Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ten Guiding Principles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

The practice of Tai Chi requires you to learn how to properly align, balance, and move your body. Beginning in early childhood, you soon start learning bad habits in your posture, balance, movement, and proper breathing. These bad habits cause you to waste a lot of energy and can eventually cause medical problems. Tai Chi training teaches you how to stand, balance, move, and breathe properly again so you can stop wasting energy and move effortlessly again. This requires you to regain control over your mind to quiet your thoughts because the mind leads the chi (intrinsic energy) which in turn leads the body. Whenever a stray thought interrupts this natural flow, you lose your focus in the Present and thus your alignment, balance, and expression of energy. Through dedicated Practice of your Tai Chi form(s) while adhering to and refining these basic principles, you will begin cultivating and storing your chi. Once you experience your chi radiating from your Tan Tien (Center), you will understand why people have dedicated their lives to mastering Tai Chi for well over 1000 years!


The Ten Guiding Principles of T'ai Chi Ch'uan

(1) Straightening the Head

Stand straight and hold the head and neck naturally erect, with mind concentrated on the top. Do not strain or be tense; otherwise, the blood and vital energy cannot circulate smoothly.

(2) Correct Position of Chest and Back

keep chest slightly inward,, which will enable you to sink your breath to the dantian (lower belly). Do not protrude your chest, otherwise you will feel uneasy in breathing and somewhat "top heavy".
Great force can be launched from the spine only when you keep the vital energy in your lower belly.

(3) Relaxation of Waist

For the human body, the waist is the dominant part. When you relax the waist, your two feet will be strong enough to form a firm base. All the movements depend on the action of the waist, as the saying goes: "Vital force comes from the waist." Inaccurate movements in taijiquan stem from the erroneous actions of the waist.

(4) Solid and Empty Stance

It is of primary importance in taijiquan to distinguish between "Xu" (Empty) and "Shi" (Solid). If you shift the weight of the body on to the right leg, then the right leg is solidly planted on the ground and the left leg is in an empty stance. When your weight is on the left leg, then the left leg is firmly planted on the ground and the right leg is in an empty stance. Only in this way can you turn and move your body adroitly and without effort, otherwise you will be slow and clumsy in your movements and not able to remain stable and firm on your feet.

(5) Sinking of Shoulders and Elbows

Keep your shoulder in natural, relaxed position. If you lift your shoulders, the qi will rise with them, and the whole body will be without strength. You should also keep the elbows down, otherwise you will not be able to keep your shoulders relaxed and move your body with ease.

(6) Using the Mind Instead of Force

Among people who practice taijiquan, it is quite common to hear this comment: "That is entirely using the mind, not force." In practicing taijiquan, the whole body is relaxed, and there is not an iota of stiff or clumsy strength in the veins or joints to hinder the movement of the body. People may ask: How can one increase his strength without exercising force? According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is in the human body a system of pathways called jingluo (or meridian) which link the viscera with different parts of the body, making the human body an integrated whole. If the jingluo is not impeded, then the vital energy will circulate in the body unobstructed. But if the jingluo is filled with stiff strength, the vital energy will not be able to circulate and consequently the moody cannot move with case. One should therefore use the mind instead of force, so that vital energy, will follow in the wake of the mind or consciousness and circulate all over the body. Through persistent practice one will be able to have genuine internal force. This is what taijiquan experts call "Lithe in appearance, but powerful in essence."
A master of taijiquan has arms which are as strong as stee1 rods wrapped in cotton, with immense power concealed therein. Boxers of the "Outer School" ( a branch of wushu with emphasis on attack, as opposed to the "Inner School" which places the emphasis on defense) look powerful when they exert force, but when they cease to do so, the power no longer exists. So it is merely a kind of superficial force.

(7) Coordination of Upper and Lower Parts

According to the theory of taijiquan, the root is in the feet, the force is launched through the legs, controlled by the waist, and expressed by the fingers; the feet, the legs and the waist form a harmonious whole. When the hands, the waist and the legs move, the eyes should follow their movements. This is meant by coordination of the upper and lower parts. If any one part should cease to move, then the movements will be disconnected and fall into disarray.

(8) Harmony Between the Internal and External Parts

In practicing taijiquan, the focus is on the mind and consciousness. Hence the saying: "The mind is the commander, and the body is subservient  to it." With the tranquility of the mind, the movements will be gentle and graceful. As far as the "frame" is concerned, there are only the Xu (empty), shi (solid), kai (open) and he (close). Kai not only means opening the four limbs but the mind as well, and he means closing the mind along with the four limbs. Perfection is achieved when one unifies the two and harmonizes the internal and external parts into a complete whole.

(9) Importance of Continuity

In the case of the "Outer School" (which emphasizes attack) of boxing, the strength one exerts is stiff and the movements are not continuous, but are sometimes made off and on, which leave openings the opponent may take advantage of. In taijiquan, one focuses the attention on the mind instead of force, and the movements from beginning to end are continuous and in an endless circle, just "like a river which flows on and on without end" or "like reeling the silk thread off cocoons."

(10) Tranquility in Movement

In the case of the "Outer School" of boxing, the emphasis is on leaping, bouncing, punching and the exertion of force, and so one often gasps for breath after practicing. But in than, the movement is blended with tranquility, and while performing the movements, one maintains tranquility of mind. In practicing the "frame," the slower the movement, the better the results. This is because when the movements are slow, one can take deep breath and sink it to the dantien. It has a soothing effect on the body and mind.
Learners of taijiquan will get a better understanding of all this through careful study and persistent practice.

 ~ Yang Chengfu

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Happiest Man in the World

This is the most wonderful and enlightening interview I have ever heard! Please take the time to listen to this for you will not be disappointed. In fact, if the great Wisdom being shared by this Tibetan Buddhist spiritual teacher does not inspire you, then nothing ever will. Here is a brief synopsis:

"The happiest man in the world" — that's what this Tibetan Buddhist spiritual teacher was dubbed after his brain was studied by scientists. We explore his provocative thoughts on the meaning of happiness, as well as his insights into the nature of human consciousness, spirituality as "contemplative science," and the relationship between humor and wisdom.

I highly recommend that you wait until you have time to listen to this unedited version so you can feel the relaxed mood and just flow right into this incredible conversation as it unfolds. This is from the show Speaking of Faith on American Public Media. I listen to it on NPR. The interviewer is wonderful! She has such warmth, intellect, and a relaxed conversational technique. This is 92 minutes long but I bet you listen to it more than once! Enjoy my friends!

Click here and scroll down about two-thirds of the way to find the player.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Essentails for Proper Tai Chi Practice and Mastery

Below are two Tai Chi Ch'uan Classics written by the two of the greatest Masters in history. These two classics explain the principles that must be incorporated into your practice and application of the art. I have been researching Tai Chi for many years and find that these interpretations by Lee N. Scheele to be widely accepted by accredited Masters and teachers everywhere. I hope that everyone practicing Tai Chi will discover the Wisdom contained in these classics and use it to complete the integration of mind, body, and chi into pure Integrity of Being - Present Oneness with our True Nature.



by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 - 1936)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

1.) Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don't use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch'i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.

2.) Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch'i can sink to the tan-t'ien [field of elixir]. Don't expand the chest: the ch'i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch'i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.

3.) Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said "the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist."

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T'ai Chi Ch'uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.

5.) Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch'i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. "Drop the elbows" means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.

6.) Use the mind instead of force. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, "all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li." In practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan the whole body relaxes. Don't let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?

The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch'i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch'i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch'i follows it. The ch'i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say, "when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong." Someone who has extremely good T'ai Chi Ch'uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don't use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.

7.) Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics say "the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers." Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn't follow, the whole body is disordered.

8.) Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan the main thing is the shen. Therefore it is said "the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate." If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.

9.) Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T'ai Chi Ch'uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is "like a great river rolling on unceasingly." and that the circulation of the chin is "drawing silk from a cocoon " They all talk about being connected together.

10.) Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T'ai Chi Ch'uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch'i sinks to the tan-t'ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.


by Li I-yu
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

Formerly people said: "being able to attract to emptiness, you can use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds." Not being able to attract to emptiness, you cannot deflect a thousand pounds. The words are simple, but the meaning is complete. The beginner cannot understand it. Here I add some words to explain it. If someone is ambitious to learn this art, he can find some way to enter it and every day he will have some improvement.

Desiring to attract to emptiness and deflect a thousand pounds, first you must know yourself and others. If you want to know yourself and others, you must give up yourself and follow others. If you give up yourself and follow others, first you must have the correct timing and position. To obtain the correct timing and position, you must first make your body one unit. Desiring to make the body one unit, you must first eliminate hollows and protuberances. To make the whole body without breaks or holes, you must first have the shen [spirit of vitality] and ch'i [vital life energy] excited and expanded. If you want the shen and ch'i activated and expanded, you must first raise the spirit (pay attention) and the shen should not be unfocussed. To have your shen not unfocussed, you must first have the shen and ch'i gather and penetrate the bones. Desiring the shen and ch'i to penetrate the bones, first you must strengthen the two thighs and loosen the two shoulders and let the ch'i sink down.

The chin [intrinsic strength] raises from the feet, changes in the legs, is stored in the chest, moved in the shoulders and commanded in the waist. The upper part connects to the two arms and the lower part follows the legs. It changes inside. To gather is to close and to release is to open. If it is quiet, it is completely still. Still means to close. In closing there is opening. If it is moving, everything moves. Moving is open. In opening there is closing. When the body is touched it revolves freely. There is nowhere that does not obtain power. Then you can attract to emptiness and use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds.

Practicing the Form every day is the kung fu of knowing yourself. When you start to practice, first ask yourself, "Did my whole body follow the above principles or not?" If one little place did not follow them, then correct it immediately. Therefore, in practicing the Form we want slowness not speed.

Push hands is the kung fu of knowing others. As for movement and stillness, although it is to know others, you must still ask yourself. If you arrange yourself well, when others touch you, you don't move a hair. Follow the opportunity and meet his chin and let him fall naturally outward. If you feel someplace in your body is powerless, it is double-weighted and unchanging. You must seek the defect in yin and yang, opening and closing. Know yourself and know others: in one hundred battles you will win one hundred times.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
Lao Tzu

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Thursday, November 5, 2009


 T'ai Chi Ch'uan or Tai Chi, as most people know it, is called the Supreme Ultimate for a very good reason. It is the Ultimate martial art and more importantly, it is a true Path to Enlightenment. Everything worthwhile in life takes time and dedication to achieve. Tai Chi is a way of life so it requires a lifetime of focused daily practice. Tai Chi is truly a Path with Heart but only to those who give their heart, their love, and their entire Being to the learning and mastery of whichever form or forms they have chosen. The beginning is the hardest part because you must think about each posture, the proper sequence of them in the form, and the most important thing, the principles. Without the principles, you might as well be dancing because the only thing you will gain from unprincipled Tai Chi is exercise. Once you understand the principles and incorporate them into every moment and movement, then the incredible benefits from nurturing your chi will keep you completely enthralled in your practice. A treatise is a form of writing similar to an essay but more formal and particularly focused on investigating or exposing the principles of a subject. Below is such a treatise on T'ai Chi Ch'uan reputed to have been written by Wang Zongyue, a disciple of Zhang Sanfeng, the reputed founder of T'ai Chi Ch'uan back in the thirteenth century A.D. If you can grasp the principles explained in this Tai Chi Classic, then you are well on your way to mastery of yourself. Enjoy!


Attributed to Wang Tsung-yueh [Wang Zongyue] (18th Century)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

T'ai Chi [Supreme Ultimate] comes from Wu Chi [Formless Void]
and is the mother of yin and yang.
In motion T'ai Chi separates;
in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to Wu Chi.

It is not excessive or deficient;
it follows a bending, adheres to an extension.

When the opponent is hard and I am soft,
it is called tsou [yielding].

When I follow the opponent and he becomes backed up,
it is called nian [sticking].

If the opponent's movement is quick,
then quickly respond;
if his movement is slow,
then follow slowly.

Although there are innumerable variations,
the principles that pervades them remain the same.

From familiarity with the correct touch,
one gradually comprehends chin [intrinsic strength];
from the comprehension of chin one can reach wisdom.

Without long practice
one cannot suddenly understand T'ai Chi.

Effortlessly the chin reaches the headtop.

Let the ch'i [vital life energy] sink to the tan-t'ien [field of elixir].

Don't lean in any direction;
suddenly appear,
suddenly disappear.

Empty the left wherever a pressure appears,
and similarly the right.

If the opponent raises up, I seem taller;
if he sinks down, then I seem lower;
advancing, he finds the distance seems incredibly long;
retreating, the distance seems exasperatingly short.

A feather cannot be placed,
and a fly cannot alight
on any part of the body.

The opponent does not know me;
I alone know him.

To become a peerless boxer results from this.

There are many boxing arts.

Although they use different forms,
for the most part they don't go beyond
the strong dominating the weak,
and the slow resigning to the swift.

The strong defeating the weak
and the slow hands ceding to the swift hands
are all the results of natural abilities
and not of well-trained techniques.

From the sentence "A force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds"
we know that the technique is not accomplished with strength.

The spectacle of an old person defeating a group of young people,
how can it be due to swiftness?

Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and
move like a turning wheel.

Sinking to one side allows movement to flow;
being double-weighted is sluggish.

Anyone who has spent years of practice and still cannot neutralize,
and is always controlled by his opponent,
has not apprehended the fault of double-weightedness.

To avoid this fault one must distinguish yin from yang.

To adhere means to yield.
To yield means to adhere.

Within yin there is yang.
Within yang there is yin.

Yin and yang mutually aid and change each other.

Understanding this you can say you understand chin.
After you understand chin,
the more you practice,
the more skill.

Silently treasure knowledge and turn it over in the mind.
Gradually you can do as you like.

Fundamentally, it is giving up yourself to follow others.
Most people mistakenly give up the near to seek the far.
It is said, "Missing it by a little will lead many miles astray."

The practitioner must carefully study.

This is the Treatise

Note: The activity of the stretch already in existence is ch'i, and the ch'i can mobilize the body from the balance associated with consciousness before any intention to act can be realized.

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