Thinking of pre-form exercises it is obvious that the zhan zhuang is just indispensable. Also known as standing like a tree, post standing, standing like a stake etc. Performing these gongs or exercises promotes or creates the “Three Treasures” or San Bao: 三寳. The Three Treasures are known as Jing 精, Qi 氣 and Shen 神 and can be loosely translated as Essence, Vitality and Spirit. According to Daoist doctrine the Three Treasures can be described as three types of energy available to humans. My favourite Dao De Jing by Lao Zi is verse 42: Dao 道 gives birth to One, Two: Taiji 太極 or Yin and Yang 陰 陽 Three: sometimes interpreted to mean Jing 精, Qi 氣 and Shen 神, or Heaven: Tian 天, Earth: Di 地 and Man: Ren 人
Using the technique “Yin-Ru-Yang-Chu” (陰入陽出): “moving-in when breathing-in” and “moving-out when breathing-out”, Qigong practice channels Qi through the body with movements that are synchronized with breathing. Moving in or closing and moving out or opening refer to parts of the body. However, with the principle of Yin Yang, when one part of the body is closing, another is opening. As an example: You are inhaling and your arms are spreading from directly in front of you, to out to the side. This is opening of the chest; however, it is also closing of the back. Reverse the movement of your arms and exhale; you are closing the chest and opening the back. Extreme yin generates yang, so extreme stillness as in zhan zhuang may create heat sensation, trembling and/or spontaneous contractions. At all times stay alert.
Ingredients: four bricks. Lay them out in a square pattern, distance approximately each stone 40cm (12 inches) from the centre.
With eyes closed walk at random across the bricks with empty step. At least 10 minutes per day. When it is getting too easy, move the bricks further apart.. Empty steps always, full attention in your feet.
Maybe you can set the bricks on their (more narrow) sides after a month or so, again with distance at 40cm. After a year you may try to place them upright ;-)
Within martial arts, the key to unlock and nurture stronger inner energy of ‘Nei Jing’ is through practising ‘song’ (Traditional Chinese: 鬆 ). The term ‘song’ can function as a verb which means to keep one’s mind and body loose, resilient and expanding like the consistency of cotton or clouds or relaxed yet concentrated like the sharp alertness of cats immediately before attack. The term can also be used as an adjective which has the same meaning as described above. The greater the extent one can achieve ‘song’ and minimise the use of ‘Li’, the greater the release of ‘Nei Jing’ force.
Practising ‘song’ is part of the gong fu training process. It occurs when one keeps reminding oneself to ‘song’ thoroughly and refrain from the ‘Li’ force because the energy of ‘Nei Jing’ will be locked and blocked whenever the force ‘Li’ is applied. So, ‘Nei Jing’ and ‘Li’ are said to be mutually exclusive.
Therefore, the Tai Ji Quan master Yang Chengfu used the concept of‘song’ as a benchmark in his daily teaching. It was his daily routine to keep reminding his disciples to ‘song’ thoroughly more than 10 times when he inspected them.
During the PREMIER FORUM/COMPETITION EUROPEEN DE TAI CHI CHUAN CHENG MAN CH’ING, (August 2002) there was a discussion on the correct way to do the CMC form. One quote one must read so we all know videos are allright to use for learning the ‘outside’:
"Well the reason that I’m so interested is that when I started doing Taiji 22 years ago, my teacher told me that we were learning CMC style. Now I’m not so sure that what I do can really be called the CMC style. Benjamin Lo: Who was your teacher? - Well I worked with someone in the UK who was taught by John Kells and Dr Chi Chiang Tao. Benjamin Lo: Dr Chi I know, he was a classmate of mine. - You’re right to say that. I’ll tell you one simple way. If you really want to know that what you’re doing is right then study Professor Cheng’s videos. We’re very lucky to have a visual record of his work that you can refer to. If I say that I learn from you but my posture is different from yours, what do you think? It can’t be right. Yes, but what you see in the video is only the external shape and form. You can’t really see what is going on. Yes you’re right, inside there’s no way to see. For the inside we have to talk about it, not only talk, but you have to practice. Not only practice, but practice long and hard, and this is why only very few people can really do it well.”
“This first story does imply a fundamental criticism of my original taiji teacher in London, with whom I had been studying a form purportedly taught by Dr Chi. I later came to recognize that all of my fellow students without exception shared the fault that Dr Chi was trying to correct in me, so for this reason I prefer not to name my first teacher. Neither would I wish to be quoted in a way that suggests the fault was exclusively mine.
I studied the so-called “Dr Chi short form” in London, along with the long form and other variants for more than four years before I had the opportunity to visit the Master himself in Vancouver BC. Dr Chi’s English was charmingly imperfect, but more than adequate to discuss matters of taijiquan. More importantly, his demonstrations were outstandingly clear and impressive, and his form was strikingly simple and elegant.
He found the form I was practicing puzzling, burdened as it was with many embellishments added by my London teacher which Dr Chi unequivocally pronounced to be “not so correct”. He was particularly baffled by my pushing hands technique. As I attempted to yield, he would close my arm against my chest, pressing gently with his thumb. Then, with a small movement that left no imprint or sensation on my arm, he would propel me with his thumb so that I flew backwards across his garden. Each time he did it, I resolved that next time I would feel what that thumb did, but it was impossible. Over and over, he repeated to me the words “Why no turn waist? I catch! One finger!”.
Dr Chi was picking up on the fact that we London students were characteristically unable to differentiate our waist from our hips. Discussions on this subject were to continue among those of us who visited him for years to come. This differentiation became much clearer to me in later years when I studied other internal arts, namely Chen-style taijiquan with Liu Wenqun and Liu Xiaoguang in Beijing and Yin-style baguazhang with the London study group of the Xie Peiqi and He Jinbao lineage.
A conversation with my fellow taiji student Lee Partis yielded the following anecdote: Out in Dr. Chi’s garden he would ask to see our form. He would often try to convey to us that our idea of the form was “too heavy”. Once, a squirrel appeared and ran nimbly along the fence nearby. Dr. Chi drew attention to the squirrel. “Light spirit … light spirit!” was his comment.
Another story was relayed to me by Lee goes as follows. Dr Chi was a member of a Chinese Christian congregation in Vancouver, and there he met a young boxer whose background was in yiquan. My elder brother in taiji, Adrian Murray, also met and pushed hands with this man whom I will call S. He said of S that his years of yiquan training had made his body feel like the tyre on a London bus – not hard in the way of external martial arts, but resilient with tremendous inner strength. S became a student of Dr Chi, and deferred to him in keeping with traditional Chinese social behaviour toward elders. After a time, Dr Chi sensed that S did not believe Dr Chi could really defend himself using taijiuan. Dr Chi challenged S: “You attack me … any way!” S refused, unable to bring himself to attack an elderly gentleman. Eventually, Dr Chi sternly gave S an ultimatum: “If you will not attack me, you cannot come here to my home any more”. Dr Chi did not disappoint S with his response. When Lee asked him what happened, Dr Chi said simply “S attacked me. I threw him away …” and gesturing with his hand to his eyebrow as he peered into the distance “… too far!”.
Dr Chi had a most uncanny skill: It was not possible to grasp his arm. No matter how hard you tried, that thin arm would always dissolve through your grasp. He would not withdraw it. The arm would still be there at your fingertips, but you could not close your grip around it. He once told a story of a wrestler who mocked taiji. He challenged this wrestler to take hold of him. It was a hot day and the wrestler tried for nearly an hour to grapple with Dr Chi but was unable to get old of him. Eventually, dripping with perspiration from his exertions, the wrestler gave up. Dr Chi wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and remarked “After one hour, I must wipe my brow, but you are taking a bath”.
Dr Chi’s English was very charming, and sometimes a little “old-fashioned”. I often wonder how conscious he was of the way his rather comical phrases were able to embed themselves in the memory of his students for decades to come. After he had got to know something of my character, he decided it was safe to show me some fighting techniques. While demonstrating an elbow-stroke technique capable of delivering a double injury, he said “I show you because you are a soft man. Only use if a rascal or a robber comes!”. (Note for non-native English speakers: Historically, the term rascal once referred to a violent criminal, but over time its usage has softened and nowadays we would apply it humorously to describe a naughty or impish child.)”
The above anecdotes were sent to me by Richard Coldman. Thank you Richard.
Professor Cheng stated that one should take at least 7 minutes to perform his form for health benefits, and 10-12 minutes for “something more”. The 37 postures of Professor Cheng Man-Ching’s form are as follows:
1. Preparation - Also known as wu chi or hun-yuan (Undifferentiated Unity)
2. Beginning - or ch’i shih (where you perform the opening breath). Raise hands back and down, more familiarly known as “the ch’i exercise.”
(3a. Preparation for Ward Off, Left - where you relax your shoulders and gain spatial understandings)
3. Ward Off, Left - Also known as tso peng, the foundation of Yang Tai Chi. This is also a great stance to practice rooting in.
4. Ward Off, Right
5. Roll Back - One of Professor Cheng’s favorite defensive postures: essential for the small to overcome the large
6. Press - an opportunity to transmit power through the wrist of the opposite-side hand
7. Push - a vertical movement, unlike the Yang Style Long Form “Push.” The knee and elbow coordinate in this posture.
Postures 3 through 7 are collectively known as “Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail”, which gives the impression of one playing a tugging game with a bird. Your motions should move forward and backward, like waves lapping at the seashore.
8. Single Whip - An excellent posture for chi circulation
9. Raise Hands
10. Shoulder Stroke - A great inside fighting technique
11. White Crane Cools Wings
12. Brush Knee, Left
13. Play Guitar - Also known as Play “Pipa”
Repeat Brush Knee, Left
14. Step Up and Block
15. Parry and Punch - a neutralization is hidden here
Postures 14 and 15 are collectively called Chin Pu, Pan Nan Ch’ui. Professor Cheng distinctly indicated there are two postures here.
16. Apparent Close-up - Also called “Withdraw and Push”
17. Cross Hands
Posture 17 marks the end of the first section of the kung chia, which we call the “Short Half.” This is because it contains approximately half of the total postures in the form and lacks some of the repetitions we find in the second half (thus requiring less time for its performance).
18. Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain
This is followed by Roll Back, Press, Push; then Single Whip in the direction of the corner (or diagonal).
19. Fist Under Elbow - A good stance to practice one-legged rooting
20. Step Back and Repulse Monkey, Right - Good for loosening hips and improving digestion (front-back foot placement)
21. Step Back and Repulse Monkey, Left - same as above
Follow these with three more repetitions of Repulse Monkey: Right, Left, and Right.
22. Diagonal Flying
23. Wave Hands Like Clouds, Left - Also good for loosening hips and improving digestion (side-to-side foot placement)
24. Wave Hands Like Clouds, Right
Follow these with three more repetitions of “Cloud Hands”: Left, Right, and Left; then go into Single Whip.
25. Single Whip, Lower Style - Also known as “Snake Creeps Up” (or Down). An excellent posture for increasing flexibility, power and single-weightedness
26. Golden Cock Stands on One Leg, Right - Also known by “Golden Pheasant”, this posture teaches balance
27. Golden Cock Stands on One Leg, Left
28. Separation of the Right Foot - Coordinates the hands with kicking
29. Separation of the Left Foot
30. Turn Body and Kick With Heel - Teaches balance while turning and improves flexibility
This posture is followed by Brush Knee, Left and then Brush Knee, Right.
31. Step Forward and Punch
Next, step up into Ward Off, Right; followed by Roll Back, Press, Push, and Single Whip.
32. Fair Lady Weaves (Works) Shuttle I- A textbook example of how defense proceeds offense in Tai Chi
33. Fair Lady Weaves (Works) Shuttle II - A different hand position (opposing hand position).
These postures are followed by Fair Lady Weaves Shuttle III & IV, which are all done towards different corners. Together they are called the “Four Corners”. The “Four Corners” are followed by “Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail” (Ward Off, Left & Right, Roll Back, Press, and Push), Single Whip, and “Snake Creeps Down” or Single Whip, Lower Style.
34. Step Up to Seven Stars - A devastating solar plexus attack.
35. Retreat to Ride Tiger
36. Turn Body Sweep Lotus Leg - Teaches balance while spinning with a crescent kick.
37. Bend Bow Shoot Tiger
This posture is followed by Step Up, Block, Parry and Punch then Apparent Close-up, and lastly Cross Hands, which leads to the close of the Tai Chi form
Yang Ch’eng-fu - Yang cheng-fu Father of modern Yang style Tai Chi Chuan.
Yang Chengfu ( Hanyu Pinyin), or Yang Ch’eng-fu ( Wade-Giles) ( 楊澄甫, 1883- 1936) has been considered by some to be the best known teacher of Taijiquan to have ever lived.
His direct descendents, the many students he taught and their students have spread the art around the world. He was born into the famous Yang Taijiquan family, and with his older brother Yang Shaohou (楊少侯) and colleagues Wu Jianquan (吳鑑泉) and Sun Lutang (孫錄堂) was among the first teachers to offer Taijiquan instruction to the general public at the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute from 1914 until 1928. He moved to Shanghai in 1928. He is known for having “smoothed” out the somewhat more vigorous training routine he learned from his family as well as emphasising a “large frame” (expansive movements in stepping and from the arms using large circular motions) in his training. His smooth motion, evenly-paced large frame form and its hundreds of offshoots has been the standard for Yang style Tai Chi Chuan (and overwhelmingly in the public imagination for Tai Chi Chuan in general) ever since.
His sons have continued to teach their father’s Taijiquan, including his first son, the late Yang Shoujong (楊守中), who brought Yang style Taijuquan to Hong Kong, his second son Yang Zhenji (who is the current head of the family), and his third son, Yang Zhenduo (楊振鐸, born 1926), living in Shanxi Province, who is widely considered the most prominent of the Yang family Taijiquan instructors living today.
Cheng Man-ching - Zheng Manqing bringing Taijiquan to the masses
Student of Yang cheng-fu, Zheng Manqing (1901 - 1975) was teacher of countless students throughout the world. He was instrumental in popularising Taijiquan in the western world. He started (like so many Chinese masters) in Taiwan, and from there went to the USA.
Zheng studied Taijiquan with Yang Cheng-fu from 1928 till 1935. His shortened (simplified) 37 form was conceived in 1938. It was this form that became so very popular because it matched the busy lives of western living. Repetitions were omitted and the core remained unscathed.
Whilst in Taiwan he taught dr Qi Jiang Tao.
Dr Chi Chiang-tao - dr Qi Jiang Tao the master of Yielding
Student of Zheng Man-qing, Dr Qi was also a medical doctor. He came to London from Taiwan in the 1970s and taught John Kells at the British Tai Chi Association. In the Netherlands dr Qi taught Kwee Swan Hoo (co-founder of the Dutch Taijiquan Association) and Ruud Westerkamp (founder of BOCAM).
"I studied Yang Style with Dr Chi Chiang Tao following Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s adjustments. Dr Chi was a senior student of Cheng Man-Ch’ing & studied with him in Taiwan for 20yrs.
Dr Chi had previously studied within the Yang family lineage in China for 10 years before he moved to Taiwan.
I made several visits to Dr Chi over a four year period, stayed with him in his house & took one-to-one classes with him daily. I was privileged to practice partner work with Sam Tam, under Dr Chi’s supervision. Sam Tam is a highly regarded ‘I Chuan’ practitioner. Dr Chi’s skills where very hard to see. He said that he followed the ‘Super soft’ school. Pushing him was like wrestling with so much silk & he felt as though he would disappear despite being clearly in front of you. When it came to ‘responding’ he throw me easily ‘with his chi’ & one felt very little force.
Under Dr Chi Chiang Tao’s tutelage I studied; short form, long form, sword form, pushing hands & da lu & White Crane chi kung.”
[The below quotation was taken from the Yangjia MiChuan Taijquan site. The text has been slighty adapted. Copyright Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan]
"In January of 1966, chairman Han Chen-sheng and a group of renowned Taijiquan masters felt the need to become independent of the Martial Arts Federation. They initiated a drive to establish a Taijiquan society, which was signed by as many as 104 supporters from prominent backgrounds, all becoming founding members of the new society."
Amongst these was dr Qi Jiang Tao, whose name can be seen here on the page:
Start of Taijiquan Taipei
On November 5 of the same year, the Chinese Taijiquan Academic Research Society was officially founded at the following address: #2, Alley 62, Lane 950, Chungcheng Road, Taipei City.
Following the Ministry of the Interior’s regulations for accreditation of new associations, Han Chen-sheng was elected the first chairman of the Society, with Wang Yen-nien, Wang Chien-chin, Hsiao Tzu-ming, Tang Chun-wu, Hsu Chuo-hsiu, Hung Mao-chung, Yu Hsien-wen and Wu Chao-hsiang serving as executive directors, and Chi Chiang-tao, Chiao Chang-hung, Chi Ching-chih, Lu Hung-pin, Chang Wei-chung, Liu Chung-ling and Lee Tao-kuei as directors. Liu Pei-chung, Pan Yang-shan, Lu Chung-shan were executive supervisors, while Weng Tzi-chuan, Yang Yi-feng, Kuan Yen-feng and Chiao Chin-tang served as supervisors.
The Chinese Taijiquan Academic Research Society existed for ten years, or four terms, lasting from November 5, 1966 until December 21, 1975. The latter date also marked the end of taijiquan’s formative period in Taiwan.
1. Connect all movements into one 2. Look for the unity in the movement of body and energy 3. Move as lightly as possible 4. Move naturally 5. Pay attention to the Millstone principle 6. Don’t move the arms, move the hips 7. When the arms move on their own you can no longer speak of taiji 8. Pay special attention to central equilibrium 9. Develop the natural breath 10 Always concentrate on the lower dantian in your practice
1. Form 2. Technique 3. Energy (with technique) 4. Qi level (beyond technique) 5. Spirit (spirit moves body = body moved by intent) 6. Natural
Internal energy is generated by being soft and letting go
The above list was adapted form information handed down from Dr. Qi to Dr John Kells B.T.C.C.A.
The same information can be found (in slightly different wording) in Petra and Toyo Kobayashi’s book entitled “T’ai Chi Ch’uan”.
The soft taiji method is the true taiji method (dr Qi Jiang Tao)
Dr. Qi Jiang Tao started practising Taijiquan because of severe tuberculosis in 1937. He studied with Chang Teh-Fu (taught by Li Chin-Lin, student of Yang Pan-Hou, the eldest son of Yang Lu-Ch’an (the founder of the Yang school of Taijiquan) from 1942 till 1944. In 1948 he moved to Taiwan.
From 1955 till 1965 he studied with Zheng Manqing, whose teacher was Yang Chen-Fu (nephew of Yang Pan-Hou) and was recognised as one of his most advanced students.
In 1966 he was one of the 104 teachers to start the 中國太極拳學術研究會, Zhongguo Taijiquan xueshù yánjiūhuì, Chinese Taijiquan Learning & Research Association, of which he was one of the directors. Read more...
1959 – 1988 dr. Qi taught Taiji quan and Taiji jian.
He came to London from Taiwan in the 1970s and taught John Kells at the British Tai Chi Association.
Dr. Qi Jiang-tao came to the UK to teach John Kells at the British Tai Chi Chuan Association. The patron of the association was Grandmaster Yang Shou-chung. The BTCCA was a branch of the Tai Chi Chuan Association of the Republic of China (Taiwan, not the mainland) and co-sponsor of the International Tai Chi Chuan League and member of the then British Kung-Fu Council.