Correct Principles of Tai Chi Practice - Liu Yong

Before Tai Chi there were many other styles of Wushu or martial arts. Tai Chi was developed approximately 100 years before the gun. When guns became popular Tai Chi began to change its emphasis. As it was no longer needed for self-defence, it began to evolve into a sport. However some people felt that Tai Chi was too good a Martial Art to lose, and kept this side of it going. In the last century, as China became more open, Tai Chi was able to spread. Yang Luchan took it to Beijing, and later Chen Fa Ke taught there. Today it has spread around the world.

Tai Chi is a combination of
1) Wushu
2) Chinese Medicine
3) Acupuncture- Jing Luo
4) Yin Yang philosophy
Tai Chi can be described as
1) Chinese Culture
2) Wushu
3) Sport
Today more people see Tai Chi as a sport, an exercise system. Very few people can recognise it as Wushu or Chinese Culture. You must open your heart to know/understand Tai Chi.

Progression in Learning

1) Movement
2) Gung fu
3) Culture

1. Movement

Arms and body move together. Many people can understand the hand movements, but do not see the body movement. Tai Chi is a circle. Many people can make the arm circles but are not relaxed enough to make the body circles. All movements are from a circle. The arm circle follows the body circle. Do not go outside of the circle. The body movement is a circle. Do not turn the body to the maximum, always leave a little. The body should turn 90 degrees. Never overturn. The body needs to relax first, then make the movement. After three years students should be able to understand this level. When you turn the body the weight changes sides. If the body turns to the right, the left leg takes the weight. One leg is relaxed and one is not relaxed. When the body turns, the hands follow. If the hands alone move (without the body) the movement is incorrect. By moving the body, the hands can move further The body has three parts. The middle part, between the navel and the hips must be loose and flexible and able to rotate. If the upper part is too strong, the middle will not be able to relax and move. If the legs are too weak, the weight will be in the top of the body and there will be no root. For Tai Chi strong legs are important. As you get older, the legs are the first things to grow weak. When the body is relaxed qi goes first to the dantian, then to the legs and the feet. When the legs are strong, the back will be strong. Tai Chi breathing is not upper chest breathing. When you breathe using natural breathing, you are stronger. Tai Chi develops the use of natural breathing. With continued practice, you will be able to use natural breathing all the time, not just when you practice Tai Chi. More practice builds up the qi in the dantian. The dantian becomes like a football. More qi makes you stronger. However it is very slow to develop, the qi builds up gradually. Building up the qi is like a seed growing slowly.

Arm movements come from the body
Body movements come from qi
Qi comes from practice

When the Tai Chi movements are correct, the body is relaxed and the qi can develop.

Gung Fu

Tai Chi is fast and slow movements. The fast movements come from the slow ones. Fast – from slow - from relaxation – from the circle. Fa Jing is very relaxed, not tense, and very circular.
Relax + Circle = Fa Jing
Without the circle you cannot release. If you are tense or stiff and have no circles, energy cannot release.
Xin Jia (Chen Style New Frame) is fast and slow alternating. The movements are relaxed like a fish swimming in water. First practice slowly to feel if the circles are correct and to make sure you are relaxed. Lao Jia (Chen Style Old Frame) lets you feel slow movement, lets you feel the circles, and lets you feel relaxed. If you can feel this first in Lao Jia, then you will be able to feel this in Xin Jia. Practice Lao Jia every day to develop this feeling.

Xin Jia is different because it has many small movements. If you understand the big movements in Lao Jia (which has no small movements) then you will be able to build in the movements in Xin Jia. Finally you will be able to understand Fa Jing. This is the correct road for developing Tai Chi. Improvements take time to develop. It cannot happen quickly. You can only make improvements for yourself by practising every day. This is the principle for all the Tai Chi forms.
One principle “turn body” can make a thousand movements just as one tree can make a thousand leaves.

3) Culture

Tai Chi is about 400 years old but Chinese Culture has been developing for around 2000 – 3000 years. To improve your Tai Chi you need to understand more Chinese Culture.
a) Understand about Yin and Yang.
When you understand the changes between Yin and Yang, you can apply this to your movements.
b) Chinese Medicine
Learn about the Jing Luo system.
The Dai Mai circles the body (like a belt) around the waist. The Du Mai and the Ren Mai circle up the back and down the front of the body. These Jing Luo form circles. All of the others are lines. So these three are Tai Chi Jing Luo. Dai Mai is the most important Jing Luo for Tai Chi. When the qi goes through the Dai Mai the qi becomes strong. If your qi can pass through these channels your gung fu will be very strong.
c) Tai Chi is an Art/Sport Art and movement are different, but the feeling is the same. Tai Chi is a body language, like a song for the body. Tai Chi is like ballet, like music and like calligraphy. All of these things have combinations of fast and slow. Artistic people can understand Tai Chi quicker. If you can understand other art forms then you will understand and appreciate Tai Chi.
d) Sun Tzu, Art of War
Because Tai Chi is a Martial Art, this is a good book to read. Push Hands relates to this and especially Competition Push Hands.
e) Mechanics
If you understand the mechanics of movement, you will understand how to move from one posture to the next. Tai Chi is old knowledge and modern knowledge combined. If Western culture has the same principles these can also be used to explain Tai Chi.

Master Liu Yong was formally accepted as an Indoor Student of Grandmaster Chen Zheng Lei in 1996. He lives in Lian Yun Gang, Jiangsu, China. He is the Seat of Honour Consultant to the Chen Style Tai Chi College, here in the UK. He has Tai Chi students all over China, and has also taught in Britain and Korea.