Slow & Steady

It is not my intent to write this post. Instead, I wanted to reorganize my blog by removing the folders eBook and MyWingChun and creating a TaiChiLite folder.

Then I saw Paul’s comment to my comment to his latest BojiLite training video practicing the Yum Chui. I advised him to go slow in his practice. Interestingly, I also advised another student learning Tai Chi this morning to go slow also. So what the heck, let’s make a post about it.

Slow – when learning anything go slow. The priority is to get the steps correct instead of rushing to complete it.

When you go slow you have more time to see and feel what you are doing. If you go too fast you miss out on a lot of things, more so if the art is filled with fine details that cannot be readily sussed out, at least not with a lot of practice, research and investigation.

Steady – you should move at a steady rather than erratic pace. A steady pace enables your body to coordinate better in the early stages of learning, particularly during changes that involve turning and twisting.

As Lao Tzu wrote :-

To know harmony is called constancy
To know constancy is called clarity

Chapter 55 : Purity of the New-Born
Tao Teh Ching

Mastery will come when your hands are enlightened with the clarify of a mirror that only reflects what is before it in the present. So go slow and steady in your learning.



Of Rootedness & Power

I am writing to my friend to answer his question about how to cultivate power and rootedness using non-standing posture methods.

I might as well write a general post on it since a lot of readers would be interested to know too.

To start off with I would say that :-

a) If you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer

b) If you make the wrong assumption, you travel the wrong path

c) Ignorance can impede your progress, so make sure you arm yourself with knowledge

d) Find a baseline to compare your practice to. Adjust and change the baseline when necessary

e) Keep your mind open to possibilities, including those that you know nothing about, never heard of before or beyond your current understanding

The first thing I want to address is can standing posture teach you how to generate power. I will say this – standing perfectly still will not allow you to generate power. Even when we use intent we still need to move, even if the movement is very little.

I once read a story of a Yiquan master who stood in a standing posture for three years to train the ability to mentally pull a tree in the distance to his hands and push it back. Some may point to this as evidence that standing posture teaches fajing.

I would say no, this is missing the point. The standing still is to teach you to calm your mind to the point where you can feel your body, and by forcing you to stand still to reduce the amount of unnecessary movements you are making.

It is only when you reach a state of calmness and elimination of unnnecessary movement that you are able to use intent to move your body in a different, more optimal manner. So you see you still need to move your body.

The form route basically uses the same method but approaching it from another direction. We keep training the movements using intent, moving from gross to fine, big to medium to small, until by compliance to the principles we are moving optimally.

But as I mentioned in another post today it is very difficult to teach kids to generate power by the use of standing postures. It is just as difficult to teach kids using forms.

Actually, to cultivate power it is not important which method you want to use. When I teach Tai Chi to students I would tell them not to focus on power but rare is the student who would actually listen because they think of fajing ability as a magic pill that would bestow martial invincibility on them. Actually, this is not true.

Good fighting skills are reliant on the person and his technical abilities. If a person’s heart is not in it he will still lose a fight. So will a fighter without good skills but the right heart. To be a winner one should have a good balance of personal and technical abilities.

As personal abilities are subjective we normally do not go into them. It is easier to discuss technical abilities as these are more objective.

The question of power and rootedness need not be the same, yet they can be.

Consider this – if you run fast and throw yourself at another person you will have power but will you have rootedness?

Similarly, if you sink really low into your stance you will have strong root but would this lead to stronger fajing ability?

My conclusion is that a balance of both would work best. I suspect this is why a lot of internal systems use small frame characteristics because it would allow them sufficient rootedness with minimal compromise on fajing ability.

So back to the question of how to use non-standing posture method to train power and rootedness. My views as follows :-

a) Basic rootedness – use the Pok Khek basic posture. The basic procedures are listed here.

They are necessary but not sufficient if you want to have a more internal way to do it. You may find it hard to believe but if you get the basic posture right you will have instant rootedness.

The problem why this does not work for most people is because they do not diligently follow the instructions nor try out as many times as necessary to get it.

b) However, nobody stands still in a fight. You need to move, and move while keeping your balance even as you are under attack or returning fire.

This is where you need to train yourself to move. In Pok Khek Kuen we learn how to move by learning the Leung Yi Bo.

There are a few other ways to move, however, the Leung Yi Bo teaches a basic, essential principle that we use in combat. So if you don’t get this principle then your ability to apply the techniques properly will be compromised.

c) The basic posture when applied to the Leung Yi Ma posture lay the foundation for a posture that will allow you to generate power in different ways.

The best part about the above is that in as little as 6 months you can generate decent power………… but only if you actually put in the training. Reading about it, fantasizing about it, intellectualizing about it is useless and for keyboard warriors.


Power Generation for Kids

Here’s an interesting question – how do you teach kids how to generate internal power?

Certainly this is a big challenge because if adults have a problem learning to do it then teaching kids will be a huge hurdle.

I have a friend who is trying to teach his daughter self-defense. Part of the training involved learning how to stand for long period of time. I am not sure if this will work for kids because of their shorter attention span, not to mention that one must fight the pain to continue standing.

This is what I think :-

a) The requirement to learn how to stand in order to cultivate the ability to generate internal power is a myth.

b) Standing still can be counter-productive because you never see any high level master spar without moving at all. Even the no-touch kongjing masters have to move!

c) Power generation is not a matter of internal or external. Instead, it is a matter of classical mechanics plus intent.

d) Teaching classical mechanics via drills is the easiest way to learn. However, the fastest way to master power generation is via the use of intent.

e) The problem with learning how to use intent is that :-

i) Very few people are able to keep their focus long enough to do it.

ii) Most people either don’t believe it and refuse to devote enough time to learn it properly.

iii) Some people fall in love with the how of the method and end up intellectualizing it rather than actually practicing it.


I believe the reasons above are why I have yet to see any kids demonstrate internal power. In fact, most adult practitioners are actually demonstrating what should be properly known as external power.

There is nothing wrong with having external power so I don’t know why people are obsessed with calling it internal power when it is not. Doing so and being in denial will only cause one to miss out on what actual internal power is really about.

So how would I teach a kid how to generate internal power?

I wouldn’t. Not directly anyway. If I were to do so I would so a combination of methods :-

I) External method (physical)

a) Learn the simple Leung Yi Ma in-situ body turning to unify the rotation of the body

b) Expand the exercise to Leung Yi Bo to unify the body in stepping

c) Learn to generate whipping power by learning how to do Sao Chui

d) Increase heaviness of Sao Chui by using hand weights

e) Refine the rotating of the body to increase acceleration of striking arm

f) Test the power of the Sao Chui strike

II) Internal method (intent)

a) Train simple intent by using relatable examples

b) Fix the intent through lots of repetition

c) Test result of intent training by checking power through striking of pads

d) Integrate method of movements using intent into self-defense techniques



Live Form Vs Dead Form

One of the greatest learning tragedy in Tai Chi is learning a dead form. This means you learned and memorized the choreograph but when doing push hands you are unable to apply the techniques, much less use the principles embedded in the form to solve problems.

This is why we stress the learning of a live form over a dead form. A live form is not about learning and remembering the sequence of movements. This will be missing the point of learning the form in the first place. If such were the case you might as well not learn the form in the first place. To do so is to waste your time and cram your mind with useless movements.

When we learn push hands we study the application of principles and techniques together. One without the other is like a gun without a bullet and vice versa. If you do not know your form really well, like inside out, backwards and forward, left and right, then you have not even begin your understanding of what is in it.

Sometimes it is easier to teach a student to do drills or techniques. But this will cause them to be locked into a particular mindset, a particular way of responding, and worse of all to be stuck, stumped and end up resisting the moment the attack does not go the way they are expecting it.

Techniques born of the form are better because they are not fixed into any particular way. Instead, such techniques are but natural responses born of a frame of no-mind; allowing you to flow within the construct of the principles. It is certainly not easy to learn this way. How should I put it – it is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle that is basically a black square (below is a picture of a jigsaw puzzle known as Black Torture).


Knowing the principles allow you to respond without having to think too hard about it. You can also respond with a better technique rather than just reacting because you need to resist the attack. When we do push hands we explore many different ways of playing the game. Some are common, some are not.

One example – you push with your right hand, your opponent neutralizes and comes in with Wild Horse Parts Mane (left hand leading). One second you are attacking, the next you body is trapped and you are sent off-balance to your rear.

Quick – how do you counter this?

Were you able to answer or you had to think about it?

My student basically froze and took a trip.

Never mind, let’s do it again. So the next time he is able to react because he now knows what to expect. He saw my leftt hand coming and he intercepted it with his left hand. Good response except like what I always said – your opponent is not stupid – so when he grabbed my left hand I readjusted the attack angle and continued with the attack. Reacting without understanding or applying the principles is recipe for failure.

We try again. And again. Moving faster, moving stronger. Not always a surefire recipe for success unless you have the principles working for you.

I got him to try it on me. One time he was too slow or maybe I am faster in my reaction. I stopped his attack before it came in halfway and got spun off to my right. But this was not what I wanted to show him.

Instead, I wanted to show him how he could appeared to be under control and ready to be sent flying but at the last minute he could come up with a save. This required him to have a good grasp of timing, patience and split second decisive reaction to pull it off because we will allow the attacking hand to come through, intrude into our space and begin to apply pressure.

At this crucial moment is when our trap must be sprung, not a second earlier and not a second later. Were he to move earlier an attacker could readjust the attacking angle and still send him off balance. If moving too late then the attack will go through.

It took him a few tries to get it. The first part was not difficult as he only had to slow down the attacking hand. Next he had to subtly let the attacking arm come through enough before inserting a fulcrum point. Then as the attacking force comes he has to borrow it and use it against the attacker. He has to do all the three parts in one smooth flowing process and to do it while appearing to be losing his balance.

It reads easier than actually doing it. However, it is not difficult to catch because the principles underlying the counter to Wild Horse Parts Mane is actually taught within the entire sequence of Wild Horse Parts Mane in the form! One part is movement, one part is inaction and the third part is the use of intent.

The movement and principles are flexible enough to be used as counter against other techniques. To this end, you are not learning one response to one attack. Instead, you are learning to find formlessness within form. In this way, you become flexible in your response like how flowing water always seeks the path of least resistance.



Details Nazi

Got a few nice pictures here that I used to show my student what he was doing wrong and what he was doing correct.


I didn’t take the pictures when the pose had a lot of wrongs in it. These poses are after he attempted to follow the steps a few times to try to nail the principles down.

At the very least we can see in some of the photos, some more than others, the observance to the principles of balance, alignment, centralization, power structure, etc.

Why we are a stickler for details in because of our insistence on complying to the principles of Tai Chi when we practice our form. Bad form leads to bad techniques.

What we learned from this movement (Brush Knee, Twist Step) became the basis for learning how the principles adhered to properly lead to good control, position and application when we use them in the practice of push hands.



Second Lesson – Quanfa

Tai Chi is a method of Quanfa (拳法) using the intent () to develop one’s combat skills. Instead of physically doing repetitions of a technique, the learning of the Tai Chi of Grandmaster Wei Shuren calls for us to exercise our grey cells ahead of our physical movements, i.e. every movement shall be preceded by an intent.

Is not wanting to throw a punch an intent? Is thinking of where to step an intent? Is turning your body as you are thinking of turning it an intent?

Yes, yes and yes. They are all intent.

However, the intent in Tai Chi is a lot more specific and specialized than that. For example, when you throw a punch where is your intent? When did it start moving? What are you thinking of when your punch is moving through space?

Let’s examine an example. This is part of the Fair Lady Threads Shuttles (玉女穿梭) technique from the 22-form.


Without the benefit of an explanation and relying on the two pictures alone it would seem as if Grandmaster Wei is lowering his right hand from shoulder height to about waist height.

Now if you were asked to do this movement without being told about the need to use specific intent how would you lower your right hand? Do you :-

a) Just lower it?

b) Think first about lowering your right hand before doing it?

c) Ensure that your right hand lowering is guided by your body / dantian movement in conformance with good biomechanics?

Now if you were told that this movement is called “Mountain Splitting (the) Five Peaks (or Summits)” would it alter the way you do the movement?

Close you eyes and let your imagination roam. Mountain splitting five peaks. What does it mean? How does a mountain split five peaks? It does not make much sense, does it? Most people would have given up and think the name is just for reference; basically saying they do not know and just want to shelve the matter.

But what if the name of the movement is important? Would we not miss out on a possibly important part of training? Knowing what the name means, how it relates to the training of Tai Chi force is a distinguishing feature of our Quanfa.

The name is there not because some bored Taoist monk decided to jazz the name up. There is a reason for it, an important rationale behind it and everything points back to the training of the intent.

Consider – what if we were to write out “Mountain Splitting Five Peaks” in Chinese? This is how it is written :-


Would this make a difference? I guess to most readers and practitioners their mind would still register a blank and its alright. This is where I jump in and say that a knowledge of China is helpful. The name in English does not tell me much either but once I say the name in Chinese this is what comes to mind :-

山-劈-五-岳 (how most people see it)

山-劈-五岳(how I see it)

Can you see the difference now?

You can either read it as a mountain-chopping down-five-peaks (i.e. five different peaks). Or you can read it as mountain-chopping down-Five Peaks (name).

The former tells me a mountain is cutting down five mountains, possibly one after another. The latter tells me that a mountain is cutting down Five Peaks (五岳)!

If you know something about the geography of China you would realize that Five Peaks (五岳) is referring to The Five Great Mountains in Chinese history. Emperors in the past would make pilgrimage to these mountains. The Five Great Mountains are Tai Shan (Shandong), Hua Shan (Shanxi), Heng Shan (Hunan), Heng Shan (Shanxi) and Song Shan (Henan).

The Five Peaks are sacred and their association with the pilgrimage of Emperors bestow on them an aura of majestic might. A mountain that is powerful enough to cleave the Five Peaks is mighty indeed! By association, the technique of Mountain Splits Five Peaks should be a powerful stroke!

Note of interest – Tongbeiquan, a very old powerful northern style of Chinese martial arts, has a vertical palm strike called 劈山 so I guess Tai Chi players are not the only ones fond of chopping down mountains.

Below is how the image of a mountain cleaving five mountains lined up in a row comes to my mind :-


But how do we perform the technique of Mountain Splits Five Peaks with intent to develop our power?

This is how we can do this technique in a nutshell :-

Step 1 – imagine you are holding a Chinese spear in your hands. Behind you stands a mountain.

Step 2 – as the mountain behind you bows forward to cleave the five great mountains imagine your spear is also cutting down.


If you practice this for a sufficient period of time your arms can develop a powerful downward force without appearing to use obvious biomechanics. You can use this force in push hands to sink your opponent’s bridge arm or you can use it to power a downward chopping strike.

In order to arrive at a level where you can use this power freely you need to reach the level of “true intent” (真意). Ironically, at the stage of “true intent” (真意) is when you should have “no intent” (无意). This is consistent with what I mentioned in the First Lesson as 从繁到空.

And that dear readers is what the Quanfa (拳法) of our Yang style Tai Chi Chuan that is descended from Grandmaster Wei Shuren is about.



Micro Universe 4

In learning Tai Chi it helps if we have a teacher who knows the stuff and teaches it to us. But if not, then all is not lost. After all, who taught the first person who created the art?

A teacher can take us so far. A good teacher should liberate us.

However, I see that many famous teachers tend to enslave their students with the tools of discipleship, secret teachings, instructorship and so on.

A good art has a lot of depth and take years to mine the information for skills. Even then this is only the journey of the external. There is a point in the journey where you go on your own.

At this juncture you should have mastered the core principles. You should have internalized the principles and be able to conceal them from even someone who is touching you and actively trying to feel what you are doing.

From this point you are on your own. Your teacher can still act to verify that you are walking on the same path though who is to say that you cannot forge a new path.

Is what I am advocating heresy?

If you are in a traditional lineage or a money-making lineage then yes, this is heresy. This is why in such arts the people who tend to get it are normally the sons, adopted sons, relatives or rich students. The rest have little chance of getting there.

What can we do then?