The most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing.
Do you know what is the most important to learn to begin your Tai Chi learning?
Most masters and practitioners will tell you “sung“.
However, I will tell you “yi” i.e. intent.
How do you know who to believe, who to follow?
Take a second out and ask yourself, ask your fellow practitioner, ask your master what exactly is “sung“. How does only achieve it? To say that to “sung” one must relax is basically like chasing one’s tail in that you can forever not catch up to your tail.
When this is the case you can practice Tai Chi for the next 20 years, read the Tai Chi Classics and still “catch no ball” (that’s Singaporean speak for not knowing what the hell is going on). However, if you approach the learning of Tai Chi from the perspective of “yi” then you will be able to read the Classics and understand what they mean.
You will realize that the written words are not tautology but words recording the experience of master practitioners, words that so-called masters today have a problem making sense of in their entirety except for smattering of explanation here and there.
For example, when you read this section from the writings of Chang San Feng what do you understand by it?
Insubstantial and substantial
should be clearly differentiated.
At any place where there is insubstantiality,
there must be substantiality;
Every place has both insubstantiality and substantiality.
Since this is a general principle it should apply to each and every posture that you perform in the Tai Chi form (we will ignore the application for now). So how do you ensure that this principle is clearly and properly practiced in say Beginning Posture where the body’s weight is distributed 50:50? How do you achieve “sung” at the same time as you implement insubstantial and substantial in your posture and movements?
Easy question? Or stumped?
Here is another set of principles on insubstantial and substantial, this time from the writings of Wu Yuxiang, the founder of Wu (Hao) style Tai Chi :-
The yi and qi must interchange agilely,
then there is an excellence of roundness and smoothness.
This is called “the interplay of insubstantial and substantial.”
How do you put this in play using “sung” approach? I can tell you how we do it using “yi” approach because its pretty straightforward. It is something we learn to do from the first lesson though beginners would probably still not really understand the importance then. It is a topic we constantly revisit and it would make even more sense when doing push hands.
So if you want to improve your Tai Chi follow the advice of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki and find out what is the most important thing in the learning and mastery of Tai Chi Chuan.