Here, Now, I Myself

My friend, Enric, asked why I use Zen to talk about the internal part of Tai Chi. This is a good question.

I am not a philosopher in that I don’t like to write long discourses. Its not that I can’t. Its just that I don’t see the value of doing so. If anything, to write simply is more difficult than to write long explanations.

Consider this story from the book Zen Bridge in which Keido Fukushima received a question from his teacher :-

You have three kinds of white powder – one is sugar, one is salt and one is soda powder. But they’re all white. How can you tell the difference?

Fukushima said that as he was preparing for a chemistry test the next day he approached the problem academically. However, he wasn’t able to answer the question. To him it was a difficult challenge.

His teacher’s answer was simply “You would know if you tasted it“.

So my answer to Enric is since what I read about Zen resonates with what I learned and experienced in the Yang style method of Grandmaster Wei Shuren as taught by my teacher then it is only fitting that I write from a Zen-like perspective (not that I am a Zen practitioner) as I understand from what I read.

It is common to think of Zen Buddhism as a religion. However, I read somewhere that Buddhism is not a religion originally but simply a method of training the mind. So it is with our Tai Chi – a method of training the mind to control the body.

Fukushima wrote in Chapter 35 ” Tozan’s Hot and Cold :-

You who are listening, listen completely. We should concentrate completely on what we’re doing and experiencing in the moment.

On the surface this does not sound like it has anything to do with Tai Chi but it does. When you play the Tai Chi form you must put your focus on doing it. I can see when students moved their body but they didn’t realize that they moved it in a certain manner until I pointed out that this was going against the principles.

So they heard, they saw, they felt. Yet, in the next moment when they tried again the same inadvertent movement came up again. This is a manifestation of the mind being unable to concentrate completely.

Because of this we must persist in our form training. Treat it as a daily routine, a ritual, to be performed with concentration, in the now. As Fukushima wrote :-

Zen teaches us to realize no-self in such concrete experience. This is always the theme of Zen : here, now, I myself.

Further on, Fukushima pointed out :-

You watch yourself, but the content of the watching is realizing that the self does not exist. Its complicated when we try to explain it with words, but as a concrete experience in one moment of time, its not complicated. You watch this self, this myself, and in an instant you realize that you yourself do not exist. Experientially, you find the solution in an instant.

Fukushima’s explanation sounds so much like what I experienced at a certain point in my form training. I could expand on what I felt but I think there is no need to. If you the reader have had a similar explanation the above passage would strike a chord in you too. If not, then it just sounds like some abstract bullshit.

The interesting thing is that this can be experienced by anyone willing to put in the time and effort. If one day I have the chance I would like to run a 10-day immersion training for Tai Chi, somewhat like what Fukushima described about the training of Zen Buddhism monks.

It would be interesting to see how many can be tipped over into experiencing even for a second the feeling of no-self, in Zen a satori experience, in Tai Chi the first step into the gate of the internal.

Yang Family Chaos Formula

Technology is wonderful particularly Google Translate. It allows me to capture the text in a book and translate it easily. OK, maybe too easily. But what the hell, I ran it over the Yang Family Chaos Formula and voila!!!!

Granted it is not concise but beggars can’t be choosers. I know the translation is off because I have translated Chaos Formula before and it can be a bit of work using a dictionary. Since I practice this style all the more reason I know when a translation is not spot on.

This Yang Family Chaos Formula appears in the first book on our Yang style Tai Chi authored by Grandmaster Wang Yongquan. The formula has 8 lines with the last 4 lines added by Grandmaster Wang based on his insights.

Yang Family Chaos Formula

The chaotic ring spell is the most difficult to pass, and the up and down is wonderful

Entrapped in deep chaos, four or two thousand pounds of law

Hands and feet are looking into the horizontal and vertical, and the palms are not empty

If you want to know what is going on in the ring, the right point is successful

Double ring set of crosses, cross four ends are curved

Only the middle is the real point, but also around the ring

Crossing point is a dislocation, four or two kilograms can also be taken

The chaos in the palm of the circle is looking for it, and the chaotic ring is in the pass

The Chaos Formula represent the overall key to the application of our Yang style Tai Chi techniques and power.

I just used Google Translate on the Chinese words. When I have the time I will offer a more concise translation that is based on what I learned, practice and apply.

For example, this line 十字交点一错位 is translated as “Crossing point is a dislocation” but the translation should mean :-

十字 – these two words mean Chinese character for 10 but in this context it refers to a vertical line intercepting a horizontal line. Or put another way a vertical line placed on top of a horizontal line, thus forming a cross looking like + and it so happens + is also the Chinese character for the number ten written as 十. Now you know why Chinese translation can be a pain in the ass.

交点 – refers to the point at which the vertical line overlaps the horizontal line.

一错位 – Google Translate interprets this as “a dislocation“. In the context of application this means to move position.

Thus, the entire phrase 十字交点一错位 means when a vertical line crosses with a horizontal line you must move the position at the point of contact. If you have practiced Tai Chi or any good Chinese martial arts (particularly the internal styles) you would know what this mean or this will spark an epiphany in you.

If you are still scratching your head I guess you need to practice a lot more because it is a very simple principle and can be easily explained using physics but I will leave it to you to go have some fun puzzling over it.

Shape & Intent

In our method of Yang style Tai Chi we use forms to utilize the intent to train how the body moves to apply techniques and generate power.

In this respect, we don’t go for showy movements, big movements, sudden jerking movements and so on. For us the objective is to fulfil the requirements of the Tai Chi Classics in form play, power generation, push hands and combat application. Then only we can say we are doing Tai Chi. Anything else is but self deception.

I did this short demo to show how we use certain procedures to get the intention to train a host of essential elements that is listed in the Tai Chi Classics to render the art what it is as defined in the old writings.

As an example, when we play form we must demonstrate :-

Step like a cat,
Move like a mountain;

One part moves, every part moves;
One part stops, every part stops;

Intent and body must be distinguished,
Yet move as one with clear separation

Of substantial and insubstantial
Yin within yang, yang within yin;

Concealing the power within
Like a ceaseless pounding wave

When we can truly express the principles then we can demonstrate how the intent is a critical element in the generation of power in Yang style.

In the clip above I can explaining how to do the Peng Jing of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Tai Chi method. The full clip can be viewed at my Facebook page “Learn Tai Chi in Singapore”.


Musical Intention

CG learning how to use the Play Pipa application to learn about fajing.

As its his first attempt it is only natural that he moved more than necessary. But its a good attempt.

Below is example of how to do the Play Pipa fajing :-

The key point is where to put the intention so that you can minimize the effort and outer movements.


Chair Fajing Training

The thing I love about Tai Chi training is that you don’t always need to use specialized training tools for your training.

In fact, even chairs stacked together can be used. In the first clip my student is trying out a fajing method by using the stacked chairs that a religious group has left in the void deck for their gathering.

It should be straightforward but it is not easy to control what he wanted to do. So another attempt which turned out better before faltering.

This is what I wanted him to do :-

The idea is to pin the opponent’s root so that when you apply pressure he cannot run away. Below is a demo of the result we are aiming for :-

I have challenged my friend Paul to replicate the result on stacked chairs. Let’s see how it turns out for him.



This is a demo of ………… I’ll have to view back the longer clip in our SKD FB learning group to see what topic we were talking about here.

Anyway, the background is that our use of high stances gave Stanley’s Hung Gar buddy the impression that our method is so-so.

So here was an excellent opportunity to let Stanley acquaint himself with one side of the argument. It would be good if he were to go check out his pal’s stance work for comparison.

I would call this method the stance of no-stance. You can see Stanley taking a look at how I was standing as he couldn’t believe it that I wasn’t standing in a low stance, or even in a stance.

I didn’t tell Stanley to cooperate by not pushing hard so that I can look good. I just let him push however he sees fit. You can see how he changed his position towards the end.

This outwardly rootless method is a result of training the bell body method of Grandmaster Wei Shuren. I present a simplified way of doing it in this post here.


Qigong Desuka?

A perennial question I never fail to get is whether we have qigong in our Tai Chi. Yes, we do but it is not the breathe-in, breathe-out type that is commonly practiced.

The clip below gives an idea of why we don’t practice this type of qigong :-

We can practice our power generation without having to use qigong or breathe-out to issue power. We typically issue power whilst talking normally, as if its a normal activity.

We can do this because our power generation is trained using intent. After years of doing it we actualize the old boxing maxim of eyes arrive, hand arrives which means when the mind arrives, power arrives.


Mindfully Yours

It takes time to develop the use of intent. But when you get there the quality of your Tai Chi form play will be markedly different.

Below is an example of a student who has learned for a few years.

The focus is more intense as if you are engrossed in a world of your own. Old masters say that one is so concentrated that even if a mountain collapses right in front of you your concentration will not waver.

Below is video of a student who has learned for three lessons.

Though the performance is quite good after 3 lessons the quality of the movement is not as fine. If you look carefully you can see that the iterative change is less perceptible in the first video as compared to the second.

The blurring of the perceptible changes is a step towards internalizing outer movements and allows one to bring forth the intent clearly.