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Posted on Thursday, January 01, 2004 - 11:56:   

Anybody in this forum can tellme what are the taichi classics and where can i get them?
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almost anonymous
Posted on Thursday, January 01, 2004 - 18:03:   


There isn't an easy answer to the question, unfortunately. Not every one of the main T'ai Chi styles (see the "T'ai Chi Styles..." thread on this forum) recognises the same sets of writings as "classics."

For example, Yang stylists who trace their lineage through the late Yang Ch'eng-fu (perhaps the majority of T'ai Chi students today, in fact) are quite taken with Yang Ch'eng-fu's "Ten Essentials" which, while being good T'ai Chi advice, aren't copied and recited as such in the Wu or Ch'en style schools. As well, Yang's student Cheng Man-ch'ing wrote considerable amounts of material on T'ai Chi, practically none of which is used outside of the schools in direct descent from him.

There are two short works which most schools accept (except Ch'en style!) attributed to Chang San-feng and Wang Tsung-yue, and a relatively large body of work associated with the other Wu family and Li-I-yu which was passed on through the Hao family.

It is a very confusing issue!

Your best bet is to start with Douglas Wile's "Lost T'ai Chi classics of the Late Ch'ing Dynasty" and "T'ai Chi Touchstones - Secret Transmissions of the Yang Family" for a more complete overview of the situation, as well as decent translations of some classical writings on T'ai Chi mentioned above. Douglas Wile is a student of the Cheng Man-ch'ing branch and brings that bias to his commentary and speculations, but overall he does a good job trying to sort out the tangled mess that is T'ai Chi history (if only by admitting that it is a tangled mess that will probably never be sorted out academically!).

Also, there is a much earlier body of work with direct application to T'ai Chi Ch'uan, the Taist Classics. Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu and the I ching all have much to contribute eventually to the student serious about T'ai Chi.

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Shmuel Halevi
Posted on Friday, January 02, 2004 - 11:02:   

This is very interesting A.A., indeed, and thank you for this contribution. I thought fit to post here the 10 (commandments...) essential points of Yang Cheng Fu, so here it is:
Yang’s 10 important points (as researched by Lee N. Scheele)

by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 - 1936)

- holding the head as if suspended from above
- hollowing the chest slightly to raise the back
- lossening the waist
- substantial and insubstantial
- sink the shoulder & drop the elbow
- use yi (intention) and not physical strenght
- co-ordination of the body
- internal and external co-ordination
- continuous flow without breakage
- to seek stillness within movement

1.) Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don't use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch'i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.

2.) Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch'i can sink to the tan-t'ien [field of elixir]. Don't expand the chest: the ch'i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch'i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.

3.) Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said "the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist."

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T'ai Chi Ch'uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.

5.) Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch'i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. "Sink the elbows" means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.

6.) Use the mind instead of force. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, "all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li." In practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan the whole body relaxes. Don't let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?

The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch'i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch'i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch'i follows it. The ch'i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, "when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong." Someone who has extremely good T'ai Chi Ch'uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don't use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.

7.) Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say "the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers." Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn't follow, the whole body is disordered.

8.) Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan the main thing is the spirit. Therefore it is said "the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate." If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.

9.) Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T'ai Chi Ch'uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is "like a great river rolling on unceasingly." and that the circulation of the chin is "drawing silk from a cocoon " They all talk about being connected together.

10.) Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T'ai Chi Ch'uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch'i sinks to the tan-t'ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.

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Posted on Friday, January 02, 2004 - 14:19:   

Thanks a bunch folks.. this is way far more than I expected from an answer in any forum.
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almost anonymous
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2004 - 04:24:   


The late master Wu Chien-ch'uan, instrumental in establishing the Wu style of T'ai Chi (the second most popular style today, after the Yang style), was a close friend and teaching colleague of the late masters Yang Shao-hou, Yang Ch'eng-fu and Sun Lu-t'ang. Together, in 1914, they opened in Beijing the first school to ever teach T'ai Chi Ch'uan to members of the general public. This is from a recently translated (unpublished until 1978) manuscript of master Wu's.


Various people have offered different explanations for the term "T'ai Chi Ch'uan." Some have said: "In terms of self-cultivation, one must train from a point of movement towards a point of quiescence. T'ai Chi comes about through the harmony of yin and yang. In terms of the art of attack and defense then, in the context of transformations of full and empty, one is constantly inwardly latent, not outwardly expressive, as if the yin and yang of T'ai Chi have not divided apart."
Others say: "Every movement of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is based on circles, just like the shape of a T'ai Chi symbol. Therefore, it is called T'ai Chi Ch'uan." Both explanations are quite reasonable, especially the second, which is fuller. The movement of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is completely different from the hard nature of Shaolin Ch'uan. The essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan is vacuity, quiescence and spontaneity, and, moreover, the tendency of softness to prevail. Different facets of T'ai Chi Ch'uan are analyzed below.

The vacuity of T'ai Chi Ch'uan does not mean nothingness, but emptiness. And through emptiness one develops agility. Through agility, one's spirit is replete. And since the spirit is the master of the body, when the spirit is strong the ch'i is complete and movement is spontaneously light and agile.

Those who practice Shaolin Ch'uan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and become exhausted. T'ai Chi Ch'uan is unlike this. Strive for quiescence of mind, body and intention. When practicing the Form, the slower one moves the better, so that breathing deepens and ch'i sinks to the tan t'ien. This is to have a quiescent body. Move as an entirety: the eyes, the hands, the waist, the feet, the upper and lower sections all complement each other without a hint of scatteredness. This is to have a quiescent mind. Employ intention rather than force, and be able to focus intention on movement wherever it goes. This is to have quiescent intention.

The movements of T'ai Chi Ch'uan must be purely spontaneous. When ching (energy) focuses on the crown of the head and the chest is hollowed with the back stretched around, when relaxing the waist while dropping in the hip, while relaxing the shoulders and sinking the elbows-in such contexts there is to be no trace of the affected tendency to overcome the opponent in the Forms. This accords with one's natural propensities.

The greatest taboo when practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan is to use force. If one can make the entire body loose and open, and be absorbed in the flow of blood and ch'i, then after a while one's practice will naturally develop inner ching (energy). This inner energy is extrememly soft, so when encountering an opponent one doesn't need to resist at all. The ability to extend and contract in order to follow the opponent's ching is referred to as elastic/tensile power within softness. T'ai Chi Ch'uan theory states: "From extreme softness, one can embody extreme hardness." This is what is meant by softness.

These characteristics of T'ai Chi Ch'uan can lead to the following results:

a) Recovery of Health
The occurence of disease involves both psychological and somatic aspects. T'ai Chi Ch'uan can simultaneously tonify mind and body. Because of its slow movements, it stretches and extends one's physique while regulating ch'i and blood. Therefore, anyone who suffers from neurasthenia, anemia, indigestion; illness of the organs, the skeletal system, subsidiary channels or connective tissue may take up T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Even people with incurable diseases can benefit. However, those with a serious heart condition or advanced lung disease should only gradually increase practice time, while making sure not to move anxiously. In these cases, one should heed the advice of the teacher especially carefully.

b) Transforming the Temperament
A person's mind/heart becomes tranquil, and so they can break down arrogant habits. Because the person is accustomed to being quiescent, their awareness is enhanced, thus increasing the ability to respond to things. Because of the habit of spontaneity, which accords with biological precepts, T'ai Chi Ch'uan firms up the sinews and helps one's attitude conform to healthier habits. The person becomes accustomed to being soft, therefore their disposition becomes harmonious and they develop a settled vigor.

c) Increased Interest
Scientific principles could apply to every aspect of T'ai Chi Ch'uan skills. That being said, the ways that empty and full transform are truly unfathomable.When practicing the Form, the entire body feels comfortable, when practicing Pushing Hands, the entire body feels lively. After a long period of constant, correct, practice one not only avoids feeling tired, but actually feels more energy after doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan. This indicates great potential for delight. Beginners, who have not yet grasped the fundamentals, must go through a period of forbearance, only then will they spontaneously enter the most enjoyable stages."

Since a lot of us here trace our T'ai Chi back to the late, great Wu Chien-ch'uan, I thought we should give him equal time. I hope you find it interesting!


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Shmuel Halevi
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2004 - 08:30:   


Since a lot of us here trace our T'ai Chi back to the late, great Wu Chien-ch'uan, I thought we should give him equal time. I hope you find it interesting!

Not only interesting, rather instructive and enlightening
Cheers, A.A.

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Sidney Rosenberg
Username: Sidney

Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Saturday, January 03, 2004 - 12:20:   

AA and Shmuel - you gentlemen have provided students of Tai Chi with a real treat in your recent postings - might I add a non-attributed meditation from Roger Jahnke's book "The Healing Promise of Qi" which relates to Natural Flow Qigong and is, to my mind, most inspiring and completely relevant to Tai Chi practices.

"Bring yourself into optimal mental, emotional, and physical position in relation to the boundless and infinitely intelligent universe that is richly infused with Qi. Allow yourself to relax deeply and be maximally open to the infusion of healing and empowering celestial resources. Celebrate as you awaken to the vibrant flow of fresh, clean clear, positive Qi pouring through your channels, Qi reservoirs, bones, organs, glands and tissue.
Understand that this Qi is a rich mix of powerful energies, a multitude of resonating frequencies ranging from the magnetism of your life forces to pure heavenly radiance. Saturated with the subtle information and consciousness of all creation, these influences are pouring through your Qi matrix. These resources are naturally programmed to nourish, heal and transform every aspect of your being. Open and surrender to this extraordinary state, come to the awareness that the universe is completely orientated, attuned, and coordinated – automatically permeated with perfect wisdom.
Experience a sense of total trust welling within you like a rushing fountain of profound resources that are healing and restoring your heart, mind, and emotions and transforming your body to reflect the essential original blueprint of your soul.
Relax completely, do not clench or strain anything. Do not force or resist particular thoughts – simply tend towards a mind as open as endless sky. Allow your breath to be natural and when it feels appropriate, deepen the breath. Feel how the inhalation gathers supreme potential and how the exhalation diffuses the radical power of the universe throughout your being. Allow the experience, events, and influences that surround you and are within you to flow with the natural momentum of the entire cosmos. A huge, crashing waterfall of Qi is washing through you – no reaction, resistance, or effect can lodge anywhere in your multidimensional being. You are a completely open system filled with boundlessness.
Allow yourself to be a thoroughly unobstructed vessel for the expression of the irrevocable presence of pure and exhilarating Qi. Absolutely pristine universal essence flows through and around you, dislodging and discharging all possible accumulation or constraint. You are completely sustained in the safe and comfortable embrace of Primal Origin, radiant and awake to your ever perfect eternal essence.”

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almost anonymous
Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 05:44:   

Here is another text that is attributed to the late master Wu Chien-ch'uan.

"T'ai Chi Ch'uan is unique in its cultivation of the practitioner's body and mind at the same time. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on the physical as well as the mental aspect while training the routines.

The Physical Aspect:

1.Suspending the Head and Lifting the Inner Strength

In practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan one must keep one's head in a central and erect position so that there is inner energy ascending to the crown of the head. The head is the key part of the entire body. Only when it is maintained in a central and erect position can one's spirit be raised and kept active. However, one must not apply force to attain this position. In order to do this effortlessly it is best to imagine that one's head is being suspended by a string from above. The Song of the Thirteen Postures says: "Holding the head as if suspended by a string from above, the entire body will feel light and nimble."

2.Hollow the Chest and Stretch Out the Back

To hollow the chest is is to allow the diaphragm to be lowered. This will help one's internal energy to sink into the tan t'ien. To stretch or pull out the back is to allow the vertebrae to be vertically aligned so that strength can be effectively delivered from the spine.

3.The Loosening of the Waist and Tucking of the Hip

The idea of loosening the waist is to make the waist light and relaxed. In T'ai Chi Ch'uan all the turnings and shiftings of the body weight are controlled by the waist. The Song of the Thirteen Postures says: "The waist is the commander." If one's waist is at ease and relaxed not only can one's internal energy easily sink to the tan t'ien and move freely and actively, but the lower part of the body will become stable and one avoids the mistake of having the upper part heavy and the lower part light. To tuck under the hip is to allow the lowest part of the back to sink vertically so that no part of it protrudes. Especially when one bends the knees one should pay attention not to violate these rules. Failure to tuck in the hip is a hindrance to the loosening of the waist.

4.Dropping the Shoulders and Sinking the Elbows

If the shoulders are not dropped the body from the chest up will be obstructed and the inner energy will move upward in an adverse manner. If the elbows are not sunk the strength cannot be coordinated and the hips will lose their protection.

These four points stress natural postures for the bodily framework of the practitioner, avoiding unnatural coordination or positioning of the body. Their purpose is to allow the entire body to be completely relaxed so that it can move lightly and nimbly in any way one desires it to.

The Mental Aspect

5.Directing Movement Using the Intention

To apply brute force rather than intention is the greatest taboo in T'ai Chi Ch'uan. One should use the intention to direct all movements as well as coordinate them together. For instance, when one's hands are moving upwards they are not moving automatically but are being lifted upward by one's intent. When the movement of the intent continues, the movement of the hands continues. Once the intent stops, the hands stop. After a long period of practice one will naturally cultivate mental discipline, which the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Treatise describes as the ability to "Direct the inner energy throughout the body." This is the secret of mind over body. If beginners can comprehend the truth in this theory and manage to avoid the use of brute force, they will find it easier to learn the training routines and will not easily tire of them, even though the path to learning them correctly seems repetitive and "tasteless."

6.Unification of Form and Spirit

The ultimate goal of training T'ai Chi Ch'uan is the cultivation of one's spirit. Therefore, while training the routines one must raise one's spirit so that it is in harmony with all movement of the body. Only in this way can one's body be alert in responding to external forces and only in this way can one's reactions be light and nimble."

Again, I hope that you may find this interesting.


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Shmuel Halevi
Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 14:19:   

and very interesting, as usual. What Wu Chien Chuan says here (as do most of the other masters, for that matter) is actually an outlining of a Taoist technique for obtaining immortality. Immortality, in view of Taoism, was, as you know, a way of transcending the reincarnation of the soul and the attainment of Nirvana or Tao. The most prominent technique in order to achieve that goal was, in Taoism as much as in Budhism, meditation. The Taoist way of meditation differs from that of Budhism, or other cults for that matter, by the summation of the total energy of the body in order to open the inner gate of the human spirit. Thus, Taoism advocated celibacy, Tai Chi, martial art and other physical disciplines, in order to amplify the physical energy for that cause. When this physical energy reached an enormous level, it was manipulated by meditation techniques to transform into a mental energy and open the inner gates of consciousness. If you are familiar with the basic meditation techniques of Taoism, and I am sure you are, they are all directed at moblizing the Qi from the Dan Tian, with the aid of breathing, through the Du Mai and into the brain. The sensation experienced by this form of meditation, is of distinct warmth flowing through the Ren and Du meridians, through the skull, and eventually throughout the whole body. When you perform this meditation, much as you perform Tai Chi, the tongue's tip touches the upper palate, and you stretch your cervical vertebrae upward as if your head is suspended or being pulled by a string. While doing so you also need to lower your diaphragm, scapulas and elbows, so as to allow the free flow of warm energy to the crown of your head. Since meditation was always the most important discipline of Taoism as explained above, Tai Chi, as I see it, was the vehicle that has been devised in order to carry the meditation to its destination. Thus, by stressing the correct posture of the various limbs it prepared and accustomed the body for effective meditation. By activating the Yi (intention) and breath and Jing Qi, it opened the meridians and taught the body how to direct the Qi. By daily exercising the muscles, tendons and inner organs it amplified the total Qi and the the perseverance of the practitioner. All for the one and ultimate goal: to succeed in the meditation and to reach a hightened state of awareness.
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almost anonymous
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 06:17:   

Greetings and Happy Year of the Monkey Shmuel,

I agree that T'ai Chi as it was passed down by the 5 families is indeed the essence of Taoist meditation, coded in a physical form in order to be preserved for future generations after the monasteries were all destroyed or driven deep underground by China's calamitous 200 year collision with the West. The content of the old Taoist self-cultivation practices is now mostly transmitted by "secular" martial artists and other TCM health care practitioners.

On that subject, here is chapter 38, originally poetic, of the 40 chapters of the manuscript of classic writings on T'ai Chi given to Wu Chien-ch'uan's father, Wu Ch'uan-yu, by his teacher, Yang Pan-hou. The manuscript we have today is actually in Wu Chien-ch'uan's handwriting and reproduced in the Gold Book a commentary on the T'ai Chi classics by Wu Chien-ch'uan's second son, Wu Kung-tsao, in the early 1930s.

38. The Legacy of Chang San-feng

Heaven and Earth are Ch'ien and K'un;
Fu Hsi is the father of humankind.
The drawing of the trigrams and the naming of the Tao
Came with Yao, Shun and the sixteen mothers.
The highest truths
Were passed to Confucius and Mencius.
The spiritual practices for cultivating body and mind
Were exemplified in the seventy-two disciples, Emperors Wen and Wu.
This was handed down to me
Through Hsu Hsuan-p'ing.
The elixir of long life is within the body
That we may restore our primal purity.
Spiritual cultivation brings great virtue;
Regulate it well and the ch'i and body will be whole.
For ten thousand years chant the praises of eternal spring;
Truly the mind is the genuine article.
The Three Teachings are not separate schools,
But all speak of the one Great Ultimate,
Whose greatness fills the universe,
One standard fixed for all eternity.
The teachings of the ancient sages are a lasting heritage,
Opening the way for truth seekers down through the ages.
Water and fire form the hexagram Chi-chi (After Completion),
Which represents the culmination of our life's quest.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
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Shmuel Halevi
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 09:42:   

Truly beautiful
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almost anonymous
Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2004 - 00:25:   

Here are three more chapters which deal with the spiritual aspect of T'ai Chi Ch'uan:

14. An Explanation of the Spiritual and Martial in T'ai Chi

The spiritual is the essence, the martial is the application. Spiritual development in the realm of martial arts is applied through the ching (metabolic energy), ch'i (breath energy) and shen (spiritual energy) - the practise of physical culture. When the martial is matched with the spiritual and it is experienced in the body and mind, this then is the practise of martial arts. With the spiritual and martial we must speak of "firing time," for their development unfolds according to the proper sequence. This is the root of physical culture. Therefore, the practise of the martial arts in a spiritual way is soft-style exercise, the sinew power of ching, ch'i and shen. When the martial arts are practical in an exclusively martial way, this is hard style, or simply brute force. The spiritual without martial training is essence without application; the martial without spiritual accompaniment is application without essence. A lone pole cannot stand, a single palm cannot clap. This is not only true of physical culture and martial arts, but all things are subject to this principle. The spiritual is internal principle; the martial is external skill. External skill without internal principle is simply physical ferocity. This is a far cry from the original nature of the art, and by bullying an opponent one eventually invites disaster. To understand the internal principles without the external skill is simply an armchair art. Without knowing the applications, one will be lost in an actual confrontation. When it comes to applying this art, one cannot afford to ignore the significance of the two words: spiritual and martial.

15. An Explanation of Interpreting Energy in T'ai Chi

Interpreting energy reaches the level of spiritual illumination. Yin within the body numbers seventy-two, and this is without exception. When yang is matched by yin, water and fire cooperate. Ch'ien (Heaven) and K'un (Earth) are in harmony and hsing (intrinsic nature) and ming (life) retain their original purity. The human ability to interpret energy relies on the senses to respond to changing conditions and naturally produces marvellous results. Our body achieves perfect clarity without effort, and our movement becomes extremely sensitive. When your skill reaches this level, whatever you do will come easily and you can move without thinking.

19. An Explanation of the Three Levels of the Spiritual and Martial in T'ai Chi

Without self-cultivation, there would be no means of realising the Tao. Nevertheless, the methods of practise can be divided into three levels. The term level means attainment. The highest level is the great attainment; the lowest level is the lesser attainment; the middle level is the attainment of sincerity. Although the methods are divided into three levels of practise, the attainment is one. The spiritual is cultivated internally and the martial externally; physical culture is internal and martial arts external. Those whose practise is successful both internally and externally reach the highest level of attainment. Those who master the martial arts through the spiritual aspect of physical culture, and those who master the spiritual aspect of physical culture through the martial arts attain the middle level. However, those who know only physical culture but not the martial arts, or those who know only the martial arts without physical culture represent the lowest levels of attainment.

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almost anonymous
Posted on Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 06:35:   

There are also three older texts; the first one attributed to Chang San-feng of Wu Tang Monastery, the other two attributed to a mysterious Wang Tsung-yueh. They are annotated by comments (in red below) traditionally attributed the great Yang Lu-ch'an himself. These texts have also have achieved "classic" status in the Yang and Wu families at least. Enjoy!

This is a transmission of Master Chang San-feng of the Wu Tang Mountains. He desired longevity for all the worthies of the world and not simply that they practise the superficial techniques of the martial arts.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ching

As soon as one moves, the entire body should be light and sensitive and all its parts connected.
The Ch'i should be roused and the Shen gathered within.
Do not allow gaps; do not allow bulges or hollows; do not allow discontinuities.
The root is in the feet, energy issues up from the legs, is controlled by the waist and is expressed in the hands and fingers. From the feet to the legs to the waist should be one complete movement of ch'i. One will then be able to seize opportunities and occupy the superior position.
If one is unable to seize opportunities and gain the superior position, the body will be scattered and in confusion. Look for the fault in the waist and the legs. The same is true for above and below, front and back, left and right. All of this has to do with the mind and not with externals.
If there is an above, there must be a below; if there is a front, then there must be a rear and if there is a left there must be a right. If the intention is to rise one must pay attention to below. If you want to lift something, you must apply breaking power. In this way its root will be severed and its destruction will be swift and inevitable.
Full and empty should be clearly distinguished. Any given point has the potential for full or empty and the whole body has this dual aspect: full and empty.
All the joints of the body should be connected without permitting the slightest break.

Original Introduction

By moving the ch'i with the mind and directing it to sink, it is able to permeate the bones.
Let ch'i circulate through the body freely and the body will be obedient to the mind.
If one can raise the shen, there need be no fear of sluggishness or heaviness. This is what is meant by hold the head as if suspended from above.
Our feelings must be supremely sensitive in order for there to be complete and lively enjoyment. This is what is meant by the transformations of full and empty.
When issuing energy one must sink, relax, be calm and concentrated in one direction.
Our posture should be erect and relaxed, able to control the eight directions.
Directing the ch'i is like threading a pearl with nine bends in the hole. There is nowhere it does not penetrate.
When energy is set in motion it is like steel tempered a hundred times. What resistance will it fail to defeat?
You should appear like a hawk seizing a rabbit, with the spirit of a cat catching a rat.
In stillness be like a geat mountain; in movement like a mighty river.
Store energy like drawing a bow; release it like shooting an arrow.
Seek the straight in the curved; store first and then issue. Power issues from the back; our steps must follow the body. To retreat is to attack and to attack is to retreat. After retreating reconnect again.
In moving forward and back fold up; in advancing and retreating use turns and changes.
From the greatest softness comes the greatest hardness. From the proper breathing comes sensitivity and liveliness.
The ch'i should be properly culitivated and not damaged. energy should be stored by rounding and there will always be a surplus.
The mind is the commander, the ch'i a flag and the waist a banner.
First seek expansion and later contraction; then you will arrive at impeccable technique.
It is also said that things are first in the mind and later in the body.
The body should be relaxed and the ch'i will permeate the bones. The shen should be open and the body calm. At all times bear in mind - consciously remember - in movement there is nothing not moving, in stillness there is nothing not still.
Pushing and pulling, back and forth, the ch'i adheres to the back and permeates the spine. Inwardly strengthen your vital spirit outwardly give the appearance of calm and ease.
Step like a cat; move energy like reeling silk from a cocoon.
The attention of your whole being should be on the shen and not on the ch'i. If it is on the ch'i there will be blockages. Those whose attention is on the ch'i will have no power; those whose attention is not on the ch'i achieve essential hardness.
Ch'i is like a wheel and the waist is like an axletree.
It is also said that if the opponent does not move, you do not move. When the opponent makes the slightest move, you move faster.
Your energy seems relaxed but is not relaxed, about to expand but not yet expanded. Even when energy is released, mental continuity is maintained.

Pay attention to practise. The commentary is not just writing for the sake of writing.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan Treatise

T'ai Chi is born of Wu Chi and is the mother of yin and yang.
In motion they separate; in stillness they unite.
Avoid both excess and insufficiency; extend when the opponent bends and bend when he extends.
The opponent is hard while I am soft. This is yielding. I am yielding while the opponent is resistant. This is adhering.
Respond to speed with speed and slowness with slowness.
Although the changes are infinite, the principles remain the same.
From mastery of the postures you will gradually awaken to interpreting energy. From interpreting energy you will arrive at spiritual insight. However, without long arduous practise you will not suddenly arrive at this insight.
There is a light and sensitive energy at the crown of the head; sink the ch'i to the tan t'ien, do not lean or incline.
Suddenly disappear and suddenly appear. If the opponent pushes the left, empty the left; if he pushes the right, empty the right.
Looking up, it seems higher and higher; looking down, it seems deeper and deeper. Advancing, it seems further and further; retreating, it seems closer and closer.
A feather cannot be added to the body or a fly land.
The opponent does not know me, but I know him. Wherever the hero goes, he is undefeated. This is the goal to which we aspire.
There are many other schools of martial arts. Although there are differences in style, they do not go beyond strength bullying weakness and slowness giving way to speeed, the strong defeating the weak and slow hands subject to fast. All of this is inherited physical endowment and has nothing to do with skill acquired through serious study.
If we examine the concept of four ounces moving a thousand pounds, it is clear that it is not brute force that prevails.
When we see an old man successfully defending himself against a crowd, what has this to do with speed?
Stand like a sensitive balance; move actively like a wheel.
If you keep your weight on one side you will be able to follow the opponent; if you are double-weighted you will be clumsy.
We often see people who have studied this art exclusively for many years who cannot neutralize an attack and are often beaten by an opponent. This is simply because they have not corrected the error of double-weightedness.
You must seek to avoid this error.
You must know yin and yang. To adhere is to yield; to yield is to adhere. Yin never leaves yang and yang never leaves yin. When yin and yang complement each other, this is interpreting energy.
After learning to interpret energy, the more you practise the more your skill advances. After a long period of silent memorization and study, the goal will be met where the body will automatically follow the mind.
The root of all is to give up yourself and follow others.
Most people make the mistake of scorning what is near and pursuing what is far. The slightest mistake will take you a thousand miles off course. Students must finely discriminate; hence the reason for this treatise.

The above are the teachings on T'ai Chi Ch'uan transmitted by Wang Tsung-yueh.

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Shmuel Halevi
Posted on Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 13:15:   

A.A. I am speechless. So beautiful and so very true. I would point out one remark, though. The more you practice Tai Chi you realize that these intellectual insights must NOT be thought about while practicing. This may sound in contrast with straight forward logic as, how else would one absorb these teachings if not apply them while in practice?
I think that one should read the teachings very carefully, once and twice and more, and internalize them intellectually. Then, they must be tucked off in some corner of the mind until they reappear on their own. Regular and diligent practice will unfold these insights in due time as if they have sprouted from the inside of the practitioner. When this happens, the level of understanding will be completely different, as the text says:


From mastery of the postures you will gradually awaken to interpreting energy. From interpreting energy you will arrive at spiritual insight. However, without long arduous practise you will not suddenly arrive at this insight.

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almost anonymous
Posted on Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 18:36:   

Greetings Shmuel,

You should be able to tell that the weather here is conducive to staying indoors and typing!

What you say also reminds me of this line from the passages quoted above: "The attention of your whole being should be on the shen and not on the ch'i. If it is on the ch'i there will be blockages. Those whose attention is on the ch'i will have no power; those whose attention is not on the ch'i achieve essential hardness." The shen is the spirit, the uncarved block, that beyond the realm of the discriminating word-mind.

There are many, many T'ai Chi schools nowadays who (in place of actually correcting their students) over-emphasize things like "ch'i flow" from an early stage. They invariably produce students whose martial and healing abilites are accurately described in the quotation above. People find it easy to over-intellectualize the physical "unfolding process" without a grounding in hard work - kung fu. These schools unbalance their training all the time in the modern era (and apparently it happened in the old days, too) by neglecting the physical and becoming masters of the "armchair art." Learning the art in the fashion of the former masters is only possible with both the watchful guidance of a qualified teacher and the dedication of an eager student, yin and yang. I know that Dan Docherty's school has a reputation for eschewing "fluffy" philosophizing in favour of intense training in the grand tradition of the Wu family. It is good to know that there are still a few schools left out there who teach in the traditional manner...

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almost anonymous
Posted on Sunday, January 25, 2004 - 18:39:   

"Most people make the mistake of scorning what is near and pursuing what is far. The slightest mistake will take you a thousand miles off course. Students must finely discriminate; hence the reason for this treatise."

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