Letter from the Chairman…
The summer, be it good, bad or indifferent has developed to become a most important time in the calendar of annual events for Longfei Taijiquan Association. We are fortunate that the Chinese scholastic terms coincide with our own in Great Britain. This enables Professor Li to spend his summer leave teaching groups and seminars throughout the country. If you travelled to Beijing, gaining access to Professor Li’s time would prove very difficult. His duties as head of Physical Education at the People’s University and the demand on his time in Japan, Taiwan, Macao and other foreign parts, make his availability almost impossible. An additional incentive for his annual visits is of course to visit his daughter Hui and son-in-law Tarry. His arrival at the end of June and departure towards the end of August has almost certainly given us more exposure to his time, talent and skills than any community outside of China. This year Professor Li travelled the length of the country, conducting seminars in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Goole and Southampton. This widespread interest reflects the growth in both his popularity and that of Taijiquan in general and is in some contrast to his early visits in 1989 and 1990.
Longfei would like to express our deepest sympathy to Chew Yeen for the sad loss of her husband David.
Dick Watson, Chairman
Dudley Summer Camps
Meeting at Dudley Campus, Wolverhampton University
The highlight for us is the meeting at Dudley Campus, Wolverhampton University. This year we included a second weekend event enabling us to cover a range of activities, catering for the novice through to the advanced practitioner. Professor Li was joined by Master Wang Yanji, and the teaching complement was completed with Faye Yip (Hui Li). The second weekend was a new feature and introduced students to a short form of the “Sun Style.” Both weekends were a great success and we are encouraged to continue the two weekend format next year and into the future. I would like to thank all of you for supporting these events with a special thanks to the hard core of students that trained and shared both weekends with us.
Dudley 1999 – Dates for your Diary A number of delegates have asked for early advice on the dates for next year’s events. It is our intention to retain the same formula each year, with the three day event taking place on the last full weekend in July and the two day seminar the weekend following: The 4th Summer Camp: 1999: 23rd, 24th, 25th July. Two Day Seminar: 1999: 31st July, 1st August. The main thrust of both weekends was Taijiquan, however a whole range of subjects was introduced. With the exception of the football match (more about this on the opposite page by our reporters, The Saint and Greaysie), most of the warm-ups were drawn from other Internal Chinese Martial Arts “Xingyi Quan Bagua Quan.” The Eight Treasures were practised alongside the eight Chinese early morning broadcast exercise. The Eight Treasures (Ba Duan Jin) can be seen practised with many slight variations. “The Eight Treasures” presented by Prof. Li are the result of Master Li Tian-Ji’s research into the history and practise of “Ba Duan Jin” (translated literally as “Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade”). “Ba Duan Jin” is recorded as arising from the Daoist Tradition and Chinese folklore. They are a Dao-yin (Qigong) method of gentle stretching exercise that stretch and soften the ligaments and tendons, at the same time stretching and relaxing the muscles. They are designed to stimulate the flow of Qi throughout the Meridian System and irradicate stagnancy in the internal organs. They are with other Dao-yin practices concerned with restoring original vitality or Inherited Qi (Yuan Qi).
Match of The Day!
Match report by “The Saint” and “Greavsie”
First Leg – Saturday Scotland 0 , England 0
ENGLAND fielded a fully fit team of some 20 members, comprising of both sexes. Scotland, fresh from the World Cup, were depleted in numbers due to injuries. To even up the competition the Jersey contingent were drafted into Scotland’s squad as were Master Wang and Heinrich Franzen from Sweden. The remaining deficiency was made by loaning several stars from the English squad.
The game was a desultory affair with both sides looking to build supremacy in mid field or a quick break up front. Derek Daley was looking a likely lad for Scotland and in the Scot’s goal Wang was looking quite safe and formidable. However the referee was turning a blind eye to his repeated performances of “Ye Ma Fen tong” (parting the horses mane) and there was a strong feeling that he should have been shown the red card for his “Gotama” (High Pat on the Horse). The First Leg score remained at 0-0.
Second Leg – Sunday The Final England 3, Scotland 2
BOTH teams were aware of the urgency for a result, as a consequence there was a brisk start. The ladies were showing an appetite for the contest with Celia Cullen making positive runs through the midfield only to lose the ball in Scotland’s penalty area.
Ann Gathercole could be seen leaping to head the ball in England’s penalty area thereby frustrating attacks on England’s goal. The second leg was proving to be more positive football and both keepers were seen making brave saves, Wang for Scotland was very active freely performing “Peng Jing” (Ward Off) on both the ball and the English forwards! The referee was seen to be completely impartial ,freely passing the ball equally to both teams. The two-day deadlock was broken when canny Jack Cummings decimated England’s back ten giving Scotland a 1-0 advantage.
There appeared to be twice as many players in the English team and the numerical supremacy was beginning to tell. Big Malcolm Powell, back after a long lay off, got in his stride and put England on level terms making the score 1-1. At this stage Wang was released from goal in an attempt to even up the game and the Sassenachs could be seen bouncing around the penalty area on the end of his “Peng Jing”. There was some good work being put in by Simon Watson and Steve Price but it was Big Malcolm who cut through the Scots to score his second goal. With the score now 2-1 to England the game looked to be beyond Scotland’s grasp when Slippery Ian Sibley came from nowhere to put England 3-1 up .
With the final whistle fast approaching, Scotland were looking for goals and Canny Jack Cummings slipped in his second goal past England’s keeper taking Scotland’s score to 2. This was to be the final score and a fair result if one discounts England’s supremacy in numbers. Final score: England 3, Scotland 2.
With regards to the 42, this was developed when Taijiquan became popular as a competitive sport/art in the 1980s.
It was considered necessary to develop a unified style of Taijiquan to allow athletes to compete. The Physical Institutions of China have set competition forms for all the five major styles, i.e., `Chen,’ Yang,”Wu,”Sun’ and `Woo.’ Competitions take place for all three styles, but for international competition we have created the 42. This was introduced in the 11th Asian Games in 1990. Forty seven nations took part in this international event. The 42 incorporates movements from the major styles and competitors have the opportunity to show their overall skill and knowledge.
So we should examine why these different forms and styles have appeared. The 24 was introduced for the novice, while the 42 was created to standardise international competItion. They in no way interfere or cancel the importance of traditional forms of Taijiquan.
What do you think of competition Taijiquan?
First of all should we compete in Taijiquan? Can you compete in Taijiquan?
In the old days competition was with qui Shot]: attack and defence, to win or lose. This was the method to decide whether your Taiji was good or not. As Taiji became more popular the forms have assumed more prominence. Some people have asked whether you can use Taiji forms in the same way as we use and judge the floor exercise in gymnastics. If then it is possible, how do you award marks and what is the criteria for judging performance?
There are two opinions. Some insist that Tui Shou is the only way. Another group say both form and Tui Shou can be judged. These opinions exist both in China and throughout the world. In China today you can compete in one or the other or both. There is a third theory that Taiji is a pure form of self defence and competition is inappropriate and one should not take part in contests. Self cultivation is the only goal.
My personal view is that Taijiquan is an ancient health motivated exercise, however it can be used for physical competitions. Furthermore through competition the standards can be raised. It affords the opportunity for people to meet and exchange views. This can also encourage the incentive for others to join and practise.
Do students of your school take part in San Shou competition? If not, why not?
San Shou competition has only developed in the past few years, both in China and outside. Before it was called `Da-Lei-Tai. `Da-Lei-Tar is not a part of Taijiquan. It is set competition for all forms of Wushu or Kong Fu as known in the west. In `Da-Lei-Tai’ they use the techniques of `Pi,’ Da,”Shuai’ and `Na’ (i.e., Chop, Throw, Grab and Wrest). Taijiquan practitioners engaging in Tui Shou, only use the techniques of `Peng,”Lu,”Ji,”An: `Cai,”Lie: `Chou,”Kao:
What do you think of the difference in approach in the east and west?
I think that any brilliant cultural developments of the human race should not be subject to the division of east and west. Western influence should spread to the east, eastern culture can travel to the west. They should be common treasures for humanity. However, because of geographic location and the events of history, this exchange has been resisted or blocked. To understand takes time. When English soccer first came to China, we Chinese could not understand it. The Chinese had played a form of football a thousand years earlier but this was completely different. But now western soccer has a great audience in China. It has become one of the most popular sports. Every year the Cup Final attracts a large viewing. Chinese Wushu and Taijiquan were not popular in Japan thirty years ago. Today there are over 500,000 students. Because of this cultural exchange Wushu has developed rapidly.
For the last few years I have spent my summer holiday in England. I can see more and more people love to practise Taiji. Although the level of skill at the moment cannot be compared with China and Japan. The learning exchange in England is different. It has taken place with small groups and individuals, nothing on a large scale. So it takes more time. Let us consider the intensive promotion of the Olympic Games, how quickly and strongly it became a huge world-wide activity.
Chinese Wushu has been created for self cultivation, stillness is promoted within movement. The emphasis is on being natural, balanced and relaxed. To pursue the release of tension and combat fatigue this is the essence of Chinese Martial Arts.
Many westerners realise that strenuous types of exercise is inadequate. Using only movement is not enough. Cultivation of relaxation and stillness in movement is necessary. This is like a human being and nature becoming one.
The late development in England will delay progress in Taijiquan, but it can follow the parallel of football in China with more and more people enjoying Taijiquan. I have been able to watch and enjoy the growth of Taiji and Wushu on an international level. I have seen it grow to competition at World class. I have seen the levels of skills rise and arts enjoys greater popularity. To move further forward we need earnest development, we need all interested participants to enjoy cultural exchange. To raise the standards we require more organisation to promote Taijiquan and Wushu, we must bring our sport/art to the attention of the respective sporting and health authorities. We need to let them know about our arts and seek their support.
This concludes the interview with Professor Li De-Yin.
Congratulations to Anne Lo and Andrew Austin — both selected by the BCCMA to represent Great Britain at the 7th European Wushu Championships in Athens. Good luck to them both.
Congratulations to Tony Haigh who took 3rd place in the recent British Chinese Martial Arts Tournament at the Wirral, Liverpool. Tony was a member of a team of competitors led by David Nicholsen from Yorkshire Longfei.
Third Annual Longfei Summer Camp
by Simon Ward. Edited by Erik Foxcroft.
Li Deyin speaks almost no English, but delivers a unique universal understanding of Taijiquan. He regularly spoke about the background and the details of the Taiji form being demonstrated, and thus gave us some insight, first into the 88 step Yang style form and later on the recently choreographed Sun style short form. He also regularly demonstrated and compared Taiji styles by, for example, showing us the Chen, Wu and Yang forms of Dan Bien or single whip. An attitude of joy appeared to radiate from him whilst performing Taijiquan and correspondingly a sense of stillness which forms the essence of the art.
During our first weekend at Dudley, when we were concentrating on the 88 step Yang form, Professor Li told us that it was difficult to know what is an original Yang form. There were no video or still cameras available whilst Yang Luchan, originator of the Yang style, learnt and taught his Taiji.
Today in China some people practice a form which they claim comes from Yang Luchan’s son Yang Banhou and that it is, therefore, closest to the original Yang style. However, because of the lack of any real evidence to support their claims and because there are differences between the forms, said to be from Yang Banhou, the authenticity of any such form must be in doubt.
Professor Li always made sure people could ask any questions they wished regarding Taiji, so the Dudley seminars were a great opportunity to refine and progress. However, he is also a humble man.
For example, a student queried the exact direction of one Peng posture in the 88 form and Professor Li had no reservation in consulting his 88 form book and confirming that the student was correct. In China Professor Li teaches different forms all the time and is in constant demand. Which of us at the age of 60 would be able to remember all the details of so many routines? After all, it is possible to intellectualise about Taiji in print, but it is not possible to reproduce the sheer beauty of the forms as demonstrated by Li Deyin.
Professor Li made sure that people were not overworked during the seminars and in some of the breaks lie would explain the finer points of the forms. For example he made sure that everyone understood the difference between An (as in the last posure of Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail) and push, like in brush knee and push. He explained that in An, one goes backwards first, making a hole for ones opponent to fall into and then, when they start to pull back, helps them on their way with the pushing part of the posture.
On a lighter note, as a warm up the whole group played football. Although this had nothing to do with Taiji, everyone enjoyed themselves and it helped to bring the whole group together. Professor Li is a great football fan and I asked, through the interpreter, which was his favourite British side and although I don’t speak Mandarin, I could hear the word Manchester in his reply!
The second Dudley seminar involved a Sun style routine. Professor Li explained that Sun Lutang did not actually practice Taiji until the age of 56, and the style itself seems more internally connected to Qigong.
Sun Lutang was a great practitioner of Qigong and some of the form’s small movements and concentration on the breath, seem to reflect this. The routine itself is a 38 forms choreographed by Li Deyin. It has none of the repeats which are common in traditional forms. Professor Li said that it was a ‘taster’ of the Sun style, and one should learn the traditional Sun form if one appreciated the taste!
During the second weekend we also did some Bagua, including the basic stepping and turning. Later on we were shown the Bagua Eagle step in some detail and some others more briefly.
Bagua and Xingyi
We were also taught some Xingyi steps: horse, monkey, chicken and duck, amongst others. Sun Lutang studied Bagua and Xingyi from an early age and was one of the greatest exponents of these arts before he ever started to learn Taiji. Li Deyin’s grandfather, Li Yulin, was a student of Sun Lutang from the age of 36 and the families still retain their links to this day. The influence of Xingyi and Bagua can be seen in the Sun style form and. also in some parts of the Yang style forms choreographed by members of the Li family.
We came to understand something of the essence of Taiji and Li Deyin has refined this essence through his thoughts and actions.
An introduction to Taijiquan Teaching Materials and Competition Rules – Part 1
Text of a lecture at the Wuhan International Taijiquan and Taiwan Display and Exchange Meeting, Wuhan, China, April 1984, By distinguished Taijiquan expert Li Tianji.
Today, Taijiquan experts and Taijiquan enthusiasts from the whole country and from all over the world, are happily gathered under one roof exchanging boxing skills and sharing friendly conversation. This shows that the ancient Chinese martial arts are no longer only a sporting activity immensely popular with the Chinese people, but that they are gradually becoming the common property of the people of the world and a link for the exchange of culture and the spread of friendship between the people of China and the people of the world. As an old Wushu worker, this fills me with heartfelt joy.
Taijiquan in this country has a long history and deep foundations. More than a century ago Taijiquan spread from our country’s villages into the towns, which opened a new era in Taijiquan’s development. By the early years of the Republic, Taijiquan gradually formed into various schools, with many distinguished Taiji masters breaking new ground, both carrying old traditions and making innovations, thus giving impetus to the development and diversification of Taijiquan technique, which marked another milestone in the history of Taijiquan’s development. After the founding of New China, Taijiquan broke away from its condition of individual, unorganised transmission and was formally included in our national sports programme. With planned and structured leadership from the national sporting bodies, Taijiquan has gained unprecedented popularity, with people everywhere, in town and country alike, taking part in Taijiquan activities. Furthermore, many foreign friends have become deeply attracted and its influence has spread across the five continents, thus beginning a new chapter in the develop-ment of Taij i qu an.
Xingyi Quan and Bagua Quan
I was born in a village in Anxin County, Hebei Province. As a young child I began to learn Shaolin, animal-imitative (Xingyi) and Bagua boxing styles from my father. From 1927 on, I studied ‘moving-step opening and closing Taijiquan’ and Yang style Taijiquan, and later also came into contact with various styles of Taijiquan such as Chen, Wu, Wu, Sun and Hao. In many more than fifty years, I have never left the work of teaching and researching Taijiquan. During my Wushu career as a young man, I had deep and bitter experience of Old China’s domestic turmoil and invasion by foreign powers. With the people living in dire poverty, the development of Wushu suffered double destruction. Many older martial arts experts, their hearts filled with love for their country and people, devoted their lives to the cause of Wushu, but due to the political corruption, economic impoverishment and educational backwardness of the old society, the great mass of the people could not even pass their days in peace, never mind practice martial arts for the good of their health! And so the great hopes of many Wushu experts could not be fulfilled. Not until after the founding of New China did Wushu really gain new life and become an important integral part of the popular sporting movement. Through continuous research, collation, popularisation and improvement, the Wushu movement is at last showing a vitality and diversity never seen before. Like many other old martial arts coaches, I am elated and heartened by the Wushu movement’s flourishing development, which is a source of inexpressible joy and inexhaustible strength to me.
Ten Schools and More
During the thirty years and more since the People’s Republic was founded, I have worked in schools, athletic teams, and official bodies, doing Taijiquan teaching, training and com-petition and research and preparation work and consequently I am well aware what a rich treasure-house Chinese Wushu represents. Just to speak of Taijiquan it does not just comprise learning sets of movements, ‘pushing hands,’ and many kinds of weapons play; there are also well over ten different major and minor schools, such as Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu, Hao and Sun along with Song (Shuming), Li (Ruidong), He (Zhaoyuan) and Zhang (Sanfeng), and with the continuing expansion of research and collation work, the content and way of performing Taijiquan are bound to be yet further enriched. Some of the main schools of Taijiquan can be individually introduced by the comrades concerned. Here I will concentrate on introducing the different kinds of Taijiquan teaching materials prepared and published in this country since Liberation and the stipulations concerning Taijiquan in Wushu competition rules.
Collation and Organisation
In 1954 this country set up special bodies such as the “Committee for National forms of Sport” and the “Wushu Research Office” to be responsible for Wushu collection and editing work. Beginning in 1956 they enlisted experts from many fields to compile a succession of Wushu teaching materials for sports colleges and departments, covering over twenty sets of forms for all kinds of boxing and weapons play and running into hundreds of thousands of words and produced this country’s first set of standard Wushu competition rules.
Among the newly-compiled Wushu teaching materials are the following on Taijiquan: “Simplified Taijiquan,” “88-form Yang Style Taijiquan,” “66-form Composite Taijiquan,” “48-form Taijiquan,” “32-form Taiji Sword,” and “Taiji Pushing Hands.” Apart from this, specific norms were laid down for the content, specification and characteristics of Taijiquan. The Taijiquan teaching materials mentioned above can be divided into a number of different types:
(1) Popularising Materials
For example, “Simplified Taijiquan” and “32-form Taiji Sword,” prepared in 1956, are texts intended to popularise and spread Taijiquan activities, aimed at the needs of the beginner, and with simplification as their starting point, which are written according to principles of eliminating unnecessary detail and stressing the important points, ease of learning and memory, and an ordered, gradual approach, “Simplified Taijiquan” is made up of twenty-four representative forms selected from Yang style, the most widespread variety of Taijiquan. The highly repetitive structure is changed to simplify the content of the movements and bring out the traditional character and features. This allows the beginner to get over the difficulties of learning and remembering the movements as quickly as possible and concentrate his efforts on mastering them and appreciating their essential principles. Thus the conditions have been created for poeple to learn Taijiquan both quickly and well.
(2) Standardised Materials
In view of a situation in which there were slight differences between versions of Taijiquan current in different areas, to aid instruction the experts concerned have compiled teaching materials standardising the movements for certain sets. “88-form Taijiquan” was compiled in 1957 through the joint research in Shanghai of eight Yang style Taijiquan experts who, on the basis of maintaining the traditional style, compared and chose between different ways of practising a number of movements and was later finalised in Beijing after further practical revision by the National Wushu Training Class. This provided a standard text with which to put our efforts into spreading Yang style Taijiquan. The revised Taiji pushing hands text, with added explanations and photographs so that the learner can practise with the aid of pictures, has similar characteristics.
(3) Composite Materials
To satisfy the needs of those Taijiquan enthusiasts with a certain basic skill and attainment to further improve their level of skill, enrich their knowledge and master different schools, the sporting bodies have also organised the compilation of composite Taijiquan teaching materials. For instance, the 66-form Taijiquan developed by the National Wushu Training Class in 1959, is a text which chooses features from various schools, incorporates both strength and suppleness in equal measure and is at quite a high level of strenuousness and difficulty, “48-form Taijiquan,” published in 1979, is also an integrated text, based mainly on Yang style, but incorporating features from many other styles. These materials have a lively and rich content, with plenty of variety, thus increasing the all-round nature and the fascination of this form of exercise. From the above breakdown we can see that the guiding principles in formulating all these different new Taijiquan teaching materials have been to carry on tradition, develop the essential qualities, adapt the old to the needs of today, and to favour development, facilitate popularisation and encourage improvement. In the national Wushu competition rules, the following stipulations have been made for Taijiquan: in all national formal competitions, freestyle Taijiquan sequences must include at least four different kinds of steps and at least six different groups of movements. These stipulations on content have been made so as to be able to accurately and comprehensively assess a competitor’s level of skill and so as to maintain conditions of fair competition. Apart from this, rules have also been made concerning Taijiquan’s characteristic features, standard requirements and method of scoring. Practical experience shows that these rules have given impetus to the development of Taijiquan competitive activities and made competition more scientific and accurate. Regardless of whether one is learning traditional Taijiquan sequences, or studying the newly-compiled materials, Taijiquan’s characteristic features should be maintained and expression given to its basic essentials. The Wushu competition rules incorporate five points concerning the characteristic features of Taijiquan. I will give them some introduction merely from my own personal understanding.
(1) Body relaxed and mind calm, breathing natural.
When doing Taijiquan, one should remain erect and comfortable, relaxed, calm and natural. The thoughts should be concentrated and calm, consciously guiding the movements, so as to reflect the requirements spoken of in the ancient boxing manuals for “first in the mind, then in the body,” “use the mind to move the qi, use the qi to move the body,” and “the will and the qi are the monarch, commanding the bones and flesh which are the subject.” The breathing should be deep and regular, natural and smooth, and as far as possible in time with the movements and the exertion of force. One should not tense up or hold one’s breath, or use strength awkwardly. Remember the principle “the qi is not harmful when the spine is straight.”
(2) Curved movements, clear distinction between `hollow’ and ‘solid.’
Every part of Taijiquan involves changes between the `hollow’ and the ‘solid’ which are expressed in various ways” as attacking and defensive hand movements, advancing and retreating steps, turns of the body, firmness or suppleness in the exertion of force, rise and fall of the thoughts and the rhythm of movement and so on. During the Qianlong period (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty, the famous Taijiquan master Wang Zongyue expressed the changes between ‘hollow’ and ‘solid’ in boxing in terms of Taiji Yin and Yang, stressing the point that every movement and form in Taijiquan is inseparable from Yin and Yang, which is why it is also said that in Taijiquan, “only when Yin and Yang are in balance will the use of strength be understood.” Taijiquan movements should follow a curving path, to favour the exchange between ‘hollow’ and ‘solid,’ and should on no account go straight back and forth, stiff and unflowing, or use force in a mechanical way.
(3) Coordination of upper and lower limbs and body, movements full, vital and complete.
Taijiquan movements should be initiated in the legs, controlled mainly from the waist and express their form in the hands and fingers with all parts of the body in step, forming a balanced whole. It is the actions of the waist and legs in particular which combine to form the basis of Taijiquan movements. The upper and lower limbs and body must not get out of step, or the effect will be like floating weeds in water, drifting back and forth, without roots.
(4) Even and continuous, connected and gently flowing.
Taijiquan requires that one “use one’s strength like pulling silk from a cocoon,” and that “forms change but the strength is continuous. There should be a continuous flow from one movement into the next, with no sudden starts and stops or breaks and disruptions.
(5) Light and agile but steady, exerting the right amount of force.
Taijiquan requires one to “store up strength like stretching a bow, exert force like loosing an arrow,” and that “inside the mind is resolute, but outwardly one appears calm and at ease.” Movements should be as light and nimble as a cat’s, but light without being unstable; they should also be as firm as iron, but firm without being stiff. To be able to apply this kind of unique skill demonstrates superb mastery. It has been described as the art of “meeting strength in softness,” or “like iron wrapped in cotton wool,” and even in those movements which involve a clear exertion of force, there should be softness in strength, with plenty of suppleness. The five points gone into above express Taijiquan’s common characteristics and embody its individual style. The competition rules for this display and exchange meeting incorporate relaxation, stability, roundness, use of force, expression and evenness as six criteria for awarding points and these are nothing other than the concrete expression of the essential features mentioned above. These main points should find expression in all aspects of Taijiquan: in the posture, movement, use of strength, the mind and breath timing. One should aim to “pay attention to both inside and outside,” and “prepare both form and spirit.” In Taijiquan the form, the strength and the will are a unified whole, in which “the mind is the commander, the body the swift servant.” It is said in Taijiquan theory that “if the mind can be kept alert, one will not develop the fault of slow and heavy movements; this is what is called the ‘suspended head’.” This means an erect head and neck, rounded and vital use of force, and a lively and spirited manner, all combined into one, with mind and body in unison. Or, as the boxing books put it: “seemingly relaxed but not relaxing, about to stretch but not yet stretching, the strength changing but the will constant.” This too gives profound expression to the intimate relationship between the action of the will and the way in which the strength is used. These are all truths which we should constantly and earnestly study and seek to understand through practical application.
This article will be concluded in the next issue of the Newsletter.
With the real Yang Lu-Chan please stand up
Taijiquan -Traditional and Contemporary
Considered a bright jewel in a sea of traditional Chinese culture, Taijiquan has fascinated and been revered and practised by its followers since the time of its birth. Its development has not been confined to China and Asia, indeed it has found its way to most corners of the world’s societies. In accord with other Oriental disciplines such as Yoga, Dao-Yin, Tu-Na, Taijiquan grew from a philosophical base. By following the training principles correctly the Taiji student can enjoy a veritable harvest of improvements to his posture, well being, health, breathing, character, mindfulness, relaxation and strength. However desirable and wonderful the conditioning of the body and its effect on the working of the metabolism can be, these benefits remain on the perimeter of the grand scheme of things (Grand Tao).
While different schools and teachers can pay more or less importance to areas of Taijiquan, i.e. Form Practice, Pushing Hands, Qigong, Meditation, Application and Free Fighting, these should not be separated from the philosophical, psychological, self cultivation and overall spiritual development of this ancient art, not forgetting that the student’s requirements are paramount. Taijiquan was created and developed as a concept of mutual interdependence (Yin and Yang). A philosophical understanding that human existence is a complementary entity (Microcosm) that can experience harmonious unification with society and the environment. A perfect constitution of mankind and nature (Wow) in which we exist (Macrocosm).
In contemporary societies the pressures and stress on human existence have increased sharply in the second half of the twentieth century. Socioeconomic pressures, the development of electronic media, computer science, speed of travel, the drug culture (both prescribed and otherwise), hyper activity fostering chemical treatment of our food are for the majority of us not conducive to equanimity.
Indeed the reverse is probably more apt. The sense of ease and belonging (Microcosm) in the grand scheme of things can become quite elusive. It’s certainly commonplace to feel alienated from our boss (bless his cotton socks), perhaps our neighbours, sometimes our family, ethnic minorities, anti social groups, tramps and beggars and even other Taiji practitioners.
The words Tai Ji first appeared several thousand years ago in the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of change and prediction. Contemporary translation of the heiroglyphics have referred to: “The Great Terminus” or the “Grand Ultimate.” I find these translations abstruse and prefer Professor Li’s interpretation of “Embrancing all Things,” meaning of course in the universe or creation.
So Taiji literally refers to the Grand Scheme of the Universe (I think) and practising Taijiquan (Quan — Fist Method) is training to connect our being with the Grand Scheme of the Universe (Tao), maybe it’s preferable to see the experience as spontaneous (Zen) than one we can wilfully bring about. One aspires to Taiji as the possible and hopeful end of the work (Qigong).
At one time in my Taiji studies the “Yang Style” of “Cheng Man Ching” was subject to a great deal of criticism from the more traditional Taijiquan fraternity. “Cheng Man Ching” died in 1976. Now 22 years later, he is recognised as a pioneer and may be the first Taiji teacher to bring the art to the West and the precursor of an individual style.
Similarly the 24 Simplified Taijiquan was criticised from certain quarters and although now 42 years since its creation some entrenched and some self-styled traditionalists still criticise any contemporary forms. Perhaps the most cynical remarks are to refer to it as communist or Government Taiji. What it is, in fact, is a number of the most significant moves taken from the Yang Style. They were choreographed to introduce the novice to the rudiments of Taijiquan and the Yang Style was selected because of its greater popularity — the introduction should include and be under the guidance of a proficient teacher, such basics as appertain to traditional Taijiquan should be conveyed. Posture, coordination, relaxation, serenity, naturalness, mindfulness are required to be understood and adopted by the novice. These can probably be more easily assimilated in the context of a short introductory form.
To fully understand the depths of Taijiquan is an enormous proposition and real experts refer to a lifetime of study. To understand rooting (Zhongding), lower the energy to Dan Tien, directing energy (Qi) with the mind (Will-Yi), to train the eight kinetic applications, Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Tsai, Lich, Chou, Kao, can be conveyed with a short introduction form and there’s
so much more.
“Cheng Man Ching” was the first teacher to simplify an introduction to the art of Taijiquan. His initial routine consisted of 37 forms couched from the Yang Style. His style has popular support among Taiji enthusiasts. The 24 Simplified Yang Style is the most widely practised form in China and probably the rest of the world. In recent years all the major styles of Taiji have progressed to develop short forms. Perhaps this suggests that “Cheng Man Ching” and the creators of “Simplified” Taijiquan were visionary and in the vanguard of development. In a discussion with Professor Li he has remarked that Taiji is an evolving process, as it should be, in keeping with the grand scheme of things.
Had Taijiquan stood still we would all be practising the “Chen Style.” The Taiji historians refer to the “Chen Style” as the preface of all Taijiquan. There are, of course, many detractors from this viewpoint (the history of Taiji is a subject entire to itself). We do know for sure that “Yang Lu-Chan learned from one “Chen Chang-Xing, 1771-1853” a 14th generation of the Chen family. We know that the Wu family learned the art from the Yang family. I believe that all the major styles can be traced to the inspiration of the Chen family. The historical duration of recorded Chen tradition is approximately 300 years. During this period new forms have appeared and old forms have been modified.
“Yang Lu-Chan’s” grandson modified his grandfather’s teaching and various members of the Yang family have passed on variations of the Yang Style: small frame, medium frame and large frame. We can find reference to: the original Yang Style, authentic Yang Style, Yang Lu-Chan Style, Yang Cheng Fu Style, Yang Ban Hou Style, Dong family Yang Style, etc, etc.
Yang Lu-Chan lived before the creation of photography so there are no graphic illustrations of what his style/forms looked like. From these references it would appear that Taijiquan is indeed a changing and evolving process and to deny any of it would appear in conflict with and not hanging loose with the Tao. A little like denying the genetic code.
As “Wu Chi” gives way to “Tai Ji” and Taiji brings into being “Yin and Yang”, “Yin and Yang” create the five elements of fire, water, earth, metal and wood — the five elements create the infinite universe. This creative, ever-changing process surely applies to Taijiquan and all those that sail in her. It is not necessarily what appears as manifestation but what lies unseen at the source that should apply to all Taijiquan.
In Taoist philosophy nothing can be considered absolute or finite, the only thing that is permanent (the paradox) is constant flux. Taiji training is self cultivation on all levels of our being. As part of our personal change. hanging on to yesterday’s news is at best a diversion and at its worst a complete obstacle to openness and development.
Yang Lu-Chan — R.I.P.
By Dick Watson.