SHENLONG TRADITIONAL TAOIST TAI CHI CHUAN: The Philosophical Path

 WAH-CHUAN LOW 2021.09.18

1. LINEAGE (傳承)

At one of the Shenlong Day lectures, Master Wu Kuo-chung said that our Tai Chi Chuan Jin Fa (method of delivering Jin 勁法) is very ingenious.  It is not perceptible just from the physical form; it is derived from many subtle changes of the external and internal parts of the body.  However, the question is: how to practice, nurture and achieve this ability?  Actually, Master Wu has already clearly articulated this in his book Grandmaster Cheng Man-ching’s train of thought in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan 先師的思路 and also through his teaching over the years.  I personally believe that if we can truly understand the ideology of our Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching and Master Wu and adhere to the methods of practice, we will not be misled and waste our efforts.

Shenlong Tai Chi Chuan, primarily follows the philosophical teachings of Taoism and traditional Chinese culture.  In his later stage of teaching, Master Wu named it as pure Primordial, pure Qi, pure Taoist Tai Chi Chuan.

By calming the Mind and relaxing (i.e., Song) the Body in Qigong practices, we can achieve a total change in the flesh and physical body.  Taoists adopt the principle of reversal, which is a process to slow down aging with the aim to achieve youthful softness and the unpolluted mind of a new-born baby.  This process, also aims to develop tactical ways of using the weak to overcome the strong for self-defense. Master Wu strictly followed Grandmaster Cheng’s teachings over many years and also added his own enlightenment, insights and understanding.  He achieved a deep understanding of our art, emphasizing that it is a way to achieve ultimate Tao.  This was a great achievement for him and allowed him to take our art to a high level, for both improvement of health and practicality in self-defense.  Tai Chi Chuan is truly a practice for Body and Mind development (性命雙修) in the tradition of Taoism.

Master Wu Quotes: 宜春 Yi Chun Tour:  

吾技乃純道家拳,純炁功拳,是以心行炁,以炁運身,炁動血隨,運而後動,自己每一動,都要問自己,是不是照這個程序

Our Art is the pure Taoist Qigong Tai Chi Chuan, it follows the strict order of using the Mind/Yi to move Qi, and Qi moves the body/muscle/Fascia and Blood/fluid, then fluid move the whole body. For any body movement, you have to ask yourself, “ Am I following the above sequence. “  

2013.03.19 集訓 Shenlong Day

經驗,是經過後取得的感受,沒有經歷過,靠想像,那是沒辦法的。不能有“我“,接勁尤須如此。

Experience is what you have gone through and acquired. If you have not gone through acquiring the feeling with practice and just use your imagination, it is impossible to achieve. Forget your Self, this is most important especially when doing Receiving Jin.  

儲訓(太原三清觀之旅後) Training Camp (After visit to Tai Yuan San Qing Taoist Temple)

從今天開始,我現在教的都是精微的東西,不會是全套,放下以前,重新開始。

As from today onwards, I will only teach you the fine points, it will not be the full set, put aside what you have practised before, let practice and focus be on these fine points.  

(三純) “Three Pure Tai Chi Chuan”
精神上是先天,赤子之心練拳用純炁來練做人做事用道家

*Primordial mind of an infant
*Use Pure Qi to practice
*Adopt tactics of Taoist

Grandmaster Cheng Man-ching excelled in his achievement of Chinese traditional medicine, calligraphy, poetry and Chinese painting.  He was sickly in his younger days and practiced Tai Chi Chuan, hoping to improve his health.  Later, he was introduced to Great Grandmaster Yang Cheng-fu and was admitted as a disciple.  It was said that Great Grandmaster Yang revealed many secrets of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan to him, because he was grateful to Grandmaster Cheng for curing his wife of a critical illness.  Later still, he learnt the secrets of Zuo Qigong from Grandmaster Chang Ching-lin, who was his Tai Chi brother from the Yang Tai Chi Chuan lineage.  Grandmaster achieved such a high level of excellence in Tai Chi Chuan that people called him the Scholar of Five Excellences that included Tai Chi Chuan.  He said that he applied the Oneness principle of Traditional Chinese Philosophy to all these arts.

Master Wu was enlisted into the army at an early age and was later promoted to become the leader of an elite Navy Special Force team.  He conducted many combat missions during his years of service before retirement from the army.  Given his experiences and martial arts expertise, he held strong opinions about the effectiveness of martial arts and was not impressed by Tai Chi Chuan.  He considered it as soft as a piece of bean curd that could be overcome easily by someone with expertise in external martial arts.  On one occasion, he attended a talk by Grandmaster Cheng who had just come back to Taiwan from the United States.  On that occasion, he had the opportunity to openly and honestly express his opinions to the Grandmaster.  He told him that he believed many of the people at the gathering were showing superficial and false respect, while secretly doubting the effectiveness of the Grandmaster’s Tai chi Chuan.  Grandmaster Cheng just smiled and invited him to his house for a test of the effectiveness of Tai Chi Chuan.  As the story goes, he accepted the invitation and despite his expertise in external martial arts, he was defeated completely and convincingly.  Master Wu recalled that he was shocked that he was so convincingly defeated and furthermore, didn’t even know how he had been so easily defeated – being flung instantaneously into a wall.  Because of this encounter, he immediately decided to become a disciple of Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching and subsequently learnt the Grandmaster’s 37-Steps Simplified Tai Chi Chuan.  After many years, the Grandmaster also admitted him to be the first and only disciple of the Zuo Qigong lineage in Taiwan.

In Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s senior years, Master Wu inherited his refined teachings.  He, subsequently and loyally, continued to emphasize the ideology of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the practice of our Tai Chi Chuan and considered it is his mission to transmit this extraordinary art to future generations.

To practice our Traditional Taoist Tai Chi Chuan, it is essential to study everything that Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching and Master Wu have written in their books.  It is important to fully understand the true meanings of these texts that include many spiritual descriptions.  This makes guidance by experienced seniors indispensable.  Master Wu once advised: “Do not guess the meaning of what I have written in my books – you must ask me.”

Apart from the effort to contemplate and study these books and texts to guide our practice, we also need verbal instructions and demonstrations from Master Wu and experienced seniors, because it involves Qigong and philosophical principles.  This is necessary, because our art is Primordial, which means that it includes the cultivation of Mind (i.e., Yi) and things that pertain to the metaphysical realm.  And being metaphysical, it means that this part of the teaching involves transmission of knowledge that is beyond words.  It is like the concept of Mind-Seal in Zen practice (the unspoken synchronizations of mind to mind).  

Besides teaching us the physical Form and Qigong, Master Wu liked to tell stories about Grandmaster’s and also his own experience in martial art practice, which included many anecdotes of their martial art contests with others.  Master Wu also liked to express his views and opinions on many other issues.  Many of us have heard these stories, however, it was only later that I understood his intention in doing so.  His purpose was to lead us into his way of thinking that also included his enigmatic deliberations on our Tai Chi.  Given the difficulty in verbalizing these enigmatic musings by Master Wu, I will try to organize and identify a Path that includes the philosophical concepts as a guide for learning this art.  

老師: Master Wu quotes:

2014.11.24/30 宜春之旅 Yi Chun Tour

南宋理學盛,儒釋道合一,認為太極、炁、道是一個東西,所以出了一個張三丰祖師,創立太極拳這樣的拳術是有理由的。

Idealist Confucian Philosophy was popular during the late Song Dynasty, they merged the philosophy of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism principles and consider Tai Chi, Qi and Tao are the same, but expressed in different subjects, that is the reason why in this environment, it is no surprise that it had nurtured Great Grandmaster Chang San-feng to develop an art like Tai Chi Chuan  

2012.10.09/30 江西之旅 Jiang Xi Tour

不要好高騖遠,我現在在這裡,你們應該先學我的功夫,不明白先問我,不要去猜你師爺太師爺書上的東西,你學到了我的東西,你才來問我你師爺的東西,我會解釋給你知道。

Do learn our art following these steps: I am still around; you should practice my teaching first and ask me if you do not understand; do not guess the writing in Grandmasters’ books; after you have learnt my teaching, you then ask me about Grandmaster’s writing in his books; I will explain to you.

2. TAI CHI (太極)

Confucius’ Yi Chuan (易傳.繫辭) says: “Yi (Change) has Tai Chi (homogenous-coexisting Yin/ Yang 太極 ), which gives rise to Liang Yi (兩儀) postnatal Yin & Yang”.  Here we emphasize Yi (易) as Change () and Tai Chi is the source of the Change.  Philosophically, Tai Chi is explained as an embryonic, stateless and harmonious energy existence with the inherent elements of Yin and Yang properties.  It is the Origin that gives rise to everything sequentially.  It evolves to Liang Yi (兩儀), Si Xiang (四象 four phenomena), Bagua (八卦 Eight Trigram) and then everything with physical existence on earth.  It is said that every creation, even spiritual (also considered as matter) will follow this sequence if it has an origin, or cause. 

Similarly, for Tai Chi Chuan, it is seeking to perceive the obscure and imperceptible initial sign of this change ( Ji) that has not yet been manifest in the awareness of your opponent.  Being able to perceive this imperceptible change is to gain the advantage.  Ji can be physical or spiritual.  Yi Ching (I-Ching) says: “With the grappling of the Ji, all missions in the world can be accomplished.”

Tai Chi Chuan Patriarch Wang Zong-yue’s Tai Chi Chuan Treatise (王宗岳太極拳論) says: “What is Tai Chi?  Tai Chi evolves from Wu Ji(無極), it is the mother of Yin and Yang….” In Chinese philosophy Wu Ji is a non-polar, an immense emptiness state of existence, while Yin Yang, or Liang Yi in this case, refers to postnatal Yin Yang.  Using a simplified explanation, Tai Chi’s inherent Yin Yang is spiritual[i], but evolves into physical Yin and Yang.  Master Wu once said that the phrase “Tai Chi is the mother of perceivable Yin and Yang” is the key pointer in the Treatise.  Without this understanding, the whole chapter on Tai Chi Chuan practice is devoid of meaning.  Therefore, those practicing Tai Chi Chuan should clearly understand the Tai Chi concept and focus more on internal and spiritual practice.

The philosophy of Yin and Yang is the root of Chinese culture.  It is in everything, be it physical or spiritual.  The Tai Chi concept is the wisdom of our ancestors, accumulated over long periods of history.  They developed the philosophy of Tai Chi by watching the nature of harmonious coexistence of all things and adopted this principle of harmonizing the opposing elements; neutralizing the favorable and unfavorable situations for survival, through the hardship of life.  It may be this essence of the principle that has enabled the Chinese culture to continue to exist for thousands of years without interruption.  This principle is embedded into all aspects of Chinese life and culture, such as the Chinese calendar; traditional medicine; self-defense arts; calligraphy; painting; and fortune-telling etc.

As the name implies, Tai Chi practice has its potential hidden internally and then released spontaneously, but only at the opportune moment.  It contains the physical Form, Qigong and spiritual development.  The Primordial concept requires purification of the Mind, transforming the physical body and nurturing new habitual actions based on Tai Chi Chuan principles.  This is the Taoist way of practice that makes Tai Chi Chuan different to other arts.  It is not an easy process to change our mindset and habits.  Master Wu advised us not to rely too much on the Qigong body’s inner response, or feeling, because feeling is individualistic and potentially delusional.  This is because it depends on an individual’s level of understanding, experiences and cultural background.  Master Wu said that we should attempt to zero the mind (i.e., remove all our mental biases and preconceived ideas) and discard these feelings for a while to start afresh.  This is because the mind needs to be calm and clean for Qigong practice.  The correct principles and instructions(依理如法)will reveal the truth over time.

In ancient times, Tai Chi teachers would usually disclose achievable goals, but not the detailed practice methods of how to achieve them.  Also, people have often been easily misled by others wrongly recording the words of their teachers.  In China this was often because of the many different dialects and localized slang of the teachers.  Sometimes, the misunderstanding of just one word, has greatly hampered the progress of a practitioners.  Another source of misunderstanding inevitably comes from one’s own ego, that places too much emphasis on your own feelings, or sensations.  One remedy for this is to have frequent group discussions, with open minds, freely exchanging experiences and ideas.  Because correct methods lead to correct results, following the theories and proper methods would appear to be the only way to achieve progress.

Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching specified Li, Qi, Xiang (理,炁,象 Theory, Qi, Form) as the three gateways to our Tai Chi, it is important to put equal attention for all three and practice them diligently.  However, personally, I suggest the best way is using the Primordial Qi as the key or medium to understand the Primordial Li and Form.  Cultivation of the mind will lead to enlightenment and understanding the essence of our art, such as mastering the correct habitual reflex actions and Fajin.       

Sage Zhuang Zi says: “you will not feel the existence of the shoes if it fits perfectly with your feet.”  Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching said: “if you have knowledge of the art, it is mine; if you know how to demonstrate it, it is still mine; when you can use it without thinking as an instinctive action, then it is yours.”  We were very lucky we had master Wu as our teacher, he was never hesitant in transferring his years of experience, even though it required lot of patience in teaching this art, which was made more challenging as it also involves spiritual development.  

Tai Chi philosophical principles may appear to be illusory to many people and very often students will lose confidence after some time and lose faith in regard to the art in terms of self-defense.  Students will then start looking elsewhere for clues.  Master Wu always advised students not to mix our Tai Chi Chuan with the teachings of other schools, until they reach a certain level.  He said that until a student had reached a certain level, it was likely that they would be able to differentiate between gold and stone.  Trust and perseverance in the art is needed to reach expertise.  The correct attitude in learning is having the courage to admit mistakes and then do the necessary corrections.  Master Wu named our art as the “always, continuous, correction practice”.

Master Wu emphasized very much on the Tai Chi State when practicing Tai Chi Chuan. This State, can be explained as, the state that has just evolved from the primordial emptiness.  It is an ever-moving, homogeneity with inherent Yin and Yang.  For Tai Chi Chuan Form practice, when the body is not in motion, it internally maintains mobility with minute movements.  When in motion, it instills a sense of stillness and calmness.  On one occasion, I asked Master Wu to clarify what this means.  He demonstrated by taking a bottle of water and shook it, then placed it on the table.  He asked me to watch the back-and-forth motion of the water in the bottle.  The bottle was still, however, there was movement inside the bottle.  I believe this demonstration emulates the principle vividly.  It is similar to a boxer in the ring who moves about with constant small steps; jumping to avoid stagnant pauses in order to maintain a state of alertness and preparedness.  Tai Chi Chuan is similar, but carries it out internally.  Therefore, the Yin and Yang of Tai Chi Chuan – stillness and motion – always coexist, at all times.  The way I learned this was through the practice of Da Cheng Fa (大乘法).  When I stop the forward and backward motion in the exercise, I try to sense the internal swaying motion, like there is water in the body moving due to momentum.  The internal motion is very subtle and can only be captured with a relaxed body and calm mind.  Later, I found it is actually more of habitual mental oscillation of the Yi (i.e., mind).  Our Tai Chi Chuan is very different from other arts, while in motion, we deflect, absorb, create opportunity, gain advantage and control the opponent.  We will only Fajin when we stop moving with our body and Qi composed.  Also, the spirit has to be focused and line of Jin established in the body.  All our Shenlong Tai Chi Form, Qigong and Gong Fa exercises use this principle.  

老師:Master:

2012.12.27 九華山之旅 China Hua Shan Tour

易經是憂患意識,練劍時想像敵人四方八面襲來,”自己”反應,須全身同步走化。

Yi Jing [book of Change] is all about preparedness to face all adverse situations at any time; like practising sword, one must imagine the opponent attacks can come from any directions; one must be able to deflect with whole body movement.

3. MOVE THE QI (行炁)

Qi is a difficult subject to explain.  It exists everywhere and it can be led by Yi to flow through body’s meridians.  It can move the embedded Qi in the fascia and even through space depending on the mind’s objective.  Qi, being led by Shen and Yi, has a special role in Tai Chi Chuan practice, as it is used to move the body rather than the body being moved by muscular action.

As the name of Tai Chi Chuan implies, it has to follow the Tai Chi principles faithfully.  In his later years, Master Wu emphasized the Tai Chi State a great deal.  Taoist Tai Chi Chuan training strives to achieve a calm mind and a Song body that moves under the action of Yi and Qi.  In a contest, only a calm mind can sense the intention of your opponent prior to their action.  All Tai Chi Chuan actions should be habitual reflex reactions, through the synchronizing of body and mind.  Taoist’s practice is centered on three pre-requisites: relaxation of the body, regulating of the breath, calming of the mind.  Zuo Neigong (左家內功) is essentially using these principles to accumulate and convert the internal body’s essences (i.e., Jing 精) into Qi; refining the Qi into Shen and then transforming it into the highest spiritual level of Void (i.e., Non-attachment) of the Mind.  Physically, these practices move, or lead the Qi in the body’s tendons, fascia and bones as an integrated and connected movement involving the whole body as one-piece.  Zuo’s Gong Fa (Zuo Family Achievement Methods左家功法) have only a few exercise methods that focus on using the Yi to move the Qi.  The Qi is already a contained in the connective tissues (i.e., fascia) and when it moves, the body then follows forming the various shapes and actions of Tai Chi Chuan.

Qigong helps to achieve true Song (relaxation, 鬆), which is a progressive process that first starts by spreading the Qi to the whole-body fascia, then permeating it into the bone joints and marrow.  Only when this is achieved is it considered as having gained true Song in Shenlong Taoist Tai Chi Chuan.  This is essential for high level applications that unfolds over time and remains a lifelong goal to pursue.

The secret of true Song lies in the word completeness (Song/relax/loosen; Jing/to complete; Song/to relax/ to loosen; Tou/to penetrate 鬆淨鬆透), which I consider as the complete penetration of Qi into muscles, tendons, fascia, and the bones into all the gaps and crevices and tissues of the body.  Also, Master Wu wanted us to let the Qi seep into the gaps of all the joints so that they become loosened and rotatable and together with the Qi in the marrow, it will help align every bone in the body’s skeletal structure.  He suggested a good method to loosen the joints could be done with the sword.  The sword should point to a target, about 5 inches in diameter, on a wall at eye level in front of you.  Then, rotate the tip of the sword to trace the outline of the circle.

Practicing Song is not solely physical, it involves the correct application of Yi.  Because Yi assumes such a vital role in leading the Qi, it should not be heavy as it will trick and recruit the muscles into getting involved.  When the muscles are involved, it will result in tension in the muscles and the delivery brute force.  This muscle tension produces a strong sensation, particularly when the Yi is heavy.  This sensation can be deluding, because it can be easily mistaken for Qi.  Any part of the body in tension will cause sluggishness and restrict the flow of blood/Qi, which is why it is said that the application of Yi is a guarded secret in Taoist teachings.

At the stage when Qi has permeated into the muscles and fascia, then moving Qi by Yi means moving them both together in Fajin.  Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching, was a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and he adopted a medical clause for Tai Chi Chuan: Mind (Yi) moves the Qi; Qi moves the blood; blood moves the body (muscle/fascia).  Therefore, it is obvious that blood flow can be enhanced only with the relaxation/loosen/release (i.e., Song) of the muscles.

On a tour to Yi Chun, China, some years ago, Master Wu showed me the way of moving Qi/fascia.  He sat on a sofa with his left leg resting on the floor and his right foot wrapped around his left ankle – his left hand was placed on the Dantian and his right hand as in the An Form (按手).  He then asked me to place my left palm on the calf of his left leg and my right palm at the Yin Wei (陰維) underneath his elbow.  Master Wu then exhaled and asked me to feel the movement of the parts I was touching.  I felt only very light sensation on the surface but some wriggling inside.  Overall, his muscles, were completely relaxed.  I was very puzzled at that time and it is only after some years that I now understand the meaning of the above clause mentioned by Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching on how to use Qi to initiate Tai Chi Chuan movements.

Tai Chi Chuan Treatise says: “have Qi no strength: no Qi pure strength”.  This seems to be diminishing the important role of Qi.  However, Grandmaster explains this in his book.  In the context of the above phrase, the Qi being referred to is corrupted by heavy Yi and this will cause tension of the muscles and produce sluggishness in the body (i.e., no strength).  The entire fascia web in the body is connected and should act as one-piece. Any tension in the body will break its integrity and also float the root of the Yong Chuan.  Grandmaster Cheng advocates that the ultimate practice, in the context of our Tai Chi Chuan, is the sublimation of Qi into Shen (described as mental strength, or spiritual force 神力) to lead the Qi, which then generates the movements and forms of the body.

Tai Chi Chuan is different from some meditation exercises that only focus on spiritual development.  It needs the Form as a medium to perform the movements.  From the perspective of Tai Chi Chuan as a self-defense art, the aim is to accumulate the Qi in the Dantian; connect the Heaven and Earth Qi; and release the Qi to the opponent during Fajin.  Real Fajin is a split-second reflex action.  In reality, the mind is empty of thought, which may be close to the status of the mind and the way of energy release when our back is hit against the wall when practicing Tiger’s Back Qigong.  I remember Master Wu’s saying: “You will never master the Fajin (and Receiving Jin) if you haven’t been pushed by me to hit the wall.”

For developing Qi, Master Wu held the sage Mencius’ words in high regard: “nurturing/developing Qi needs to follow the direct and natural way without disturbing it”.  The disturbing here means using one’s own imagination, such as inventing alternative short-cut methods to speed up the process. The only key to success is through perseverance and letting it happen naturally.  Similarly, our Nine-gate Qigong practice steps are very simple and direct, each action is carried out in one exhale of breath or thought, because it is designed for instant release of energy at Fajin.  Admittedly, this is not easy to master as it requires a certain level of Qi development.  Beginners are advised to practice each gate separately, after which they can combine a few Gates together with one exhale.  Ultimately, the initiating key is the Ninth Gate of Dantian, which will recruit all the other nine gates.  This conforms with the Tai Chi Chuan Treatise that says: “the mind is always focused on the Dantian”.  After accumulating enough Qi at the Dantian, it will spill over reaching the Five Centers (i.e., the two palm centers, two Yong Chuan and the Heaven gate of the head) through the eight Meridians.  Finally, any movement at the Dantian will lead the whole body and move the Form.  Therefore, the secret of Tai Chi Chuan, is the mobilization and spinning of the Qi of the Dantian.

As previously stated, Grandmaster was a famous Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.  He said: “Shen leads the Qi, Qi leads the blood, blood moves and body follows”.  This clearly explains the relationship between the Shen, Qi and the body.  This saying succinctly explains that ultimately it is the Shen that leads the body’s movement.  The Yi Jing (i.e., Classic of Change) says: “As Shen is formless, no distance-velocity lag and no visible track”.   Therefore, nothing is faster than using Shen.  At higher levels, our art deals with the application of Shen and Yi/Qi.  Given the importance of this principle, it is highly recommended that practitioners of Shenlong Tai Chi Chuan should practice the Second Gate of our Shenlong Qigong, to experience the open/close of Shen.  In this Second Gate energetic, the eyes are used, because they are considered the window of the Shen.  

老師:Master Wu:

2012.10.16江西之旅 Tour of Jiang Xi

練習拳架,先要好像骨頭沒有了,然後動時全身關節都要旋動,才符合拳理之一動無有不動。你們現在拳架動作旋轉,胯就擺而搬家,把自己撐起來,就是胯不鬆,胯是死的,沒有跟著動。一動無有不動,當然包括胯。

For performing the form, one must feel as if all the bones disappear, but all the joints must rotate together in unison, then the Tai chi motto that “once move, all move together” is fulfilled. Many of you know, when performing the form with turning movements, your hips are displaced, shoring up the body breaking the root, which means your hips are locked, not turning together. The motto of all turning together has to include the hip joints.  

2013 儲訓 Shenlong Day

(只是招式的)掤(扌履)擠按採挒肘靠都不能用的,太極拳是勁法,勁法是每一式都帶點其他的,一點橐籥,一點九轉。。。八卦也不能用的,是爻活了才能用的。

Peng, Lu, Ji, and An as just strokes are not effective in actual application; Tai Chi Chuan is about application of Jin, every stroke must embrace other elements such as Tuo Yue Gong, Nine-gates Gong Fa and so on, just like Ba Gua, it is just a symbol if you don’t activate the Yao.  

4. FAJIN (發勁)

Tai Chi Chuan, as an art of self-defense, is different from other meditation practices, because it needs the Form to deliver the Qi/Jin.  It is said that “without Qi, the Form is dead (sluggish), without Form the Qi is empty”, so meditation practitioners cannot be self-defense artists as they don’t have Form.  In 1986 when I attended the first Qigong class by Master Wu, he clearly defined the application of Qi (in the Tai Chi Chuan context), as the combination of “Primordial Qi”, which is a combination of external Qi (Air), vital energy (i.e., from food), and the latent potential and mental strength of a person.  Keeping this definition of Primordial Qi in mind, it logically explains and makes sense of the Tai Chi Chuan saying by Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching: “Fajin is the arrival of Qi”, which includes the manifestation of other elements.  This now extends the original definition of Qi in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan in regard to Fajin.  Jin is the split-second simultaneous discharge of Yi, Qi, Shen, force, and body momentum onto your opponent and gaining advantage(得機得勢).  All of the above are the prerequisite for Fajin.

Master used to say not to use Yi that was too heavy during practice, but to relax every muscle.  I once saw Master teaching a disciple from China and he asked him to do a An stance and then proceeded to use his finger to poke every part of his body, telling him to relax the muscles that he was poking.  He did this to illustrate what he meant by relaxation.  However, he also emphasized: “there should be appropriate conservation (Yun 蘊) of Shen/Yi/Qi in the body without causing tension”.  To find this comfortable level of contradiction is not easy as it is mainly spiritual.  Master Wu once said that when in a contest with an opponent, our body’s muscles and fascia must be completely relaxed and without any tension.  Then, when the opponent initiates a move, with even one tendon tightened up, that is our chance to Fajin.  This is in accord with the story that Great Grandmaster Yang Cheng-fu would always remind Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching during teaching sessions: “Relax, relax, relax, a Form not relax is always vulnerable to attack.”

The remarkable explanation on the application of Qi, is described in Zuo’s Water/Wind Tao Tactics (左家水風真訣) where it states Qi is like a “sweeping whirlwind; it is not visible and resides inside the body, but comes and goes like a sweeping wind just above ground; it comes without any sign and ends suddenly, with the power of a tornado and vanishing without any trace.”


2014.04.15 宜春Yi Chuan Tour 日記:Diary:

老師講我們隨時可以練,他坐著,叫我右手輕撫他左小腿後及左手輕點右手臂下陰維肌肉處,他行炁時,小腿肌肉微蠕動往上,手臂下肌肉微蠕動往前。

Master Wu said we can practice Tai Chi Chuan anytime even at leisure, he sat down and asked me to touch his left leg calf and right arm under-part (Yin Wei meridian), he then exhaled and moved the Qi, I felt the slight wriggling of calf muscle upward and the Yin Wei forward.  

老師:Master Wu

鬆,主要是心先要鬆,每個關節都要分開,有隙才能行炁節節貫串,不是死的,是活的,旋不是擺,是二炁迴旋的蠕動,有水平的師兄,應注重用炁練,不應太注重拳架了。  

For Song (relaxation), it is mainly started with the Mind, then all the bone joints must be separated, Qi will seep into with the gaps between the joints.All bone joints must be aligned, they are not rigid but alive, turning movement is not swaying, it is the swirling rotating action of two Qi (Yin Yang). Brothers and sisters who are advanced in their practice should not pay too much attention to the external form now, they should use Qi to practice.  

儲訓 Shenlong Day:

(接手時)對方筋膜一緊,還沒用力,我則須吞吐發勁。

When practicing push-hand/contest, we must immediately Fajin when the opponent is just about to tense up to use force.

5. Receiving Jin (接勁)

Practicing Zuo’s Qigong will enable Qi to permeate into the body’s tendons and fascia. Grandmaster Chen Man Ching said: “The source of Jin is from the tendons (fascia)”.  It is derived from the elastic energy of the whole body, while brute force is generated solely by muscles.  The latest scientific thinking is that the entire fascia web, which is connected throughout the entire body, can be considered as another organ of the body.  It is a membrane-like tissue dividing and wrapping around cells, muscles, blood vessels and various body organs.  All the fascia in the body is connected together.  The art of our Tai Chi Chuan is to enable the Qi to permeate into all the fascia, so it connects it all together and forms an articulated mesh-like ball.  If the ball is then rooted on the ground, any force applied on it will be distributed through the whole body via the fascia.  This can result in a force being rebounded due to the elasticity of this fascia network.  This is aptly described in Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s book: Cheng Zi Tai Chi Chuan Thirteen Chapters, where it mentions: “The intent of Receive and Return happens in a split-second by manipulating the impact of the coming Jin and elasticity of this fascia mesh, at the point of contact (吞吐之意於剎那之間)”.  This is highest level of sticking, lifting, sensing, and releasing (黏提聽放) skill of Tai Chi chuan. The contact point can be considered as the nose of the bull.  However, the difficulty is knowing how to convert the incoming Jin by only using four ounces at the point of contact, regardless of how strong that force is.  At the contact point there should be a little retraction yield (勁正在方寸之際), through the manipulation of this four ounces, in order to react with receive/yield, retract, deflect, or return.  The Jin, requires advanced Ting Jin (i.e., listening energy 聽勁) ability.  It is important that Jin is received and returned with a whole-body response. The classic texts have a saying: “Once strong force is nullified and feels light at the point of contact, it must be immediately acted upon”.  The subtle technique of Connect/Yield (接缩) from Zuo’s Ba Shou (Eight Hands左家八手), is also a high-level receiving technique, with all the body’s fascia being connected and rooted.  In this condition, or state, any force applied on the body will be naturally directed into the ground – as long as it is not resisted.  However, this non-resistance and non-tensing up of the body requires lengthy training to make it a habit.  Master Wu said it contains elements such as: Emptying; Absorbing; Letting; Gulping (wrapping); Swallowing; and redirecting (虛、斂、舍、含、吞、引).  He called this Planting/Receiving (栽接) technique. The right amount yielding at the point of contact is crucial, because the opponent’s body has to be held (seized/controlled) entirely via this point of contact where the opponent’s hand is planted.  This it is not easy to achieve without hard work.  Master Wu once asked his disciples: “if someone wields a big Sabre sweeping toward your waist, how you are going to react”?  He did not give an answer, because this was his way of trying to induce enlightenment in his disciples.     

On two occasions, Master Wu had the opportunity to test Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s Fajin, by punching him in the abdomen.  On the first occasion, he was shocked and fascinated that he was able to be thrown against the wall and wondered how the Grandmaster did it.  Many years later Master recalled that experience, but still could not figure it out.  He was still not sure if he had actually made contact with the Grandmaster’s abdomen, or not, because it all happened so fast.  On the second occasion, it was at a Chinese New Year gathering of the Grandmaster’s disciples.  The Grandmaster invited a disciple to punch his abdomen, the disciple was thrown out and jumped back with small steps.  Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching seemed not satisfied with the disciple’s response: knowing that he was not doing real punching. Grandmaster then turned to Master Wu and invited him to punch him.  Master Wu was very happy to oblige, thinking “what an opportunity to learn”!  He executed the first punch sincerely and was thrown to a nearby spot near a small tea table.  Grandmaster then asked him to do again and then again for third time.  Master recalled that for all three punches, he used the same strength and directed them at the same spot on the Grandmaster’s body.  By consistently delivering each punch, he found that he was thrown to exactly the same spot beside the small table.  Grandmaster asked him to punch again, but he said: “Lao Shi, I understand now, let other people have the chance.”  The point of Master Wu’s anecdote is that there must be mutual trust and sincere interaction between student and teacher for the true revelation and essence of the art to be transmitted.  I recall, a time when we travelled to China.  A group of us were waiting at the airport lounge and a brother came over to me and punch me in my abdomen, without warning.  Master was nearby and saw the incident and said that I had not responded appropriately.  He then stood behind me attached his body to my back.  Master Wu then asked the brother to punch again.  At the instant the punch connected, he held my body and help me to sway forward.  The brother was bounced back.  Even today, I can still remember the feeling and can’t forget it. 

老師:Master Wu:

2012.10.09/16 江西之旅於盧山 Jiang Xi Lu Mountain Tour

有一年拜年,你們師爺叫我打他,我真正試了三下,給我知道了發勁的門道,我以後的發勁都是根據這道理做的,我剛才發 XX 那三下,其實就是你們師爺發勁的勁道差不多,只是我用盤住的手而已。

In one of the CNY gathering, Grandmaster asked me to punch him to test Fajin; I did it for real three times, and from this I understand and learnt the way to do the Fajin; after which, my Fajin is always following this principle, I just now did the Fajin on xx Shixiong, it is following Grandmaster’s principle, but I do it with the hands wrapped around my chest only.    

2012.12.27 九華山之旅 Jiu Hua Mountain Tour

沒二炁迴旋,就不能發勁,有二炁迴得動,天炁才能從天門進來,地炁從湧泉上來。

You can’t Fajin without the intertwining of the two Qi; heaven Qi comes down from Heaven Gate at the head, and Earth Qi comes up from Yong Chuan  

Master Wu taught like this through many anecdotes and stories.  He once told a story about a duel in his home county in China that he witnessed.  It was between a famous self-defense practitioner and a monk over some misunderstanding.  They agreed to punch each other in the abdomen three times.  After the three punches were finished, the self-defense practitioner obviously sustained internal injury and the monk, out of goodwill, handed over some medicine to him.  But in anger, the self-defense practitioner, threw the medicine on the ground and messed it up with his foot.  It was rumored that he passed away after a month.  What Master is trying to teach here, is that if you don’t have a high-level of ability, don’t challenge outsiders whom you do not know, because you will risk being injured.  An opponent has to only have a slightly higher strength than what you can bear for you to be injured.  Master Wu is also urging and teaching us to practice this Receive/Return technique amongst our own Brothers and to do it progressively and with care.


老師:Master Wu:

2012.12.27 九華山之旅 Jiu Hua Mountain Tour


師爺說:“我們身上都是‘金粉’,永遠不要給人沾去了”

Grandmaster said, “our body is coated with gold dust, don’t let your opponent stick and remove it from you”  

6. SUBSTANTIALITY INSUBSTANTIALITY   (虛實)

Master Wu said that in Tai Chi Chuan, the opposing forces of Yin/Yang are functional, because they are connected or related, but occupy and operate in different spaces.  These two forces are always moving in opposite directions, but always in unison and this movement generates intrinsic energy.  Tai Chi Chuan is utilizing the Yin and Yang forces in the eight extraordinary meridians of the body.  The 8 meridians are normally facing each other in the body.  For example, one may be located on the outside of the leg and one on the inside of the leg (i.e., Yin/Yang Qiao meridians), or in the torso, where one meridian runs up the back, and the other on the opposite side of the torso that runs down the front of the body (i.e., the Ren and Du meridians).  The manner in which they operate, requires that Qi moves through them in opposite directions simultaneously, i.e., Yin and Yang in opposite directions simultaneously, but in different spaces, or locations.  This simultaneous Yin Yang movement generates the Jin.

In nature, there is a phenomenon called wind shear.  It is very dangerous to landing aircraft if they are caught in-between these upper and lower layers of winds that move in opposite directions.  This wind shear force is strong enough to flip an airplane over.

Master Wu said the Tai Chi secret behind these two complementary opposing forces is that they exist together, but occupy different spaces.  In other words, they stay apart, but revolve together, trying to catch each other’s tails.  They are able to avoid colliding head-on, because they operate in different spaces, but still keep the relationship between them.  This is graphically represented in the Tai Chi symbol.  The Tai Chi Classic says: “Every part (of the body) has its insubstantiality and substantiality (Yin/Yang relativity), but it is always this insubstantiality/substantiality (Yin/Yang complementing each other)”.  In Tai Chi, Insubstantiality (Yin) and Substantiality (Yang) moves and revolves in a circle.  A point on one side of the circle and an equivalent point on the opposite side, actually move in opposing directions.  And as long as the body remains Song and not rigid, this creates a kind of stretching energy (i.e., shear force) between the two points.  This shear force action can be seen at action in all the bone joints of the body.  However, this shear force will only manifest if the joints are open and released, so they can rotate in a circle, through the action of the Yin and Yang meridians moving in opposite directions.  When these conditions are met, then the action will further open the elongate the gaps in the joints, this is the “seeking straightness from the bended (body parts) 曲中求直“internally rather than stretching the legs and arms externally.  This can be demonstrated using the Form, Brush Knee and Twist Step.  When doing this movement, the ground-path from the substantial foot at the contact point with the ground (i.e., Yong Chuan) to the substantial hand’s fingertips can be extended a few inches longer if all joints are opened and elongated.  This is the main difference between external and internal self-defense arts.  External arts strike with a tense body and contracted joints, which limits the extension and elongation of the joints – even though the arms and legs do extend.  On the other hand, Tai Chi Chuan emphasizes the use of Song for the issuing of power (i.e., Fajin), with the rotation and opening up all the body’s joints from the root of the foot to the point of contact with an opponent to enhance and release a mobilized form of power called Jin.

Master Wu said that chapter six of the book Six Chapters of Floating Life (浮生六記), authored in the Year 1808, mentions the secret of Tai Chi Chuan.  It says: “Tai Chi is a circle; Tai Chi Chuan is composed of numerous circles in circular motion, if not, then the principle of Tai Chi Chuan has not been followed.  Any movement by body or limbs must be initiated with intent of circular movement and therefore, has the property of Yin and Yang”.  Though later research recognizes that the original Chapter Six was lost and the present texts were written by some other person, it still reveals the most important principle of Tai Chi Chuan.

All Tai Chi movements are circular, but not by the use of muscles.  It is using Qi circles to move the meridian/fascia to display the Yin and Yang: like the Qi circles that manifest in the practice of the Ninth Step, of the Ninth-gate Qigong at the Dantian(丹田).  There are also, small circles at Yong Chuan(湧泉; ankles(腳踝), back of the knee(膝後), Kua(前胯), shoulder- well(肩井), elbow pit (肘窩)and armpit(腋窩) etc.  Big circles are also present in the body, such as the Ren and Du meridians in the front and back of the torso.  Circles are present in the Forms, such as the Bear’s Swing, where the arms and hands forms a big circle.  Half of this circle is shaped by the arms and other half of the circle is virtual; beyond the arms reaching into the space in front.  Big circles encompass small circles and they interact with each other in either a clockwise or anticlockwise circular movement.  This movement generates the intrinsic energy that directs the physical shape of the body in order to conform to the principle of yielding or releasing.  In the beginning, it is easier to choose two big circles to practice with.  Big circles are easier to feel; however, once there is a feeling from using two big circles, then the practice can be extended to other circles.  A half circle of one may also connect with a half circle of another to imitate the ‘S’ shape in the Tai Chi symbol.  All these circles need to be practiced through individual training as it is difficult to describe in words.  However, some clues can be found by practicing Xiao Wu Shou (Five Small Hands (小五手) or, Ba Fa Lian Huan (Free Changing Jin Push-Hand practice (八法連環推手).  One of the Tai Chi Classics mentions the Chaotic Circles Method (亂環訣), which says: “the Circle Method is very difficult to master, it is marvelous, with all sides being coordinated, trapping your opponent in the circles.  You need only four ounces adhering to your opponent, using your hands and legs up-down left-right to sense and adhere.  Aligning the Jin starting point and the targeting point will ensure success”.  Zuo’s Wind and Water Method (水風真訣)also describes the nature of Water, which represents the Form: “Externally it seems calm and still, but internally it is revolving, like the deep-sea under-current which is surging and raging violently deep down.”

老師:

2014.11.24/30 宜春之旅 Yi Chun Tour

沈三白的《浮生六記》中有提到練太極拳,大圈圈套小圈圈,(老師用摟膝拗步比喻)實腳至手的S為大圈圈,肘啊,肢窩,胯。。。為小圈圈。盤拳及應用時,這些圈圈都不能扁掉,這是秘訣!

In the “Six Chapters of Floating Life”, it describes the practice of Tai Chi Chuan as big circles encompassing small circles; Master is using “Brush Knee and Twist Step” to demonstrate the concept, the substantial leg and hand is the big circle “S”, while the small circles are at the elbow, armpit, Kua….., all these Qi circles should not collapse during application, this is the secret..      

2015.10.07 信 Master’s letter

大圈小圈輪廓已有,希望將圈上塗上一層看不見的“潤滑油”,像兩條活溜溜的鰻魚纏在一起,永遠同步迴旋,一為陽,一為陰,不管動多少,快和慢,進和退,化和打。。。永遠不變,這就是先師晚年所傳的浸潤之鑽之勁法。

After having established these circles in practice, try to imagine to “grease” them with a layer of lubricant oil and they are like two living eels twining together, one is Yin and the other is Yang, no matter big or small movements, fast or slow, advance or retract, deflect or attack, they are always together and connected, this is Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s saying of “cultivated sharp drill”.   

2003.09.12/24 旅歐 Europe Tour

記得這個原則:手絕對不能伸縮,伸缩則勁斷。手不動,動則須旋,旋不是用力(肌肉)去旋,而是用炁,尤其注意拳架轉折,是炁帶動旋,而且是全部用炁(丹田)帶動同步旋

Remember this principle: hands cannot extend and retract individually else the Jing is broken. Hands will not move, if move, it must rotate, rotating is not by using muscle, it must be done using Qi, especially at the point of transition from one form to another, it is synchronised and led by Dantian simultaneously.

7. YIN YANG (陰陽)

Tai Chi Chuan Yin Yang Secret (阴阳訣) says: “Few practitioners excel in Yin and Yang method, it is adopting “hard” and “soft” (relatively) to achieve absorb/release/open/close actions”.  This is to say, most people are investing in the practice of the external form; however, very few will delve into the study of internal Yin Yang practice in Tai Chi.  Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching and Master Wu’s teaching, always emphasized the Wonder of Yin and Yang Qi to explain the meaning of absorb/release/open/close of Tai Chi Chuan.

Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s, Form and Application Poem (體用全歌), describes very clearly the marvelous interaction of Yin and Yang.  Master Wu always reminded us of the interaction and simultaneous synchronization of connected Yin and Yang in different spaces.  From the first lesson in Qigong, Master Wu has already taught us about the Yin and Yang Meridians of our body and all the body’s nerve points necessary for Tai Chi Chuan practice. Generally, the rule is that the external force is neutralized using the Yang Meridians and Jin is released through the Yin Meridians.  For example, in the Bear’s Swing, the Qi is released through the meridians of the Yin Qiao(陰蹻)and Yin Wei(陰維)of the substantial leg and hand.  And neutralizes external force using the Qi through the meridians of the Yang Wei(陽維)and Yang Qiao(陽蹻).  Master Wu also mentioned that it was necessary to be able to connect the Dantian’s Qi to the Five Centers (五心相通), which includes the two palm centers or LaoGong 勞宮 ; two Yong Chuan; and the head-top Heaven-Gate; plus, the looping of Qi at the end-points of Eight Meridians such as, the finger tips; Yong Chuan; perineum; and head-top.  An effective way to practice and experience this is the exercise Dian Shou (掂手).       

The Mind is associated with the element of Fire and considered to be located in the top section of the body.  Water or Essence 精 is associated with the lower section of the torso around the Dantian.   Water and Fire Intermingling Qigong, works with these two elements in the body.  When the mind sinks to the Dantian and intermingles with the Essence (i.e., Jing), it generates Primordial Qi that connects with the Heaven Qi and Earth Qi.  Then, using the Yi to raise the earth Qi to the head-top forming the Heaven root and the Heaven Qi to the Yong Chuan to form the Earth root.  This interchanging action is like both ends of a bow that conserves energy at the mid-point of the bow, where it can be released.  When this Qi fills up all the Yin and Yang Meridians, Fire and Water are said to complement each other.  At a more advanced stage, it involves using the Yi to lead the homogenous Qi in forming a virtual string, which is called the Central Meridian (i.e., Zhong Mai中脈), connecting the Heaven and Earth roots.

The Classic Yin Yang Secret also says: “Yin Yang application makes deflection and attack easy, slipping in and instantaneously breaking the opponent’s defenses, while still in motion”.  Grandmaster Chen Man Ching, describes penetrating your opponent’s defense being like Mercury droplets that have been spilt on the floor.  The mercury, seeks out and finds any gaps(weakness); seeping into and filling them completely.  Our Tai Chi advocates that once an advantage has been gained, the body stays still to control that advantage,  then the option to deflect or Fajin can be taken at will.

老師:Master Wu

2014.11.24/30 宜春之旅 Yi Chun Tour

蘊不是用力,而是還更要鬆,不止要鬆,還要身上沒有一塊肌肉是僵硬的。美人手,炁最難運到指尖腳尖,炁能到指尖,才能迴旋,勁勢才能有出有進迴旋。沒有美人手,就不是我們這一套的。

Yun or Conserve is not using force, but more Song, not only more Song, requires not a piece of body muscle is in tension.Fair-lady hands requires Qi to reach the tips of the fingers, then the Qi can loop around and connect the Yin and Yang Meridians; then the Jin is balance without and within (release and receiving)  

2011.10.31 吉隆坡老師文課 Master Kuala Lumpur class

我們發勁,左家說力由於骨是外家,勁由於筋是內家,發勁像鞭子一樣,但須陰陽同出,陽經回來如水像漩渦到自己後腳湧泉,炁像龍捲風從陰經上捲出去,是左家八手的“觸定”把對方變成背勢,同時發勁的功夫。

For our Fajin, Zuo Tai Chi Chuan advocates that an External art is using bone (localised and hard force), while an Internal art is using sinews (fascia); Fajin is like  whipping, but it must contain the execution of Yin Yang at the same instant, absorb your opponent like a swirling water current to the back foot through the Yang Meridian, Qi is like tornado swirling out through the Yin Meridian, this Zuo’s Ba Shou (Eight Hands左家八手) Chu Ding  (觸定touch and still) to gain advantage and execute Fajin at the same time.   

8. DEVELOP THE ROOT (練根)

The Form and Application Song by Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching states: “If the Yong Chuan has no root and the waist has no commander; studying hard till death will be of no help”.  This is wise advice from the Grandmaster and shows how important it is to develop the root of the Yong Chuan.  Master Wu described different stages in developing the root.  The first, is where the body feels like a wobbly-man toy.  The second, is like rooted wild grass growing on top of brick wall.  The final stage, is like a lotus plant, with the stem in a column of water and the root planted in the soft mud.  What Master Wu was alluding to was that the Yong Chuan root is not a physical root of the body and legs, but a root of Qi that is connected to the whole body’s fascia and meridians.  This fascia-ball is also connected to the Earth Qi below the ground.  

When practicing Da Chen Fa (大乘法), Master Wu once asked us to describe the shape of the root beneath the ground, but no one was able to answer correctly.  As usual Master just kept quiet, not allowing us to fall into the trap of inventing an answer using our own imagination.  In my opinion, developing the root is a long-term process and not just the physical process of standing on the ground with stability.  The body has to achieve the quality of Song, until the feeling descends down to the Yong Chuan and adheres to the ground surface.  This should not be mistaken for the use of force to flatten the arch of the foot in an attempt to stick to the ground.  If this was the physical objective, then wearing modern sports shoes would achieve it.  The aim is to achieve the quality of Song for the ankles and feet, so they are soft as cotton.  When the quality of Song reaches the feet, the Qi of the body will penetrate into the ground, as if the foot and ground are fused into one and without any differentiation between the feet and the ground.  After long time of practice, the Earth Qi will rise and connect to the Yin Meridians such as Yin Qiao, two Lu, and Yin Wei (陰蹻,兩膂,陰維).

Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching’s book also mentions how to develop the root.  It says: “whenever standing leisurely and the thought arises to practice, use Yi to adhere the Yong Chuan to the ground and imagine the foot is sinking into the ground.  After some time, the Force (Qi) of the foot will be connected to the gravity force, then the foot is considered rooted”.  An easy way of practicing this is to sit with the left foot on the floor and right foot wrapped around the back of the left ankle.  Then, use the Yi to drive the Dantian Qi to the Yong Chuan and into the ground.  Another way is by practicing Xian Gong (行功Walking Method).  Every time you step out with the insubstantial foot and connect to the ground, the Yi penetrates into the ground – the key word here is connect to the ground and not press down using force.

This linkage between the body and Earth Qi should be connected at all times.  It is like the string that holds the helium balloon from flying away.  With this light and invisible root, the body is like a pivot on the ground with a quality of freely-rotating agility.  This quality, enhances responsiveness in the body and facilitates the application of the Four ounces Secret Jin Method, which is: “(For Sticking) do not accept more than four ounces of force from your opponent, or apply more than four ounces onto your opponent (多四兩不要,少四兩不肯)”.  With this lively Qi root, the momentum, from the mass of the body, can also be applied during Fajin by adding a little swaying of the body.  Pressing the foot into the ground is an incorrect way to do Fajin, because it will squeeze the base of the foot and break the Qi link with the ground.

Master Wu said, “Don’t worry about the substantiality and insubstantiality of the feet before applying Fajin.  However, the substantial foot must be used during Fajin so that the Jin is focused into a line that projects far into the distance.

During one of the tours to China, Master Wu asked a question: “how does the Earth Qi rise up”?  Someone answered: “By the reaction from pressing down into the ground”.  Master responded with a firm “no – it is swelling up.”  Therefore, it is clear that Fajin in our Shenlong Tai Chi Chuan is not applied by pressing the foot down into the ground – unfortunately, Master Wu did not elaborate further.  However, I do recall that he said Fajin is just leading the Qi and it is only now, after many years of practice that I understand the saying of the Classic text: “Moving Jin is like drawing silk from the cocoon”.  The Dantian is the master that draws the Earth Qi and combines it with the Body Qi for Fajin.  The form, Xiao Chen Fa(小乘法) is a good demonstrate of this.  More generally, the insubstantial foot must have the Qi root linking to the ground too,  when the Qi root is connected to the ground, it will be more agile and obvious, because it isn’t impeded by the weight of the body, however, it does feel a little shorter, but must be an integral part of the Form,  It becomes lively and can perform any foot techniques, alternatively, if it is disconnected from the body, Master Wu described it as: “a mouse hiding its head in the hole but with its tail exposed outside”.  The Shenlong method of Fajin uses Qi, therefore, it must also include the Earth Qi from the insubstantial leg to complement the process.

9. CENTRAL MERIDIAN (中脈)

The Central Meridian (i.e., Zhong Mai) is a Qi meridian, which is a virtual line from head to Yong Chuan.  I recall in the past, that one of our Shenlong Sister’s, asked Master Wu, whether there was still a Central Meridian if a person is not standing upright.  Master Wu said: “yes”.  He had spent time previously researching this and wrote an article about the Central Meridian called, “My view on Central Meridian and its practice.” In that article, he said: “Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching says, Central Stability (i.e., Zhong Ding中定) is not fixed stability and if it isn’t lost in any posture, then it is true Central Stability.  Likewise, the Central Meridian is not a physical Meridian.  If Centrality is never lost, then it is called Centrality”.  Centrality, can be referred to as inherent Centrality of the body; spirit; feeling; meridians; and Qi/blood.  Therefore, Master Wu has elevated this concept to a higher level and perspective, by equating the cultivation of Centrality with the Middle Path and Righteous Spirit Culture as described in Confucianism.  A righteous and Fearless Spirit will greatly enhance the application of Tai Chi Chuan in a conflict, because people with a wicked mind will never triumph over righteousness.  Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching described this as: “In a contest, I have already swallowed up the opponent (i.e., spiritually) before any physical contact.”

老師:Master:

2012.12.27 九華山 Jiu Hua Mountain

天人合一,是練出來的,不是只是停於觀念。近遊龍虎山,得一“道”字,頗有啟發,現練頭頂心有股氣,地下有股炁,帶動中脈旋。

Harnessing the force of heaven is not fallacy but realised by practicing. Lately I travel to Dragon Tiger Taoist Mountain, I admired the calligraphic word of “Tao” (道), which emulates the heaven and Earth Qi leading the Centre Meridian in a swirling motion.  

2013.06.05

中脈旋,旁邊部位也跟着動,是助勢,也是主勢,主客時時互相互動。師爺說:“無小人,不能養君子。

“ The turning of Centre Meridian and parts surround it are mutually assisting each other “

沙巴之旅:Sabah trip

湧泉的炁下多少,崑崙上的炁長多少。

The depth of Qi from Yong Chuan to below the ground is corresponding to the same height of Qi at the head-top  

旅歐 Europe Tour 老師

人,有為,有不為,宜平時修養浩然之氣  

Doing the right things, cultivate righteous Qi.

10. ABSORB CONNECT (斂接)

Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching, considered the highest level in Tai Chi Chuan practice as the sublimation of Qi into a spiritual level of Shen.  Master Wu said that in sensing, he did not have to physically listen to an opponent tensing of their tendons/meridians/fascia/diaphragm to gain the advantage for Fajin.  Rather, he could use his Shen to counter the opponent’s shift in attention and break their thought to gain advantage through opportunities that this presented. 

Master Wu has shown us an example of a high level of Tai Chi Chuan practice. We should follow closely his teaching and advice. The Taoist way of training is not about accumulating knowledge; it is the process of reversal and spiritual training of the mind to replace old habits with new ones.  The Taoist sage Zhuang Zi says: “The Void gives rise to Qi; Tao is exhibited through the Void”.  Emptying the mind for achieving the “Void虛空”, so that all the Qi, including the Heaven and Earth Qi, can be merged (天人合一), is like water being absorbed by tissue paper.  In a contest, this state of Void aims to absorb an opponent’s Qi and control the Combined Qi to lead the opponent into disadvantageous situation.  This requires a high level of Ting Jin (listening ability) to mesmerize the opponent.

In modern times, the civilized world does not promote violence, but this spiritual cultivation of Ting (i.e., sensing/listening) may help us to assess any situation in planning our lives, whether or not it involves conflict.   Master Wu always emphasized that the application of Tai Chi Chuan was for achieving success in our daily life.

These concepts of spiritual interaction, without physical contacts seems implausible, however; this phenomenon happens in the entanglement of particles in Quantum Science.  Two particles can interact with each other without any communication medium between them.  Similarly, and hopefully, future advancements in science will be able to validate this spiritual interaction between two people. 

老師:Master Wu

2014.11.24/30 宜春之旅 Yi Chun Tour

神遇與神助,神遇是眼神出與對方相碰,神助是自己眼神收斂,用對方神勢,周圍天地之勢來助我。你們要練眼神,沒有神,則沒有韻,拳是死的,所以你們要好好研究《曼髯三論》。

Sending out the Shen and absorbing the Shen are different, sending out Shen is through the eyes to meet that of your opponent; absorbing Shen from opponent, heaven, earth Qi is to assist and strengthen our energy. You must practice the Shen of the eyes (such as 2nd gate); no Shen then no spiritual rhyme; Without Shen, your form is not lively; you should study Grandmaster’s book on calligraphy, poetry, and painting.  

2016 儲訓 Shenlong Day

左家功法是練味道,不是練功力,注意神勢,神勢炁走在前面帶,注意湧。 自己身體練到“保合太和”,才能聽對方的炁,接上對方的炁,才能透進對方身內。

Zuo’s Qigong practice is about Shen and Momentum, not about strength, pay attention to Shen and its track, let the Shen/track lead in front. Body must achieve the fullness, homogenous and comfortable state, only then can you listen to your opponent’s Qi, connect his Qi, or your own Qi can penetrate into his body  

儲訓 Instructors class

(接手)斂就是綁,對方的炁斂回來,你的是我的,我的也是我的,你我變一個才發勁,斂不是走,不是頂,吞吐是一個,水火相射,同時不同空,二炁分陰陽。

Absorb Qi from opponent is to seize and control them, with the combined own Qi and his, two bodies becoming as one then only you can Fajin. Absorb is not retreat or resist. Fajin is Yin/Yang, receive/release, Water/Fire interaction and synchronization of two actions at different spaces  

2010.15.06 信 Letter

道家得道靠多悟,不能死記傻練,平常要自問:為何這麼練?我為何錯?我為何改不過來?。。我只將心得經驗傳承給你,悟要完全靠你們自己。

Taoist practice depends very much on understanding and awakening, not by hard memorising and practice without understanding. You should always ask yourself these questions: why do I practice in this way? Why do I always make mistakes? Why can’t I correct my mistakes? I (Master) can only tell you my experience, you have to depend on yourself to reach awakening.    

2010.06.08 信 Letter

我一時奇想,以先師五柳之五,改為五好,神龍弟子,務須做到:存好心、作好事、說好話、練好功、學好拳。

My five pieces of advice for Shenlong disciples: Have a good heart, do good things, say nice words, practice Qigong properly, achieve excellence in Tai Chi Chuan.    
 

PS: The above is my account of Master Wu’s teaching and the reader may have their own interpretation of his sayings.  This article and its explanations are my own subjective opinions.  I submit this article for the Shenlong Magazine Yuan Ji (5) in the hope this will be of help to Shenlong Tai Chi Chuan practitioners. Herewith, I also wish to record my appreciation and special thanks to Brother Stephen Frost of Australia for his many suggestions and help in editing the translated text.


[i]Spiritual, is a Tai Chi state of mind, where Yin Yang is in a homogenous state.  It is a state somewhere between the state of Wuji and the state of LiangYi – a state between prenatal and postnatal.  This state has no name.  For example, a cup of water in the freezer goes through a transition from water to ice – this transition has no name – it’s neither water nor ice – we call this Tai Chi. 

The Yin Yang concept encompasses everything, regardless of their different stages of evolution.  Many philosophy scholars in times past argued that Primordial and Tai Chi are actually the same state/thing expressed in different words.  It can be in an obscure spiritual state, or in a physical state and only differentiated by having opposing properties.  Practically, what this means is that we aim to feel, but not think (i.e., using the conscious mind) and operate on that feeling instinctively between 0 and 0.3 seconds – longer than that is too slow and puts us in the realm of perceiving, processing, and acting via the conscious mind”.

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