8) Question: How should the movement be practiced in order they can be usefully applied?
Answer: Take the five loosening (or relaxing) exercises as an illustration.
These exercises are based on Tai Chi principles. During practice there must be full concentration since any distraction will nullify any effects.
Bear in mind the 3 points of non-mobility: the head which must be locked onto the body, the hands which must not move of its own volition and the soles of the feet which must be still and rooted to the ground.
Consciousness (or intent) will lead the chi along. Steps are made without affecting or moving the body.
Turning movements start from the waist and hips with hands propelled from the waist and hips in accordance with the principle that all movements originate from the waist.
Principles must be understood and no movements are separated from the principles.
Once you make it internally you are also "through" externally.
Once you are fully relaxed, you can change according to circumstances and can therefore, neutralize an oncoming force.
You would have reached that position of "non-self" where the whole body is the weapon and hands are no more used as hands.
If you are not able to usefully apply your movements then you still have not understood the basics of the five relaxing exercises.
If you have not mastered the essentials, then there is no point of talking about application of the movements.
9) Question: What is the rationale for relaxing the abdomen and withdrawing the coccyx (or tailbone)?
Chi is stored in the Tan Tien as a result of using consciousness to sink the chi to this point.
From here chi should circulate to the whole body. If chi just remained in the Tan Tien, then the abdomen will have the sensation of being stuffed. Only when chi circulates throughout the body will the abdomen be relaxed and pliable.
After a time, the abdomen will acquire some "bouncy" or "springy" effect and chi would have been circulating to the whole body. Chi can be occluded or absorbed into the backbone.
The Song of Thirteen Postures says, "If the abdomen is thoroughly relaxed, then the chi will rise." So do not just store the chi in the abdomen otherwise it will simply bloat.
Having the coccyx withdrawn means there is no protrusion of the buttocks while making sure at the same time that the hip joints are not "sliding" forward.
This must be combined with relaxing the abdomen and both requirements must be met at the same time. Otherwise, there is no rootedness while the waist is stiff resulting in vertical imbalance or disequilibrium.
It is important to maintain the uprightness of the central axis of the body in order to achieve central equilibrium.
A test can be made as follows to see whether all this has been done correctly all along: use one thumb to press the abdomen and release the thumb suddenly. There should be a bouncing or springy effect of the abdomen. At the same time, the seat of the buttocks behind should be very soft to the touch.
10) Question: What is the true spirit of T'ai Chi?
Good and famous masters of T'ai Chi teach the same stuff but students will learn differently.
This is because students differ in their natural endowment and physical make-up.
The real acquisition of the art is not in just mastering the external forms but also in mastering the principles and philosophy.
The learner must also be a man (or woman) of reason having learnt, practised and understood the art successfully, he (or she) applies those principles and philosophy to daily life. He (or she) is wholeheartedly devoted to T'ai Chi.
He (or she) shares the founders spirit of striving for humankind to me physically and mentally healthy.
This would be the true T'ai Chi spirit.
11) Question: How many times must we practice the set movements everyday?
The important principle is moderation. The practicing technique must be correct in the first place.
Some people say you must practice the whole set of movements ten times a day with one set lasting about 25 minutes.
This only focuses on quantity and is wasting Chi and energy. It is contrary to the basic principles of Tai Chi succeeding in only making you sweat and reducing weight.
It is not beneficial to the development of the internal force, internal organs or generally the body internally.
Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching has said, " I practice the mobilization of the internal force and chi using the 37 basic movements every day. One set of movement lasts only 7 minutes." Practicing too much or too little is subject to whether it is practiced correctly or not.
Utilizing my experience and following my practicing technique, students are encouraged to practice every morning and evening using about 5 minutes to practice a particular movement or posture (dividing each of them into 2 parts) over and over again.
Those students who do so are likely to succeed.
12) Question: Some students have been learning and practicing Tai Chi for several years and are yet unstable. Why is this so?
A lot of students are using wrong learning and practicing technique.
Students must start with understanding the Tao or philosophy, then the principles, then using the correct method and finally putting in the effort.
He must understand the relationship of man and his surroundings or the universe and use the method of chi to practice.
He must be humble and persistent in his practice.
Slowly, rootedness will result and the method of practicing be understood. Understand the principles and be aware of the less obvious and unnoticeable aspects in slowing acquiring skill.
Being rooted and having internal force can never be observed externally. They can be accomplished through correct method.
In practicing the movement and developing the internal force, the joints of the body must be loosened and yet linked. The whole body is relaxed and is not easily pushed over by an opponent. Substantiality is distinguished from insubstantiality.
Aim to be flexible and pliable like a snake whose tail will come in to help if you attack the head, or vice versa or whose tail and head will assist when the center is attacked.
Be responsive to consciousness (or intent), then tranquillity and pliability can be achieved.
It is easier to lift off a 200 katies iron rod than to lift up a 100 katies iron chain.
This illustrates the principles of thoroughly relaxed joints.
Students must also understand the application of yin and yang in the movements and push hand exercises.
Yin and Yang principles are in Tai Chi which encompasses the universe: all movements whether divided according to upper and lower body, right and left, front and back, internal and external must not deviate from the principles of substantiality and insubstantiality.
Moving and stillness alternate continuously: Yin does not part from Yang and vice versa. When Yang moves, Yin also moves and vice versa.
This principle must be understood when practicing the set movements.
The body and the character is trained together as is the acquisition of the Tao and the art.
Tao is likened to yin while the art or skill is the yang. Yang is evolved from yin and yin’s completion.
Being relaxed, stillness and being rooted become yin components.
Neutralization of force forms the basic foundation where no strength is used.
Stillness is like that of the mountain. No change is seen but it is capable of a lot of changes.
The founder has said, "Tao is the basis, art is consequential."
One must therefore acquire Tao but learning not to resist, for only then will the body learn to be obedient.
In attacking and defending, one must understand the method, then acquire insubstantiality and quietude.
Only then will the defense be solid. Attacking will also be successful as one is naturally comfortable.
In pushing hands exercise, one must learn to achieve non-resistance and stickiness.
Having achieve stickiness, then one can achieve the ability to neutralize force.
With adequate reserves, the neutralizing ability is applied with an involuntary exertion of internal force.
13) Question: What importance should respect for the teacher and moral aspect have for the martial arts student?
In the present day, science is very advanced affecting all aspects of human endeavor day by day.
This gives rise to stress and keen competition in business having a telling effect on the spirit. This is a common malady.
This is why Tai Chi an ancient art, is popular and a common practice. It has no secrets. It is equitable to all as it discriminates against no student. But students often commit errors in practicing the art.
Students should bear in mind the following pointers:
1) Respect the teacher and accept the philosophy or Tao of the art;
2) Be honest and do not take unfair advantage;
3) Be conscientious and serious, think, observe, and feel or being aware during practice;
4) Progress step by step;
5) Be humble and practice constantly; and
6) Follow all principles mentioned earlier when practicing by themselves
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