Fifth Lesson – Games of Strategies

In the book on the 22-form there is a chapter entitled 拆架拆手 (Dismantle Frame, Dismantle Hand). This chapter offers examples on how to apply the strokes (招中术) and force methods of the 22-form.

The 21 examples can be considered as step-by-step studies on the use of intention force against an opponent who provides resisting pressure but not necessarily actively resisting.

The 21 studies of the strokes of the techniques are useful to spark off your journey to learn the use of intent in your push hands. As you make progress you will need to practice against opponents who resist more actively, who will vary the amount of resisting pressure and who will try to counter your fajing attempts with their techniques.

In other words, not a dummy partner who will allow you to get away with anything. You certainly do not need to have a compliant training partner who at your slightest touch (or perhaps a non-contact dismissive wave of your hand) jump like a grasshopper.

Your progress is only as good as the way you train. When you have more realistic resistance from your training partner you will understand why the use of techniques and power go hand-in-hand. This information is captured in the way a good form is organized.

Sometimes the information is obvious but many times it is not. We can only speculate why this should be so. If you ask me it is to prevent someone, perhaps an interloper who is peeking through a hole in the wall, who managed to see the form being played from figuring out how to use the techniques easily. In other words, you can steal the movements but you cannot steal the applications.

The movements of the form are not cast in stone. They have obvious, hidden, derived and situational applications. Many times a demonstration of fajing can be good but totally suck at being a proper combat application. When you play push hands against a less cooperative training partner, someone who will push you back or strike you, then you will understand this point better.

Though the form does not always tell you the strategy being employed explicitly it does not mean it is not present. As long as your opponent is not a dummy he will not allow your attacks to go through so easily. You will have to intelligently use your wits, techniques and power to make your technique work.

In the beginning you will find that even though you can visualize the workings of the force models in the various strokes, however, you are unable to use them freely. In fact, most of the time during push hands the timing to apply a technique is very short making it next to impossible to get your strokes together.

Until and unless you can do the various requirements in a split second you will never be able to use the force models. This is why you need to internalize the requirements by constantly working on your 22-form. There is no shortcut to mastery here.

Keep to your daily practice. The goal of using the force models within the strokes of the form is not impossible. It just takes persistence and intelligence to master them.

So what are the games of strategies you can learn from the 22-form? Let us take a brief look at one example. You might have seen this drawing at the beginning of this site :-

Yangstyleintention

This fajing model is the last model presented in the chapter 内功勁法 (Internal Power Strength Method). The full name of this model is 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method). I like the use of this model because it is simple yet comprehensive. Since the topic here is about strategy rather than force models I won’t discuss how it works in the context of power. Instead, I will just write about its use as a strategy in a broad context.

I have heard Tai Chi practitioners describe how their body needs to be rounded so that they can be like a fully inflated ball that can rebound an opponent. This is a nice analogy though it is rare to see a practitioner or master actually use it. Master Cheng Man Ching’s Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Chuan has a chapter entitled Strength and Physics that discusses how a sphere can be used for attack and defense.

I have read it a long time ago and always wondered how to actually apply the information. I tried out ways to make the sphere work for me but I could never truly make it work in a manner that is consistent to what is written in the Tai Chi Classics, at least not until I have learned and practiced the method of 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) for some years.

I won’t describe in detail how to cultivate the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) as it is outside the scope of topic here. What I would like to say is that you need to use the fundamentals to build the necessary intent to bring forth the Big Sphere until it is for all intent and purpose, feels real to your opponent.

When you arrive at this stage your can use the Big Sphere to carry out the ways of neutralizing and attack that Cheng Man Ching describe in his book. However, this is still only the basic stage of usage. From my experience there are at least two more stages that you can go through, that can expand and refine your ability to use the Big Sphere.

To put it in a nutshell, the 大氣球澎脹法 (Big Chi Sphere Inflated Method) allows us to use the following games of strategies in a game of push hands :-

a) Go with the flow, harmony and outflank

b) Rotate and rechannel

c) Load and release like shooting an arrow

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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 technique from the 22-form.

Spear-3.png

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 :-

山劈五岳

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.

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 :-

Spear-4.png

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.

Spear-5

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.

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Micro Universe 9

Do you know what came into my mind when I read about the LIGO mirrors and gravitational waves?

I thought of the Chi rings which are not really like solid rings. It might give this impression when you read about it or even see this video of Grandmaster Wei Shuren.

However, when I was learning how to do the three Chi rings I was told to let them emanate out of the body like water rippling out after you drop a stone into water, something like the video below :-

 

I learned how to do the Chi rings more than 10 years before LIGO even confirmed that gravitational waves existed.

 

Does this not sound like what Chi rings are? Take a look at the video below.

As a recap before the Chi rings are formed we have to mentally allow a visualized rock to drop through our body to create the bell clapper string. This of course leads to a process that ends with the creation of the Chi rings. Take a look at Grandmaster Wei demonstrating how to form the Chi rings using intention below.

The difference is that gravitational waves are a result of occurences in outer space but Chi rings occur because of what happened in inner space (our mind).

If you know your Tai Chi principles you may remember that Tai Chi is said to be a macro universe and man a micro universe.

Did you get the connection?

Well, if you did not now you know.

We are living in exciting times as physicists ups their game and hopefully, we see more findings that help confirm what we already know in our abstract, non-scientific Tai Chi model.

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Micro Universe 8

Eureka!

At the moment I saw a drawing in a book similar to the drawing below I instantly saw a parallel between what we are training in the 22 form and what was explained as similar (I hesitate to say the same because I’m not a physicist).

Image 1-2

Part of the reason for this insight is because I have known our Tai Chi model for more than a decade. The other reason is because I had for some time mainly use the principle of using a curve to move between two points whether in playing push hands or striking.

It was good that we now have another aspect of physics confirming what we do in Tai Chi. Some of Einstein’s postulates took many, many years to prove because the technology to do so had not caught up.

For example, gravitational waves was only proven in 2016 with by the use of super sensitive mirrors in the two LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) sites in the United States. I read that the mirrors are so sensitive that an earthquake in China once knocked the mirrors in the LIGO off kilter.

 

Do you know what came into my mind when I read about the LIGO mirrors and gravitational waves?

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Micro Universe 7

Did you get what I realized?

If you have been visiting my blog for a while you would have seen it many times over.

However, as with many readers you probably saw it once, twice perhaps three times and after that never thought more about it.

This is why things can stare at us in the face but if we don’t pay attention we may not think more about it. And if we do not keep it in mind our Eureka moment will never come.

As reading the experience of Newton and Einstein shows Eureka moments do not happen out of the blue. It happens because each of them thought long and hard about the problem, asking the right questions, and never giving up their quest until a sudden insight hit them and the answer appeared.

So if you want to master Tai Chi you have to put a lot of effort into it, a hell lot more effort than what you are currently putting into it.

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Micro Universe 6

One thing at least is certain, light has weight
Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, May 1919

Image 1-1

Above is Sir Eddington’s photograph (one of the 16 exposures taken) of the total solar eclipse of 29 May 1919 which appeared in his 1920 paper confirming that light can bend as postulated by Albert Einstein.

When I was learning Wing Chun we were taught that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

In science it is said that light also takes a straight line to get between two points. At least, that was the general wisdom until Einstein realized that it was not always the case.

I was reading another book in which a drawing was used to illustrate this point but I didn’t quite catch the implication. It was only on reading another book that I understood what this model meant.

Below is a drawing similar to the one I saw.

Image 1-2

Did you get what I realized?

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Micro Universe 5

In the field of science Newtonian physics proved to be valid for over 200 years.

Its principles have been proven valid and even some careers have been built on it.
Ninety nine percent of physicists did not question it, even when they experience doubts or have inconsistencies staring at them in the face.

At least, not until along came an unremarkable Albert Einstein, a budding scientist who could not seem to get the career he wanted started.

Perhaps this was what fate intended because thrown into a job with time to think he could ponder and think and from there came a question that changed the field of physics.

Sometimes, it takes an outsider to overthrow or revolutionize an entire field.

For me the revolution in how I see Tai Chi began on two occasions. The first was when I was first introduced to it by a senior. The second, which I considered the real revolution, was when my teacher visited me and offered me the red pill.

And after taking the red pill nothing was the same again.

 

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