TAI CHI NOTES 4
Practise Diligently and Intelligently
NB: - Any mistakes or misinterpretations of what was trying to be taught to me are due to me! Basically I have left the notes as I wrote them at the time, there is a lot of repetition but generally a progression (sometimes, mainly due to me, a regression!). No doubt I've missed a lot too. Please refer to the Download section for documents and video that are not riddled with my interpretations.
Song=Relaxed/Soft/Release (pronounced Soo-ng), GMH=Grandmaster Huang, Mr F=Master Foong, HYZZ=Hun Yuan Zhan Zhuang (Song up/down exercise), SSWF=Song Shen Wu Fa (GMH's 5 Song exercises), HCC=Ho Ching Chi (stretching/expanding), PH=Push Hands.
Tenom August 2010
Met Nick at Suvanbhumi Airport and we checked in for the 12.50pm Royal Brunei flight swapping planes at BSB for the Kota Kinabalu (KK) flight at 6.30pm. Plane was coming in to land at KK and was in landing attitude about 200 meters off the deck when the landing was aborted and with engines at full power we got some altitude and had a scenic tour of the South China Sea oil rigs before landing at 7.30pm. The pilot said it was due to rain and not being able to see the runway. My immediate thought was ‘what about the instruments, radar and ILS!’. It probably had more to do with crosswinds as there seemed to be a tropical storm right over the airport. Alex had arranged a long distance taxi from the airport to Tenom (MR140, 2 ½ hours) and we arrived at 10.30pm. Mr Foong, Bernard, Kuku and Mr Lim were waiting and we went to get something to eat. It was good to be back! Though i had broken my left collarbone 5 days before so wasn’t expecting to get much done; a good excuse to cover up for my laziness over the past year!
Make movement finer
Keep Yi in arms in HYZZ
Open & Close
- do not physically go down too much
- make movement natural and slow
- careful not to move knee when turning to left
- turn 45° then shift centre into left leg
- centre into left foot then back by releasing
- when centre back to middle make sure knees not too close
All movement starts internally
Different levels have different methods – beginner will control breath, later breath is natural
Start to make internal
Song down and arm goes up/out in push hands
Song in mind and heart first, Dan Tien Song – everything Song!
Arms and wrist Song in HYZZ (also with Yi)
Release hips and upper body, and hips come slightly forward so torso not leaning
Must have Song in the whole body; all at the same time, just don’t concentrate on one or several points
Chi comes down into Dan Tien at first, and then in all directions
Most important is Song. First have Song and then Yi, but always Song
White Crane uses Chun Her – instant energy/movement through whole body (movement such as a dog uses to quickly shake off water) but Tai Chi is more following. Although White Crane has big movements and power comes from strength, Tai Chi is shorter movement and more powerful due to Song. The ‘call’ in White Crane is used to drop Chi down into the Dian Tien
If Song is correct then no need to go low in posture/stance
- body/shoulders comes up, then body drops, shoulders drop, elbows drop, hands come up, make sure hands not too far out
- everything at same speed. Arms move at same speed as waist. Don’t drop arms/hands too fast
- when turning Song down to about 45° then Song but don’t lose height – release down leg to turn more
- move slower and you will not drop down so far
- work on making Song more internal
- release (Song) chest muscles shoulders etc to turn
- important to Song stomach – this will allow Chi to drop into Dian Tien and expand out through body
- Song neck and suspended head
Mr F showed exercise; head suspended, lifting hands up chest making big movements with shoulders, hands dropping on release shoulders and chest, as fingers reach stomach release stomach, hands drop to side. DO NOT move legs, just use Song.
Chest sinks in, slow fine movements, movement follows Yi. Ting (calm mind), first with concentration later more natural. Ting becomes Yi, then becomes Chi. Chi (Blood energy not breathing) only comes with Song; no Song then there is no Chi. Chi activates the Song (?). Chi expands within the body, does not go outside the body. Song without Chi is like a balloon without air. IF Song correctly then Chi will follow automatically. Song + Chi +movement + physics = useful! Light arms with Yi – can listen.
-Chi goes up back, over head, down front, then expands in whole body.
- Gung Fu (skill) is not force straight back but 3 aspects; yield, turn (arm etc) and HYZZ
- Internal Song, internal circulation (Chi), internal yield, internal Fa-Jing . . . Internal Ying, Internal Yang and then no separation!
Learn step-by-step; don’t imitate videos as don’t see internal movement.
SSWF are not warm up or loosening exercises, they are foundation exercises. If you can do SSWF correctly then can do form correctly.
SSWF2 Yi in arms. Song chest then shoulders, then elbows, then wrist, then fingers. Movement of legs up/down not broken. Shoulders stretch out as arms comes up. Make sure whole body Song! If legs get tired and stiff don’t continue, relax a little while, otherwise will not achieve anything. Make sure all fundamentals are there; fold qua, head suspended, body not leaning, continuous movement etc. Move up/down about 5 cm. Drop shoulders and bend elbows quite a lot.
An exercise to do 2 or 3 times a day: sit on edge of a chair, feet 45°. Don’t move legs or knees and do roll back, press and push on both sides. Song down, Song push (pulling away – hands not static), turning waist as doing it. Do slowly; concentrate on Song and Yi.
- GMH said (about touching someone) ‘I am 100% you, you cannot tell the difference.’
- Mr F said ‘Be like water. You put water in a square bottle, then it is square. Put it in a round bottle, then it is round. You fall in water, it wraps around you’.
Form Opening exercise:
- feet light, not rooted or heavy
- Song whole body, Ting, Chi in whole body, Standby, Song down, then wait for Chi to go down into sole and expand out in whole body. Body goes up and then arms to about 30°, then Song Shoulders, chest and body down. Arms automatically come back in and drop elbow then wrist (wrist bends as hands lag behind) to come to sides.
SSWF3 Standby, Yi and Chi, Song makes movement, ie Song → Yi → Chi → Movement. Song down slightly. Fold left qua, centre (Yi not physical) shifts slightly towards right leg. When still turned to the left; Song up legs, then right arm comes up, Song down Chest, shoulder and right arm/hand starts to drop as turn back to middle. Back at middle right elbow should be at side. Song down, right arm drops, and fold right qua. Repeat for left side. Arms short, don’t throw out too far. Head stays centered, suspended, facing front and does not bob backwards or forward.
SSWF4 Standby. Keep arms alive (Cheng Man-ching said ‘not to have dead arms’). Song down and shoulders Song down, Yi to bring hands in front of groin. Song up and Yi to brings hands slightly behind body with palms facing front. Song down and arms rotate from shoulders, palms face down, arms level with sides like ‘chicken wing’. Song down and shoulders ‘hinge’ to bring hands forward to front (arms don’t move, just shoulders). Keep space in armoits.
- Every movement has a purpose or intention
- Stick like a shadow, you can’t step on your own shadow, but you stick and follow opponent 100% so that you become part of them and they don’t know you are there.
- Song stomach; if stomach not Song then legs cannot be Song. Cannot be afraid, if you have fear then you become stiff.
learn a part of the form and then the next level is to make movement continuous. Always, always move with Yi
SLOWLY!!! Continuous, fine movements
Practice Only (for 6 months): HYZZ, first movement of form and SSWF1
- cannot stop; if you stop in push hands this will give opponent a chance to retreat or attack
SSWF1 make sure knee is alive; light like a spring. Make sure ‘empty’ leg is Song
Push-hands: yield and turn. Don’t push with dead arm. Turn the arm to achieve more power, as they can’t stay on your centre because you change centre and they cannot catch.
Why does movement become fine? Because you Song, not think about movement but Song brings the movement. If you think to move then it is not fine. Most people don’t understand this as they don’t reach a level where Song is in the whole body. It takes time to achieve but keep believing in the method and it will come eventually.
Practise mostly slow and fine but sometimes can do a bit faster: check alignment, bring calmness to mind and body, Song down. If not Song down straight, then cannot Fa-Jing. Practise slightly faster sometimes to test, as otherwise you will always do slow and will not be able to do at normal (natural) speed.
SSWF4 don’t make up and down movement jerky, do slowly and continuously. Mr F tried to show what I was doing, but said he could not as Song comes automatically for him. He laughed and said I was trying make own his training go the wrong way!
Short Form, do continuous, make sure keep turning and don’t have a break from movement to movement.
Make your body light. Cannot actually do but imagine you are light; your feet light on the ground
Yi becomes Chi becomes Sun (Omniscient)
Upgrade movement from 1, 2 (two distinct movements to one continuous movement. A beginner Songs from head down, but need to upgrade to Song from soles first; this way your push-hands will improve. Keep space between arm and body. Don’t be rooted – move. Refine your listening so you don’t miss the opportunity given by your opponent.
Tai Chi: the older you get the better you get
HYZZ + timing + spring; release handbrake and you get power
Back leg moves up, other hip Song down
Short Form, separate movements; body goes back then arms go forward, body goes left then arms still go slightly right on turn back
No fixed push-hands for me this time due to broken collar bone.
NICK’S NOTES (Aug 2010)
- do HYZZ in open stance too
- Song the heart and dantien
- Hips in, move forward
- Calm intention precedes movement
SSWF1, avoid shifting feet, weight must rest squarely on the sole and opposite leg should be completely Song. Not enough Song in legs, turn the waist more, body sinks as the arms move up, suspend the head.
Very fine arm movements; smooth – concise – Yi. Shoulders down – hands up! Relax legs, must have more Song in legs. Hips must be in more, need more Song. Left hip/leg/shoulder not Song enough, therefore uneven shoulders when turning.
Hands/Arms and waist turn at THE SAME SPEED!
* Song the whole body*, from head to sole at the same time and the to the same degree. Song whole body – every movement.
SSWF3, Think first - whole body Song. Rlax shoulder blades – Song. Song the wrists – Song.
Types (levels) of Song. The highest is Maa Song (Horse Song) which involves the whole body centered on the hips ( hence ‘horse’ stance) and extend throughout the whole body.
SSWF4, hips in more. Hinge in the shoulders move, not arms; ‘chicken wings – slightly different posture. Keep space between arms and body – fill the ballon with Chi. NB: this trip a lot of talk about ‘Chi’.
1 hips are not sunk in enough. More, More, More!
2 Song the wrists
3 Hands gentle – full Yi – move hands with soft intention
4 Before each movement – THINK
5 Continuous movement
6 Song the stomach
Nick’s notes 8-8-10
Must Song the Legs! Soft knees, feet and ankles
Continuous Song – like a pulley (once moving cannot stop or catch it)
Practise continuous movement to upgrade.
Keep space in armpits.
Song in arms – keep round and full – inflated like a ballon.
Hands and arms always standby.
Nick’s notes 9-8-10
Keep knees and legs alive – make movement fine, unbroken.
Legs are alive – live springs! Song, alive, soft.
Fine movement – can Song down and up without visible movement.
Internal Song – fine, slow.
Form: continuous fluid movements. Turn in one direction, don’t turn back. Keep head suspended. Two directions – body down, arms up, body back, arms forward. Body moves, arms follow.
Push-hands, Song legs and ankles to get more space. Song empty straighter, and full leg knee goes down not up.
Arms are full of Chi in all movements – precise hands – arms not ‘dead’ against body.
HYZZ all the time.
More movement and Song in hips.
Full balloon at all times.
Front leg straightens.
Yi – upgrade Chi – upgrade Sǝn (Omniscience).
Song the lower body.
Back leg moves up (opposite hip sinks down) continuous movement.
(End of Nick’s Notes Aug 2010)
Tenom March 2011
HYZZ and SSWF1; as you slowly go down, the shoulders slightly close in but the chest opens up. Soles of feet always light. As you come up, arms Song into body. Song all the way to the skin of your soles.
SSWF1, body drops as arms still coming up.
Make sure you stop momentarily at bottom, but Yi still going and still Song. Then Song down and automatically come up. Like dropping a stone, and it then bounces up from the ground. The application when doing this fast, is that when you Song fast you automatically come up and touch into someone.
Breathing; use breathing to expand (and stretch?) when Song down, and to stretch when Song up. Breath can be Sun or meditative (breathe in or out as diaphragm goes out) but don’t concentrate on this. This will become natural when you have correct movements.
In push hands Song down and then when at bottom Song to ‘come up’ automatically, your hands/arms will move. Don’t move waist and/or hands or lean forward; this is pushing. Song down and turn to neutralise, add an element of turning the arm to further nullify someone’s push. Do not push out of your CoG (Centre of Gravity, step. When controlling (for example) someone’s arm, change hands to continue the circular movement – but do not break connection or movement otherwise your opponent will know. Don’t push horizontally, there is no power.
Mr Foong showed how his shoulder is very articulated and Song. He said he listens with his shoulder, not with his hands. If you try to listen to movements with your hand, then it is already too late to move. At one stage Mr Foong held out his arm horizontally, when you touched it the muscles were Song but the arm was heavy but it wasn’t a dead weight.
Everyone is wrong!
SSWF3; I’ve been doing it totally wrong. I have been totally disconnecting arms (from something he showed us last year. It was obviously just an exercise, as he also demonstrated the same exercise for SSWF1; really twisting hips but leaving arms and shoulders in one place). Make sure weight is shifting from leg to leg (but not moving physical centre). Similar to SSWF1 the arms still go up slightly as body drops. Make sure shoulder drops first. Don’t lean into the swing (he got us to practise flinging arms and hands out as turning). Important not to have back muscles tight so as can drop shoulder blades and therefore shoulder properly. Hand and arm come up while hip is still forward.
In any push-hands, always find more room by releasing something; e.g. Song ankle and calf then can move a little more. Even a small movement can make someone pushing you miss their target. Always Song! It’s better to Song and lose, than be stiff or strong and win. If you are always strong then will ot learn anything, so you are wasting your time. Knee moves forward as body goes back, this keeps equilibrium (as in SSWF5).
Closing; feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly in from toes. Song down and into right leg slightly, this opens left qua to turn left foot out. Song to turn waist, shoulders and head 45° left, and then Song down to shift weight forward (go further forward than you think!). Right leg is empty, don’t hold or push up, right knee/left folds towards left. Turn back keeping shoulders square with hips (don’t turn back too far). Left leg and knee stay where they are but have to drop right knee to make sure shoulders (and hip?) don’t tilt. HYZZ to slide right foot in and Song down and to the middle. Song down more (make sure hands and arms are Song) then HCC up.
SSWF4; Song down then HCC up, hands go back (to about level with bum) with palms facing forward until legs almost straight. Song down, release shoulders/arms so hands turn to face down. Hands come slightly up (still facing down but at sides and not coming forward) as body drops. Hands are slightly higher than shoulders and arms/wrists bent; like chicken wings. Close the door; i.e. Song shoulders and elbows, close chest muscles (internal, don’t do externally) so arms don’t move but hinge on shoulder. Hands in a ball (eg right hand on top of left, thumbs together). Song down, hands come into chest and roll down near chest then unfold at abdomen; palms facing up, one in the other. Then Song down into start position (palms facing in – make sure arms and hands have Yi). Always Song down very fine. Make all movements fine. On 3rd time, open hands like a book (palms facing you). Song down, palms come together (like western style praying) lightly. HCC up, hands go out and up slightly (by dropping shoulder and elbow), small finger edge is facing out and top of fingers come in as bottom of hands go out (song wrist). Song body down and hands still go up slightly, into squat position, thighs parallel to ground and elbows touching near knee. Release to bend forward and completely straighten legs ( don’t lock knees, in TC always have legs slightly bent but in this case it gives the quads a nice stretch!). Knees slightly bent Song to brush finger tips backwards and forward between legs 6 times. Song down to move forward and HCC to move hands back; don’t just move hands by themselves.
SSWF5; back foot turns in 20° to 45° (depending on your level of Song!). Head suspended etc, Song down so you front knee goes forward automatically, don’t intentionally move forward. Back knee also goes forward. Weight 50-50, then Yi goes from abck foot into front foot. HCC (but do not push up, just stretch). Song down to move back, back knee comes forward (very important) to maintain equilibrium. Careful not to lean forward; soften and fold qua.
HCC; stretch up – rear knee comes up slightly (maybe with more Song don’t do this?), front knee forward slightly and front leg qua back slightly.
Form; my opening move is crap. Must not shift to the right. Song down straight into the right leg, left leg slides out BUT don’t lean or shift or move centre to the right. Should be no sideways movement at all. Practise continuity in all movements. The end of one movement overlaps start of next movement (a simplified explanation) do not practise distinct movements. My arms are moving too much doing the first ball. Practise getting continuous movement in the first few moves and then it is easier to apply for the rest of the form.
HYZZ; legs down, soles light but torso and head stretch up from qua. This gives a feeling of lightness. Hard to achieve when doing the form but keep practising it.
I must practise first moves of form up to Single Whip to refine my movements and to make more continuous. Also practise turning waist but leaving hands/arms in same position (eg SSWF1 at chicken wing stage).
There are 3 levels in Tai Chi:
- beginner; arm comes up 45° and then stop (breakage in movement) okay
- intermediate; arm comes up 45° and then dropping body with continuous movement
- more advanced; arm comes up and body drops before arms are 45°
I have to work on shoulders and timing of arms. My hips and turning is good except for a break when I start to turn back. Don’t swing arms up too much (behind/in-front of torso). I should practise dropping shoulders a little early and first before dropping body.
SSWF2; make shoulder movements big. Mr Foong demonstrated neutralising just using his shoulders. If you cannot Song your shoulders, then try to neutralise by using Song in Qua. If cannot do that then try to do by getting Song in knees or ankles. Mr F also demonstrated just using ankles to move away from a push; although he said we should always practise being upright, when you get to a certain level it doesn’t matter if you are leaning or not as can still maintain centre.
SSWF3; make sure turning is central and head not wobbling from side-to-side or going forward or back. Practise arms flinging out and big movements in shoulders (without leaning). When practising by yourself it doesn’t matter if hands go past your centre when turning; the more you turn your hip the more your hands will move off centre. Your hands move to either side because of the waist turning, not because you put your arm there. Keep arms wide, not too close to body.
HYZZ; keep it always! When standing, walking etc always try to practise HYZZ by being in correct posture.
6am at Tenom Agricultural Park to a demo and fun training with about 100 kids on a Leo/Lions Club Camp. We then wandered around Park looking at the beautiful orchids and plants. The western guy that designed the Park was also there; he also designed the garden at the Tenom Tai Chi Association too. Ge Ming and me wandered around taking plenty of photos. Brekky in town, then a short rest before some of us went up to Mr Foong’s property for some 4WDriving and hunting Rafflesia in the jungle; found one but not open yet, probably about 2 days away. A bit damp and muddy but nice to get out in the bush. For dinner Nick and me went into town for Satay, Malay food and The-Tarik. The Chinese crew generally cook their own meals, it is very nice but we wanted a change. It rained heavily so we sat at the restaurant and caught up with each other’s news and thoughts. Later at the Association everyone sat around talking and drinking. Ge Ming wanted a western name, eventually we settled on Max. Max then decided I should have a Chinese name, and after a while they came up with Chu Liu Xiang; a famous Cantonese fictional character that was a warrior and playboy!
Revision. Emphasis again on continuity and understanding what your goal is. Use the frame work of the external movements to improve your Song and Yi, and get HYZZ into everything. Mr F said he does not hold anything back or doesn’t matter what your nationality is. The problem is communicating the ideas across so that it is fully understood; then you have a goal to work towards.
Again the 3 levels of ability:
Beginner; each move is broken down into small steps and there is breakage in movements
Intermediate; connecting steps amd moves to make continuous
Advanced; have swing where one part of body is moving one way while another is moving opposite
FPH1 (Fixed Push Hands)
Heels close together, move weight slightly forward, rotate feet on toes to be parallel (outside of feet parallel not inside), move weight slightly back. Song down, shift centre into right foot, turn left toes out, shift into left leg (and slightly forward). Step with right leg, turn back to centre and raise right hand at the same time. When moving; shift forward, stop moving on legs, turn, stop, shift back , stop, turn. Each stop empty the unweighted leg. This way when turning (or pulled) your top half is separate from bottom half of body.
For practising at home; make the Song down with each move (or move in each move) very big and deliberate. Work on getting the Song release. Release through the whole body, particularly shoulders; like when you feel sad and do a big sigh.
Opening movement; do 100 times a day! Make sure arms are not too straight and elbows don’t go past back of back. Do very big and when Song down your hands still come up slightly before dropping. Don’t control breath.
Work on getting Song into one particular part of the body and then move to the next part of the body. Everything can join all together and can then get Song in the whole of the body and whole movement. There is no short cut; you cannot just release and expect to have Song in your whole body.
FPH - shoulder Push; when going back first move hip back (rear knee forward and front leg almost straightens). Find movement in the ankles too. Then soften qua and bend back. Arms always sticking to opponents arms. Arms going back as body comes forward.
Must Song, but no good if dead. If totally Song then arm is heavy but useless. Must have Ting (concentration) to make it light and alive. Shoulder joint is a hinge and arm can move freely but it is suspended, like a puppet. Then if a force is introduced the whole body can respond. Every movement is Song but has Yi and Ting. Your joints are agile/nimble.
Nick’s Notes March 2011
-Hand position on thighs. Don't extend wrists. Elbows only.
-Work on continuously relaxing shoulders
-No. 4 hand position. Hands stay high as body shifts down
-Yi down. Soft feet. As the lower body sinks. The upper body is raised or stretched upwards
-Arms and hands always on standby
-Continuous movement. Continuous movement.
-No.5. Shift centre before sinking. Knee forward. More movement in hips. Practice movement of shifting without sinking.
-No.3. Stop head from moving forward. Remember finger on the forehead. Keep arms rounded. Elbows out. Fling the arms. No strength.
-When standing always keep arms on standby and full of song
-Relax the face and be at peace
14-3-11 (Nick’s Notes)
-Fixed push hands. More Hun Yuan Zhuang (HYZZ).
-First opening. Move into balls of feet to move heels apart.
-Forward stop turn (top and bottom disconnected). HYZZ
15-3-11 (Nick’s Notes)
-When practicing always engage yi. And be conscious of neutralizing.
-Ho Ching Chi (HCC) relies on song hips and waist
-Focus the mind at al times. Relax and develop yi and song will follow. Neutralization will follow this
-Practice continuous movement. Arms swing. But not from twisting - from the song in the waist
-This time main message is continuous movement- must upgrade. Everything swings following the movement of the waist.
-Very song.; Sigh and release. Don't control the breath. Practice first movement one thousand times each morning. Sigh release don't concentrate too hard, very enjoy.
-Body down hands still up.
-Double shoulder push; Arms rounded. Move back. Relaxing ankles. Then sink waist forward, continuous sticking
-Make the song more agile. No longer song like dead meat hanging - this is the initial stage. After, the body must be more nimble, the song more agile. More alive.
Listen. After, all parts of the body respond at the same time. Instantaneous reaction immediate and whole.
16-3-11 (Nick’s Notes)
- Must simultaneously song all parts of the body. Soften and song the legs don't push down sink down. Relax song down lightly through the legs. Lighten the arms and shoulders and fill with awareness.
- As body moves forward arms move back. Arms swing from the body Swing every movement Soften all body but don't sink down. All muscles soften but do not sink.
- Must train to remove strain from legs.
-Push hands : sit back. Front leg straightens. Soften the feet song the waist
-Practice each facet so as to remember
-Practice at different speeds. If too fast, though, the yi cannot follow ; too slow, and there will not be continuous movement. Try to vary so that movement is continuous and yi follows.
17-3-11 (Nick’s Notes)
-Mr Foong held my wrist and applied pressure using yi and song. - His arm was completely relaxed soft and song
-Importance of no 5 in all movements. Practice hung yuan zhuang and ho ching chi. Softly, softly work on sinking the hips and softening the feet and ankles.
-Also ump to raise the body stretch up while song down. This is essential in no 5. As in all movement
-Push hands. Yield and attack at the same time. Ho ching chi and yield simultaneously . 3 methods. 1 neutralize with hands. 2. Neutralize with body. 3. And the best. Neutralize by moving between feet. Moving back and forward between feet. Must practice moving back further
-Mr Foong mentioned that after realising this his tai chi moved to another level. Move back. Create room. Front leg straightens
-Also. Must practice ho ching chi. In all positions in all push hands. Back leg stretches and straightens. Hips sink in
-Push hands. Keep arms rounded. Neutralize and attack at the same moment
(End of Nick’s Notes March 2011)