Introduction to the Huang System of Taijiquan
- Hun Yuan Zhuang
- The Five Relaxing Exercises
- Relaxing Exercise Number One
- Relaxing Exercise Number Two
- Relaxing Exercise Number Three
- Relaxing Exercise Number Four
- Relaxing Exercise Number Five
- The Taijiquan Form, Huang System
- Push Hands
- Introduction to Huang System of Taijiquan
Through my years of practising Taijiquan in teaching and coming into contact with Taiji practitioners of other system, I feel blessed to be a student of Teacher Huang Sheng Shyan. Without any hesitation, I would say that he is one of the best taiji teachers in Taijiquan. His teaching is systematic, scientific and detailed.
His system of teaching start with Huan yuan chuan, Five relaxing exercise, Taijiquan form, Fixed push hand, Neutralising and Fa Jing exercises and free push hand.
Teacher Huang’s words to me
1) “Taijiquan is not about learning movements, it is about experiencing Taiji principles.”
2) “Memorise the five main Taiji classics.”
3) “When learning, ask the teacher. When practising, ask yourself.”
4) If you only have a 5% understanding of the Taiji principles in the huan yan chuan, you will only have 5% understanding of the Taiji principles in the 5 exercise, the Taiji form and push hands.”
5) “Do not just know what has happened, you must know how it happened.”
6) “The Taijiquan form is the foundation, Move in the push hand as you move in the form.”
7) “There might be lots of movements, the principle is the same. If you understand one movement you will understand all the movements.”
8) “Slow is fast and fast is slow.”
9) “I am good in Taijiquan, your father or brothers might be good in Taijiquan, that has nothing to do with you, It is better that you yourself are good in Taijiquan.”
10) “Dao is the foundation, the applications is secondary. Learn how to be a human being, your progress in Taijiquan depends on how you are as a human. Taiji is one great family.”
My understanding of the Huang Taiji system
Every student of teacher Huang will have a different understanding of his teachings. With this in mind, each teacher Huang’s student will have their own way of teaching and use different words to describe the same things. Remember, we are human beings not computers. If it’s within the Taiji classics and it follows the Taiji principles then it is right. If it is not then it’s wrong. Simple as that.
- Hun Yuan Zhuang
This exercise was developed by teacher Huang in 1983. It was the year that I went to live with him. Studying under him for 4 years learning the art of Taijiquan. I remembered him telling me that all his understanding of Taijiquan was in this movement. At that time I was only 24. I nodded my head and said yes in agreement, but deep down inside I did not believe it. How can one simple move contain his years of Taiji understanding? But through my years of practise I discovered what he said is very true.
The physical aspect of Hun Yuan Zhuang
The movement is initiated from the base, the feet have to be relax ,follow by the ankle joints, knee joints, hips joints, elbows and shoulders joints (to allow the arms to open and close).
At the moment of movement, the tail bone should be relaxed and tucked in. The consciousness should be on the crown of the head as if being suspended from the top. The spine should feel lengthened and both hips seated.
In the initial stage, the down movements are created by the feet relaxing, the ankles joints relaxing in relation to the feet, the knee joints relaxing in relation to the ankles joints, the hips in relation to the knee, the body in relation to the hips, the shoulders in relation to the body and the elbow in relation to the shoulder. Thereby create a continuous flow of movements changing in relation to one another, achieving the Taiji principle of when you move and change every part of the body is moving and changing, when you arrive every part arrives.
The up movement is create by the slow continuous pushing of both feet into the floor beneath the feet, this will create a continuous upward force to create the upward movement, thereby straightening the knees (the upward movement is not initiated by straightening the knee itself) but all the joints must stay relaxed, not locked.
Teacher Huang says, “If there are no movements in the base there should not be movements in the body and arms. All movements are initiated by the base, the body and arms are merely following the base changes.”
The internal aspect of Huan yuan Chuan
The Taiji classics say: “First the external, then the internal.” The external movements allows one to do the movements, the internal enables one to understand the movements.
At this stage the practitioner should have a grasp of the physical aspect of the Huan yuan exercise. In the internal practice, the practitioner should bring his awareness within to listen to the moment of the movement. He must use the awareness to cultivate the experience. The up and down movements are created by the relaxations of muscles of the feet, calves, thighs, body, arms, neck and face relaxing in relation to each other in one connected flow. The practitioner must capture and remember the feeling and experience of relaxation.
In the down movement, he must have awareness of the relaxing feeling flow from the Bai Hui meridian points (to swallow the Qi of the heaven) through the body, into the legs, into the feet, through the bubbling well into the earth under the feet. It must synchronise with the physical movements. This is the sinking process of taiji.
In the up movements, the practitioner must visualise the sinking rebound from under the earth up through the bubbling well, into the feet, through the calves, thigh, body, neck to the Bai Hui meridian point. This process is known as borrowing the energy from the earth. This is the process of how the relaxed force is release, except in the 5 exercises, Taiji form and push hands the arms are involved and it is sent to the fingers tips.
Relaxation, sinking and borrowing of energy is a mental process. It must be cultivated by visualisation and imagination. As teacher Huang says, “Use your mind to feed it.” It is only with the internal process that the qi can be aroused.
- The Five Relaxing Exercises
The five relaxing exercise is developed by teacher Huang in the early sixties. They are based on the Taiji principles.
Unlike the Huan yuan Chuan which was developed 20 years later, this exercise involve the whole body which includes the arms and body position changes.
During my four years living and training with my teacher, every evening for two hours from Monday to Friday, there were a group of 13 senior students coming for training at teacher Huang’s house. Every time after the five relaxing exercise, teacher Huang told the students, “after all these years, you all don’t even know how to do the five relaxing exercises.” When teacher Huang was not around, they complained among themselves about the comment from Teacher Huang. It always made me wonder why teacher Huang made this comment. Looking at most people, including myself, doing the five relaxing exercise at that time I soon realised the reason: most of us treat it as an exercise for relaxing the joints and muscles. Bear in mind, the five relaxing exercise is developed by teacher Huang based on the Taiji principles. We have forgotten to put the principles into the movements and experience it, which teacher Huang wanted us to do.
Whatever Taiji principles one experience in the Huan yuan exercise one must experience it in the five relaxing exercise.
The core principles are:
- It must always be a whole body synchronisation.
- The base, body and arms have different destinations, but they must arrive at the same time.
- All movements are initiated by the base. The body and arms follow the base changes, the arms is always the end of all changes.
- The inner process of relaxation, sinking and borrowing of energy from the earth must be present in all the exercises.
In the five relaxing exercises, from number one to number four, both feet should be parallel to each other. The exterior sole of the foot must be straight at shoulder width at all times. Only in the number five exercise does the feet position change.
Whether, Huanyuan chuan, five relaxing exercises or the Taiji form. The first step is to learn the movements as a whole, then to understand the sequence of changes that create the movements and get the sequences of changes to change in relation to each other to have a connected and whole body synchronisation. This is the external process. Then bring the awareness into oneself. To experience every muscle relaxing, sinking and borrowing energy from the earth. Being connected and balanced at all times. This is to enable one to understand the movements. This is the internal process. Only at this stage, can one achieve the inside initiating the outside movement.
- Relaxing Exercise Number One
This exercise is to train the changes of body position, transfering of weight from one foot to another, the turning of hips and movement of arms.
Principles and points to focus:
“When you change every part of the body is moving and changing when you settle every part settled.” ,it is not only in this exercise, in all exercise this principles must be presence.
- The exercise begins facing the front. Have the force rebound from the base to an upward movement till the knee is ninety percent straighten. Then relax the legs to create a rotational turning to draw the weight into the substantial foot. When you rotate into the right foot, the body is facing 45 degree to the left and vice versa. Although the turning is from the hips and the waist, its is the base（下盤 xia pan）that initiates the hips and waist turning. When the weight is completely on the substantial foot, the practitioner should be facing the corner at 45 degree angle. When facing the front the weight is evenly on both feet.
- The arms never move on their own. The opening and closing of the arm is not initiated from the palms. Imagine the arms are connected to the spine. Its opening and closing from within, from the spine, just like one opens and closes an umbrella. The arms does not move on its own. Its is the relaxation and movement from the base that creates a space for the body to relax, creating a space for the shoulder to relax and sink, this create the movement of the arms. There must not be lifting of the shoulders in the movement of the arms.
- When seated on the substantial foot, the knee of the substantial foot must be in line with the big toe of the substantial foot, it must not collapse inward. The substantial foot must be firmly grounded with the body weight evenly spread through the foot. The sole of the insubstantial foot must be in full contact with the floor but free of weight and the knee must not push outward.
- The internal process of this exercise is as follows: When transferring the weight into the substantial foot, the relaxing and sinking process flows from the bai hui through the body into the ground under the substantial foot. Synchronise it with the physical movement. When squaring to face the front, the sinking process rebounds under the substantial foot to the finger tips, to experience the process of borrowing the energy from the earth.
- Relaxing Exercise Number Two
Number two relaxing exercise is to synchronise the opening and closing with the up (borrowing of energy from the earth, ‘借地之力’) and the down (sinking ‘鬆沉’) movement.
Principles and points to focus
- As in the huan yuan chuan, the up and down is initiated by the base. In this exercise the feet are shoulder width apart, where else in the Huanyuan chuan the heels are together and the feet are pointed at 45 degree angles.
- At the moment of going up and down, the tails bone must be relax and tucked in. Have a conscious on the crown of your head as if it suspended from above and ensure both hips are relaxed and seated at all time.
- In the first count the muscles begin to relax and the sinking process begins. The physical downward movement begin on the second count by drawing from the base. Both the sinking and the downward movement finishes on the fourth count. In coming up the relaxing and borrowing of the energy process begin on the first count, the physical upward movement begin on the second count. Both the physical process and the process of borrowing the energy from the earth finish on the fourth count. Both the upward and downward movements must be a continuous flow without pause in between the counts. Both movements must be complete on the fourth count.
- In the opening and closing of the arms, the shoulders are always sunk and the elbows always dropped. At no time should the shoulders and elbows be lifted. The arms opened as the base sends the body upward to about one inch in height. The upward movement is much smaller then the first exercise. The arm movements synchronise with the four counting in both the upward and downward movement. It closes on an odd number and opens on an even number.
- Relaxing Exercise Number Three
The relaxing exercise number three is to work on the principles of cross- alignment force, the understanding of substantial and insubstantiality of oneself and in relation to the opponent force coming in and to release by sinking.
Principles and point to focus
- There is no extra bending or extending of both knees. The knees should be in the same bended position as when one ends the number two exercise. The only changes of position in the base is the thigh will have a downward movement cause by the hips movement. There is no transferring of weight from one foot to another in this exercise but there will be transferring of force. Therefore the substantial foot should feel more grounded (more substantial then the insubstantial foot).
- The exercise begins with the relaxation of the right foot creating a down and backward movement of the right hips and right thigh, the left hip must stay in and down so that both hips stay level. This movement increases the substantiality of the right foot, turning it into a substantial foot and the left foot decrease in substantiality, turn it into insubstantial foot. When this is happening silmantaneously the body is relaxing, creating the sinking of the shoulder to bring the left arms upward to the front mid body position, thereby turning the left arms into substantial arm. The force from the right foot is issued into the left arm. This is the meaning of cross alignment force.
- The movement continues with the left foot relaxing creating the same changes on the left side, turning the left foot into substantial and the right foot into insubstantiality. At this time as the right arms is brought up to the front mid position. simultaneously the left arm is drawn by the left foot. With this motion the shoulders sink, elbows drop and wrist sit, bringing the left arm to the side of the left thigh. The force from the left is issue through the right arm. This is the meaning of the classic, “When the left is substantial, the left is insubstantial, when the right is substantial the right is insubstantial.” This is understanding one own substantiality and insubstantiality. The timing of the hips drawing in and the arm going out, the arm going out and the arm coming down must synchronise to arrive at their position at the same moment.
- An example of the application in pushing hands occurs when the force comes on the right side, the right side must immediately become relax and yield to the force, using sinking to neutralise the oncoming force into the ground under the right foot. By doing so the right side of the body become insubstantial, the right foot become substantial and the force from the right foot is release by sinking through the left arm onto the opponent, and vice versa.
- The number three exercise also trains the practitioner to release the relaxed force by sinking. When ever ones weight is on the back foot or one foot (like roll back or pluck) the relaxed force is release by sinking. In the release, the feeling of the back foot should be like the substantial foot of the number three exercise.
- Relaxing Exercise Number Four
This is the best exercise to experience the whole body synchronisation and to train the timing of the synchronisation. To experience the sinking process and the process of borrowing the energy from the earth to synchronise with the physical. It also allows the practitioner to experience how the arms is brought up and down into position.
Principles and points to focus
- The principles to focus on are: “ When you move and change every part of the body is moving and changing. When you arrive every part arrives.” And “Sinking of the shoulders and dropping of the elbows.”
- Just like the Huanyuan Chuan in going up and down the movements are created by relaxing every muscle of the whole body, not by using tension. Any upward , opening and downward closing of the arms is created by sinking of the shoulders and dropping of the elbows. This sinking of the shoulders is not created by forcefully pushing down. It is relaxing of the body muscles creating a space to sink. In Taiji, when moving the arms the shoulders and elbows must always be relaxed and sink.
- In coming up, it is the borrowing of the energy from the earth that creates the upward movements. The yi must rebound from under the ground, synchronising with the upward movement. The palms open from the arc of the hips. The upward movement finishes when the palms is facing the back and yi rebounding from the ground must arrive at the finger tips.
- In the drawing down, let the base initiate the downward movements. At the same time the sinking process begins from the crown of the head. For the first two times, the downward movements finished when the palms is resting on the hips facing up. At this time, the sinking process should arrive into the ground under both feet
- On the third time the downward movement synchronises with the sinking. When finished the palms are closed together at the breastbone height. The force is then release from the feet through the legs, body into the fingers tips. The palms is sent out through the relaxing and sinking of the shoulders, dropping of the elbows. The experience one feels in the release, must be felt in any issuing of the relaxed force.
- Relaxing Exercise Number Five
The number five exercise is the foundation of how the base moves forward and backward in the taiji form and in the push hands. In the Huang system of Taijiquan it is the mechanism of how the relaxed force is released in the bow stance and in the back foot when sitting back.
Principles and points of focus
When finishing the fourth exercise the practitioner is facing the front with the feet parallel to each other at shoulder width. To go into the fifth exercise position, the practitioner need to turn the left toes fifteen degrees or one inch inward then turn the right toes outward so that the right foot is completely pointing straight to the right with the outside of the right sole straight. Both hips and shoulder are completely square facing to the right. At this point the practioner is completely sitting on the back (left) foot with 100 percent of the weight on the left foot (however in the taiji form or push hand when the bow stance is shoulder width then the back foot is turn 45 degree inward).
In moving forward or sitting backward the knee of the left foot must be kept in line with the big toe of the left foot. In the moving forward or sitting backward the practitioner must feel that the weight is evenly distributed on the sole of the left foot and the whole sole is in full contact with the floor. If in movement the practitioner feels that the outer side of the left sole is not in contact with the floor then the weight is not evenly distributed. If there is the feeling that there is an increase of weight on the inner side of the left sole, it means that the knee has collapsed inward. This will result in lost of grounding (root) of the left foot, it will also cost injuries to the knee.
When moving forward the right knee must be moving toward the direction of the big toe of the right foot, giving a feeling of an inward curved movement. The right sole must be in full contact with the floor. If the practitioner feels that the inside of the right sole in not in contact with floor when moving forward it means that the right knee is not in line with the right toes, this will also cause injury to the right knee in the long run. When moving backwards the front knee is about ninety percent straighten never completely straight, never completely straight and the weight distribution is ninety percent on the back foot and ten percent on the front foot. In the Huang system when the bow stance is completed, the weight distribution is fifty-five percent on the back foot and forty five percent on the front foot.
In the Huang system, we don’t rock forward or backward. Any forward or backward movement is initiated by the base (legs), the upper body is just sitting on the base. As teacher Huang says: ”The legs initiate the forward and backward movement.” The legs are like the tyres of the car, it is tyres that move the car forward and backward.
The movement begins with the practitioner sitting on the back foot. The forward movement is initiated by visualising that the ground under both feet disappear, feeling both feet grounding into the floor by relaxing the muscles of the feet, legs , ankles and knee joints. The structure is drawn downward like the down movement of the huan yuan chuan, with the upper body muscles relaxing in relation to the base muscles. Mentally experiencing the sinking process into both feet with the feeling of an under and forward movement.
With the front knee relaxing at the same time, creating a forward movement, increasing the grounding of both feet and feeling the compression of the force building up on the back foot as the back knee has a dropping movement from the sinking. When the weight distribution arrives at 55 percent on the back foot and 45 percent on the front foot and body is in the central position the bow stance is completed. The front knee never goes over the toes.
At this moment, the compression force of the back foot should be released, the knee will be slightly extended (not more than one inch). During this release both hips should stay seated and relaxed and the front thigh should not be push upward and the front knee should not be push forward.
To test if you are moving forward correctly, ask your fellow student to stand in front of you and hold out his arm and place the palm on you. Not pushing into you or withdrawing his arm when you are moving forward, just hold the arm out. If your forward movement is correctly executed, there should be a force coming under his feet uprooting him but not feeling any pressure of your body against his palm. This is what it means in taiji, “ The upper body is like clouds and the lower body (base) is like the flow of the river.”
The backward movement is initiated by visualising that the ground under the back foot disappears, relaxing the ankle and knee joint of the back foot (however the back knee joint must be kept in the release position) creating a back and downward movement, mentally sinking into the ground under the back foot. The back leg movement should feel like the movement of the substantial leg of number three exercise. In the moving back the front knee should be relaxed so that there is a back and down feeling, if there is a down but no back feeling that means the front knee is lock. When the backward movement is completed, the weight distribution should be 90 percent on the back foot 10 percent on the front. The front knee is 90 percent straightened.
To test if the backward movement is correctly executed, ask your fellow student to push at your dantien area. As he is pushing, you should feel very stable as you sink into your back foot and he should feel drawn into emptiness as his force has no place to land. For beginners start with moving forward and backward twice, as the base get stronger, then increase the number of times.
The mental process requires that when moving forward there must be a sinking into the ground under both feet with a under and forward intention. When the bow stance is completed there is a release of force from both feet: the back foot by the release of compression of the back knee, the front foot by sinking into the ground under the front foot. During the release there must be another wave of sinking.
In the backward movement, mentally there must be sinking into the ground under the back foot. This is also how the relax force is release when moving back.
Moving forward is equal to following in the push hand. There will only be sticking in the following if you have sinking when moving forward. Moving backward is yielding, there will only be neutralising in the yielding, if you have sinking in moving backward.
In the last backward movement, draw all the weight completely into the back foot, lift up the front toes off the ground. Glide the front toes back to the front heel position and glide it back again to the original position repeat this movemen six times. The weight must remain in the back foot at all times while executing this movement. The hips must remain seated at all times, and the knee must remain in a down position. Mentally while moving the front foot, there should be continuous waves of sinking into the ground under the back foot. The focus should be in the sinking to create the movement of the front foot.
This is to practise the principle of, “when moving the insubstantial foot, it must not affect the harmony of the posture. Substantial and insubstantial must be clearly differentiated.”
Turn around to the left side and draw the weight into the left foot and repeat the same process.
- The Taijiquan Form, Huang System
The main Taiji form practised in the Huang system is the 37 style short Form developed by his teacher: Grand teacher Cheng Man Ching. Through the years as teacher Huang develop his own understanding of the Taiji principles the transition in between postures has changed for refinement. The way the taiji form is performed is very different from that of the Cheng Man Ching system.
There is also a Taijiquan Long Form and the Refined Simplified Form (jing jian taijiquan). This taijiquan form was developed by teacher Huang in the seventies and is based on his years of experience in taijiquan. It contains the 72 postures, this form focuses on agility and release by sinking. It gives the practitioner a foundation for receiving force. However, very few in the main stream Huang taiji school know about this form. When teacher was alive this form was only taught to select inner disciples. Nobody was allowed to teach this form without his permission. However, after teacher Huang’s death I have decided to teach the Refined simplified taijiquan form to my students. It is only right the students of Huang system should learn the taijiquan form created by him, as the 37 taiji short form although in the transition of movements is refined by teacher Huang, is still the form of grand teacher Cheng Man Ching. My personal feeling is that the Refined simplify Form should be one of the taiji form to be practise in the the Huang system.
In the early years, when I was still practising in the Singapore Taiji School (The first taiji school established by teacher Huang in Singapore), whenever teacher Huang visit the school in Singapore, he always said these words to me: “the foundation of taijiquan is in the form.” When I went to live and study with him in Kuching, although I had learn the whole taijiquan form from my two years in the taiji school, he said to me: “ Forget what you have learnt and start learning from the beginning.” I was told by him that the foundation of taijiquan is in the taiji form and the essence of the taiji form is in Grasp the sparrow tails. Therefore the next 8 months were spent on learning and repeating this part of the taiji form. From my experience if you know how to synchronise your movements and experience the taiji principles in this part of the form, then the rest of the taiji form is easy.
In the practising of the taiji form, beginner should focus on the physical principles of taijiquan:
- Tail bone relaxed and tucked in. Have a conscious on the crown of the head as if the head was being suspended from the top (the feeling of the spine being lengthened). This principles must be maintained in position as well as in transition.
- Both hips should be relaxed and seated at all times.
- In the moving of the arms the shoulders should always be sunk and elbows dropped but not collapsed.
- Turning should always be initiated by the hips and waist. The forward and backward movements is initiated by the legs.
- All movements must be whole body synchronisation there must not be any regional movements.
- Movements should always be initiated by the base. The body follows the base changes and the arms follow the body changes. They must change in relation to each other so that it is one connected flow.
When the external principles is achieved then the practitioners should proceed to the internal aspect of taijiquan. In the internal aspects the focus should be calmness, stillness, relaxation and sinking.
Calmness: In the practise of the form the awareness should be brought within and not wander off. This is to enable the practitioner to use the mind awareness to experience the taiji principles in the movements and to understand the movements.
Stillness: Is to cultivate the stability of the movements in transition and maintain the root and central of equilibrium in position, transition and release.
Relaxation: Relaxation is not to be soft and floppy. Relaxation is about letting go the unnecessary tensions in the body and in the movements. Relaxation come from mind cultivation, which ever parts of the body the mind is aware of that moment, the practitioner must visualise and imagine it to relax. This is regional relaxation. After prolong cultivation the body will relax as whole.
Sinking: Sinking is a mental process whereby allowing the relaxation feeling to flow from the crown of the head through the body , legs, feet into the ground under the feet. Sinking will give you the root to borrow the energy from the earth. Sinking is the foundation for the relax force, sticking and neutralising. Teacher always stressed that the main theme of taijiquan is relaxing and sinking.
The taijiquan form is the body (ti) pushing hands is the application (yong). Every style of taiji has its own taiji form. Taijiquan is not about practising of movements, it’s is about experiencing of principles of taijiquan. The taijiquan form is only a set of movements for you to use to experience the taiji principles. Therefore it’s is important to read all the taiji classic and when practising, put the principles into the movements. In the taijiquan form, moving forward (gong tui) is sui, moving back (zuo tui) is yielding and neutralising, Releasing( hou jin gi ) is issuing of the relaxed force.
In the taiji form you cultivate your relaxation this will give you the ability to synchronise your whole body as one. It will also give you sinking which will enable your root to be connected at all times with the earth, thereby giving you stability and your centre of equilibrium. Relaxing and sinking are the foundations for the relaxed force, sticking and neutralising.
If you can’t have the above in the taiji form, how can you have it in push hand when there are two people involved? If you know yourself and know your opponent you will be excellent in your pushing hands. Knowing yourself comes from the practising of the form.
A lot of teachers in taiji say: “ Relax. Relax and your will be good in taiji.” Relaxation is foundation of taijiquan but just relaxing will get you nowhere. Relaxation must come with sinking, whole body synchronising in every movement, maintaining your centre of equilibrium and be connected at all times. In any moment the hips have to be relaxed and seated, shoulders sink and elbows dropped.
- Push Hands
There are about 18 fixed push hands in the Huang system. Beside the tradition push hands such as the cardinal push, single hand push and cloud hand push. The other 15 push hand is develop by teacher Huang Sheng Shyan.
In any styles of taijiquan, the students will always be taught the taijiquan form and then be introduced to the fixed push hands of the system. After fixed push hands training, a lot of practitioners proceed straight into the free push hands, that is why a lot of taiji push hand in the park or in push hands competitions end up more like a wrestling match than taiji push hand. Just like baking a cake, you need to have all the ingredients ready before you can bake the cake. In taiji push hands training, you need to do 1.fixed push hand, 2. Fixed and free yielding exercise, 3. Issuing (fa ching) exercise and 4. Sensing exercise. Only then in free pushing hands, can you handle people using brute force.
Before going into push hands, there are few principles in taiji that one must study carefully.
- “The weak surpasses the strong”, it clearly means that it is not a contest of strength, if it is a contesting of strength, the strong will always win. It’s is a contesting of strategy and wisdom.
- “The soft overcome the hard”, I would rather use the word dissipate to replace the word overcome. Because to me overcome has a sense of dominating.
- “ When the opponent is hard, I am subtle, that is yielding,”
All taiji practitioners must have 100% faith in not using brute force, When the taiji method is not working it is because your training has not matured and the timing is not there yet. A lot of taiji practitioner have not enough faith in taiji methods and start to use alternative methods to make it work. Once that happens you will never be able to do it the taiji way, by doing that it is also an insult to the art.
- The fixed pushing hands, is used to train the internal principles of the five elements, which is sticking, joining, adhering, following, no resisting and no disconnecting.
In the practising of fixed push hands, the practitioners should have the mentality that they are doing the taiji form not push hands. The only difference is that this form is done by two people. The two people must go with the flow with each other movements so that they not only join in movements but also in the timing of their movements.
The two people merge in movement and timing and become one. Since they are doing the form, they must move like the taiji form and contain all the elements and feeling of taiji form. When they merge into one in movement, they will have joining, adhering, following, no resistant, no disconnection and when they have sinking in every movement, sticking will be present. Therefore, the internal principles of the five elements is cultivated.
- Yielding and neutralising exercises consist of fixed and free yielding. Fixed is working with a set pattern where one learns to yield and neutralisethe incoming force, getting rid of the fear of been push. In free yielding of course, the push can come in any direction and speed.
Yielding is to deny the incoming force a place to be used and a space for one to readjust to that force. Only through whole body synchronisation and changes of directions can one create an abundance of space to yield. In yielding the opponent dictates the movements and speed.
When the opponents force is past the point of impact and the person yielding creates a space, he must neutralise the force. Neutralising is to render the incoming force null and void. It is at this point the person yielding takes over the lead, following with sinking and takes control of the situation. If the opponents roots is broken, then fa ching to send them off, if they are not, at least the person yielding is back in a safe position and in control of the situation.
- Fa Ching (issuing of relax force). There is no pushing in taiji, there is only discharge of the relaxed force or Fa ching. The relaxed force is cultivated in the taiji form not in the pushing hand. In the Huang system of taiji form practice, when the base, body and the arms have all arrived into a postures, before you move to the next posture there is always a release from the base, this release is practising the release of the relaxed force. So the fa ching practise already begins in the taiji form. There are different ways of fa ching, you can fa ching in a bow stance where the force is issue from both feet, the force can also be release by just sinking in the front foot or by sitting back into the back foot.
In our system there are exercises to train issuing in the bow stance, in the front foot and from the back foot. I will not elaborate on the exercises as it needs on hand teaching to understand it. The principles of Fa ching is first mentioned in the Chang San Feng taiji classic and most of the principles of Fa ching is found in the taiji classic: The Understanding of the Thirteen postures. If one studies this classic diligently one will understand how to fa ching the taiji way.
- Sensing exercise, this exercise it to train senses to have the ability to apply the principle of, “When the opponent does not move, I do not move, when the opponent have the slightest movements, I move ahead of him.”
This exercise is like free push hands, except one is sensing, the other provides the environment for the person that is training sensing to send. For example, A is sensing and B is providing the environment for A to sense. If B is not pushing then A has to be one with B in movement. The moment B has a push, A has to neutralise B’s push, to take B out or to fa ching to send B off, which direction and how far depends on the way B push
There are three level of sensing. The beginner level is when the opponent is in the beginning of the pushing you sense it. In the intermediate level it is when your opponents muscles is adjusting to carry out the push you senses it. The advance level is when the opponent has a desire to push you sense it. Besides touch sensing, one must also have visual sensing (observing the body language) Audio sensing (listen to the breathing.)
Only with the above abilities is the practitioner is ready for free push hand. The foundation is still in the taiji form, your push hands will only be as good as the taiji form.