their own energy the result is not the same. I could actually see the surge of energy after contact, when my arms were relaxed it went quickly through me and into the object a moment after contact.
When I merely struck the object and my hand was not relaxed there were two major possible effects I noted.
The first was that the energy of the strike bounced my hand out and much less energy was transmitted and when it did it was not penetrating energy. The second was when I pressed my hand as I struck, instead of the force resulting in my hand bouncing back, or the energy transmitting, the energy dissipated in my hand itself, bouncing back into it but being trapped by the pressure, and it hurt. The object in question was a large hollow steel pillar after all.

So the funny part about this is how counter intuitive it is that the softest of contact, even on a violent forward surge, allowed the greatest transmission of force. And there was a transmission delay of the order of fractions of a second after impact. I am a fan of circular movement and conservation of momentum for sure, but now I recognize the place of the pause in a form during specific strikes, such as single whip. This pause is actually part of the strike itself.

This is key to understanding how to use the method on the momentum of an attack, by relaxing as you check the momentum of the duifang the energy of their attack dissipates into them. The greater the momentum of their attack, the greater the amount of force is that the duifang ends up absorbing. This force or wave of momentum is qi, a form of energy. In essence you use the duifangs qi against them. Not by bouncing, or deflecting but by sealing thier momentum before it arrives, and oddly the amount of force required for this is low. Sort of like using a few ounces to stop thousands of lbs, and certainly not in a manner of force acting on force, but at the same time the effect is not the same as deflecting the path of a strong strike with sideways pressure.

The secret, because it is counter-intuitive, is in the softness. The softer you become in striking, the harder the force becomes that is transmitted. It might sound strange, or perhaps easy, but either way it requires practice, and not on a heavy bag or another person. The reason a steel object is nice is that it resonates with the force of the blow and if you cycle the energy up you will hear the result almost instantly. If you hit a heavy bag this way you will not realize what is happening, and if you play around carelessly with this and another person someone could get hurt. This phenomena does not require an explosive jing to be powerful, the faster you move for it the more challenging it is to relax properly. However the result can be peculiar, I even did knuckle based punch strikes on the pillar and found that although the technique was much harder this way than it was for a palm strike, hitting my knuckles on the steel with proper relaxation did not hurt them, which is odd, because normally I do not hit anything hard with any hard part of my body. This is of course because of the nature of the wave, there was no momentum pressing on the knuckles in the strike, instead there was a wave going right through them. Needless to say this is not how most people strike and this type of energy play is all but unknown in taiji today, let alone martial arts.

The neat part about this is perhaps the relationship of the forward momentum to the wave issued. The momentum need not be of an explosive nature for the wave to be of an explosive nature. However the movement must be whole body, thus uniting the qi of the body into one jing. Otherwise in order to get power one is going to have to use muscular force and doing so prohibits this effect.

True softness results in hardness.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 8 energies.

If you observe a wave moving forward you will note different properties of different areas of the wave.
The leading bulge of the wave is full of energy at the peak, this is as Peng, while adjacent to this is the void area where the pit of the wave is found, this is as Lu. These two basic energies are present, as void and full energies, in all motion possible. The other 6 energies all combine them, however they can all be complexed and are not exclusive to each other.

Press, which is like the simple machine press and not like pressing on something with just pressure, is much like being squished by the leading edge of a wave. If you put your elbow against a wall with your forearm horizontal so that you can place it against the wall, then place your other hand on the wall between your forearm and the wall. You can now use your forearm as a lever that will press upon the hand touching the wall. This is as press, however in application the leading lever aspect is often yin while it is driven by yang energies. In depiction press is as far as the trigrams, yang cloaked in yin. While the next move, often called push, is yin cloaked in yang.

Push is like the wave itself, not squishing with leverage, but surging forward with both yin and yang energy. Indeed while Peng energy wards off, and Lu energy rolls back, and Press energy squeezes, push energy pushes, but can be done at different energy levels and push merely describes the dynamic, not the application. Indeed for all of the energies the names are not applications but descriptions of energies manifestation.

Pluck is another wave property where instead of the previous effects the wave is used to achieve a pulling type energy, which is not a pull per say, at high rates of speed the result is a violent jarring.

Split or rend/tear is where the wave is used to push things apart with forces that divide. To understand this imagine a wooden box being filled with water so fast it breaks apart. A single surge can be used to move an object in two directions at once, resulting in a rending or splitting effect. While all of these moves can be illustrated with a single hand, in application the split energies are best demonstrated with two hands for the impressive results are easier to comprehend.

Elbow, is not the use of the elbow per say, it is more like transmitting with the bend of the wave where peng meets lu or Yin meets yang. In the body this happens to be the elbow, however if one employs this energy with a weapon then the elbow is not employed while the nature of the energy is conserved and is the same.

Shoulder is one of the bluntest forces, though it is very yin it has a yang foundation. It is like a transmission of the wave itself, in an example a stick placed on a rope, that gets launched off of the rope when a sharp wave pops it us, this is like shoulder.

The nature of the energies is profound, no move can be made lacking them. If one understands them then one can meet them with exactitude and neutralize/avoid them to the point of maintaining the upper hand and combat initative. One can learn the techniques by the same name, and practice them until the cows come home, but that does not equate to comprehension of the 8 energies, which has as much to do with reading these energies in your opponent as it does with employing them yourself.

all of the energies can be done in any direction of the sphere, taiji is whole body so this is not a matter of hand or foot work but is instead bodywork. All of the energies can also be done at different rates of speed. The fastest of which is explosive energy or speed, termed Fa-Jing, but even slow has it's place in taijiquan.

There is a reason that the bagua is employed to teach taijiquan. The symbolism facilitates greater comprehension of the transmissions due to its aptitude. Moreover taijiquan is Taoist in principal. It is the system of the mother of yin and yang, this mother is taiji. Taiji only comes from wuji, which is undifferntiated and so can respond to anything as it lacks intention of its own. As is said in the Tao-De-Jing
Harmony is only in following the Way.

The Way is without form or quality,
But expresses all forms and qualities;
The Way is hidden and implicate,
But expresses all of nature;
The Way is unchanging,
But expresses all motion.

Beneath sensation and memory
The Way is the source of all the world.
How can I understand the source of the world?
By accepting.
..................

The Way has no true shape,
And therefore none can control it.
If a ruler could control the Way
All things would follow
In harmony with his desire,
And sweet rain would fall,
Effortlessly slaking every thirst.

The Way is shaped by use,
But then the shape is lost.
Do not hold fast to shapes
But let sensation flow into the world
As a river courses down to the sea.

....................

Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water,
Yet nothing can better overcome the hard and strong,
For they can neither control nor do away with it.

The soft overcomes the hard,
The yielding overcomes the strong;
Every person knows this,
But no one can practice it.

Who attends to the people would control the land and grain;
Who attends to the state would control the whole world;
Truth is easily hidden by rhetoric.
..

Indeed truth is hidden by rhetoric and a martial arts classic can be hidden in a work that seems to be merely a collection of rhetoric. However it is said by some that LaoTze, the author of this work, was a practioner of the ancestral art of Taijiquan. Hidden in his work are potent keys to understanding this martial art, and presented in a way that if the work falls into the hands of the uninitiated they will not comprehend it, but can still employ it as a work pertaining to ethics and action. However the double meaning of the work is profound and deliberate. The art it pertains to is not an art of violence, nor an art incapable of violence. It is concerned with self mastery and harmony, this way includes a martial path for to sustain health and allow self preservation, however if you practice a martial art in the open you attract challenges, to attract challenges involves risk, only a fool takes unneeded risks of violence. What is the point of learning to protect and defend the self if the result is increased risk? To practice the art in the open violates the very principals upon which it is founded. Thus it is hidden.

LaoTze went west, there he is said to have taught a young prince. The young prince founded teachings which included temple martial arts. His 28th successor in the line of transmission went east, this man was known to practice martial arts. He went to a temple in Shaolin, his name was Tao-mo aka Bodhidharma. The martial arts were still with the teachings then, however over time a man named Hui Neng came to the temple, the head patricarch of the temple found him worthy of the transmissions of the principals, for he alone understood at the time, however the transmission of the martial art did not take place. From that time the teachings spread widely without the martial art, but were found so relative to martial art that transmissions coming from Hui Neng were applied to martial arts thought even centuries later.

However a record of the martial art exists, in the form of statues and temple dance having martial meanings. The martial is hidden in the dances for the same reason that the martial teachings of the Tao-de-jing are concealed with rhetorical content and a form of code that is common to Chinese martial arts. The postures of the statues are 108 in number and form the basis of martial art and dance in the region where LaoTze is said to have ventured after leaving China. However the limitations of nationalism and borders has resulted in a veil obscuring the reality of the transmissions, every region claims them to be the original creation of the region and yet they are found all over. Even in the polynesian islands, where there martial dances with postures like those of the 108 statues and of taijiquan were said to have been taught to the people by a God of war whom visited from another culture.

When Arjuna recived the transmission of the martial arts from Indra, he was also taught dance at the same time. The dance is the gong of the art. Over time much has been lost, however much is still preserved for those meant to recieve the transmissions. It is not for convincing others that I share this information.

Neutralization

The neutralization of attacks is a primary concern with taijiquan.

How though is one to neutralize extreme yang type energies?
The answer is of course in balance, extreme yang is defeated by extreme yin.
Yang is full and yin is void.

Consider a car speeding towards you as an example of extreme yang.
What is the ideal technique?

The answer is: empty space.

If we consider the teaching of the 13 postures also we know that there are preferred directions.
When extreme yang moves forward the reciprocal answer is moving right with extreme yin, this creates empty space and positions one out of the way.

You see, it is not possible to rollback a car. Nor are all human attacks able to be neutralized.

Some attacks can be very powerful and very fast. There are two ways to deal with them, the first is anticipation of the attack and preemptive defensive attack. This is the defense using offense principal. The second method of dealing with a powerful fast attack is to move out of the way into a position that has the advantage. If someone moves forward you move right, they have to turn left or move left to deal with someone having moved right. These position aspects of the 13 postures are almost like the game: paper, rock, scissors. Except we must keep in mind that some of the outcomes are dealt with not by a reciprocal energy, but by a lack of one, at least in the case of extreme yang nature attacks.

If two opponents or opposing energies (duifangs) face each other their interaction can be described by position/motion and energy. The system allowing this comprehension is the 13 postures. It allows those who practice it to be able to respond to the movement of the duifang in a way that can seem by some to be magical or based on some mystical energy, but the truth is that it is simple physics and cleverness that form the basis of the system. How it is used can vary, once comprehended the person who masters taijiquan can manifest the art in myriad ways including lethal, or non lethal. Taijiquan is neither a deadly martial art nor is it a non-deadly martial art, rather it is comprehension of the physics of violence in a physical manner that transcends the limitations of strength, speed and technique. This is not something that can be learned quickly.

There is a saying, in some taijiquan transmissions, that 3 years of kung-fu beats 10 years of taijiquan. This is because the skill set of taijiquan cannot be gained without much work and effort. However a practical skill set for fighting can be gained in 3 years using various strategies and techniques. For this reason many schools appear to supplement the taiji training with practices resembling Wing Chun or White Crane, focusing on attack and self defense skills while slowly building the real taiji skill set.

If someone learns what taiji is, they cannot use it. If they try to do it, they will only fail. Taiji is not done, rather it is like water, it has no intent of its own. It is undifferentiated and so can respond to anything, whereas having an intention is to have a distraction.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The meaning of the 13 postures:
There are 5 positions or movements, forward, backward, left, right and center.
there are 8 energies, they are ward off, roll back, press, push, pluck, split, elbow, shoulder.

Together these are the 13 postures.
In their use the entire body acts as a single unit, this is key to comprehending their meaning.

The 5 position/directions have classically been given in terms of the 5 elements. The elements can be thought of as cycles and relationships. When we take these elemental attributes then functional relationships between the 5 positions become apparent.

Forward beats/controls backwards
Left beats/controls right
backwards beats/controls center
right beats/controls forward
center beats/controls left

However this in not in terms of footwork, for no part of the body moves independently. Rather these are the keys to neutralization. This pertains to all motion, not mere footwork. The hands, which do not act separately from the body in taijiquan move, or do not, they can never move in a way, or not move in a way, that cannot be thought of in terms of the 5 directions. For example one can employ Peng energy moving forward, back, to the right, or to the left, or hold it without movement.

For example according to these principals Peng (or expansion/pressure) forward is neutralized by Lu (or void/contraction) right.

The 8 energies can be divided into two main sets, the Yang set and the Yin set. I show there here with binary equivalents of the trigrams where yang is 1 and yin is 0.
The yang moves are:
Peng 111
Pluck 110
Elbow 011
press 010

While the Yin moves are:
Lu 000
Split 100
shoulder 001
push 101

It can be seen that only Peng and Lu are totally Yin or Yang.

The idea here is the functional relationships as can be seen by the column view:
111
110
011
010
101
001
100
000
This view allows one to see how the energies encompass a spectrum that together is complete.

And another way to represent the trigrams:
111 110 011 010
000 100 001 101
Here we can see the correlate values of the trigrams as pairs.

This is used in concert with the 5 position/directions.
for example the compliment of press is push. However that provides no information about position and movement relationships, that is to say it lacks direction. However by incorporating the 5 position/directions then we see that press forward is neutralized by push right. Push forward can be neutralized by press right and so on. There is actually no intention involved, only relationships of energy and position, the 5 positions and the 8 energies. This means that the theory, despite being sound, is worthless without practice. Merely knowing does nothing.

Implicitly there is no directionality to the 8 energies. Peng can be done in any direction, so can Lu, so can all of the energies, which are not techniques, but are found in all techniques. Moreover no move can be made which cannot be described by the 13 postures, thus they constitute a complete system that pertains to matching and meeting movement with reciprocal energies. Since this is essentially the relationship between yin and yang, and the art encompasses both at once in terms of comprehension, the art is the system of the mother of yin and yang. The mother of yin and yang is termed Taiji, while the system is termed quan. However the name of taijiquan has been mistranslated to no end as a literal claim that the art is the supreme ultimate fighting system. This betrays a lack of understanding of why it is Taijiquan, a name which has nothing to do with claims of it being the ultimate combat system.

as is said in the classics, up/down, left/right, it is all the same.
In this way the 5 position directions are not strictly those pertaining to a horizontal circle, there is no dictation about this rather the position/directions pertain to the relationship of movements and energies. For example when the opponent moves right, this is on your left, thus left beats/controls right.

The dynamic relationship of positions and energies that is the 13 postures can be understood only through the realization of the 13 postures with the other keys, which are found in the treatise of Chang Sang-feng. The translation I am drawing from was made by Yang Jwing-Ming.

Once in motion, every part of the body is light and agile and must be threaded together.

Qi should be full and stimulated, Shen (Spirit) should be retained internally.

No part should be defective, no part should be deficient or excessive, no part should be disconnected.

The root is at the feet, (Jin is) generated from the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed by the fingers. From the feet to the legs to the waist must be integrated, and one unified Qi. When moving forward or backward, you can catch the opportunity and gain the superior position.

If you fail to catch the opportunity and gain the superior position, your mind is scattered and your body is disordered. To solve this problem, you must look to the waist and legs.

Up and down, forward and backward, left and right, it's all the same. All of this is done with the Yi (Mind), not externally.

If there is a top, there is a bottom; if there is a front, there is a back; if there is a left, there is a right. If Yi (mind) wants to go upward, this implies considering downward. (This means) if (you) want to lift and defeat an opponent, you must first consider his root. When the opponent's root is broken, he will inevitably be defeated quickly and certainly.

Substantial and insubstantial must be clearly distinguished. Every part (of the body) has a substantial and insubstantial aspect. The entire body and all the joints should be threaded together without the slightest break.




There are many people using the name Taijiquan, however of people practicing taijiquan there are very few.
It is not a form, rather it is the martial system of the mother of yin and yang. It comes from wuji, a lack of intention or posture, for only from wuji is taiji possible. Very few people who practice taiji forms comprehend taiji, or even why it is called taijiquan. Some will surely never get it. Others will never be willing to put the work into the art that is required and instead choose to employ the superficial choreography of taijiquan to facilitate violence, never realizing that they have only the image of the art. Many confuse effectiveness with authenticity, or even confuse authenticity of taiji with form transmissions, never realizing that authenticity of taiji has nothing to do with forms or deadly results, it has to do with the principals of the art itself which make it taijiquan, if it lacks the principals then it is not taiji, no matter what.

There is an Indian word: Maha
It means great, or ultimate.
If one translates it into Chinese then one
would not be mistaken to employ the term Taiji.
Maha is supreme, it is ultimate.

The Maha mantra is the ultimate mantra.
The Maharishi is the ultimate rishi.

The bagua is 8 fold.
The dharma is 8 fold.
Laozi left China and went to India.
There it is said by some that he taught a young prince.
The teachings involved can be found in the Hua Hu Ching.


press

I have read that the move jie is not press but translates as squeeze.
However let us consider that a press is a machine which squeezes.
The move is not unlike a lever crushing something near the fulcrum.
Much like a grape in a book being squished.

Press is an appropriate translation if it is understood, but it is not if it is misunderstood.

No pushes?

Some schools teach that taijiquan lacks pushes!
Others teach very little but pushes.

What is the place of the push in taijiquan?

In the case of Yang style taijiquan a push is the safest way to issue energy into a training partner. Pushes are also very common in actual fights, but no actual fight relies upon pushes in general.

Some schools teach pushing as a way to lead into other moves, the force of the push can also be directed at the ground. This is much like judo and aikijutsu, the throws that are common are rarely fatal and yet if the direction and angle of the throw are changed a little then the person thrown literally breaks on the ground or is severely disabled. In training the emphasis is on safety, this is true also for taiji. However the same moves that are safe bounces in the training can be used as exceedingly dangerous attacks. Moreover there are multiple methods for striking a downed opponent in taiji.

So what is the place of pushes in taiji? Certainly not as a primary technique, but there is definitely a place for them.

To even get to the point where a push is possible however many things need to happen. If the idea is that the duifang attacks and then gets pushed then disaster will occur when the duifang is of such skill that his attack cannot be neutralized. My teachers teacher gave a demonstration of applications once where he stated that if you always wait for an opponents attack then you will die, that sometimes in order to defend the self one must attack the attacker before he can complete his or her attack. Otherwise it will be to late to act.

So when it is said that there are no pushes in taijiquan, this is both true and not true. Taijiquan is not pushing, though in training it occurs a great deal, this is for a reason and not because pushing is the goal. The goal is to listen/stick/adhere/follow and to employ those skills, which can only be gained by practice, to create and utilize openings in your duifangs attacks and movements. However the difference between training situations and actual violent encounters should be considered. To seek to push is to have an intention all ones own, a person with intent cannot employ stick/adhere/listen/follow because they are preoccupied with thier intention of pushing.

So in a way there are no pushes in taijiquan, just like there are no applications. However this means that there is no set mental posture or by the numbers application, rather the possibilities are nearly limitless. The idea of no applications does not mean that taiji lacks applications, just that to have an application in mind means that there is no taiji, no relationship of yang and yin in regard to the moment. For taiji to be taiji it must encompass yang and yin, it must be undifferentiated and in the now, otherwise it is a pale imitation of the art regardless of how effective it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whip

If you have watched a whip being cracked you know how softness relates to speed.
A whip can only crack because it is flexible and soft, and in many cases tapered, this allows the force of the wave to be focused into a smaller and smaller area, resulting in an increase in frequency and speed of the wave form, the end result of course being that the movement of the whip itself exceeds the speed of sound.

With the water hammer phenomena the pulse of energy is propagated through the medium, rather than the medium moving with the pulse. With the whip the pulse is propagated by the medium moving with the wave. Both involve fluid dynamics, the whip acts in a fluid manner, so does the water. However while the whip moves with the wave, in the water hammer the motion of the wave does not involve the motion of the medium as a wave, the resulting difference being that the waterhammer pulse propagates at a much higher frequency than the whip is capable of entailing.

The power and velocity of the whip relates to how soft it is. If it is too soft it is hard to actuate, but if it is too stiff it will not be effective.

Many martial arts emphasis whip like movement involving a snap like recoil. This allows the move to have whip like impact. While this is effective, it is not the same as the water hammer effect where the pulse of energy is propagated internally in the medium while in the whip the medium itself moves with the propagation of energy.

With the whip the maximum force comes from the junction between the extension and the withdrawal phase, however the water hammer effect does not entail a withdrawal phase, it entails what looks to the eye to be a type of pause, in which the energy of momentum becomes concentrated and transmitted at a higher frequency than the initial movement. In a whip motion there is a visible withdrawal aspect, thus there is no pause for the energy to transmit, this has to do with the whip method entailing impact as it transmits force and the water hammer entailing established contact prior to transmission of force. Even if the whip is done in contact the effect will not be that of the water hammer effect because the dynamics involved are different.

Both the whip and the water hammer require a type of softness to work, however one employs stillness and the other does not. The water hammer uses stillness to change the surge of energy into a higher frequency, while the whip does not. Instead the frequency of the surge of the whip is increased by the taper of the whip which concentrates the motion into a tighter area, similar to the water hammer in principal but still worlds apart in manifestation.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The water hammer

When a column of water is moving and the flow is shut off abruptly then the force of motion of the water continues in the form of a kinetic wave. This wave travels quickly, faster than the speed of sound. The result of this is that pipes can make loud noises and if the pressure of the wave exceeds their capacity then they burst, sometimes with fatal effect.
Water Hammer
The human body is mostly water.
If you surge forward and stop suddenly you can observe the kinetic wave continue.

This results in a wave of pressure and force. The momentum of the body can be transferred into this wave, which will not travel through tense muscle, so the body must be relaxed and fluid.

One of the key parts to this type of force is the shutting off of the valve. The time it takes to shut off the valve is a major factor in the amount of force that the wave contains. This type of force cannot be a function of muscular strength, which utilizes totally different methods of actuation in terms of kinetic impact.

Internal martial arts utilize this water hammer principal. This occurs by making the body unified as a whole, the rules of the harmonies relates to this, the body arrives together, the upper matching the lower, the left and right sides reciprocal. The rooting provides a brace that ensures the force is propagated and not dissipated. The pressure of movement is converted into a force totally different than movement itself.
To slap a heavy bag with the water hammer type energy does not result in the bag swinging like it has been punched, but the bag, and everything supporting it will shake with impact. The noise of impact is also much louder than with blunt impact type strikes.

If you hit a street light pole with this energy the pole will vibrate and move and your hand will not feel more than a slap sensation. Do it wrong and your hand will feel like it just hit non-moving steel and you may become injured, The key is the change of momentum into a wave of force that propagates at a much higher frequency than the initial momentum. This requires relaxation and proper technique, one does not merely hit things with a heavy hand, rather the method is subtle and involves shutting off the gate of momentum, while relaxed, thus allowing the wave of force to continue.

To the untrained eye the use of this force will not be detected.
On heavy bags the blow will seem weaker, because the force is propagated at such a high speed the bag quivers but does not swing as it does when hit or kicked using external energy. However the force does not move the bag so much as travel through the bag. In terms of martial use consider the skull, to impact the skull with a heavy external blow moves the entire skull, the same with the body. The power of impact becomes transferred into the momentum of the object. However if one uses the water hammer type energy the energy of impact does not move the skull, but goes into it. This can result in greater damage than rote impact physics, in ballistic terms the shockwaves are called hydrodynamic shock and this is an aspect of the water hammer effect.

If you train in water itself you can test the principal by slapping water with various methods, instead of displacing the water you want to send a pulse or wave through it. This is the same as with people and if you can direct the force then you can literally target internal organs. Instead of wasting time compressing the ribs, you can send energy right through them. While an external blow leaves a bruise on impact, because force is being absorbed that way, the internal blow leaves little if any mark, often just a fading red mark, because instead of the force being dissipated by impact it continues through.

The physical dynamics of this method are counter intuitive, rather than driving through the target, as is often the case with impact methods, one stops at contact, letting the force itself continue, not the weapon or limb involved. If the impacting body is rigid then it will absorb the force of the wave and the wave will be poorly propagated. Instead it must be as water, only the fluid softness of water will allow such energy to be propagated and transmitted.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

fast and slow

There are many different versions of taiji form origination tales.

I found one recently that was compelling.
http://www.chipellis.com/Writings/Fa%20Jing%20in%20Taijiquan.pdf

Tung Ying Chien and Yang Chen Fu collaborated on a "fast set" which was unfinished at
the time of Yang's death. Later Tung finished it. It is now taught by his grandsons Tung
Kai Ying and Dong Zeng Chen.


It has been claimed by some that Cheng-Fu invented the slow form. However here is a claim worthy of consideration that indicates that the fast form of Cheng-fu was his creation and the slow form was the transmission he recieved.

It is well known that Cheng-fu altered postures but how he altered pace is controversial subject.
Some claim that he took a fast form and slowed it down. This I do not believe, while it is true that many transmissions from Yang family members include fast forms in some cases: slow forms are also well conserved.

The credible source above indicates that among the alterations Cheng-fu was making to the from included an increase in pace, rather than a decrease in pace. Some claim that the fast pace is authentic and that the slow is not, however there are at least 3 accounts of where the Slow yang form came from.
They are as follows:
1 The slow form was invented by Cheng-fu who took a fast form and slowed it down.

2 The slow form was a secret Chen village form that was transmitted to Yang Luchan
2a the slow form is a modified version of a "slow" Chen village form that was split by Luchan into two forms, the Public and the Michuan, the slow long yang form being the Public version.

3 The slow form was transmitted to Luchan by Taoists after he sought the art that influenced Chen village, this version says that he was dissatisfied with Chen style and kept searching for the arts that it drew from and that he found them in the form of the same sect that the Chens had learned from. In other words this version says that Chen style is a combination of Taoist martial art and Shaolin, and that Luchan learned the Chen material and sought out the Taoist martial art which was transmitted to him by a disciple of Chang Sang Feng or even by CSF himself.

I think the least credible version is the first.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ji

I had read several times that press, or ji, is like those little steel ball desk toys where the end balls bounce eachother through all the other balls in between.
And on many levels I understood how the energy of one arm went through the other.
But what I did not realize is how far this transmission of energy from one limb, through another, can actually go.

For some time I have been practicing issuing force into objects of various textures, tones and flexibility. I found that there is a trick to sending energy into things, almost a frequency of strike that determines how the energy will go into, or bounce out of the object.

So recently I found that sharp energies, of the type that will ring steel like a bell, can be transmitted through a limb in a manner like press. Only the proper frequency will work, and there has to be something to transmit into after the limb that conducts. It is not the type of thing one can practice in the air, nor can slow forces capture it, it is truly something else to see.

Normally I can make a hand rail of steel wobble by striking it, but by striking it through one limb, I found that I could issue more force into it than by striking it with one hand alone. This is not the type of thing a heavy bag works well for and I am at a loss for word based explanation of how to learn this.

Whatever the case, the energy of press is amazing, almost incomprehensible even.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Open gates

I have heard it said that every time someone strikes they have a vulnerability. I did not realize how true this was until the other day when I was doing push hands in the park. Every time my partner or I had an open door or gate we would remind each other with a friendly thump. But it got to the point that nearly every time there was an opening we got hit. Being jabbed in the side over and over is an educational experience.

It soon became clear that there was only one viable defense against many of the strikes, when the opponent moves to strike in the open door, you also move and arrive first. The best defense is often a good offense and this method was the only consistent way to avoid getting hit at specific points in the game. While aggressive techniques are often downplayed in taiji, when used properly they really command the situation and maintain initiative. To get caught up in defending began to result in failure over and over, instead the only viable defense for me was to quit responding to attacks by way of defense and respond with offense. The only way to do this was to stop being passive, instead of reacting I had to act like a cat, I got ready to pounce and instead of merely acting on my own I waited for the opening of the attack to present itself.

Every attack has a weak spot, a vulnerability, an open gate. This is yin and yang in a way, if the duifang hits high you hit low, if they hit left you hit right. I understand now why it is said that my opponent moves first and I arrive first, this is part of the brilliance of taijiquan, and without this understanding there is little that can be done against a skilled player. At least this has been my experience.

Monday, June 29, 2009

8

0 Wuji
1 Taiji
2 Yang |
3 Yin :
The energies of taijiquan are comprehensive developments of void and full, joining and dividing. To every yang motion there is a yin side, to every yin motion there is a yang side. The energies are not opposites but correlates that are inextricable like two sides of the same coin.

In any motion or transfer of energy there is a wave dynamic, the pressure of the wave is followed by the void of the wave, this pressure and void are inseparable. The pressure is yang to the void being yin, these two forces are present in all motion and transfer of energy. In taiji these concepts are often terms Peng and Lu, being explained as warding off and rolling back respectively. If you tie a rope to a doorknob or a tree and pull it out a bit and flick it you will see the wave travel through it, the pressure of the wave is expansion, this is Peng, however on the other side of the wave is the part where the rope falls back correlating to the pit pf the wave, this is Lu. This is the basic premise of taijiquans mechanics, it is amazingly simple and yet subtly profound in its realization.
Heaven/Yang
|||
|:|
||:
:||
|::
::|
:|:
:::
Earth/Yin

Initially then there are two basic energies, Peng | and Lu:, Yang and Yin respectively. However in combination you then have 2 more energies, |:| and :|:, that is Yang with yin and Yin with yang. These correlate to the energies of Ghee and An and one uses expansion energy in a retraction energy move and one uses retraction energy in an expansion energy move. This type of relationship is very simple yet allows profound employment in articulation and manipulations concerning force and movement. These also have correlates with weapons where the body posture changes slightly to allow the weapon to do what the hands did before as an extension of the whole body. Indeed the methods of taiji are whole body and the body must be united into a single functional unit that is neither too loose nor too tight. It a way it must be like a rope, a rope is woven tightly, this makes it strong in a way that allows it to be loose, despite being woven tightly a rope is relaxed, this allows it to dissipate tension.

Taiji also consists of uniting and dividing in a way that alters the very center of gravity of things, several martial arts employ such methods including Aikido and Judo. By joining with mass of another object in a gentle way we can alter both the center of gravity of that object and the path it will take in relation to the momentm of the object. In taiji we use the void and full energies to accomplish this, however taiji is not limited to this type of application and redirecting energy is only one facet of the martial science that is Taijiquan.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Martial science verses Martial art

The term of martial art is something I realized I want to move away from. First of all I am not a martial artist and second of all it is not the art that I am interested in, nor do I appreciate it.

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") refers to any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a prediction or predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique or practice

Indeed it is the science of taijiquan that interests me, not the art. This is because there is a science to playing taiji that relates to a predictable outcome. In a martial venture what could be more desirable?

Now that martial arts are known as arts, they have become frivolous, often empty of martial content and full of superficial flash and stylized movements. People concerned with being martial artists are more concerned with how they look doing something, or how a move looks than they are concerned with a personal achievement. Art is not always superficial, but it often is, and more than that when we do enjoy art seldom is it the enjoyment of something that is an exact imitation of another thing, rather we enjoy the uniqueness and the personal experience involved. And yet how many martial artists are just going through motions? How many of them are performance artists concerned with impressing others with the appearance of their skill? How many of them are trying to do the moves by the numbers in the way they are expected to?

Those of you familiar with the histories, do you think that Yang Luchan was concerned with the image of taijiquan? I would say absolutely not, that he was concerned with the science of it and that the man was for all intents and purposes not a martial artist but was rather a martial scientist.

I have chosen to move away from martial arts in a conceptual sense and focus on martial science. After all I am not concerned with performing or impressing, I am concerned with the refinement of skill and personal development in a way that the concept of martial art fails to entail. Much of the content of this blog will endeavor to work towards this understanding, which is beyond images and opinions and comes down to very simple terms. These terms are testability and falsification and indeed if these terms do not apply then how can there be a science or even a consistent approach?


Lets face it, art is hit or miss. A science is far more exact and leads to clear understandings and new questions. Science most of all self corrects and assumes nothing, knowing full well all knowledge is relative and subject to change. An art is a matter of opinion, however opinion is worthless in science as is any preconception which hinders the ability to observe as objectively as possible and that is what this also comes down to, martial objectivity, something most martial artists know nothing about. When was the last time you met a martial artist with an open mind about other styles? Instead they all have opinions that they try to apply to every person doing a style. People from one style often claim that they can defeat another style and yet any contest is an event independent of the continuity and integrity of any specific style. A contest is never between styles, only between people and most of all between self and self.

What is the point of martial science? Partly to dispel martial ignorance found in things like unrealistic claims and expectations. This at least is a primary goal here now, to dispel martial myths perpetuated by martial artists by recognizing that objectivity is the only mental tool that allows clarity. Abandon preconception and prejudicial opinion and begin observing. Cleverness has no place in martial science either, or like martial artists we will end up just outwitting ourselves.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exhibition of the forms that inspire me or provoke thought is a primary goal of this blog.
It is for those who read movement and practice taiji without preconception, not for impressing those who are stuck in their ways or convincing stylists to switch or insult forms.

13 spear Yang


I love this, very energetic but still flowing.

Yang style pole form


I found this to be a lovely demonstration.

Applications



This style is that of Chen Man-Ching.
The applications are very curious.

Personal experience

I was turned on to the idea of writing more from the perspective of personal experience by an article at Martial Development a blog I enjoy reading.

As a taiji enthusiast I focus on work other than forms. I do lots of moves from forms, but don't endorse any single form or even hold the opinion that forms are ideal for practice of taiji.

In preparation for a series of articles on Taiji people who I find inspiring I was able to speak with one of my favorite taiji enthusiasts, Scott M Rodell of the GRTC. In our conversation he espoused a view that one of the keys to success is to learn a move, typically from a form, practice it slow and then learn to speed it up and use it with proper force and then to work on the timing of it. It seems to me this is the most practical way to develop real skill. In my experience a focus on this type of training can be very hard when you are focused on doing a form. Rejecting a form outright would be naive, however the real content in the form would appear to be the blocks or bricks it is made of so to speak, these are those techniques that can be practiced and learned properly.

My own practice consists of taking pieces of form and working on them. I focus primarily upon grasp the sparrows tail, this set of movement is hands down my favorite sequence in the form. Much of my practice of form stuff consists of stuff from the form put together in a different way. For example yesterday I was having fun with snake creeps down moving directly into a low shoulder. This is not in the form as a sequence, but all of the involved moves are in the form and in my experience every move in the form can lead to another move.
Which leads me to my observations about the energies of the form.

In my experience the yang public form is remarkably simple and straightforward in it's energies. The primary form I draw from was passed down through Chen Wei-ming to reach me. My teacher of the moves of this form, and the man who gave me my first initiation into how taiji feels is Art Barret. I won't tell you he is some super duper master who can shoot chi bolts from his finger, rather he is just a human being who has been practicing various aspects of taijiquan for about 30 years now. I have found working with him to be inspiring.

As I was mentioning, I find the moves of taiji to be remarkable straightforward, however they require a great deal of practice. Understanding them is not enough, but it is important to be able to get the most out of practice. In my experience practicing these energies in various combinations is what the form is all about, and this is something we can realize to the extent that we can create our own spontaneous forms from the basic building blocks we have mastered through diligent practice. I have noted that students of the old Yangs often differ in the forms they practice. I hope this has been illustrated well in this Blog, to me it is clear that that the Yangs were not concerned with choreography so much as skill.

I was told recently by one skilled taijiquan enthusiast and instructor that practice matters more than transmission to a large degree. To paraphrase what he said; if you are more concerned with the minor details of how your instructor told you to do a move 30 years ago, than you are with practical application practice like push hands and 2 man drills, then your skill is going to suffer. In this we can examine the old adage of relaxation and realize that it can apply just as much to the mind as to the body in taijiquan.

I've learned to read forms of various arts and see past the details to the real content. The exact position of the feet and hands, when the hand turns over etc, these things are trivial compared to the real content. This is why teachers often move in a way that students don't, the students often see the goal as to learn to imitate the moves in an exact manner, however the goal seems to be more about learning the energies behind the moves than learning any orthodox technique. Because of this I find it to be a very shallow and often meaningless thing to critisize the appearance of a form and I know that the eye cannot pick up the real content of taijiquan.

It is my opinion that there are many good forms out there for taiji. Short or long, 2 man or 1, open hand or weapons, easy or hard, they are all excellent if you approach them right and they are all capable of becoming an obstacle to skill if you approach them wrong. I would endeavor to emphasize that learning the choreography is secondary to learning the energies. In many cases people fail to learn the energies but they learn the choreography quite well, however then they practice the moves incorrectly because they do not understand. That is because the energies lead to understanding of the form, but I believe the form does not lead to understanding of the energies. This is because as was mentioned earlier, the way to skill is through practicing the moves in a progressive way, speeding them up and working with them at real timing, this is done one energy and move at a time. It is not done through the form, I think teachers who focus on forms above other types of practice should be rejected by all of those who want to develop taiji skill.

The other day I was practicing single whip on a tree and a man asked me what belt I was working towards.
It occurred to me how alien his assumption may be to my way of thinking, after all I am not in a school, I have no formal teacher, and I do not desire a rank, rather I seek to obtain skill that I can recognize. Why would I require a formal setting or even seek one out then? I was not trying to achieve a belt, but my goal was to strike the tree properly, there was no scheme or plan related to this and each blow was another goal in this series. I see the entire world as my training place and class is always in session. I use this to practice endlessly, and what I practice is not a form, but the energies of the form. Taiji then becomes a way of life, and not just in a physical sense, but in a mental sense, and that is my personal experience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Alternative logo



This is another logo that has the built in symbolism of wuji, to taiji of yin and yang and the bagua. Just playing around with the logo in the previous post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Taiji bagua logo


I designed a taiji logo from an old taiji symbol and the trigrams to create an original logo for the taijiquan club that my friend and I have been developing. It serves to capture the essence I feel is important as a symbol and likewise serves to distance our group from the more conventional taiji and the common two fishes symbol. Here the trigrams sets can be seen as complimentary pairs of a dual and harmonious nature, as opposed to being opposites of a conflicting nature. The idea being that yin and yang are not separate properties that oppose, but are rather a relationship between reciprocal energies that are inextricably linked.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This upbeat, albeit French song bearing clip is almost 10 minutes of a workshop by Wang Yen-Nien, pupil of Zhang Qin-Lin. Wang Yen-Nien was behind many of the Michuan transmissions and thanks to him and those who sought him out and worked with him the Michuan taijiquan tradition will endure.

The michuan tradition apparently originates with Yang Luchan who in the employment of the Manchu Rulers of the late Qing chose to keep some of his teaching secret from his employers and thus creates and passed along to his sons a secret style of taijiquan, while he created another form for his employers which in modified version is the Yang long form that passed through Cheng-fu, who it would appear never received the Michuan teachings from his father.
Instead his father chose to impart their knowledge to pupil of Cheng-fu whom he approved of greatly, this mans name was Zhang Qin-lin and he won an 0pen fighting tournament in which life was lost, using taijiquan. He retired as a taoist and Wang Yen-Nien met him when Yen-Nien was still a child.

Taiji master TT Liang



Michuan Taijiquan 1st section

This is the 1st section of the Michuan taijiquan form by a man who was a student of Wang Yen-Nien for over 50 years:

Kunlun Jian

By the ineffable Albert Efimov, A jian form said to be from the Yang Jia Michuan tajiquan tradition.

Sun Jian form

This form is the Sun Style taiji version of bagua jian being done by Sun Jianyun.

Sun Style Taijiquan

This is sun style by Wang Yanji.
It incorporates Wu Hao taijiquan with xing-yi and bagua and was put together by Sun Lutang.

Wu hao Taijiquan

This is Wu Hao style taijiquan.
It comes from a man who was a student of Yang Luchan who also went to learn at Chen Village at one point.
It is this type of taiji that was adapted by Sun Lutang into his Sun style Taijiquan.

Small frame

This Yang form is small frame. This elderly gentleman is a student of one of Yang Ban Hou's pupils:

Large low frame form

Wu Tunan is said to have mentioned that the Yangs made him do a very low form under a table.
Yang Luchan was known to be able to apply taiji to below the knee.
The form below is associated with Yang Ban Hou and is very much consistent with the claims above:

Sim Pooh Ho

Here is a student of Wu Tunan doing a taiji form. This one appears to be a version of Yang style coming from Shao Hou, said to be like that of Ban Hou.

Form=Dance

If you translated the term form into another language, it could easily be conveyed as a dance.
This is because form and dance are both typically choreographed sequence.

What is the difference between learning a taijiform and learning to dance?
Who said there is a difference, they are the same.

In the old method of learning taiji, the body was trained and techniques were learned sequentially. This resulted in the skill so renown of taiji generations past.

The modern method of teaching is now to learn to dance, to learn a form and then try to use the form as a tool to learn the moves, this approach is nearly the exact opposite to the traditional method. This is because the dance of the original forms was too difficult to learn up front, and because the forms did not form the basis of traditional training. Form based training leaves out so many important things it is not worth the time to list them all, needless to say that learning to practice a dance and learning to practice a form are the same and should not be confused with learning to practice a martial art.

Forms are a type of practice and are designed to refine skills over time, however the skills they refine are introduced one at a time. The traditional methods involve getting the skills and methods down one at a time, when this aspect of training is complete the skills can be strung together in the form properly without error. In many modern and non-traditional schools there is the idea that you learn taijiquan by learning a form, this is not only false, it results in very poor skill levels compared to the traditional method. The problem is that form corrections do not work, breaking a habit is next to impossible, the only solution is to begin training all over again and with a proper method.

Doing things the wrong way over and over, contrary to popular belief, does not lead to learning the right way to do it, rather it is teaching the body to do them wrong. The idea that you practice a form and learn new ways to do the same moves over time is a very poor idea. This is not how the art was mastered in the past, but it is how many people ruin their ability to master the art in modern times. Part of this is because the skills that are found in the forms of taiji are not those that can be seen, they are essentially unseen forces that the student must have introduction to first, before form training begins.

A more traditional approach to learning taijiquan from the form is to take the very first move and learn it by doing it properly many thousands of times. This cannot be done from a book or a video because it requires a transmission that can only be felt, the explanations of what is going on are worthless to the eye, only knowing how they feel will allow the proper approach. This is the only way to unlock a form, because the transmission is the key. Once the first move is learned properly, and this cannot be determined by the student, only then is the student ready to move on to the next part of the form.

When taiji began to be taught to the public instead of just soldiers and martial artists, the method of teaching had to be changed drastically. Cheng-fu found that many people demanded to learn the form up front, however this cannot be done with the proper form, so he simplified it and made it easier. His refinements eventually took into consideration his massive stature, later postures of his taking into account his very large belly which got in the way of some of the more traditional movements. Despite these alteration the form was still too difficult, at one point a friend and student of his modified the form to make it even shorter and more easy, so as to enable the soldiers who were learning the form during the several weeks of training they had at the University where Cheng-fu and others were teaching, to be able to learn the form more easily. The name of the man who came up with the condensed form for the fast paced conveyor-belt setting of the University was Chen Man-Ching, a rather well known enthusiast of taiji.

Now the condensed form of Chen Man-Ching is among the most widely practiced forms, particularly for the conditioning effects it has upon the body. It is a healthy form, however it is not traditional to learn taiji through learning a form and thus the students of Chen Man-Ching that are the most renown, like William CC Chen and TT Liang, sought out and added much more to their own practice and transmissions than was passed to them by Man-Ching himself. Thus many years later many schools are found that employ the condensed form of Man-Ching while still training in a manner closer to the traditional methods than the modern form based training. However there are also groups which employ his form as the foundation of their understanding and do not employ more traditional practices. Also there are those who think that they can learn taiji from books containing forms, among these are Man-Chings own work, however without the transmission of an authentic line the unseen forces of taijiquan cannot be appreciated.

It is my belief that the 108 karanas were the original martial art posture. The training method in which they were mastered in very close to that of traditional posture training in martial arts. There are also many other similarities. What seems apparent to me is that the 108 karanas contain versions of all of the taiji postures and more and that having reviewed this for a few years now it is also apparent that taijiquan appears to be a refined version of a reduced set of karana postures. The karana postures were used for both dance and martial art. One of the frequent notions of Hindu art containing these postures is that they show dancing, even though such dancing frequently involved weapons and the Hindu classics clearly relate dancing to the martial arts. However many so called experts on India from the west have repeatedly failed to note this connection between dance and martial arts.

Many of the previous posts here illustrate martial dances that appear to have spread out across Asia from India over the last 3000 years. They almost all involve variations of the same posture and slow movement for training and fast movement for application. In many cases the costume of the dancer is based on ancient armor and in many cultures there is a connection between warrior and dance, Japan is a good example of this and the influence of vedic tradition in Japan is also rather apparent.

Over time I have come to see that many dances are more martial than are realized, and many martial forms are more dance like than realized. In the end form equals dance and dance is just form and skill does not come from knowing the choreography, it comes from mastering the moves themselves.