Monday, June 29, 2009


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.

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.


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.