Tuesday, 30 September 2008

leaving behind the hard and following the soft

I have gone back to visit Master Her Ren Shan several times (the master of Chen style, from the last post) and decided to give up Wai Jia (hard styles) and focus my energy on Nei Jia (internal styles). I am going to study Chen style, and also keep my eyes open for any Xing Yi Quan or Ba Gua Zhang in our area.

Master Her explains that Internal styles focus on using the mind rather than muscular or structural strength. In the ancient Taiji texts, it says that the mind should direct the Qi, which guides the movements of your body, starting from your feet, guided by your waist, through your spine to your arms. There is a woman called Teacher Yang, who studied Taiji for 30 years along with Master He and often attends class. When I push hands with her, she keeps saying "bu yao li, yao yi!" Li means physical power/force, Yi means mind/intention. So she is saying dont use strength, use your mind, by this she means make your arms soft, but alive and with intention. Also, she says you should be "Peng" which means a springy force, so if you push on my arm, it should hold its structure in a soft, but springy way.

After pushing hands with several different people i have begun to pick up on their different engergies. Master Her is very heavy and immovable, but I dont mean in an untrained way, it is the hardness that comes from years of softness, the highest skill. Its like steel wrapped in cotton wool. There is another man who regularly trains with us, who is called Mr Liu and he practices Wu style Taiji. Pushing hands with him is like pushing a ghost, its impossible to feel his weight centre or any trace of force, intention or direction. He stands with his feet together, and if you push him he just leans back with the force in such a way that its like trying to push fog and you end up falling forward, at which time he has turned slightly, so you land on the floor next to him. A similar thing happens when he pushes you.

Master Her doesnt teach any forms, but of course he has studied them, he knows Chen, Yang and Wu styles of Taiji, Mantis kung fu and bits and pieces of other styles. He says once you grasp the essence of Taiji you can be formless and fit into any style, after all, Taiji means the supreme ultimate, the interplay of Yin and Yang, the very flow of the universe, so knowing the fighting style based on this theory means moving in accord with the universe and so the essence of all styles is contained in it if you understand it. Master Her can demonstrate this by using fighting applications of hard styles such as Mantis against any attack, but using it in a soft way, which generates incredible power. An example of this is when he asked me to attack him and used the "mantis climbs mountain" technique against me, but sent me flying just with the block.

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