TAIJI STORIES & ARTICLES
Yang Cheng Fu's Ten Important Points For Practice
1. Hold The Head Straight With Ease
The head should be erect in order for the spirit to rise. If force is used, the back of the neck will be stiff, and the circulation of blood and chi will be impeded. There should be a natural, light and sensitive feeling. If not, the spirit will be unable to rise up.
In order to achieve the above, it is important that the neck is held straight, but very relaxed and alive. Keep your mouth natural with the tongue touching the upper palate. Avoid clenching your teeth or gazing out with an angry look. Keep your sacrum straight and slightly tucked under. If not, your spine will be affected, and your spirit will not be able to rise.
2. Sink the Chest and Raise the Back
There should be a slight drawing in of the chest which allows the chi to sink to the "Dan Tian". Avoid protruding the chest as this will cause the chi to rise which will lead to top heaviness, and the soles of the feet to float.
Raising the back means that the chi adheres to the back. If you can sink your chest, your back will naturally rise. If you can raise your back, your power will come from your spine enabling you to overcome any opponent.
Sink the chest and raise the back are similar to when a cat is in readiness to launch an attack on its prey.
3. Relax the Waist
The waist is the commander of the body. If the waist is relaxed and loosened, the foundation, that is, your legs will be stable, enabling you to issue power. Changes in solid and empty derive from the moving of the waist. It is said that "the waist is the well spring of your vital energy". If you lack power in your movements, look for the weakness in your waist and legs.
4. Distinguishing Solid and Empty
Distinguishing solid and empty is a fundamental principle of Tai Chi. If your body centre rests in your right leg, then your right is solid, and your left leg is empty. If your body centre rests in your left leg, then your left leg is solid, and your right leg is empty. When you can clearly make this distinction, your movements will be light, agile, and effortless. If not, your steps will be heavy and clumsy, and you are easily unbalanced due to the instability of your stance.
The philosophy of Yin Yang is the underlying principle of change in stepping.
5. Sink the Shoulders and Elbows
The shoulders should relax and hang downwards. If the shoulders are raised, then the chi rises, and the whole body cannot summon up its power.
The elbows must relax and point downwards. If the elbows are raised, the shoulders will become tense, inhibiting your ability to discharge your opponent to any great distance. Raising the elbows or shoulders is similar to breaking the jin which occurs in the external martial art systems.
6. Use the Mind and not Brute Force
According to the Tai Chi Classics, you use the mind and not brute force. In practice, your whole body is relaxed; not even using an ounce of brute force. If you employ brute force, you restrict the flow of energy through your sinews, bones, and blood vessels. This will inhibit your freedom of movement, preventing you from achieveing agility, sensitivity, aliveness, circularity, and naturalness.
"How can you have power without using brute force?" By making us of the meridians in the body. (Meridians are a network of pathways which transport chi throughout the body. They connect the superficial, interior, upper and lower portions of the human body, making the body an organic whole). The meridians are similar to the rivers and streams of the earth. If the rivers are open, then the water flows freely. If the meridians are open, then the chi flows. If the meridians are blocked as a result of using stiff force, then the circulation of chi and blood become sluggish. Hence, your movements will not be nimble, and even if a hair is pulled, your whole body will be in a state of disorder.
Although your abdomen is full and alive, there is no force being used. For the chi to sink down to the Dan Tian slowly and naturally, the mind needs to be relaxed. By deeply relaxing while performing your Tai Chi movements, your chi will move freely to every part of your body. This will benefit the body greatly. On the other hand, if you tense your mind and forcefully try to move your chi, or use unnatural methods to circulate the chi, it is more than likely that blockages will occur which are harmful to your health.
When you are able to use your mind and not brute force, then wherever your mind goes, your chi follows. After a long period of practice and chi circulating freely everyday, you develop jin (an internal power which is different from hard force). This is what the Tai Chi Classics means by "from true softness comes true hardness". The arms of one who has Tai Chi kung fu will feel extremely heavy; like steel wrapped in cotton. People who practise external martial art systems look strong when they exert hard force. However, when they are not bringing their hard force into use, they are light and floating. You can see that this merely a superficial kind of strength. Instead of using the mind, they use brute force, which makes them easy to manipulate. Hence not worthy of praise.
7. Coordinate your Upper and Lower Body
According to the Tai Chi Classics, "the root is in the feet; issued through the legs; controlled by the waist; and expressed through the fingers. From the feet through the legs to the waist forms one harmonious chi." When the hands, waist, and feet move, your gaze needs to follow in unison. This is what is meant by harmony of the upper and lower body. If one part of the body is not in concordance with the rest, it will result in chaos.
When you first learn Tai Chi, your movements are larger and more open than those of a seasoned practitioner. The larger movements ensure that your waist and legs are moving in concordance, and all parts of the body are in harmony.
8. Unify your Internal and External
Tai Chi trains the spirit. It is said that "the spirit is the leader and the body follows its command". If you can lift your spirit, then your movements will naturally be agile and alive. Postures are nothing more than solid and empty, opening and closing. Opening does not just involve the hands and feet, but they must work in concordance with the opening of the heart/mind. Closing does not just concern the hands and feet, but they should coordinate with the closing of the heart/mind as well. When the internal and external are unified as one harmonious chi, then there are no gaps anywhere.
The heart/spirit is like a concealed sword. From the outside, your practice has the appearance of being relaxed and comfortable, but on the inside, your heart/spirit is concentrated and sharp as a sword.
9. Continuity - No Stopping
The external martial art systems employ brute force which is stiff and unnatural. This force stops and starts; moves in a jerky fashion. When the old force is finished before the new one has begun, this is the time when one is most vulnerable to attacks. In Tai Chi, you use the mind and not brute force. From the beginning to the end, the movements are continuous without stopping; like an endless circle. This is what the Classics means by "a great river flowing continuously never ending", or "moving the jin like reeling silk from a cocoon". The above conveys the idea of stringing the movements together into one harmonious chi.
If your movements stop and start, you will be easily taken advantage of by your opponent because you have exhausted your old strength, and the new power is not yet born.
10. Seek Serenity in Activity
The external martial art systems consider leaping and crouching to be of value. They exhaust their energy and after practice, they are out of breath. Tai Chi uses serenity to counter activity. Even when you are moving, you remain tranquil. When practising the postures, the slower you move, the better the result. Slowness enables your breath to become deep and long with the chi sinking to the Dan Tian. This will naturally prevent the pulse rate from elevating. Students of Tai Chi should think deeply on the above in order to grasp its meaning.
It is important to practise the movements slowly, so that you can understand the meaning within the movements. Practising slowly helps to regulate your breathing enabling your breath to become deep and long allowing your chi to sink to the Dan Tian. Practising in this manner also prevents the fault of top heaviness which is caused by the chi rising up.
Note: Narrated by Yang Cheng Fu, recorded by Chen Wei Ming and expanded upon by Fu Sheng Yuan
Taken from the Authentic Yang Family Tai Chi by Master Fu Sheng Yuan
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