Zen in Tai Chi

When you play Tai Chi form with intent you will enter the Zen state transmitted by Boddhidharma as :-

Muku doku,

Kakunen musho,


Vast emptiness,

Nothing holy,

I don’t know

This is part of the teaching that my teacher passed to me within the learning of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s style.

This is not a theory but can be realized by those who sincerely abide by the principles.

Don’t Put Hand in Rotating Shaft

In factories a guard is typically placed over an exposed rotating shaft. This is because if you accidentally let your hand or worse, your long hair to get caught when a shaft is spinning at say 10,000 rpm your will scalped before you can even blink.

Understanding about the danger of getting your hand caught in a spinning shaft has given me an insight into how we can apply locks in push hands. In essence, we as the spinning sphere allow the opponent to put his hand into our turning body in order to get it entangled inside.

Below is a simple example of how to use a scoop and rotate action to capture the opponent’s arm :-

When trying to put a lock on a person you can expect resistance. After all, who in their right mind would allow you to lock their arm. This is where a feigned strike helps you to overcome resistance.

This looks similar to the first video above but the difference is that you capture the opponent’s arm deeper into your space. In this way he will have a harder time to get away.

Many times a common reaction to getting locked is to pull the arm away or twist the hand the other way. When you encounter this you should go with the flow and morph into another lock.

To learn how to change from one lock to another you can practice looking for or creating opportunities to lock even as you are moving from one position to the next.

Opportunities to lock can suddenly appear. So knowing the principles of locking can help you to recognize an opportunity when you see it. A cross lock is not something I was looking to use but it just came up and we ended up working on it too.

You can watch the longer clips of my student learning to do locks in my Youtube channel here.


Quote of the Week

Quote of the week goes to my student PL who said “I feel so stupid” after I explained something about Tai Chi fajing principles to him.

He said what he said because he finally understood some of the things I have been saying to him this week are basically things I have been saying for 3 years in one way or another. He felt stupid for taking so long to catch on.

Actually, PL is not stupid. If anything, he is way smarter than I am. But his past habits and exposure can hamper his understanding and prevent him from getting the point way earlier. Its nothing surprising since it happens to all of us in one way or another this seeing but not seeing thing. This is the point of the Zen story of the master continuing to pour tea into the cup of a visitor even after it is full and overflowing.

However, PL has made progress. It is not something you can see but a feel of his hand-wrist-forearm confirmed it. I can remember how his forearm muscles being stiff but now it has loosened by at least 50%. More interesting is despite doing straight sword solo drills his arm muscles has not become harder.

When the basics are slowly but surely grasped the teaching can be picked up faster. In the early part of the lesson I made a point and we did this exercise which PL didn’t get it right all the way :-

I explained it again in this video :-

PL tried it again and he got it :-

It didn’t take PL more than 10 5 minutes to get it. So yes, he can say he felt so stupid but he is not stupid. Anyway, I think its better to be stupid than too smart because being over-intelligent can also hamper learning but that’s another story. At least, if you do not know you will try harder to get it whereas a too smart person will think he knows it and won’t try harder.


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”.


Coordinate Hip-Fist

The stack of yellow chairs left in the void deck is proving to be useful again, this time to help me explain how to coordinate the hip movement to that of the fist.

The logic is simple – power comes from getting the body to move as one and also from being able to accelerate the joints internally using the 5-Count principle.

Here’s how not to do it :-

Okay, maybe my student is too tall for the chairs. That could affect his performance. Anyway, if the stack can’t get taller then one must go lower. Its just a coordination thing, not a combat exercise.

The right way to do it is by :-

a) Establish a base from which to tap the energy from the ground

b) Coordinate the movement of the joints

c) Pay attention to how the hip drives the fist

Video illustration :-

Finally, putting it together for a demo on how the power from hip-fist coordination looks like in a static demo :-

So that’s it – the key to coordinating the hip to the fist to generate power.




This is the fate that waits a living art. This is why I started taping some lessons to allow students to see better where they are lacking.

Some things you can see and some things you can’t. A video gives you a third party perspective of what you are doing.

I taped this fajing demo as part of a lesson. Even with explanation I noticed that some movements can’t be captured on video.

And even with explanation certain things are best felt rather than heard. This is why to learn Tai Chi you need to see it, hear it and feel it.

What can’t be seen clearly in how to neutralize the pressure by grounding it. You can only see the issuing movement. That’s like reading half the story.

Perhaps one day VR can be used to enhance distance learning. Until then treat our art as impermanent and pass it on to as many as possible to ensure its continuing existence.