Talks On The Practice Of Taijiquan
Narrated by Yang Cheng Fu
Recorded by Zhang Hong Kui
There are many schools of Chinese wushu (martial arts), all with technical
skills based on philosophy. Since ancient times, many people have devoted
their lifetime and energy to probing the nature and essence of wush and mastering
the maximum skills, but few have succeeded. However, a learner can improve
his skill if he keeps on practising and someday he will become an expert.
As the saying goes: Drops falling, if they fall constantly, will bore through
Taijiquan is a part of the rich cultural heritage of China. It is an art
in whose slow and gentle movements are embodied vigour and force. As a Chinese
saying aptly puts it, "Inside the cotton is hidden a needle". Its technical,
physiological and mechanical qualities all have a philosophical basis. For
learners, the guidance of a good teacher and discussions of the skills and
techniques with friends are necessary, but the most important thing is persistent
and untiring practice. Indeed, there is nothing like practice, and learners
of taijiquan, men and women, young and old, will get the best possible results
if they keep at it all the year round.
In recent years, the number of people studying taijiquan in various parts
of China has been increasing. This is an indication of the bright prospects
of wushu. Many learners are conscientious and persistant in training, which
will enable them to attain a high level of achievement. It should be pointed
out that two wrong tendencies should be guarded against. The first is that
some some people who are young and talented acquired a quicker understanding
than most other people and so become complacent and stop half way. These people
can never achieve great success. The second wrong tendency is that some learners
are too anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits. They want
to learn everything in a short time, from shadow boxing to wielding the sword,
broadsword, spear and other weapons. They know a smattering of each, but
do not grasp the essence and their movements and postures are full of flaws
to the expert eye. It is difficult to correct their movements, for a thorough
"overhaul" is needed and , as often as not, they might change in the morning
and return to the old habits in the evening. Hence the saying in Chinese
boxing circles: "Learning taijiquan is easy but to correct a wrong style
is difficult". In other words, more haste less speed. And if these people
pass on their mistakes to others, they will be doing a great harm.
In learning taijiquan, one should first of all start from the quan jia
or frame of boxing; he should practise according to the routines and follow
the master's every movement carefully, and keep each action in mind. Meanwhile,
he should pay attention to the nei, wai, shang and xia. Nei means using
the mind rather than force. Wai means the relaxation of the limbs, shoulders
and elbows, making the movements from the foot to the leg to the waist gentle
and continuous. Shang means straightening the head, and xia means sinking
the breath to the lower belly.
For a beginner, the most important thing is to remember these points,
grasp their essence and practise each basic movement correctly over and over
again, never seeking quick success and instant benefit. It is advisiable
to make slow and steady progress, for this will pay in the long run. In practising
taijiquan, it is necessary to keep all the joints in the body relaxed, so
that the movements will be natural and unrestrained. Do not hold your breath
(that may lead to puff and blow), and do not use stiff strength in moving
the arms, legs and waist and body, but try to make your movements gentle and
continuous. These two points are well-known among the wushu experts, but
many trainees have difficulty putting them into practice.
The learners should bear in mind the following points:
1. Keep your head erect and do not incline it forward or backward. As
the saying goes, "Its like there is something on your head, and you should
take care not to let it fall". But you should not hold your head in a stiff
manner, and though your eyes look straight ahead, they should follow the
movements of the limbs and body. Although your eyes look into vacancy, they
are an important component of the movements of the body as whole. Your mouth
should remain half open and half closed, with the nose breathing in and mouth
breathing out naturally. If saliva is produced in the mouth swallow it.
2. Hold the torso straight and the backoune and free end of the sacrum
vertical. When moving, always keep the chest slightly inward and the back
upright. The beginners should keep these key points in mind, otherwise their
movements will become mere formality or dull-looking, and they will not be
able to make much progress in spite of long years of practice. 3. Relax the
joints of both arms, letting the shoulders droop and the elbows curve naturally;
the palms should be slightly extended and the fingers slightly bent. Move
the arms by conciousness and send qi (breath or vital energy) to the fingers.
Remember these key points and success will be yours.
4. Take not of the difference in stance between the two legs which move
as gently as those of a cat. When one foot is planted firmly on the ground,the
other is in an empty stance. When you shift the weight on to the left leg,
then the left foot is firmly on the ground, while the right foot is in an
empty stance, and vice versa. though the foot is in an empty stance it is
always ready to move. When the foot is firmly on the ground, it does not not
mean that you should exert too much force on that leg, for if you do so,
your body will incline forward and you will lose your balance.
5. The action of the feet is divided into kicking upward and kicking downward.
When you kick upward, pay attention to your toes, and when you kick downward,
pay attention to the sole; conciousness of the action will be followed by
vital energy, and vital energy will be followed by strength. When you do all
this, you should relax the joints and avoid stiffness.
In practising taijiquan, one should first master and practise the "frame"
as above mention (bare-handed forms), such as Taiji shadow boxing and changquan
(long shadow boxing); then one can proceed to single-hand pushing, one-site
pushing, pushing with feet moving and free-hand fighting, and after a period
one can take exercises with weapons such as taiji sword, taiji scimitar
and taiji spear.
Learners should practise regularly every morning or before going to bed.
It is preferable to practise seven or eight times during the daytime; if one
is hard pressed for time, then at least once in the morning and once in the
evening. Do not practise immediately after meals or after drinking. The
best place is in the gardens or parks where the air is fresh and the environment
conducive to health. Do not practise on windy days or in a filthy place. For
when you do exercise, you might breathe in too much dust or dirt which is
harmful to your lungs. It is advisable to put on sportswear and comfortable
cloth or rubber shoes. When you sweat, don't take off your clothes or wipe
with cold towels, lest you catch cold and fall ill.