In this third lesson we take an overall look at the body architecture of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi Chuan.
Every method of combat is built on a set of assumptions, principles, strategies, practices and techniques. The Tai Chi of Grandmaster Wei is built around the assumption that the mind, specifically the intent, is the key to actualizing the concept of Yin and Yang for the purpose of combat.
Now Yin-Yang is a philosophy. It is also a model, something that a number of Chinese cultural practices subscribe to. To me knowing about Yin-Yang without being able to reconcile both within movement is basically not really knowing what it is about.
Through the years I have read, heard and seen different ideas, practices and applications of Yin-Yang. Some are somewhat simplistic and some are tons of verbiage. As for actual show-and-tell 99.9% are claiming one thing and showing something else. I should not be surprised though.
The concept of Yin-Yang is one of paradox. If you look at the diagram it shows you that it is not all black or white but a bit of both, what we term as Yin within Yang, Yang within Yin (陰中有陽, 陽中有陰).
This is important because it is highlighting the notion of co-existence, that you cannot have one without the other (to keep things brief we will ignore the other implications of the model). For example, for the purpose of punching this is typically translated as meaning to relax your arm before punching and tensing it at the moment of contact.
Here comes the conundrum – if you punch this way it would mean that your punching arm is either hard or soft but not hard with some softness or soft with some hardness. This seems so much like a philosophical puzzle than an actual principle that can be put into practice.
I have tried to downplay and minimize the apparent contradiction but ultimately I could not ignore the fact that I did not really know what Yin-Yang was about. Fortunately, if education has taught me one thing it is the value of seeking a teacher who can enlighten me, how we Chinese say it, “wise person seeks teacher, becomes enlightened” (智者得師而明) and in this sense having the fate to meet my teacher I began my learning of the 22-form, a tool that can resolve this question but only if you train it right and you train long the key body architecture requirements which we next turn to.
When you play your Tai Chi form how do you form your body structure? Do you just do it? Or do you think about doing it and then do it?
In Grandmaster Wei’s Tai Chi we use our intent to configure and shape our body to the principles of our art. This is what is meant by the phrase Intent Comes First (意在先).
If the intent is absent or lacking then we have no Tai Chi. To have intent guiding and cloaking our body is a fulfilment of the requirement of Yin within Yang, Yang within Yin (陰中有陽, 陽中有陰) in that the Intent is within the Body, and Body is within our Intent.
This practice sounds super complex but once you mastered it you will find that it is super easy. Again can you see another manifestation of paradox? This time in the form of Easy within Difficult, Difficult within Easy!!! This is why Tai Chi techniques look soft yet powerful; frequently being likened to iron wrapped in cotton.
The body architecture of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi Chuan is built on the principles below :-
1) Suspend (head) from top (懸頂)
2) Eyes spirit (眼神)
3) Empty armpits (虚腋)
4) Elbows droop (to) waist ring (肘坠腰圈)
5) Elongate wrist (鼓腕)
6) Strength source (勁源)
7) Open chest, spread elbows, fill waist, elongate waist, begin three energetic rings (开胸, 張肘, 塞腰, 鼓腕, 興三氣圈)
8) Body as bell (身如鐘)
9) Body within weighs (down) straight line, begins two four dots (身中重直線興 二四点)
10) Body within weighs straight line, begins bell hammer (身中重直線興鐘錘)
11) Chest front, ten character (胸前十字)
12) Three passes, of conveyed usage (三關的运用)
13) Fist, palm, hook (拳, 掌, 勾)
These 13 body requirements once fulfilled and mastered enables the practitioner to generate the unique strength that is guided by intent. This is an outstanding feature of the Tai Chi Chuan style of Grandmaster Wei Shuren.