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3 Ways To Practice Tai Chi

Steve Tai Chi Pose

3 Ways To Practice Tai Chi

Monk Style
Always begin with Monk style… Neigong, Qigong, the Yang Chen Fu form and basic push hands drills. Practice like a monk in the temple gardens, with no ‘martial’ applications in mind, get rid of violence, aggression, fear and anger by clearing your mind, making it aware, focused, sensitive, intense and bringing it to a state of peace and stillness. Do this by working on your posture and breathing, this will bring forth these qualities of mind. Be gentle, soft, circular, continuous and let the mind be at ease. Until you can practice this way, DO NOT MOVE ON as you will not progress.

Warrior Style
Now you have the ‘yin’ and have cleared your mind and emotions, have good posture, balance and free movement without excessive tension, you have ‘cleared down’ or ’emptied your cup’ and are ready for the martial fairydust.  The ‘Chong Chuan’ introduces the powerful, focused and intense intention to direct the 13 Dynamics and skills such as the ‘fa geng’ (jing) and work with an opponent in mind. Learn the weapons forms and their proper skills and drills so you understand the strategies and skills of using that particular weapon. We use broadsword, double edge sword and spear. Push hands drills now also become dynamic, to include applications of the techniques, ideas and principles in the form and can also become enthusiastic ‘play’. Wall training also helps with combative training and adrenaline release.

Sick Man Style
Sometimes called ‘Drunken’, is to exaggerate the power sourcing of the moves, utilising the bodycore and spine and taking all positions to the absolute furthest point to ‘fire’ the power. ‘Sick Man’ because it’s using the core in a vomiting way (without actually doing it) to project the power.

I cannot stress the importance of ‘Monk Style’ first to ‘clear down’ ready for ‘Warrior Style’ training and ‘Sick Man Style’ is an additional way of building those essential power skills. Many practitioners never get past the ‘Monk Style’ and many don’t want to, but for those interested in the complete art, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Sick Man’ are essential for vigorous health, self defence and strategies for life.

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Fa Jing In Yang Tai Chi

steve grab gav

Fa Jing In Yang Tai Chi

When I was training in Hong Kong with Ma Lee Yang I described ‘fa jing’ to her as ‘like a whip’, she thought for a moment and replied “no, it’s more like a pinball inside a pinball machine.” 

It was a long time before I fully understood this. I had been used to the ‘whip’ idea that was used in other martial arts like Karate, Kung Fu and other styles of Tai Chi, so this was a completely different idea to me. A pinball being fired and bouncing off barriers in continuous movement, how did this work?

So many people these days in the ‘dumbed down’ zeitgeist of  ‘health’ Tai Chi seem to think that Yang style ‘is only for health’ or that it doesn’t contain ‘fa jing’ and they couldn’t be more mistaken!  You only have to look at the history of the style to see that the family taught the Emperor’s elite bodyguard and often successfully took on all challengers.

But legend and stories mean nothing without current validation and I teach it to European law enforcement and a large variety of security personnel that successfully use these ideas on a daily basis to deal with violence.

So let me try to explain in the most succinct and easy to understand way how it works.

Before it can happen, these basics must be in place:

Good posture by ‘suspending the headtop’, as this lightens, opens and balances the body.

A mind that is highly aware, focused, sensitive and intense utilising a ‘hunter’s’ mindset.

‘Peng’ opens the joints and myofascia in a powerful curved alignment that presents a connected barrier to the opponent’s touch.

Continuous spiralling of that light, aligned and curved structure that is always ‘driven’ and never ‘thrown’.

Ability to manipulate the spine and rooted, connected core like a powerful, giant bendy spring with opening, closing, compressing, stretching, twisting and releasing powers out through the body.

The manipulation of the spine and core ‘fires’ the energy like a pinball out through body to wherever the opponents touch takes place into his body without breaking the spiralling ‘peng’ structure of the practitioner.

This means that the practitioner’s movement never has a ‘weak’ point that the opponent can take advantage of.

Add in the 13 Dynamics and this ‘fa jing’ can be applied whilst:
Warding off (repelling opponent without losing structure)
Rolling back (sticking, following and redirecting)
Pressing (closing the opponent down and/or absorbing and returning)
Pushing (uprooting)
Plucking (shaking)
Splitting (taking the opponents structure into 2 opposing circles)
Bumping (with entire body)
Striking (with any bodypart)
Stepping forwards
Stepping backwards
Stepping left
Stepping right
Staying on the spot

These basics and dynamics can then be utilised anywhere inside the ‘techniques’ of Yang Family Tai Chi.

The advantages are immense.  Yang Tai Chi is always powerful because it is always driven, structured and spiralling, do not underestimate the power of this. The ‘fa jing’ is hidden as it is transmitted from the manipulations of spine and core and transmitted through the dynamics within the techniques and as the continually driven spiralling structure is never broken, it appears that the practitioner has done nothing or very little and he has no weak points the opponent can take advantage of.

This aspect of the Art is getting lost as so few people progress past the Yang Chen Fu 108 form and learn these skills through the neigong, qigong and the martial aspects of the ‘Chong Chuan’ (Long Boxing) weaponry, pushing hands, 2 Person Sanshou and application work, but for those that do, the rewards are great.

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