Tai Chi Chuan Lessons Take New Shape
A New Physics ~ An Old Physics
Tai Chi Chuan lessons take on a whole new meaning when one considers the actual physics underlying that fabulous Chinese Martial Art. Consider the following logic:
- A Motor creates usable Energy (the capacity for work).
- A motor produces motion.
- A Motor is defined by resistance between two poles.
- Tai Chi is a Motor.
Now, to be truthful, all Martial Arts are Motors, because all Martial Arts depend upon the body to generate Energy. Thus all Arts, if they are to be True, must align all body parts and transmit Energy from the Tan Tien (the generator) to outward manifestation.
But I’m offering a Tai Chi Chuan Lesson in the subject today. The reason I’m picking on Tai Chi Chuan (or Taijiquan, if you prefer) is because you do it slowly, thus it is easier to see what I am going to say. If you wish to apply the principles I am going to discuss to another Art simply go slow, find the Tan Tien through awareness, and align the body parts. Simple, right?
No. Otherwise everybody would be doing it all the time.
But conceptually it is simple.
The trick is to apply yourself. To be aware and imbue your action with Intention. That being understood…
Tai Chi Chuan Lesson in New/Old Physics
Open the Tai Chi Form and begin the push of the rear leg in Ward Off.
The rear leg is the positive leg. You must intend Energy up the leg and into the Tan Tien.
You push Energy into the Tan Tien and the Tan Tien will begin to ‘Glow’ with Energy. This Energy is translateable, can be ‘Aimed’ and directed to other parts of the body.
Energy in…Energy out. A very simple equation.
Interestingly, there are only certain leg positions which can support this creation of Energy. These are defined by classical stance. Thus are defined such things as Back Stances, Forward stances, etc.
Interestingly, there are only certain arm positions which can support this creation of Energy. These are defined by classical posture. Thus are defined such things as the four arm positions: low, middle, high, circular (across the body), and the ten combinations of these.
Let me make two short asides on this particular subject by offering a few observations on other martial arts in this tai chi chuan lesson.
One, I define all Arts by these stances and arm positions. There are slight variation of hand and function which will make these basics look different, but they aren’t.
Filipino stickwork. Look closely and you will see that the functioning (impacting) points of those beautiful arcs, are aligned to Karate concepts of the ten arm positions.
Tai Chi Chuan. Define basics. You will find those same arm positions. Brush Knee is a simultaneous Low Block and Strike. As is Fair Lady a High Block and Strike and Single Whip is an Outward Middle Block and Strike, and so on and so on.
The only difference comes from the strategy being pursued. Filipino Stickwork gives the arms extra elbows, and thus makes the basic arm position ‘Funny looking,’ and thus hard to perceive.
Tai Chi deals with absorbing, a much closer range than Karate, thus the posture takes on a totally different approach to stress and balance, and thus becomes harder to perceive.
And so on.
Second, I talk about the True Art, as do others, it is time to explain why, and give an anecdote, and thus define the True Art. I think that an article on creating ‘Motor’ within Art is the perfect place for such a thing.
The True Art is defined by the ability to effectively Motor. There is the statement, here is the anecdote.
I sometime refer to Kenpo as Brand XXX. The reason I do so is because I studied it, and taught it, and found it unworkable. I found that when push came to shove I didn’t have the power to do what I needed to do. I found the power I needed and was looking for in another Art, a classical Art.
Though I did not consider Kenpo in good lights I do respect the encyclopedia of motion it represents. The problem is that it is not tied to the ground, through sinking the weight, and through alignment of body parts.
In other words, take a Kenpo person in the middle of form, or application, push on the hand and watch the body crumble. The Motor does not create sufficient Energy, and that Energy is not sufficient to create sufficient resistance to incoming Forces and Flows, and that is that.
Or so I thought.
One day one of my long time students called me up and said, “Al, I got these tapes on Kenpo! This stuff is fantastic!”
I did the mental blink of all time. Kenpo? Fantastic? I had written this stuff off years ago.
Intrigued, I got together with my student and watched him do his Kenpo, and I received a Tai Chi Chuan lesson through his practice of Chinese Kenpo.
Pow! The Energy exploded out at me.
I pushed on the Form. Like a rock.
What my student had done was take the concepts of ‘Grounding’ and aligning body parts and apply them to Kenpo. The result was a true Art. The kicks and punches snapped and crackled. The Energy exuded from him like light from a light bulb.
I went back to the tapes he learned from. Very old fellow, one of the pioneers. No snap. No Energy. No Pow!
I looked at my student. Pow! Wham! Zowie!
I could never Pow! Wham! and Zowie! like that in Kenpo!
Well, all I can say, in sad defense, is that I wasn’t built for Kenpo. Oh, a couple of lifetimes and I would have made it happen. But Kenpo is a new Art, so to speak, and the concepts of Motoring take time and talent to apply. While I could apply Motoring to old Arts, I couldn’t apply it to eclectic Arts.
My student could.
My student was built for it.
Ah, this younger generation.
And thus he made Kenpo a True Art. A superior Art. Something that tapes of the early pioneers reveal not even they could do.
Well, I seem to have gone a long way from the original intent of this article, but not really. If you understand what I have just said you understand how it all ties together, and how all Arts can tie together.
Back to the Tai Chi Chuan lesson, after the second Ward Off (right), slip into Roll Back, Press and Push.
The tension between the legs cranks the Motor like no other single body exercise I know.
This is because you are not only pushing back and forth with the legs, sustaining and heightening the resistance, you are adding the weight and action of the hips into the equation.
This brings me to an interesting little point. Did you know there are five potentials between the ground and the work to be done where one can define Motoring?
Between the legs, back and forth, sustaining the resistance, elongating the creation of Energy, is one.
The back and forth of the hips (and waist), rotational hip motion, the weight spiraling up and down the legs, is two.
The turning of the shoulder is three. The shoulder, interestingly, is on the other side of the Tan Tien. This means that it doesn’t push into the Tan Tien, but rather that the Tan
Tien pushes into (through) it. This defines a different outlook on the application of Energy.
This means that the legs, though structurally similar, are the opposite of the arms, in dealing with Flow of Energy. It doesn’t have to be that way, the body is capable of being used in opposite, or other configuration, (there are groundfighting systems), but the way
The Tai Chi Chuan Lesson I am describing in this article is the most common way of usage, from Yang Tai Chi to Sun style Taji, to any other of the ancient Chinese styles.
The twisting of the wrists is five.
Each of these five body parts defines an internal range, and a specific ideal which must be defined in terms of angles and alignment from ground to Tan Tien (stances) and from Tan Tien to outward manifestation (arm position).
In short, a True Art must align these five body parts so that the Tan Tien is properly suppressed (not overly suppressed) and will create Energy for outward manifestation.
Now, the point of it all. When I see Tai Chi being done I see the most beautiful Art imaginable. I see arcs and ballet and superior beings.
And I see terrible form.
I see terrible Form because I don’t see the alignment of the five body parts such as I have described above.
And people get away with this terrible form because the beauty of arc and flow hides the lacking potential of zap and pow. The Human Beings have overcome the function of the Form in their seeking of Art.
A Tai Chi Chuan Lesson in Degradation
Let me take a moment to list a couple of the reasons for this degradation of Form in Tai Chi.
There is the advent of Wu Shu. Wu Shu is a political invention. It is the PRCs method of Martial Arts wherein there is no conflict. It is not designed by Martial Artists, but by ‘Physical Education coaches.’ The result is a ballet which ignores the potential ‘Motoring’ of the body except by accident, or inescapable conclusion that not even a beauracrat could hide.
There are the old teaching methods where teachers withheld function. Students would be left to seek their own function, or warp their form however they saw fit. Fitting into this particular is the fact that not many people have explained the five body parts as clearly as you have read them in this modest publication.
There is the propensity of foolish individuals to justify their existence by striving to create art through the synthesis of other Arts when they have not mastered one Art. This one particular is very much in evidence today because communications have become so fast and the information glut is so total that students are overwhelmed by the sheer mass of data available to them.
(Let me expound for the sake of expounding on the point of the last paragraph. Why change what works? Why create another Art if the one you have works? Thus people create because something doesn’t work, right? But the reason something doesn’t work is because you can’t make it work, and the reason you can’t make something work is because you don’t understand it. So before you go about combining and creating a new Art I suggest you dig deeper into your current Art, and when you can make it work is when you should look to adding to your fund of knowledge, and creating new synthetics of that knowledge.)
Rebuilding Tai Chi Chuan!
So, there is a problem. Tai Chi, for all it’s glory and grace, has become a monster with no teeth. The solution is to understand the concept of Motoring, as I have put forth in this article, and to apply that concept throughout Tai Chi. Now that would be a Tai Chi Chuan Lesson indeed!
So, first, define your basics. What are the particular Basics of Tai Chi? Can you define the low Block, high Block, Middle Block, and so on? I made my basics by making a list of all postures and comparing them to Karate arm positions. I didn’t fall into a ‘Karate’ trap, however, because I then applied the basics I came up with through all strategies and ranges, from long to short to absorb and push to esoteric and so on.
Second, define the function of each posture by pressing on somebody, or having them press on you, and making sure that each of the five body parts I have listed above stay in line. If they stay in line then you are providing resistance between the ground and the manifestation of function, and you are ‘Motoring.’ This particular method can provide you with some fantastic methods for Two Man exercises which will directly grow your Tan Tien, and your Art.
To conclude, if you do what I have just recommended in this Tai Chi Chuan Lesson, your Tai Chi will become True. It will retain all grace and beauty, and increase in Energy and potential because it will become pure in Motor. But the story doesn’t stop here. Actually it starts. Can you define other Arts in the same way? You betcha.
We live in a glorious age. We can travel the globe in hours. Read books filled with esoteric knowledges in minutes. Talk to anybody on the globe anywhere in seconds. This fantastic glut of knowledge must be ordered. It must be arranged so that it is comprehensible and understandable. It must become logical and encompassing.
In short, we live in fantastic times, and if you are a Martial Artist you have the fantastic opportunity to seek, and achieve, perfection of Form and Art within a single lifetime. This is something that, in the past, it has taken whole cultures hundreds and even thousands of years to do.
We can do it now, and you can do it, and have yourself a darn good tai chi chuan lesson.
The points of this tai chi chuan lesson are brought to reality and make Tai Chi Chuan a combat beast with ten times the health benefits in Five Army Tai Chi Chuan.