From the sentence ‘A force of 4 ounces deflects (leads) a force of 1000 pounds’ it is clear the the technique is not accomplished with strength.
Taiji Lun — Wang Tsung-yueh
External Taiji Principles (First 3 years training)
- Stable / Firm
- Loose / Relaxed
- Smooth or Continuous
These 5 basic aspects are required for all further Taiji refinement. Learn to adhere to them during all training. Repeat each posture remembering to take notice of each principle. Further principles are followed when these 5 have been trained sufficiently.
Understand the sensations that inform you that you are upright. Keep the waist level and move the upper body from the centre of gravity. This means not to lead with the upper body or the hands. The movement of the upper and lower body are coordinated, so that when 1 part moves, all moves.
Fold the hip joints(qua) as much as comfortably possible when turning the body. Allow the turning of the upper body and arms to come from the turning of the hips/waist.
Focus on the feet in a way that allows you to feel the weight of the body distributed evenly between the ball, heel and outside edge of the foot. The stability is not rigid, but relaxed, without contraction of the leg muscles.
Relax and Release(sink) all the leg muscles towards the feet, creating a firm base.
Loose / Relaxed
Ensure the body is able to move freely and muscles are quickly able to change from contraction to relaxation, without holding residual tension. Soften the brow and face muscles to help encourage the release of superficial thinking and any mental anxiety.
Smooth / Continuous
Make your body as loose as possible while practicing. Differentiate full and empty so that the body can move in a single weighted manner, like water flowing from one cp to another.
Be accurate so that all movements of the body and arms happen together, rather than independently. Look for the foot pressure that moves the waist and how the waist turns the shoulders, causing the arms to move.
The knees are always slightly bent and never locked, pointing in the same direction as the foot. Allow the legs and knees to absorb force like a shock absorber.
Be accurate in all postures and in the transitions between postures.
Keep focused deeply on the sensations that you are looking for, so that the focus is also smooth and continuous.
Send a strong intention in the direction that you wish to move and keep listening while moving. Release the superficial thinking mind when settling into the centre, in the same way as prior to falling asleep. Relax the body and use the intention (yi) arising from a deeper source.
Progress is being made when the body can follow these principles of movement in a relaxed way.
Training (first 3 years)
Zheng Manjing said that the two requirements for developing a good practice are “enjoyment and perseverance”. Enjoy your practice simply for what it is and yet strive for perfection!
Choose a posture and work on it for 10 minutes until it feels really comfortable. Try the posture at different speeds. Focus on different principles so that you investigate it from various focuses enabling you to understand how each principle operates within each posture of the form. Following this do a form and see the difference, as your new understanding fits snugly into the sequence.
Repeat the movements until you can create smooth movement that does not disturb your relaxation.
The training methods of Open Palm Taiji follow as accurately as possible those given by Patrick Kelly and are deliberately precise. Ensure that you understand what is being taught, so that you can practice with clarity, without developing habits outside of the requirements. This ensures that further training methods can later be built on top of the clear foundations. Changes in habitual ways of moving can take some effort to achieve and involve your full understanding of your movement on a subtle level. Striving to be disciplined and exerting effort in your practice will ensure that you quickly generate a strong practice that is both enjoyable and rewarding.
Further Training (3 years onwards)
Remember the deeper reasons to practice. It can take a lifetime to master these skills and to change the habits we have set up in our body and mind. Best of all to enjoy the practice, the challenges it brings and to connect with the stillness that always lies at the core of our being.
Once the 5 basic principles are established it is necessary to work on the internal refinement.
External movement is associated with the external senses and include the movement of the centre and joints through space. External Taiji movement may look smooth and relaxed, but this is only due to subtle control of the external muscles that cause large movements. Internal movement is associated with the internal senses and include all movements that occur within the body, that do not alter the position of the centre in space, only relative to gravity. These are harder to detect, but can be felt in a good practitioner. The aim is to include and seamlessly blend the internal changes, whilst using the external changes to give mobility.
Awareness of small internal changes is developed through focusing on the changes made during the process of releasing and aligning with gravity. Releasing and aligning leads to smoothness of internal changes and the development of the sensation of foot pressure followed by waist pressure and upper body pressure, in each move. Thus the force of the ground is raised through the body to the point of application.
The body can be trained to move in a way such that the waist moves ahead of the upper body as waves pass through the body.
Following on from this stage of development, the vertical forces and specific muscle states (and their changes) are considered within each posture of the form. The understanding of each muscle change can be trained independently and finally combined, creating smooth internal transitions and the ability to delivery soft elastic force to your partner (fa jing).
The mind is trained to create a strong focus and intention (yi) changing to a strong releasing with a development of a deeper awareness. This can be combined with the physical internal movements and trained in the form.
Meditation centres the mind with a deeper focus and brings energy to the body/mind system.