LEARNING INTERNAL TAI CHI

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1. INTRODUCTION

On this blog I will outline a direct method for learning internal Tai Chi that should lead to progress in a shorter time frame.

2. THE LEARNING APPROACH

The learning approach is to focus on what you need to know instead of what you think you want to know.

Too much knowledge can lead to little learning. So it is best to zoom into learning what we need to make progress from one stage to another instead of trying to learn a lot.

The internal Tai Chi that I know is complex, much too complicated for quicker learning and speedy mastery. I decided to make internal Tai Chi more accessible by reimagining and redesigning the learning.

3. HOW TO GO ABOUT LEARNING

The method of learning is divided into three stages :-

a) Getting Started
b) Adding On
c) Refining

The objective of material categorized as “Getting Started” is the first thing you need to know.

Actually, there are many things we need to know when learning internal Tai Chi which can be distracting. To reduce the learning clutter I will keep each basic sparse and simple.

When you get this principle then you go for the next part of the learning under the “Adding On” category. This is where the learning starts to get a little complicated but still manageable.

The category “Refining” is where you go after you have grasped the learning under the “Adding On” category. The material in this category is the most complex.

Once you understand the learning of the one thing under the three different categories and put each of the one thing together with the other “one thing” learning you will end up with different levels of understanding.

4. IMPORTANCE OF BASICS

Our internal Tai Chi is built around a slew of essential basic principles.

Each of the principles teaches you one thing. Each of the principles is meant to be combined to form the entire picture of what internal Tai Chi is.

Because of this you need to know each of the basics well. It will take you time to get into each basic, get to the level where you obtain meaningful insights and move on to translating the insights into physical skills.

5. LEARNING ORDER

The basics of our internal Tai Chi at the “Getting Started” level can be learned in any order.

This is because all these basics form one singular picture of what internal Tai Chi is about.

You can start from any topic as long as by the end of it you understand each of the basics.

6. LAYERS

Each basic is multi-layered. There is a physical layer and a mental layer. Both are two different aspects of the same basic.

The first and easiest layer to grasp is the physical layer. As you keep practicing you should start to feel something; this is the point at which you start to feel the mental layer (what we call qualia – something you feel when you think and move in a certain way).

The layer to aim for is where the many basics that you have learned is reduced to a few layers and eventually to a state of being part of you.

7. MICRO LEARNING

To keep the learner from drowning in knowledge I will keep the learning to the bare minimum. Keeping the learning small makes it easier to learn.

Learning at the micro level affords greater attention to detail. When you grasped the learning of each basic then you put them together at the macro level to form the big picture.

8. SUMMARY

Internal Tai Chi can be learned, mastered and transmitted with a suitable method of teaching.

In this blog I will attempt to do so with the Yang style that I have learned.

Study of Hand-Arm Structure (Arm Bows)

1. WHAT

In Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s 22-form a key method of fajing is by using the 5 bows.

The 5 bows are :-

a) Arm bows X 2
b) Spinal bow X 1
c) Leg bows X 2

2. METHOD

a) Small Chi Sphere
i) Fajing Exercise No. 1 – Open Palm
ii) Fajing Exercise No. 2 – Open Palm Down to Up
iii) Fajing Exercise No. 3 – Open Palm to Chest
iv) Fajing Exercise No. 4 – Linking Up Exercise No. 1 to 3

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

How to use the hand and arm as an integrated arm bow to fajing.

4. COMMENTARY

We begin our learning of the 5 bows by learning the arm bows.

The first thing we study in the use of the 5 bows is how to use the imaginary ball (the proper term is Small Chi Sphere) as this requires a lot more practice than the spinal and leg bows.

Then as we go on we study the other aspects of the hand-arm structural requirements.

5. CONCLUSION

The most basic thing that we learn is also the most important thing to learn because most of the time we connect to the opponent through our hands.

As such, it is important to learn the arm bows from the very start.

Fajing Exercise No. 4 – Linking Up Exercise No. 1 to 3

1. WHAT

Fajing Exercise No. 4 links together the previous three exercises :-

i) Fajing Exercise No. 1

ii) Fajing Exercise No. 2

iii) Fajing Exercise No. 3

2. METHOD

a) Variation 1

Step 1 – Hold the imaginary ball in your right hand at your chest and carry out the arm to body integration as per Fajing Exercise No. 3.

Step 2 – Bring your right out and forward as you turn your right palm from facing your chest to facing down. When you have the right fingers facing forward see the + sign in your mind, aim and release the imaginary ball as per Fajing Exercise No. 1.

Step 3 – Repeat.

b) Variation 2

Step 1 to 2 – follow instructions above. However, instead of receiving the imaginary ball on its return with your right palm facing downwards you follow the method outlined in Fajing Exercise No. 2. This calls for you to receive the imaginary ball on its return with your right palm facing upwards.

Step 3 – Bring your right palm that is facing upwards back to your chest.

Step 4 – Repeat Step 1 to 3.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

The core lesson in Fajing Exercise No. 4 variation (a) is how to load, target, release using the imaginary ball.

Variation (a) is a start-stop exercise in that you do the exercise, reset and do it again.

Variation (b) adds in an additional movement to allow you to keep repeating the movement in a loop.

By learning how to repeat the movement in a loop you are learning how to fajing consecutively using the same hand.

At a later level Step 3 in variation (b) can act as a defensive movement or an open-and-enter technique.

4. COMMENTARY

An example of the use of Fajing Exercise No. 4 occurs in Brush Knee, Twist Step technique in Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s 22-form.

In Fajing Exercise No. 4 we isolate and learn the movement of the arm and hand in controlling the imaginary ball.

5. CONCLUSION

The principle of moving the arm and doing fajing using the imaginary ball in Fajing Exercise No. 4 is part and parcel of the learning of how to use the arm bow which is part of the body’s five bows.

We learn how to use the arm bow first as this requires a lot more movement than when we use the spinal bow and leg bows.

Fajing Exercise No. 3 – Open Palm to Chest

1. WHAT

Fajing Exercise No. 3 teaches you a method to connect up the upper body to the hand holding the imaginary ball.

2. METHOD

Step 1 – Your right palm is facing upwards. It is holding an imaginary ball.

Step 2 – Bring your right palm up to your chest and press the imaginary ball against your chest. Feel the imagined pressure of the ball pressed against your chest as your chest is resisting the pressure.

Step 3 – In your mind let the resistance go and allow the ball to leave your right hand and go through your body to bounce against your back. The ball then bounces right back out through your chest and into your right palm. What do you feel in your right hand and right side of your chest / back?

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Fajing Exercise No. 1 and 2 focused on the relationship of the open hand to the imaginary ball.

In Fajing Exercise No. 3 we broaden the relationship by extending the qualia to the upper body in the initial learning stage.

4. COMMENTARY

If you relax and stand without unnecessary movement the lower body will also connect up to the upper body without you having to do so.

This enables you to connect the hand holding the imaginary ball to the entire body and not just the upper body as mentioned in WHAT above.

5. CONCLUSION

I have broken down the basic learning for how to use the imaginary ball (or Small Chi Sphere to use its proper name) for fajing purposes.

This is just a microscopic view of the process which I have divided into several steps to make the learning more comprehensive.

Once your body has grasped how to do it all the different exercises will collapse to become just one exercise which we can go through either in the form or in the neigung exercise sequence.

Fajing Exercise No. 2 – Open Palm Down to Up

1. WHAT

Fajing Exercise No. 2 is an extension of Fajing Exercise No. 1.

2. METHOD

Step 1 – Perform Fajing Exercise No. 1.

Step 2 – This time instead of having the right hand in the same position what you do is as follows :-

i) Right fingers release the imaginary ball towards the target.

ii) As soon as the ball is released let your right palm trace clockwise the arc of the imaginary ball that you were holding. The will lower your right hand and turn the palm to face upwards.

iii) The moment your right palm reached the position of palm facing upwards the imaginary ball will arrive back at your fingers.

Step 3 – Turn your right palm downwards again. Do it by tracing anti-clockwise the arc of the imaginary ball that you were holding in Step 1. Repeat the exercise.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

In Fajing Exercise No. 1 you learn how to release the imaginary ball and let it come back to your right hand.

In Fajing Exercise No. 2 you learn how to receive the imaginary ball as it comes back to you by turning your right palm to face up.

The palm facing up position in Fajing Exercise No. 2 represents readiness to generate force whereas the palm facing down position in Fajing Exercise No. 1 denotes the phase in which you are about to release the power.

4. COMMENTARY

This exercise is derived from Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s 22-form Beginning Posture.

5. CONCLUSION

The ability to generate power is a process of moving between potential energy and kinetic energy.

Fajing Exercise No. 1 and 2 teaches the cycle of moving between both energies.

Fajing Exercise No. 1 – Open Palm

1. WHAT

Fajing Exercise No. 1 is part of the learning on how to use the open palm that is holding an imaginary ball to fajing.

2. METHOD

Step 1 – To do this exercise we will be using the open palm shape information here. If you have forgotten what it is about do a review before reading the rest of the steps.

Step 2 – Pick a wall and pin a paper with a huge + sign on it that you can see from 10 feet away.

Step 3 – Stand back 10 feet away (that’s 3 meters for those who grew up with metric system). Hold your right palm in front of you. The fingers holding the imaginary ball will be pointed forward at the target.

Step 4 – We are going to use intent to do the exercise. Point the imaginary ball at the target. Now I want you to imagine that the ball is charged with kinetic energy that makes it want to pull away from your fingers and fly off forward. What’s the feeling like? Visualize and feel for a while before you do the next step.

Step 5 – Feel the ball wanting to fly off? Good. Now release the ball by opening up your fingers, just enough to release the ball. In your mind’s eye see the ball fly forward to hit the target.

Step 6 – After the ball hits the target it will fly back to your right hand. As the ball reaches your hand quickly grasp it with your fingers. What do you feel? Throughout Step 5 and 6 your right arm and rest of your body stays at rest. Let your imagination do the work and your right fingers seek the qualia.

Keep practicing until you can release the ball and it can come back to your right hand as if it is really happening with a real ball.

Practice with your left hand too. When you can do it easily try doing the exercise with both hands at the same time. This fajing exercise is extracted from the Beginning Posture of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s 22-form.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

The objective here is to learn how to use intent to move the body subtly to fajing.

4. COMMENTARY

In this basic exercise you learn to use the hand first. However, as you progress you will find that even though you appear outwardly to be moving the hand you are in effect moving the whole body.

This ability normally comes from learning the form. However, we can also take any technique from the form and train it for this purpose.

5. CONCLUSION

The training of visualization conforms to the internal Tai Chi principle of “intent comes first”.

In the beginning you may not feel anything but a few more repetitions in you should feel something.

This something feeling will grow and change and be refined. Do the training and find out the amazing discoveries that await you.

Levelness – Getting Started

1. WHAT

Keeping the body upright is a basic requirement for our Tai Chi.

Keeping the body level complements the upright body structure.

2. METHOD

The method for keeping the body upright is very simple – look straight ahead.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Keeping the body level enables us to move and turn quickly with good balance.

It also forces us to keep our eyes at the opponent in front of us.

4. COMMENTARY

Keeping the body level by looking ahead seems easy to do and it is.

However, keeping your eyes looking ahead at all times is immensely difficult to do even for season practitioners and masters.

The temptation to look down at the feet is always there. I would say that 99 out of 100 practitioners would not be able to keep their eyes looking levelly.

5. CONCLUSION

The requirement of levelness is one of those underestimated principal of the body structure in our Tai Chi.

The Upright Body – Getting Started

1. WHAT

We learn to keep the body in an upright manner to minimize the amount of tension in the upper body.

2. METHOD

a) Throw out your chest as much as you. Now let the tension go and observe how the chest settles back.

b) Do the same by pushing your upper back out and releasing the tension.

c) The state of not throwing the chest out and not protruding the back will be the most comfortable, a posture you can easily hold for a long duration.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

This posture allows you to minimize the amount of tension in the upper body.

The purpose is to remove the obstruction posed by unnecessarily tensed muscles to your energy flow.

4. COMMENTARY

A good posture is necessary to allow your chi to flow naturally.

The minimizing of tension is also a necessary condition for being able to generate power with lesser effort.

5. CONCLUSION

In the practice of Tai Chi we seek to be comfortable.

Being comfortable is not being floppily sung. Being comfortable is to keep the body in a state of sufficient tension to hold a posture but not impeded chi or energy flow.

Forming the Open Hand Palm Shape – Refining

1. WHAT

The Getting Started of the Open Hand Palm Shape develops your ability to bring the energy out to your fingertips.

The Adding On adds to the Getting Started by tacking on an additional point to focus the intent.

In Refining we finetune the movement by using timing to generate a wave-like pulse of energy.

2. METHOD

This is how to do the 2-step generation process using your right hand :-

a) Curve the top of the imaginary sphere forward with your fingertips. This expresses the Peng energy.

b) As soon as you have performed (a) smoothly seque into the next move which is to push as if compressing the imaginary sphere with the dot on your hypothenar eminence. This allows you to issue An energy.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

The Refining here teaches how to connect to your opponent’s body by applying pressure to it.

You then apply a secondary pressure to unbalance him since he is unable to resist two forces acting on him at the same time.

4. COMMENTARY

This is a composite fajing method which is derived from a few of the fajing models presented in Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s book on the 22-form.

I have compiled it this way so that it can be learned easily. Once you understand it you can use it to learn the original models that this method is created from.

This compiled method teaches you to issue Peng energy followed by An energy. The energy of Peng is like a wave crashing down whereas the energy of An is like the wave rising. When using both energies one after another in succession you are basically using the movement and energy of a sinuous curve.

The mastery of the hand structure in using the imaginary ball allows you to quickly generate the power with minimal setup and outer movement. This is the first and last thing you learn i.e. bringing the power up to the hand.

The difference is in the learning stage you learn to form, hold and use the imaginary ball through intent. You sometimes have the intent but you often do not have it so you have to keep working on it. In the mastery stage the intent automatically forms the moment you use the open hand palm structure.

5. CONCLUSION

Mastering Tai Chi can sound daunting to many but as you can see it is not really that difficult to follow.

The challenge is to overcome your belief that it is difficult to master the art when this is not true, at least not without really putting in your best effort to try.

Forming the Open Hand Palm Shape – Adding On

1. WHAT

In this section I will touch on the next step in learning how to form the open hand palm shape.

I classify this as Adding On because I am adding another point to the learning. I could have mentioned the principle in this section in the Getting Started but that might be too much for some learners.

Some learners can handle a lot of information while some can handle less information. My point is if you only have to deal with one, that’s right, one piece of information that would be easy.

You cannot forget one piece of information as compared to three, four or more steps dispensed in one teaching. Having one piece of the puzzle at a time also makes it easier to practice cause you only have to get that one thing correct. If you cannot get this one principle down how would you handle more principles.

So in the Plus Learning I am just going to add one more piece of information to learning how to form the open hand palm shape. If you truly get what I wrote about how to train the open hand palm shape in Getting Started you would already have the foundation of one of the types of fajing method that we use in Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi.

2. METHOD

The steps are :-

a) Follow the steps in Getting Started.

b) Now imagine there is a point, a dot on your hand’s hypothenar eminence. If you do not know what that is the hypothenar eminence is the prominent part of the palm of the hand, above the pisiform bone, the hamate bone, and the base of the fifth finger.

c) With part of your intent still on the fingertips now gently push the dot on the hypothenar eminence forward as if compressing the imaginary ball with this part of your palm.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

With the principle in Getting Started you should be able to get the force out from your hand into your training partner’s body.

With the content of Adding-On you should be able to make your training partner off balance by taking a step back or even bounce back depending on how he does the resisting. This is another method of fajing that we use.

4. COMMENTARY

How fast you can pickup the method outlined in Getting Started and here depends on how much and well you practice.

I am simplifying the method of using the small chi sphere to perform fajing by teaching it as an open hand formation method. This is because if you form the shape properly you will get the structure ready for fajing. I did say the basics are important, right?

So once the key factors are in place fajing should be a piece of cake. If not, well then you know what to do – go practice…… more!!!

At a later stage of learning you can add in the compress-release principle of moving the arm and body each time you push the dot for greater power.

5. CONCLUSION

When you can make what you learn here work then it is easy to figure out the fajing methods explained by Grandmaster Wei in his book on the 22-form in relation to using the small chi sphere for force generation.

I would use complicated explanations to explain. I am sure many would be thrilled and excited by scholarly type of explanations that titillate their grey cells.

However, with the future uncertain I might as well get on with it and impart it in a much more simpler manner that is accessible in terms of actually getting the skill rather than knowing it but take too long to master it or maybe never at all.

Forming the Hook – Getting Started

1. WHAT

The third and final hand structure you learn is the hook hand.

2. METHOD

How to form the hook hand :-

a) Imagine that there is a marble on an imaginary surface in front of you

b) Pick up the marble with the tips of your fingers.

c) Lift the marble vertically up by bending your wrist while moving your elbow upwards minimally.

3. LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Learn to sung your arm right up to the tips of your fingers. The imaginary marble will keep your finger focused properly.

If you have a problem doing so try holding a small piece of cloth between your fingertips while your arm is outstretched. Keep the arm outstretched while the other arm practice the cycle of neutralizing and striking with the open hand.

4. COMMENTARY

The hook hand does not appear a lot in the Yang style Tai Chi form so it looks like the least important hand structure.

But do not let its lack of appearance deceive you. In application the hook hand is used a look. The only reason this does not seem so is that in application the hook hand does not look like its formal structure.

In Yang style Tai Chi 108 form the hook hand first appears in the Single Whip posture. The Single Whip technique is at its most basic function a one hand holding, the other hand striking technique; the hook hand being the holding hand. Get the picture now?

5. CONCLUSION

The hook hand has other applications besides holding. This will become more apparent once you expand on the learning and refine it via the Adding On and Refining parts.