Kim C Yap 2020.4/
Taiji Classic I（太 極 經 典）
Taiji Classic is a collection of over 100 articles written by various Taiji masters over the centuries. They cover everything from the underlying philosophical principles to methods of practice and application. These Treatises were previously passed down in secret from generation to generations through various lineages.
Taiji Classic I is attributed to the legendary founder of Taiji Quan Jing太極拳經, Zhang San-Feng, 張三丰approximate period 12th – 14th century. This famous treatise is quoted widely in the Wǔlín (martial community)武林.
Master Wu encouraged us to read widely on Taiji. Bro Wang 汪群超encouraged us to write articles according to our current level of understanding and experience. He said writing on Taiji will help us to improve our understanding and practice of Taiji Quan.
In this article, I have chosen a few passages from the Taiji Classic I to share my understanding and personal experience of internal energy development and applications.
(I) In motion, the entire body should be light (Qing) and agile (Ling). Each part of your body is coordinated like a string of pearls.
Qing (Light) –
Yang Chen-Fu 楊澄甫 transmitted the oral secret of “suspending the head-top” to Grandmaster Zheng Man-Qing 鄭曼青. The common understanding on suspending the head-top means physically bringing the head erect and imagining a string tying the hairs to the rafter of the ceiling. Most of us were taught this is the way to suspend the head-top. However, we have misunderstood Master Yang’s oral secret.
In “Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises”
鄭子太極拳十三篇, Grandmaster Zheng explained the real meaning of this oral secret. It is to raise the internal energy to the top of the head. The raise of the internal energy to the inside of the head will have internal energy (i.e. Jin) connected from the feet to the head, which lessen the body’s weight. This likens to an inflated balloon which float up when it is filled with helium gas. When you are light, a feather can be felt, and you can sense your opponent’s energy and the changes.
In my practices, the Jin is connected from the feet up to the inside of the head. It feels like wave raising up and suffusing the head with energy, making the feet and body light.
Grandmaster Zheng wrote that the purpose of the Preparation Posture is to raise the internal energy to the head. In the words of Master Wu, the Preparation Posture is the foundation of Taiji Internal Energy. He further added that failure to practice this form prevents further progress in developing internal energy. In this sense, rising internal energy to the head is a major milestone in the development of internal energy. When one’s has enough “gung li” (i.e. potential energy), the Qi will fill the legs and hands like filling a balloon. The movements will then be light or “Qing”. I have observed Master Wu walks or moves so lightly; now I know the real reason!
Ling (Liveliness) –
Taiji philosophy is based on the Yin / Yang theory. The entire body must separate clearly into substantial and insubstantial portions during Taiji movements. It can be between lower and upper body; left and right leg or left and right arm.
Taiji Classic also states that the mind and Qi must be interchangeable for the practitioner to be “ling” or liveliness. Being “ling” means, we can smoothly change from empty to solid or solid to empty in all our movements. When substantial(solid) and insubstantial(empty) are present, Qi will follow. When Qi is on the left, then the left is solid, and the right is empty. When Qi follows Yi without impedance, this is called liveliness.
For the changes to be lively, the legs must be clearly divided between solid and empty. The state of the hand is coordinated with the leg. If the left leg is empty, the right hand is solid and vice-versa for the right leg.
Our sword forms are ling or lively when our Qi can follow our Yi ether in the finger pointing hand or in the sword hand in accordance to the sword form movements. I used an iron sword, weigh approximately 1.75 kg. A few years ago, the sword felt very heavy. The Qi could not flow to the sword-hand because the hand/arm is tensed due to the heaviness of the iron sword. Now, the sword is light although it is the same sword and weighs the same. I have learned to relax and open the joints to allow the Qi to flow in to the arms/hands whether it is the finger-pointing hand or sword-hand. The Qi makes the arm feel light.
Each part of your body coordinated like a string of pearls –
In Taiji practice, the entire body should coordinate into one complete unit. Once you begin to move, the entire body should move, like the motion of a wave. The Qi is moved through nine curved pearls without the slightest interruptions. The nine pearls are the nine joints, namely; (1) fist joint (2) wrist joint (3) elbow joint (4) shoulder joint (5) the spine (6) the waist (7) the hips (8) the knee joint and (9) ankle joint. Moving the Qi through these nine curved pearls means making all movements smooth and easy with circular liveliness like the pearls.
(II) The internal energy should be extended, vibrated like the beat of a drum. the spirit should be internally gathered toward the center of your body.
This passage has confused Taiji practitioners over the ages. Traditionally, such cryptic statements were usually explained verbally by the master to his “indoor disciples”.
In the olden days, villagers beat the drums to produce vibration sound to warn impending dangers or to celebrate festivals. These days, we have musical instruments like accordion bellows which produce musical sound waves when you fold and unfold the accordion. Grandmaster Zheng said, our Dan Tian 丹田 is a bag of air. It works like an ccordion bellow producing vibrational waves when we contract and extend it.
The first part of the passage states that the internal energy in the form of vibration wave should extend outward from the center of the body meaning to extend the energy wave outward from the Dan Tian.
The second part of the passage states that the Spirit or Shen should be internally gathered towards the center of the body. Shen is like the Western concept of mind although it is often translated as “spirit”. The passage states that the mind or attention should be gathered to the center of the body or to the Dan Tian. The second part of the passage instructs us on the accumulation of Qi in the Dan Tian. We are instructed to gather and sink the Qi to the Dan Tian. This is what Grandmaster Zheng called “Substance”.
In Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises, Treatise No 3, Grandmaster Zheng wrote:
1. The Dan Tian is only a bag of Qi. If the Qi doesn’t sink into the Dan Tian, the bag will not open and cannot function.
2. If the mind and Qi do not stay together and if they wander aimlessly, you cannot pay attention to the Qi. How do you know whether the Qi reaches the Dan Tian or not? To develop Qi and sink it to the Dan Tian, you must keep the Qi with the mind.
(III) The internal energy, Qi is rooted in the feet, springs from the legs. It is executed through the waist and is manifested in the fingers. It goes from feet to legs to waist as one Qi.
The title page has a picture of a gigantic twister. Master Wu once told us to watch the 1996 movie, “Twister”, telling us how the internal energy starts in the foot, spiral up the legs, through the spine, up the chest and finally manifested in the fingers. That was more than 20 years ago!
Grandmaster Zheng has left us critical information on how to develop this internal energy. Grandmaster Zheng explained the process in 2 parts:
1. The power is rooted in the feet – means when a devotee roots his foot in the ground, he will feel as if all his Jin dropped to his feet and has penetrated below the surface of the earth. This clearly implies a concentration of Jin energy dropping down to the foot, leaving none in the rest of the body.
2. Spring from the legs – When the body is entirely empty of force, a tenacious strength or Peng Jin is spring up from the foot filling the vacuum created in the upper body.
Where does the Qi comes from? Is the Qi that drops to the Dan Tian is the same Qi that drops to the feet?
According to Chinese classical authors, there are within Man both pre-natal and post-natal Qi. The former is constitutional or preconditioned, the later are environmental. The interaction of post-natal and pre-natal Qi within Man is described by the corresponding interactions of Heaven – Man – Earth. The sources of Qi can be summarized as:
• Heaven – Qi through breathing
• Man – Prenatal Qi from our parents
• Earth – Qi from nourishment (food and water).
It is not the various raw Qi mentioned above that sink down to the feet. The various Qi are raw energies and is feedstock in the Dan Tian, just like fuel and air in a carburetor. It is a transformed Qi (Jin) that sinks to the feet. It is likened to the fuel + air that is mixed and burn in the carburetor and energy is released. Dan Tian takes the role of a carburetor. In Taiji Classic, the carburetor is the stove that converts Qi into Jin in the Dan Tian. The energies (Qi) of Heaven – Man – Earth are drawn into the Dan Tian and is transformed into Jin (intrinsic energy). The Jin is in the form of vibrational wave energy. The vibrational wave is extended outward from the Dan Tian to the feet and reflected back to the body when it hits the ground or any surface.
The Qi in the Dan Tian is converted to Jin, an intrinsic energy in the form of vibrational wave. It is directed by the mind to sink to the ground surface. The Jin wave is immediately reflected up, starting from the stepping feet, spiral up the leg, through the spine, chest and finally filling the hands as our personal “twister”.
(IV) Distinguish empty (hsu) from solid (shih). Every part is both empty and solid. The whole is both empty and solid. Each section of the entire body is connected without separation.
In Taiji, the most important principle after Sung is the distinction between Substantial and Insubstantial. I don’t understand why this principle should result in greater internal energy harvest. I only know that when my legs are in the substantial and insubstantial mode, I feel the internal energy amplified in my internal power development.
Master Wu told us in our early days of training, to hold our weight 100/0. We also practice 50/50 weighted gōng fǎ 功法 like 降魔降心 (Jiàngmó Jiàng Xīn) and 金樑換柱 (Jīn liáng huàn zhù). I credited my internal energy development in the last 4 years with the 100/0 and 50/50 standing poses. Examples of 100/0 weighting poses are: Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg, Niǎo shēn (bird kick) 鳥申 and Heel Kick. The 50/50 weighted poses are: Preparation Pose and the 2 gōng fǎ “ 降魔降心 (Jiàngmó Jiàng Xīn) and 金樑換柱 (Jīn liáng huàn zhù)”.
Why 50/50 poses? Aren’t we supposed to clearly separate the body into substantial and insubstantial portions? The substantial and insubstantial distinction can also be between lower and upper body. In the 50/50 weighted pose, the upper body is empty/insubstantial and the lower body solid/substantial.Relaxing completely the insubstantial leg will fill up the whole body with Jin, from the feet to the top of the head. It took me a long time to believe and experience this principle.
Our school twin goals are “Taiji State” and “Clear Rise and Turbidity Fall”. 太極狀態與清升濁降 ( Tàijí Zhuàngtài yǔ Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng ). I have noted that our brothers and sisters are now more in tune with their internal state and internal energy. Our internal energy practice is correlated to “feeling” of internal energy in our body, especially the arms which can be our barometer to gauge the intensity of the flow of internal energy. Remember, internal energy feeds on attention/Yi.
In conclusion, I believe we will experience the “twister” in our body as mentioned by our teacher, Master Wu more than 20 years ago with the correct understanding of Qi and the methods to develop internal energy and finally on how to applies it in the form of energetic fajin and in our Taiji forms.
1.Cheng Man- Ching : Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi Chuan
2.Cheng Man- Ching : New Method of Tai Chi Self-Cultivation
3.Wu Kuo- Chung : Tao Tai-Chi Health
4.Kuo Lien-Ying : The Tai Chi Boxing Chronicle
5.C.K. Chu : Tai Chi Chuan Principles and Practice
6.Waysun Liao : Tai Chi Classics
7.Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu (translated by Waysun Liao)
8.Robert Tangora : The Internal Structure of Cloud Hands
9.Bro Wang Chun-Chao : Shenlong Facebook
10.Shenlong’s brothers and sisters
刊登於 2020 年《原幾》雜誌第四期