Sunday, 7 September 2008

Chen style Taiji Quan

I have a friend I often talk to in the park after my Mantis class who studies Chen style Tai Ji Quan (t'ai chi ch'uan). He is a university teacher in the local university and we often talk about martial arts. He explains that the essence of Tai Ji is that it is about using your mind (yi) to guide your movements rather than your strength (li). The first thing you must practice is Zhan Zhuang, which means standing like a tree. You stand with your feet at shoulder width and bend your knees and put your arms in front of you and naturally curve them. The important point is keeping a straight back. Then you focus your mind on your Dan Tian, which is also known as the naval chakra, a point just below your navel where Qi is stored and is also your centre of balance. This excercise roots you to the ground, so that you are immovable in combat. The longer you hold the posture, the better rooting you will develop, 10 minutes a day is sufficient, but advanced practitioners aim for half an hour.

Anyway, my friend Chen Ning, took me to meet his master this morning. He is a man in his 70s who is very large and powerful. He is famous around Qingdao for his skill in Tui Shou (push hands). I cant really do push hands, its different from Wing Chun's Chi Sau, but I had a go anyway. I found the same as the Yang style master I wrote about before. He was just immovable and yet so soft! But as soon as he felt my weight come forward, he gave a gentle tug and sent me crashig to the floor. He said the skill is learning to feel where the opponents weight is, kind of like listening to their body. I did Tui Shou with a woman there too, who was really good and showed me the basics of it.

Afterwards, the master showed me some Qin Na (joint locks). He said this is not the aim of Tai Ji, but just a skill that is developed from it. He showed me several locks, and then the counter for each lock, so that they all flowed together. The master was a very welcoming and friendly man, who didnt act secretive or distant. I got a huge sense of warmth and kindness from him, from the moment he shook my hand. Everybody seemed to respect him and I feel this is the attitude that a master should have. He was philosophical about Tai Ji and said that the aim is to develop Wu Xing (mind of no-mind), which means to act instinctively, not to plan and scheme in your mind, so that when somebody attacks you, you just knock them down, and maybe you dont even know how you did it!

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