SIMPLE INTRODUCTION TO TAIJI BOXING
by Xu Zhiyi
[published Sep, 1927]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Aug, 2014]
Simple Introduction to Taiji Boxing
– calligraphy by Zhuang Yunkuan
FOREWORD BY GU XIEGUANG OF KUAIJI
Great is Taiji Boxing, tracing back to Wudang.
It can defeat movement with stillness, hardness with softness.
It was created by Zhang Sanfeng, then clarified by Wang Zongyue and Yang Luchan.
The internal arts excel at timing and position, and are peerless for cultivating health.
Once you know the way a river is flowing, there is no need to fight against it.
My friend Xu Zhiyi is a brilliant talent of our nation.
Even though his studies are not yet complete, he has produced an outstanding book.
He has contemplated the concepts endlessly and drilled the techniques over and over.
He is constantly improving himself and sincerely retains what he learns.
He began his training in the north, then earnestly progressed in the south.
A wise man tries to appear ignorant, but his deeper knowledge is hard to hide.
In writing a book to enlighten students, Xu gives them the steps that lead to mastery.
He is quick as an arrow leaving a bow, sharp as a dagger drawn from its sheath.
He is a tireless teacher, fully committed.
Its beauty beyond compare, this martial art will spread throughout the nation.
Its subtleties achieve perfection, for it has the naturalness of Laozi and Zhuangzi.
When weaklings learn of it, they will be empowered. So close to the Way, this art will flourish.
The author, Xu Zhiyi
MAJOR POSTURES IN TAIJI BOXING SOLO PRACTICE
DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE:
SITTING TIGER POSTURE:
MAJOR POSTURES IN TAIJI BOXING PARTNER PRACTICE
For years I practiced external boxing arts, but I found that it was not right for my physique, so I instead learned the Taiji boxing art from Wu Jianquan, which I have now practiced for ten years. With the help of fellow students such as Lu Yinfu and Zhao Shoucun, with whom I have studied daily, I have obtained no small benefit.
This spring, Lu sent me a letter from Wuzhong [in Jiangsu], describing in great detail the popularity of Taiji Boxing in the south and requesting that I explain what I have gained through experience for the benefit of beginners. I have long been a devoted advocate of physical education, but due to my crude level of understanding and my haste to complete the task, this book is sure to be inadequate in many ways and I fear it will not live up to the expectations of my venerable colleagues.
– sincerely written by Xu Zhiyi, early summer, 1927
– The purpose of this book is popularization, therefore it conveys concepts only in language that is easy to understand, and this is why it is called a “simple introduction”. 一本書雖以說理為主但亦不作玄妙空衍之談。
– Although this book is devoted to explaining theory, it does not engage in any obscure and impractical discussion.
– For photographs of Taiji Boxing postures or commentary to the Taiji Classics,
there are already many volumes in bookshops. This book therefore does not seek to imitate them.
– Taiji Boxing postures are different from those of external boxing arts, a point which is crucial to understand. As the eight techniques within pushing hands must also be understood by practitioners, this text includes some photos of them for demonstration.
– Since my knowledge is limited, errors are inevitable. If the nation’s experts would give me corrections, I would feel blessed indeed.
(also by the author)
PREFACE BY HU WEIDE
Now that Xu Zhiyi has completed this book and is about to send it to the publishers, he has asked me, as I have also practiced Taiji Boxing, to find some words to introduce it. So I will steal a line I have read in the Book of Poems [poem 198]: “They are without fists, without courage.” And another from the Books of [Later] Han, bio of Huangfu Song: “Even a boy can devote himself to boxing.” Such quotes as these were the harbingers of the boxing arts. In the Bibliographical Records of the Books of Han, there is listed “six chapters on barehand fighting”. From traditions of military skill, we have inherited the boxing arts, but unfortunately there is a lack of books on the subject. In recent times, foreigners have written a huge number of physical education books concerning boxing studies, and our own nation’s boxing arts should not go without analysis.
Xu Zhiyi has practiced Taiji Boxing for more than ten years, his skill is very deep, and he has amassed a great deal of knowledge with which he has personally taught many students. Apart from texts such as Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Classic and Huang Baijia’s Boxing Methods of the Internal School, there are very few authors, and so it is not easy for students to delve into it. Because of this, Xu has very generously decided to make a book to provide for students. Students who have already received personal instruction from noteworthy teachers can then also use the book as a teacher and thus get twice the result for half the effort, which I can attest to. That being the case, Xu’s benefitting of students in this way could never be considered something insignificant.
Xu is a top student of Wu Jianquan. “Among the students in the north, there is maybe not even one who can be considered his superior.” [Mengzi, chapter 3a, talking of the scholar Chen Liang]. Now that he has come to the south, I know he will be great here as well. I am therefore delighted to write this preface.
– written by Hu Weide of Wuxing, second month of summer, 1927
PREFACE BY ZHOU YICHUN
Taiji Boxing is one of our nation’s ancient boxing arts. My colleague Xu Zhiyi has devoted himself to it for already ten years. This summer, he has put his studies into this book of instruction for students, a very worthy undertaking. When the manuscript was completed, he invited me to write a preface. I have not yet had guidance in this art, so how can I dare to say anything about it?
Watching friends who practice it often, I see that in every movement, there is a pure naturalness, supple and effortless, intention in harmony with the changes of the postures. By maintaining mental focus in it over a long period of time, no matter how weak and feeble one’s body, everyone gains health and strength. It cultivates calm and restrains the temperament. It prevents illness and prolongs life. Obviously it can do anything.
I am sure this book will become popular, that everyone will grab a copy, and that it will be an aid to physical education experts everywhere.
– written by Zhou Yichun, June, 1927
PREFACE BY HUANG ZHONGHUI
Taiji Boxing is a skill that approaches the Way. It uses stillness to defeat movement, softness to defeat hardness. With neither showing off nor loss of temper, it is dignified, elegant, and effortless. And when an opponent is defeated by it, he has no comprehension of what was done.
Furthermore, if this art is obtained by the old and weak, or by women and children, it can also maintain health as well as defend the self, instead of being an additional harmful habit. It should be practiced daily and thereby it will swiftly push forth to become the best of our national skills. Long ago at the battle of Hongyang, thirty-nine of our people committed suicide in one day, for no other reason than that they could not bear to be executed in disgrace. Those with no fight or courage in themselves are unable to endure through troubled times. Truly this is a great pity.
Forty years ago , there was a close friendship between experts in the north such as Single Saber Wang Wu [Big Saber Wang Wu – Wang Zhengyi], Big Saber Li San [Double Saber Li Fenggang], and Li Ruidong, a master of the soft arts whose skill was extremely refined. Our nation’s martial arts styles are rather numerous, but Taiji is both the most unassuming and the most authentic, in the same way that clothes and food can sustain you throughout your life but cannot be done without for even a short time.
Xu Zhiyi obtained his art from a famous teacher, but was then able to go beyond preconceived notions and draw from modern sciences, such as mechanics, geometry, psychology, and so on. Studying them, he found patterns. Contemplating them, he over time amassed a thorough knowledge, and he has now produced a number of writings. Giving instruction also to the weak and the women of our nation, he is unrivaled among his hundreds of fellow students. As my comrade seeks to spread this material widely in order to rescue the meek and weak of our nation, I am very pleased to write a preface for him.
– written by Huang Zhonghui, June 14, 1927
PREFACE BY LU HONGJI
Once I had been taught to read in my boyhood, I took special delight in martial arts novels. I constantly read the tales of the swordswomen Hong Xian and Nie the Hermitess, which thrilled me till I was enraptured. When I heard my elders talking about experts like Gan Fengchi and Bai Taiguan, I was so captivated I wanted to pack up some provisions and go out into the world hoping to meet such people. Unfortunately I was a weak-bodied boy and the mood in my hometown of Wuzhong was that literary studies were superior to martial studies. Unable to find a good teacher to instruct me, I almost gave up in disappointment.
But before I had lost all hope, a little time had passed and Western influence had gradually spread to the East. Various schools were now competitively pushing physical education, offering many extra courses of exercise for young students, such as soccer and other sports. Schools also seasonally held games to promote it further. By that time I was old enough to attend our prefecture’s school of commerce, and all my comrades and I formed a sports study society on the south side of the city, where we each day practiced all sorts of skills.
In the last year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu , I was studying abroad in Japan, examining their nation’s famous historical relics, and I found that their countrymen take physical education seriously. Within the schools, Japanese classmates practice judo, kendo, and kyudo, and strive to their utmost in these studies. I then knew that if that nation’s flourishing physical education came west to us, then beyond methods of training the body, we would also deeply grasp the essence of our Eastern martial arts.
I often contemplated how noble and mighty our nation’s martial arts are, how they would be peerless throughout the world if not for the physical education experts of Europe and America, who although they do not emphasize bold courage, they cultivate and consider both the psychological and physiological aspects. They also think our nation to be inferior and do not see how there could be anyone here who can use scientific methods and have new ways of thinking. The study of our martial arts principles and theories will grow and become glorious, and a new era will begin for our nation’s physical education community. This has unexpectedly brought forth my colleague, Xu Zhiyi.
Xu is from Zhejiang and grew up in Shanghai, going to Chengzhong Elementary School. Excelling in sports, he went from high school into a technical college where his classmates all encouraged him to be an athletic contestant. The college won every soccer game against other schools, and because of this, his fame grew as an outstanding athlete. Every time the schools met for sports events – high jump, shot put, running, and so forth – Xu never failed to get the prize. After graduating from Beijing Legal University, he went to take a position in a Jiangsu accounting firm, where we worked together. At that time, the staff of the railway administration often held soccer games, inviting Xu to participate, and his playing was always extraordinarily agile.
After 1916, he accepted a transfer to the Academy of Accounting, where we were again colleagues, and in our spare time we always talked about martial arts. Then a martial arts instructor recommended by a friend came from Beijing to live in my house. He taught us various boxing techniques, as well as saber and staff arts. Xu keenly progressed ahead of the rest of us, while I found it harder to progress due to the deprived education of my youth. I considered the age I had already reached, and I feared that no matter how much heart I put into the training, I would never for the rest of my life be able to reach a very deep level at it. Because of this, I decided to switch to practicing internal boxing arts, which conform to the aims of cultivating health.
Fortunately, the Physical Education Research Society had been established within the city, and the eminent Taiji Boxing authority Wu Jianquan was engaged to give a seminar.
Xu and I went together to seek him out and present him with gifts to become his pupils. Wu looked upon us with respectful sincerity and has carefully instructed us for the last ten years. We have arduously trained, never taking a break regardless of winter cold or summer heat. Xu, his most brilliant disciple, and I return each day to further verify what we have learned through our training. Xu, being extraordinarily gifted, within three or four years had already achieved the knack of it, and whenever he has a bout with someone, he always succeeds with ease. I am too inferior even to be compared to him. Wu’s other students can rarely contend with him.
This year, because he is annoyed this art has not been spread throughout the world,
Xu has given his spare time to writing this Simple Introduction, presenting psychology, physiology, and physics, making connections between body and mind, all accompanied by evidence and written in language that is easy to understand, putting forth ideas with clarity. By way of scientific methods and new ways of thinking, I think research of martial arts principles and theories will gravitate toward the practice of this art. If students do not cherish its secrets, they will not be able to demonstrate its traditional training methods to other people, and therefore Xu has not composed this work in the impenetrably mysterious jargon encountered within martial circles. Because beginners have difficulty knowing what direction to go, he has been urged to get this booked published and distributed in order to provide for those who may come to the art. When the manuscript was completed, Xu asked me to write a preface, so I have sincerely made this introduction to inform all of our comrades everywhere.
– written by Lu Hongji of Yinfu in the Xindou Apartments, during the full moon, June, 1927
Chapter One: Foreword
Chapter Two: A Brief Look at the Origin & Development of Taiji Boxing
Chapter Three: The Merits of Taiji Boxing
Chapter Four: Taiji Boxing in Relation to the Study of Psychology
Chapter Five: Taiji Boxing in Relation to the Study of Physiology
Chapter Six: Taiji Boxing in Relation to the Study of Mechanics
Chapter Seven: Taiji Boxing’s Practice Methods
Chapter Eight: Further Thoughts
Chapter Nine: Appendices
SIMPLE INTRODUCTION TO TAIJI BOXING
CHAPTER ONE: FOREWORD
Our nation’s boxing arts began a very long time ago. People in the past trained body and mind with the purpose of preventing illness and prolonging life. Their methods were generally simple and easy to do, and everyone could learn them. Now that martial arts are fashionable and have spread everywhere, people are with every posture contending to be more impressive than each other, always taking the most difficult movements to be the most praiseworthy, until gradually they have lost the real intention of physical education. Because new generations like to do new things, they have naturally come up with new styles, with the result that systems of boxing arts have become increasingly complex and exhibit a broader range of abilities. Consequently, beginners have no idea which to choose. The weaker ones strive to do what is too difficult and then sigh that they are doing twice the work for half the result. I constantly find this to be regrettable.
Taiji Boxing is one of the internal boxing arts. Its methods are simple and easy, and all of its postures are natural. Regardless of man or woman, young or old, all can practice it for their whole life without harm. It is actually the ancient limbering arts that have given it all of its martial skills, and because it operates entirely by way of mind and energy, it is never separate from the cultivation arts. Such is not the case with external boxing arts, which are devoted to winning through strength. When Taiji practitioners talk of the transformations of emptiness and fullness, they are drawing from the principles in the Book of Changes, and when they talk of the skill of using mind and energy, they are drawing from Mengzi’s discussion of cultivating one’s energy [Mengzi, chapter 2b]. It conforms to the various rules of physiology and physics, and thus with modern scientific principles, one after another. For these several reasons, can it not be said that the art is based in the Way?
I delight in martial arts. I began by practicing external styles and took great pleasure in them, but ten years ago I began to focus more on training in the Taiji boxing art. I firmly believe that every kind of boxing art, despite their distinct characteristics, has basically simple methods and will produce great results. But for the purposes of spreading physical education, it is this art that is the most suitable. Therefore, disregarding my low abilities and my ignorance, I have compiled what I have gained through experience into this Simple Introduction in order that those who have aspirations toward good health will know what to ask for guidance in.
CHAPTER TWO: A BRIEF LOOK AT THE ORIGIN & DEVELOPMENT OF TAIJI BOXING
Although the various schools of boxing arts have different postures with specific names, the major distinction is to categorize them into the two schools of internal and external. The internal school emphasizes softness – energy is inwardly concealed. The external school emphasizes hardness – energy is outwardly revealed. The distinction between the two is precisely this. The external school is replete with styles of Shaolin, which has long been held in esteem throughout the nation. The internal school comes from Zhang Sanfeng, although in which era he lived is not reported consistently.
According to the bio of Zhang Songxi from the Records of Ningbo Prefecture, Zhang Sanfeng was a Wudang elixirist of the Song Dynasty. This much seems believable, but then it says his boxing art was received through divine means, which rather strains credulity. After Zhang, the authentic teaching was obtained during the reign of Kublai Khan, starting up again with Wang Zongyue of Shanxi, who was famous for expressing the inherited theories of Zhang Sanfeng, writing the Taiji Boxing Classic and the essay Understanding How to Practice (both included below in Chapter Nine). These texts explain the principles exquisitely, in language that is simple and concise. What has been passed down to us truly descends from his explanations.
Huang Baijia’s Boxing Methods of the Internal School (also included below in Chapter Nine), says: “Zhang Sanfeng was a Shaolin expert, but he turned the art on its head and thereby created the internal school.” It appears the internal school came from the external school. Huang records boxing principles and the names of many techniques which would be categorized as belonging to the external school, but then we read words such as these: “Skill will only be achieved through practice. It is not necessary to seek for someone to copy, only to respond to opponents with whatever works.” It is noticeable how they conform to Wang Zongyue’s Taiji boxing theory. Usually it is the case in boxing arts that the training goes from the simple to the complex then back to the simple, but Taiji Boxing is entirely based in emptiness and stillness, and so makes a constant distinction between generalities and details. Going by Huang Baijia’s descriptions, it is the same kind of material that was passed down to Wang Zhengnan, whose art was surely descended from that of Zhang Songxi.
According to the bio of Zhang Songxi (which is also included below in Chapter Nine), Zhang had a fight with Shaolin monks. Examining the account, what Zhang was using was clearly the Taiji skill. Also of note is that it records that Zhang at the age of seventy could still chop barehanded through huge stones. This would indicate that Zhang was not winning exclusively by way of soft arts, but then it has been said that softness at its extreme will naturally manifest as hardness [paraphrasing from How to Practice]. Consider Mengzi’s discussion of cultivating energy [Mengzi, chapter 2a] and this will cease to be an impenetrable concept. [Mengzi describes his “noble energy” as having extreme hardness but is produced by allowing it to grow rather than forcing it.] Though it is unclear why Huang’s Boxing Methods does not touch upon this. Although Wang Zongyue’s Understanding How to Practice mentions hardness of energy, it does not seem to specify it as distinct from stiffness. It is very unfortunate that this similarity or difference cannot be fully verified.
Zhang Songzi’s lineage became the “southern branch”. The “northern branch” comes from Wang Zongyue teaching Jiang Fa of Henan. Jiang taught Chen Changxing of Huaiqing. Chen’s top disciple, Yang Luchan, obtained the authentic teachings and brought them to Beijing. Beyond his own sons, Yang also taught Wan Ling, Ling Shan, Quan You, and many others. Quan You’s son, Wu Jianquan, is who I myself have learned from. Xu Yusheng of Guyan described the branching styles in great detail in his book on Taiji Boxing postures , which you may consult. This volume on the other hand is of a more limited length and only presents a general picture of these things.
CHAPTER THREE: THE MERITS OF TAIJI BOXING
All boxing arts have their merits, their strengths and weaknesses, their focuses, their inevitable prejudices, and their special characteristics. Those who nowadays like to discuss which systems are good or bad end up praising the one they are already practicing. Though they will probably not be very accurate in their assessment, they will nevertheless fight to the very best of their ability. Although it is natural to be biased, the issue is actually that people are not clear about the special characteristics of their own art.
Taiji Boxing uses “emptiness and stillness” as its main principle. Every movement is serious about softness and dismissive of hardness. Those who fall in love with the external posture always get into trouble, for supreme achievement of this art is the cultivation of spirit. Its fighting method is not a matter of winning through strength, and thereby other styles pale by comparison. You now adequately know the special characteristics of this art. All of these arts have their special characteristics, though none of them in the beginning will seem different from any other.
The merits of this particular art are described below:
A. ITS HEALTH ASPECTS
1. It cultivates both body and mind.
In the practice of external boxing arts, the aim is to develop the body. They are imbued with a strong sense that the health of the spirit depends on the health of the body.
In the practice of meditation, the aim is the cultivation of spirit. It is considered that when the spirit is sufficiently strengthened, the body will be transformed.
Looking at them separately, it is apparent that each has its own truth. But looking at them together, it becomes clear that each simply has its own emphasis. Damo long ago passed down to us the Sinew Changing Classic and the Marrow Washing Classic, in which the “internal boxing arts” happen to be emphasizing body first, then mind. All of this shows that the methods of building health actually value cultivating body and mind simultaneously. Once you begin in Taiji Boxing, both body and mind are progressing together, therefore it cultivates both. The details of this concept are to be found in How to Practice.
2. The movements are mild.
Although strenuous exercise will show fast results, it will also cause unbearable problems. Every movement in Taiji Boxing should be soft, slow, compliant, and gentle. It noticeably stretches out the muscles and joints, and invisibly regulates the energy and blood. This means that while it cultivates the spirit, it also conforms entirely to the principles of physical education.
3. The postures are smooth and harmonious.
The posture is “upright and comfortable” (from How to Practice) and the energetic movement is a matter of “neither going too far nor not far enough” (from the Classic). These are each important basic principles. Therefore every posture is completely natural, meaning that it is smooth and harmonious. Strenuous boxing arts seek to be as risky and dramatic as possible, entirely different.
4. Development is natural.
Every part of the human body develops, according to physiology, in a proper sequence.
Strenuous exercise does not conform to the proper physiological sequence and very easily gives rise to bad habits. When practicing Taiji Boxing, “if one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still” (from How to Practice). There is no particular area of the body that has any extra stress upon it. Therefore it accords with physiological function, being a beneficial practice rather than an obstructive abuse. The character of this art is to do what is natural.
5. It is particularly effective at treating illness.
Boxing arts have the effect of treating illness, as everyone knows. However, strenuous exercise consumes too much of one’s bodily strength, which weaker people will not easily replenish. This is counterproductive. One of the principles of Taiji Boxing is to adapt to physiological changes. It boosts energy and blood by focusing entirely on mildness, and so it does not cause breathing or pulse to become the slightest bit irregular. Therefore even if you have lung disease, you can practice it, and you will achieve extraordinary results. (Although at the onset of an illness, you should of course convalesce.) As for other ways it can treat illness, you will learn through personal experience.
6. It sculpts your temperament.
Everyone’s temperament is different, but one’s temperament always has an influence over one’s outward character, therefore one’s consciousness can transform one’s character. Those with even a smattering of psychological understanding can all agree with this. Taiji Boxing emphasizes methods of softness, “emptiness and stillness” being the main principle. If you have bad habits such as rashness or bluntness, these are things to be pushed aside. By practicing this art over a long period, you will be unconsciously cultivating a habit of grace, which will help you learn to take criticism. If you have a tyrannical attitude toward others, this kind of training will have noticeable results upon you.
B. ITS MARTIAL ASPECTS
1. It uses stillness to overcome movement.
The Art of War [chapter 6] talks a great deal about empty versus full. Boxing arts do likewise, but emptiness and fullness in boxing arts have more to do with energy rather than posture. I am already aware of my own state of emptiness and fullness, but if the opponent is storing energy and has not yet expressed it, I have no way of knowing the condition of his emptiness and fullness. It is therefore the worst moment for me to attack. I should be allowed extra room to maneuver, and then if I gently advance, I will turn the tables on him and take advantage of the situation. Such is the way in Taiji Boxing.
I must allow the opponent to be the first to issue energy, awaiting his approach. Using his moment of coarseness, I respond with smoothness, the technique being that of receiving, drawing him into my trap and thereby gaining control over him. (From Playing Hands Song: “Guiding him in to land on nothing, I then close on him and send him away.”) Always and with ease he will made to fall away. As the saying goes: [Art of War, chapter 3] “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” The secret to all this is to use stillness to overcome movement.
2. It uses softness to overcome hardness.
When we begin to discuss energies in boxing arts, we typically try to explain their true meanings. Therefore the distinction between hardness and softness gets explained via the passive and active aspects. But the meaning of those two terms is so broad, indeed utterly general, that beginners rarely have no confusion over their vagueness.
Basically, any kind of energy that has an element of resistance will pay no attention to how large or small the opponent’s energy is, and this should always be considered hard energy. On the other hand, any kind of energy that is able to follow the opponent’s energy flexibly contains no element of resistance, and this should always be considered soft energy.
The key to soft energy is elasticity. If you are without this quality when you encounter an opponent, you will have no hope of recovering your position. Such an energy can be called “lifeless”. Hard energy tries to win through strength, and so when it encounters strength, it inevitably breaks down. Although the source of its failure is different from that of lifeless energy, the result is the same. It can be seen that using softness to meet hardness would be comparable to a contest of lively energy [elastic softness] versus lifeless energy [inelastic softness].
In determining victory and defeat, there should be no predicting between them. In Taiji Boxing, “the magic lies in making adjustments based on being receptive to the opponent” (from the Thirteen Dynamics Song). It basically comes down to this principle, but for those who do not practice this art, such words may seem mystical.
3. It uses the smaller to defeat the larger.
When Taiji Boxing is used to defeat opponents, it always uses a smaller force to defeat a larger force. The skill it applies (Technique is shown outwardly. Energy is stored inwardly. When technique and energy can be combined, this is called skill.) lies in formlessness and is always rooted in the science of mechanics. When issuing, either first make the opponent lose control of his balance or make use of the principle of net force and then seize the opportunity to attack. Therefore you will not need a large force and the opponent will automatically topple away. The subtlety of these things is something that can only be dreamt of by those who try to win by using hardness in striking and advancing.
4. It uses smoothness to avoid harm.
In Taiji Boxing, there are two ways of applying energy: yielding and sticking. (From the Classic: “He is hard while I am soft – this is yielding. My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse – this is sticking.”) Yielding is for neutralizing the opponent, then sticking is for controlling him. As they both make use of each other, they are able to alternate without limit. Every kind of movement in Taiji Boxing makes a rounded shape. Within one of its curves are infinite occasions for yielding and sticking. Act according to the situation, relying entirely on sensation. The most important principle is to never depart from the concept of smoothness.
When dealing with an opponent, if you are not being soft, then you are being hard. If you are being hard, then you will be acting with coarseness against the opponent’s energy rather than using smoothness to go along with it. If your energy is not smooth, you will have no way to yield. If you do not yield, you will have no way to neutralize. If you do not neutralize, you will have no way to stick. If you do not stick, you will have no way to sense the opponent’s changes. If you carelessly advance, you are not examining the status of the opponent and are liable to be deflected away or suddenly crushed by a large force, and those who have not happened to be injured through such circumstances often do not quite grasp that it is by use of smooth energy that harm is prevented.
C. ITS OTHER ASPECTS
1. Everyone can practice it.
The reasons Taiji Boxing can be practiced by everyone are outlined below:
i. All of its postures are natural, balanced, simple, and do not require any effort. Therefore it can be practiced even by women and children, or by the old and weak.
ii. Its martial applications focus entirely on suppleness and yielding, never seeking to win through strength. Therefore it can be practiced even by those who have a martial ambition but are embarrassed by an inadequate physical strength.
iii. It is particularly effective at treating illness. Therefore it can be practiced even by the physically weak, chronically ill, and those who are worried they have a disease that may be incurable.
iv. As it emphasizes intention rather than what it looks like, it can be practiced alongside other boxing arts without creating any hindrance. Therefore it can be practiced even by those who also love practicing external styles, although the order of practice during a session has to be: external arts first, followed by Taiji.
v. It emphasizes gradual progress. To practice it each morning and evening is really not very time-consuming. (If your ambition is self-cultivation, you only need to go through the solo set once each morning and evening, and the set only takes about ten minutes. If you are training for fighting, doing pushing hands for thirty minutes every day will give you no small benefit.) Therefore it can be practiced even by those who do not have much free time.
vi. As its movements are very quiet, it will not disturb other people when practiced, and it also does not use very much space. Therefore it can be practiced even while traveling.
2. It is easier to practice.
Typically when practicing martial arts, what is most emphasized is drilling the techniques. Training in other boxing arts involves two people being unyielding with each other. This very easily gives rise to dangerous situations in which the more timid person can no longer stand it and falls down in pain. This kind of thing is not what we want. Taiji Boxing has its pushing hands methods for drilling how to deal with an opponent. These methods focus on training awareness and emphasize neutralizing rather than attacking. Since the movements are not rash actions and the power is not ferocious, it assuredly lacks the risk of becoming dangerous. And therefore it is the easiest to practice.
3. It is highly enjoyable.
Since every kind of movement in Taiji Boxing makes a rounded shape, there is everywhere within one of its curves a switching between emptiness and fullness. In the beginning of the training, you will not comprehend these transformations and will naturally be without any sense of emptiness or fullness. But after you have practiced over a long period, your alternating between emptiness and fullness will naturally be able to fit every situation. (Taiji Boxing’s other name of Long Boxing describes this switching between emptiness and fullness: “It is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly…” [Treatise]) Whether solo practice or partner practice, it is like playing chess, so unusually enjoyable. “Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the delight of being rounded and lively” (How to Practice) points to this idea.
CHAPTER FOUR: TAIJI BOXING IN RELATION TO THE STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGY
Taiji Boxing emphasizes the cultivation of both body and mind. When practicing, you must “use mind to move the energy, and use energy to move your body” (How to Practice) to then be able to achieve the full extent of its wonders. This kind of practice method is entirely grounded upon psychological function, yet its effects are indeed true and trustworthy.
The power of our minds is huge and able to take complete control over our physiological functions. An extreme example is the sincere belief of those religious people who can walk barefoot over fire without fear of being burned or who can dance along sharp blades without feeling pain. A lighter example is when people gather at a social event and notice they are surrounded by delicacies, and this then increases their appetite for food. Such phenomena are enough to demonstrate that psychological function has influence over physiological function.
It has to be understood that because the function of our nerves is arranged physiologically, there are nerve centers and nerve endings. Thus when we receive external stimulation, there will be a distinction between the sensation of it and the perception of it.
Sensation means the nerve endings receive an external stimulation and generate a simple effect based on it. In the first instant there is no ability for consciously recognizing external objects. When a sound is sensed by your ear, a color is sensed by your eye, a scent is sensed by your nose, or a taste is sensed by your tongue, these are all physiological sense organs responding directly to sensations. This instant of sensation can only be truly felt in that instant and cannot really be imagined afterward. An instant later, sensation has prompted imagination, and then it becomes a matter of perceiving rather than sensing.
Perception is when the fluctuations of sensation pass along the nerve fibers to the nerve centers, producing an effect upon the imagination. Perception is thus the source of our various ideas about what we are sensing. There is an intimate connection between thought and the motor centers. For instance, if you have the notion of grabbing an object, your hand automatically moves, or if you see a delicious fruit, your mouth starts salivating. These are both cases of our thoughts prompting our motor centers, producing physiological phenomena. In modern times, hypnotism and mentalism utilize these kinds of psychological functions to create incredible effects. Those with even some slight knowledge of psychology are able to discuss this.
The various postures in Taiji Boxing are quite unremarkable. When practicing, you must not use effort. (Those who have not previously practiced boxing arts usually put forth an effort that is sheer brute force, which in boxing arts is called “stiff energy”.) Not understanding the significance of this, beginners will often become easily exhausted, never realizing that it is a matter of taking advantage of psychological function. The first phrase of How to Practice, “use mind to move energy”, reveals the key secret.
Unfortunately, beginners tend to think the way of boxing arts is that unless the teacher is actively filling the student with techniques, it will be very difficult for the student to obtain the art. This is actually an enormous misunderstanding. They do not grasp that the responsibility the teacher bears is nothing more than being able to demonstrate the proper methods to the student. As to whether the art is obtained or not, this is up to the student’s approach to the methods the teacher has demonstrated and is dependent entirely on whether or not he is faithfully practicing. To “use mind to move energy” was originally one of the proper methods, but students usually pay no attention it, and so if they want to take some unremarkable postures and just copy them mechanically, and then expect to enter the ranks of master, they will be deservingly incapable of achieving any skill.
What then is the right way to study the art? The most common expression that applies to it is “take it for granted”. By this I mean that in every movement we should firmly believe the results will occur and then apply our imaginations to them [i.e. taking for granted actively rather than passively]. If you wish to move energy, then you should have the thought of moving energy. If you wish to sink heavily, then you should have the thought of sinking heavily. If you wish to sink energy, then you should have the thought of sinking energy to your elixir field. Strive in every technique to perform it as you imagine it should be done.
This kind of method will bring you to a breakthrough. It is extremely simple, but to get the desired results, you cannot just give it one nudge and expect the effect to carry over through several movements. “In every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention, for once you achieve that, it will all be effortless” (Thirteen Dynamics Song) expresses the idea. Therefore if you want to see results, you have to be the practicing type, and when practicing, not have to wonder what the results will be. You should constantly perform it the way you are thinking it, without the slightest discontinuity between thought and action.
Over the course of time, this will gradually go from deliberate to natural, and then the power of each thought will be able to control physiological function, and whatever is in your will to do, it will automatically come true. “By absorbing through experience and by constantly contemplating, gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want” (Classic) conforms to this idea. Be sure not to regard it as a bunch of empty words, for it is very important.
When I began practicing Taiji Boxing, I was deeply convinced of a strong relationship between this art and psychology. I last year gained a female student who after training for only a short while had produced extraordinary results. I at first thought this to be unique, but then I learned she had practiced mentalism, and this increased my feeling that my opinion was not unfounded. Unfortunately my own investigation into psychological studies has not yet been very thorough. Therefore I can here only express general ideas and I am not even sure of the validity of what I have been saying. I deeply hope that knowledgeable people throughout the nation will come forward and instruct me so that this art may increasingly show development, and not just for my own personal improvement.
CHAPTER FIVE: TAIJI BOXING IN RELATION TO THE STUDY OF PHYSIOLOGY
All boxing arts have postural standards, distinctions between what makes the posture good or bad that are related to human physiological functions. Taiji Boxing is always so posturally unremarkable that some suspect it may be of meager effectiveness, and they do not understand that the various aspects of posture all conform to physiological principles.
I am not clever, so please pick out what is relevant to you from the explanations that follow:
1. FORCELESSLY PRESSING UP YOUR HEADTOP
In the head lies the brain. The cerebral cortex has a great variety of nerve centers, divided into departments for directing all of the body’s organs. The importance of this need not even be stated. The head’s appearance is upright, as it is in every school of boxing arts. But the means of making it upright is never a matter of using effort to do so. If you use effort, the muscles will contract and your neck will stand stiff as a board. The bad habits this will create will not only obstruct smooth bloodflow and smooth breathing, but in the area where your cerebral cortex (where every nerve center is located) contacts your spinal cord you will also imperceptibly develop a hindering and harmful effect.
In Taiji Boxing, the posture as regards the head is called “forcelessly press up your headtop”, also called “headtop suspended”. To “press up your headtop” is like there is energy coursing through straight to your headtop. To do so “forcelessly” is the idea of using mere imagination (meaning not using effort) to guide it to your headtop. The meaning of “headtop suspended” is that your headtop seems to be suspended in midair, in other words that the appearance of your head has to be upright and that it also has to have the subtlety of being effortless and natural in order for it to be correct. “Your whole body will be aware and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended” (Thirteen Dynamics Song) and “if you can raise your spirit, then you will be without worry of being slow or weighed down” (How to Practice) are both statements that have to do with forcelessly pressing up your headtop, a principle that has to be understood, for it is the most important quality of the head’s posture.
There are also three related points that must be paid attention at the same time, explained below:
A. Do not glare.
When practicing Taiji Boxing, you should have a serene bearing, not a look akin to having a drawn sword or a loaded crossbow. “Spirit should be collected within” (Treatise) as well as “spirit comfortable, body calm” and “outwardly show ease” (How to Practice) each express this idea. Glaring with angry eyes will keep your eyes from following along with the movements of your intention, will cause your spirit to be outwardly revealed, and will produce the error of lifting up your energy. As for the physiological aspect, your eye muscles should not be overworked and should instead be used moderately and naturally. Glaring with angry eyes is contrary to this practice and should be avoided.
B. Your mouth should be closed, but do not gnash your teeth.
A person’s breathing, according to physiology, ought to be through the nose, resulting in the mouth being closed. This will cultivate a good habit. But closing your mouth tightly will violate the principle of naturalness and will cause your teeth to be worn down, a physiological hindrance that you must be mindful of.
C. Your tongue is to be touching your upper palate.
This will cause your salivary glands to constantly secrete saliva and moisten your throat. In the beginning of the training, once there is any movement, blood circulation will gradually quicken, which will easily dry out your throat, hindering your breath. This principle is therefore concerned with the regulating of the breath, and by practicing with it in mind, you will avoid such problems. It also can aid digestive function, and so it is worth giving attention.
2. CONTAINING YOUR CHEST & PLUCKING UP YOUR BACK
As for the physiological aspect of this, the extent of the body’s strength and the extent of the muscular movement’s power are always in direct proportion to each other. Calisthenics and martial arts can therefore make a person strong and healthy because they enhance muscular power. The muscles of the body divide into voluntary muscles and involuntary muscles. Voluntary muscles are moved consciously. Involuntary muscles move automatically and unconsciously. Therefore if you wish to enhance the strength of the involuntary muscles, but are not yet a practitioner of deep skill able to take advantage of psychological functions, merely a beginner, then you will only be successful if you concentrate on getting the posture right.
Regarding the torso section, the most important Taiji Boxing principle is “contain your chest and pluck up your back”. Containing your chest means getting your solar plexus to slightly cave in, which folds your diaphragm inward, causing your chest wall to press inward and naturally downward, thereby aiding the sinking of energy. Plucking up your back means getting your back to slightly resemble the curve of a bow, so that the vertebrae of your spine (here meaning the thoracic vertebrae, between the cervical vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae. This part of the back often curves forward due to the supporting of weight.) can be trained to curve back instead of curving forward, enabling all of your vertebrae to have movement forward and back. [What is being described is the two ends of the thoracic section, especially the lower end where it meets the lumbar section, curving forward to produce a lordosis swayback effect. The intention is not to counterbalance this by bulging the back into a kyphosis hunchback effect. Both such extremes are to be avoided. The meaning here is that the two ends of the thoracic section are to be drawn back and thus straighten the spine from pelvis to skull. This effect would perhaps be expressed less confusingly by instruction to simply tuck in the tailbone and draw back the chin rather than to “pluck up the back”.] Then imperceptibly your spine will be induced to return to the more straightened appearance it had when you were an infant.
The function of “pluck up the back” lies in the martial aspect of the art, for which it is extremely important. If your spine is sticking out forward, energy will get stuck in your chest and make you top-heavy and easily knocked down. Furthermore, if your spine is slightly curving forward, the power of your legs (As the Treatise says: “Starting from your foot, issue through your leg.” This means that the issuing of power begins in your legs.) traveling through the middle of your spine to go directly into your arms will not reach its destination smoothly, and this will be a particular hindrance to your issuing of energy. “Power comes from your spine” and “energy sticks to your spine” (How to Practice) both have to do with this kind of skill.
Although “contain your chest and pluck up your back” resembles the position of the spine in the “three folded” posture of seated meditation, Taiji is stillness within the context of movement whereas meditation is movement within the context of stillness. They are not done in entirely the same way. For the version of containing the chest and plucking up the back in Taiji Boxing, you must not commit the error of interpreting the principle as a frozen state of posture, but must instead allow it to adjust with the changes of the movements. You will then be able to directly enhance the strength of your intercostal muscles and diaphragm, and indirectly enhance the strength of your organs and involuntary muscles, thereby greatly improving the physiological functions of respiration, circulation, digestion, and excretion. The significance of this principle thus needs no more words.
There are also three related points important to pay attention to, explained briefly below:
A. Loosen your waist.
Loosening your waist is the opposite of hoisting up your waist, which would cause the problem of lifting up your energy and should thus be avoided. Loosening your waist will cause energy to sink down and can increase the strength of your legs and stability of your stance. If you have not achieved efficient switching of emptiness and fullness between your upper and lower limbs, the remedy for this depends entirely on the appropriate turning of your waist. Loosening your waist will stretch out the muscles, which can make your waist feel more nimble and turn more easily, and this will have a significant effect upon your fighting ability.
As for the physiological aspect, loosening your waist can increase the capacity of your abdominal breathing, what boxing experts call the “sinking energy skill”. Furthermore, when your waist is often given proper exercise, it will have a good influence on your kidneys and intestines. “The problem must be in your waist and legs, so look for it there” (Treatise) as well as “their command coming from your lower back” and “if there is complete relaxation within your belly, energy is primed” (Thirteen Dynamics Song) are all statements pointing to loosening your waist. This principle has to be understood.
B. Center your tailbone.
Your tailbone is the bone at the bottom of your sacrum, at the very end of your spine. If this area is not centered, the straightness of your spinal column will be the first thing to be affected, which will then make it difficult for energy to be transmitted upward. “Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop” (Thirteen Dynamics Song) is exactly this idea. When a beginner puts his weight onto one leg (While practicing Taiji Boxing, the legs will have to constantly switch roles of empty and full, an important basic principle.), he typically moves his body sideways more than is necessary, which easily causes his skeleton to slip into an unnatural position, a great physiological hindrance. And so you should give extra attention to the principle of centering your tailbone.
C. Hang your buttocks down.
When squatting your body, your buttocks should be hanging down for the posture to be correct. When beginners even slightly squat, they instead end up sticking their butts out, causing unnatural pressure between the vertebrae, which at the very least would hinder the loosening of the waist and the plucking up of the back. Attention should therefore be given to this point.
3. SINKING YOUR SHOULDERS & DROPPING YOUR ELBOWS
The movement of the limbs follows the movement of the intention, and so whether the movement is done right or wrong derives from how refined or crude the intention is. However, bad habits can cause the mind to lose its effectiveness. In the beginning of the training, although the movement follows the intention, it will not work unless you have corresponding attention.
Regarding the upper body, the most important Taiji Boxing principle is “sink your shoulders and drop your elbows”.
Sunk shoulders are the opposite of “shivering shoulders”, as when a person lifts his shoulders up out of fear of the cold. This kind of posture will at the very least hinder the ability of the “shoulder belt” (meaning the muscles connecting the shoulder bone and collar bone) to flatten out and will have a bad influence on the rib cage that would be in opposition to its physiological function. The effect of sinking the shoulders is to cause them to loosen and hang down, aiding in the sinking of energy, and also to keep the arms from becoming weary when issuing. Lifting your shoulders is contrary to what will be effective, and so boxing experts tend to warn against it.
Dropping your elbows is related to sinking your shoulders. If your elbows come up like wings, not only will this ruin the sinking of your shoulders, it will also keep you from closely guarding your ribs, and so it must also be understood.
There are additionally a couple of related features of the hands, which are explained below:
A. Extend your fingers.
The idea here is that your fingers must be extending rather than curling into fists, but they should also not be stiffly straight. Likewise when making a fist, it should be loose rather than tight, conforming to the naturalness of your whole body. You need to understand that the posture of your fingers during practice should be regarded as guiding your body’s movements and should never just have an appearance of attacking opponents. “Expressing it at your fingers” (Treatise) is exactly this idea.
B. Stick out your palms.
This describes the palm in the position of a forward push, in which you must give the palm an intention of slightly protruding in order to aid the drawing in and extending of internal power. As for the physiological effect, this stretches out the tendons of the arm and wrist, and thus must not be overlooked. However, you also must not make the mistake of issuing with too much exertion, which will cause stiffness and brittleness. With stiffness, the energy will be sluggish. With brittleness, the energy will be interrupted. Neither of these conform to Taiji Boxing’s way of moving energy and so you will have to be mindful of them.
4. THE THREE-LINE STANCE
Taiji Boxing’s stance is called the “three-line stance”. Your feet stand with one in front, the other behind, the toes of both feet pointing forward. The feet are placed at two points [with an imaginary third line running between them],
They are on a diagonal to the front and back, separated to the left and right. The standard of distance between your feet depends on your own body’s height. You must not squat down too far, for excessive effort is not physiologically sound, and it would also lead to quickening of the breath. As it would be a huge obstruction to the sinking of energy and the regulating of breath, going overly low must be paid attention to.
There is a fixed pattern to the emptiness and fullness of the feet, which is explained generally below:
A. The empty foot:
The feet are constantly switching the roles of empty and full, causing your body’s weight to be supported by each leg in turn, which can regulate fatigue as well as give equal exercise to the joints. These are the physiological advantages of Taiji Boxing’s three-line stance.
The most important feature of the empty foot is that it is able to rise and lower in accordance with the intention. Whether the leg is straight or bent is not so strict as with external boxing arts, nor the distinction of touching down with the toes or heel, which instead conforms to whatever is more natural, neither being frowned upon. “From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process” as well as other phrases (Treatise) are generally indicating both of the legs, yet you must never overlook the empty one.
B. The Full Foot:
The full foot is the opposite of the empty foot. The most important feature of it is that the leg is bent and must not be straight. If straight, then the weight of your body will be braced by your skeleton in a posture that will not only be unstable, but will make moving into other postures awkward and harmful. Furthermore, the leg’s muscles will receive a workout so diminished as to be physiologically inappropriate.
The various points above have to do only with major elements that are described briefly and generally, and so gaps of information are unavoidable. This chapter not being an exhaustive study means the style of writing in it is very easygoing. In chapters Seven and Eight, I have placed related sections that analyze some of these things further. Pardon me for not placing that material within this chapter.
CHAPTER SIX: TAIJI BOXING IN RELATION TO THE STUDY OF MECHANICS
From a martial aspect, mechanics [the Chinese term more literally meaning “the science of forces”] and boxing arts are intimately related. Taiji Boxing always uses a small force to defeat a large one, and so it especially conforms to the principles of mechanics. The important points of this are analyzed below:
1. CONFORMING TO NEWTON’S LAWS OF MOTION
“When issuing power, you must sink and relax, concentrating it in one direction” and “issue power like loosing an arrow” (How to Practice) both describe the force with which you are attacking an opponent. The intention should be like an arrow going straight to a target, then the method will be correct. If you act with strength or urgency, you will inevitably “miss by an inch, lose by a mile” [as mentioned in the Classic]. It is necessary to understand the inherent nature of force, that if it does not receive an outside force, it will not change direction, what Newton’s first law of motion means by “the path of motion will be straight”. [As a small point of interest: though the transliterating of Newton’s name has by now become standardized in Chinese as 牛頓 “Niudun”, Xu in 1927 renders it as 奈端 “Naiduan”.]
In the practice of external boxing arts, issuing energy can cause the opponent to be injured, yet will not necessarily topple him with ease. This is always because the force issued is intended for injuring him, and will therefore finish upon reaching his body. Moreover, it would perhaps as a result become controlled by the opponent, who would usually then return a strike, and this is due to your forward force being already prevented from reaching his body [i.e. deflected away in the direction of his blocking] (as in the case of Newton’s second law of motion). But if your issued force did reach his body, there would then be an opposing force (as in the case of Newton’s third law of motion), consequently dispelling the forward quality of your force.
When Taiji Boxing issues energy, it can throw an opponent more than thirty feet away. Although this is the skill of riding along with the opponent’s own momentum [during a moment in which his forward energy has reversed] to attack him with it, it also comes from your own issuing of energy and can thus comply with the nature of force to continue forward in a straight line [since your issued energy is added to (producing acceleration) and in the same direction as his retreating momentum] instead of the situation of ceasing upon reaching the opponent’s body.
Included here for reference are Newton’s laws of motion:
Newton’s First Law of Motion:
[Since Newton originally wrote these laws in Latin (published 1687), it is appropriate for the Latin text to be included: “Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare.” (The 1729 translation by Andrew Motte is probably the closest to the Latin original: “Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impress’d thereon.”)]
It is always the case that unless influenced by an outside force, an object at rest will not move by itself and an object in motion will not come to rest by itself. The path of motion will be straight and the speed will be consistent.
Newton’s Second Law of Motion:
[Newton: “Mutationem motus proportionalem esse vi motrici impressae, et fieri secundum lineam rectam qua vis illa imprimitur.” (Motte: “The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impress’d; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impress’d.”)]
Changes of motion that contrast the main force with an outside force will change the straight line of the motion toward the same direction as that of the outside force. Put another way [now drawing from Newton’s elaborating upon the second law: “Si vis aliqua motum quemvis generet, dupla duplum, tripla triplum generabit, sive simul et semel, sive gradatim et successive impressa suerit.” (Motte: “If any force generates a motion, a double force will generate double the motion, a triple force triple the motion, whether that force be impress’d altogether and at once, or gradually and successively.”)], whenever an outside force is added to an object, one degree of force will have the effect of one degree of force, whereas many degrees of force will have the effect of many degrees of forces.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion:
[Newton: “Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.” (Motte: “To every Action there is always opposed an equal Reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.”)]
When a main force and an opposing force are equal, then the motion of an object will be entirely reversed.
2. CONFORMING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF NET FORCE
When using Taiji Boxing to deal with an opponent, it is crucial to avoid going against the direction of his issued energy and resisting it. You should instead yield to the direction of his energy, drawing in his force to land on nothing and thereby causing him to fall into a dangerous position. It will then be the correct method, and the force in this kind of method is called neutralizing energy. It conforms to the principle of net force, demonstrated in figures 1-3 below.
The three lines of A1→B1, A2→B2, and A3→B3 all show the extent of the opponent’s force and its direction. The line of B1→C1 demonstrates the typical boxing technique of deflecting aside the opponent’s energy by imposing an outside force upon it, and the extent and direction of this force. Lines B2→C2 and B3→C3 demonstrate Taiji Boxing’s neutralizing energy, and the extent and direction of this force. The three lines of A1→C1, A2→C2, and A3→C3 show the outside force (the three forces of B1→C1, B2→C2, or B3→C3) added to the opponent’s force (the three forces of A1→B1, A2→B2, or A3→B3), producing the extent and direction of the net force. The scenarios in these three figures are compared below:
i. Comparison of figures 1 and 2:
A1→B1 = A2→B2
B1→C1 = B2→C2
A2→C2 – A1→C1 = D2→C2
Therefore: A2→C2 > A1→C1
ii. Comparison of figures 1 and 3:
A1→B1 = A3→B3
A1→C1 = A3→C3
B1→C1 – B3→C3 = D1→C1
Therefore: B3→C3 < D[B]1→C1
Explanation i shows that the force of A2→C2 is greater than A1→C1. This proves that Taiji Boxing’s neutralizing energy can use equal force and yet achieve a greater result (and thereby causing the opponent’s force to land on nothing and getting him to fall into an even more dangerous position). Explanation ii shows that the force of B3→C3 is less than B1→C1. This proves that Taiji Boxing’s neutralizing energy can use less force and yet achieve an equal result. These results are clear from the diagrams and need no further explanation.
3. CONFORMING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF OPPOSITE FORCE
When attacking an opponent with Taiji Boxing you can utilize opposing force, especially in relation to net force. If object A adds force to object B, then object B also adds force to object A, the two forces being always equivalent, as per Newton’s third law, a simple matter of fact. If you push on a wall, the wall is putting the same amount of force into your hands. Or if you pull an object at the nd of a rope, the object is at the same time pulling on you. Or when a ball is shot from a cannon, there is sure to be a recoil that rolls that cannon backward. All of these examples are sufficient to prove the principle of opposite forces. When an object receives force that moves it from its original position, there is then a greater-than or less-than between the two forces. It is certain that one force is larger than the other, consequently producing a net force. In accordance with the principles of mechanics, let us place two forces along a straight line and calculate the net force. If they go in the same direction, they are to be added together. If they go in different directions, one is to be subtracted from the other. See figures 4 and 5 below.
In figure 4 above, A→B shows the extent of the initial force, amounting to two notches along the calculating bar. A→C shows the extent of the second force, bringing it up to four notches. As the two forces are in the same direction, A→D thus shows the net force of both added together: six notches. Taking advantage of a momentum to attack an opponent is something that in every school of boxing arts is to be valued, as proven in figure 4. But it therefore has no bearing on the subject at hand, being insufficient to show the unique qualities of Taiji Boxing.
In figure 5 above, A→B shows the main force, amounting to four notches along the calculating bar. A→C shows the resisting force, amounting to two notches. As the two forces are in opposite directions, A→D thus shows the net force of both when the smaller amount is subtracted from the larger: two notches. Practitioners of external arts use a huge force to strike opponents, and so they always and unavoidably receive the impact of an opposite force, which is not an economical way to fight, as proven in figure 5.
In Taiji Boxing, when attacking an opponent, the effect of your first force is not intended to immediately defeat him, but to first of all search for and know his opposing force or how much resistance he will add to your force. Once you know the degree of this, you can put out a second force to shift the direction of his opposing force or resistance, causing him to fall into an unstable position. You may then put out a third force to attack him, and thus he will always and easily fall away.
Therefore Taiji Boxing’s first force is always an empty technique, the second force is the neutralizing energy, and the third force is the beginning of the issuing energy. However, if the second force fails to shift the direction of the opponent’s force, then the third force should still be used to neutralize, and the push will happen with the fourth or fifth force. It should always be done like this, and then it will conform to the Taiji Boxing intention of “first neutralize, then attack”. The relationship between neutralizing and opposite force is shown in figures 6 and 7 below.
In figure 6 above, A→B and C→B are equal forces in opposite directions. This demonstrates the situation of a main force and a resisting force being equivalent to each other. Point 1 is where the two forces counterbalance. The net force is zero. Therefore at this moment, Taiji Boxing can use the force of B→D (i.e. neutralize), causing the opponent’s opposing force to veer off from the direction of C→B to the direction of C→D, making his body go from a posture of standing erect to one of backing off, and he will be noticeably unstable. The lifting in the Classic’s “like when you reach down to lift up an object” is exactly this idea.
In figure 7 above, E→C demonstrates the opponent adding resistance. The net force of E→C and C→B compared to the force of A→B (a single force), is greater. Therefore Taiji Boxing does not resist against it, but instead uses the force of B→D (neutralizing), taking advantage of the momentum and shifting the direction of it, causing the direction of E→B to veer off to the direction of E→D, which also increases the extent of his forward inclination, making his body go from a posture of standing erect to one of leaning forward, the danger of which goes without saying. Taiji Boxing can use a small force to defeat a large force. This is one of the explanations why, and you have to understand it.
4. CONFORMING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUAL FORCE
When two forces of equal size move along parallel lines but in different directions, there is a net force of zero, and they are thus called equal forces. See figure 8:
Equal forces cause objects to rotate. Therefore in Taiji Boxing, whenever an opponent uses his right hand to attack my left side, or uses his left hand to attack my right side, I turn my body sideways to evade it while at the same time using my right hand to issue energy to his left side, or using my left hand to issue energy to his right side. The force does not need to be great, and yet it can make him spin away. In figure 8 above, A and B represent the opponent’s shoulders, while 1 and 2 represent opposite directions of force. The result is that his shoulders are moved from their original position. Once he feels unstable, he will immediately withdraw his issued energy, and this will be more than enough to make him retreat from the energy he is attacked by. This changes the situation from one of equal forces to one of net force, as in figure 9:
In figure 9 above [with A and B still representing his shoulders], 1 is the opponent’s initial force, which I have already received and dispelled, 2 is the direction in which my energy issues, which goes straight forward, 3 is his second energy reversing from his first, also straight ahead, and 4 is the net force of 2 and 3. This demonstrates that my small amount of force (2) has the effect of harvesting a great amount.
5. CONFORMING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF CENTER OF GRAVITY
Every object has a center of gravity, sometimes inside an object, sometimes outside an object, depending on variations of structure. It may be in a position of stability, instability, or neutrality (meaning neither stable nor unstable). These three distinctions are shown in figures 10a-10c below.
Cone A above demonstrates stability. This is because the vertical line of the center of gravity will not easily shift beyond the base.
Cone B above demonstrates instability. This is because if the vertical line of the center of gravity shifts at all, it will go beyond the base.
Cone C above demonstrates neutrality. This is because however the vertical line of the center of gravity shifts, it will still remain within the base once the object is at rest.
Therefore if you wish to maintain the stability of an object, you must either broaden its base or lower its center of gravity, and then you will have achieved the principle of unchanging stability.
A person’s center of gravity lies in the lower abdomen. Without utilizing some object or outside force, one would certainly be without the ability to lower extremely or externally. For instance, a tightrope walker always relies on a long pole (i.e. the weight at both of its ends) for assistance, which is exactly this principle. If you have not trained at sinking energy, your energy will often float up, and your center of gravity will follow it by rising upward. If force is then added to your upper body, you will become even more top-heavy, the vertical line of your center of gravity will be very easy to shift beyond your base (as in the case of cone B), and you would always be in danger of leaning.
However, while the skill of sinking energy can cause your center of gravity to lower so that your body can obtain a more stable posture, the base that your feet occupy will be either wide to the front and back while narrow to the left and right or will be wide to the left and right while narrow to the front and back. If you are attacked at the narrow section, then the vertical line of your center of gravity will again easily go beyond your base. It is clear from this that matters of fighting only depend on the center of gravity lowering and not on methods of total stabilization.
When Taiji Boxing responds to opponents, one aspect of it is to make use of the opponent’s opposing force to sway his center of gravity and put him in an urgent situation. (The effectiveness of neutralizing lies in this scenario, as explained earlier.) Another aspect of it has to do with your own center of gravity, whereby you will frequently use methods of adjustment to stabilize yourself rather than trying to stubbornly sink your energy, this being the only reasonable course to take.
You need to understand that the situation in Taiji Boxing is to shift the weight of your body onto one foot. This is a key principle. It means that the vertical line of your center of gravity is over only one foot, and thus obviously your base involves only one foot. Compared to a base involving both feet, this is actually even narrower, as well as harder to conceal. Commonsense dictates that this kind of condition would work against you and put you more often at risk of leaning. Nevertheless, you are able with Taiji Boxing to keep from losing stability, and the reason for this, put succinctly, is that the feet have the ability to alternate between states of empty and full.
Alternating means that when one foot is unstable, the weight is immediately switched over to the other foot, causing a return from instability to stability. In other words, the position of your base is constantly adapting to the changes of your center of gravity, so that the vertical line of your center of gravity can be at another position inside your base once you are settled (as in the case of cone C) and is not limited only to the original placement. The example above of walking a tightrope can also be achieved without need of a long pole. This at first would never seem to be the case, but actually once this kind of skill becomes perfected, the result will be the same [due to subtly alternating states of empty and full throughout the rest of the body]. All of these things deeply conform to the principles of mechanics and are not the slightest bit mystical.
The various examples above are for those interested in fighting, but they will not be easily grasped without a more comprehensive study. As this book has limited space, I can only give a general idea and I must deeply apologize for its sketchiness. If there are parts that are difficult for you to understand, you can review them with a partner and work together according to the diagrams, and then it should make perfect sense. Or you can use your imagination until you get it.
CHAPTER SEVEN: TAIJI BOXING’S PRACTICE METHODS
It was mentioned earlier [in Chapter Three] that every kind of boxing art has its own special characteristics. They each therefore will of course have different training methods. If you do not obtain the methods of your art, it will require twice the effort to get half the result, which I can attest to from experience. Where Taiji Boxing’s training methods have to do with psychology and physiology, these aspects were already touched upon in chapters Four and Five, and since they can be easily referred to, the content of those chapters will not be repeated here. This chapter merely describes various related points that ought to be given attention, as well as filling in for some of the gaps in those chapters.
Taiji Boxing’s practice methods divide into solo practice methods and partner practice methods, and the general ideas for each are described below:
1. SOLO PRACTICE METHODS
Solo practice means going through the solo set. The Taiji Boxing solo set from beginning to end has more than seventy postures, but half of them are repeats, and so it has only a little over thirty distinct postures. In the beginning of the training, if you select and learn one of these thirty plus postures each day, you will have them all in about a month. Spend the next month linking them up into their original sequence and practicing them in order. By the end of that month, you should definitely be able to make the postures look skillful. Over the course of a third month, you should know something of the methods of moving by way of intention and can get your internal spirit and external posture to gradually unite. You will then have made the first step in learning the fundamentals.
After this, if you have no interest in training in pushing hands, you can practice with the goal of self-cultivation. But while you will be learning some things and ignoring others, you should still frequently seek explanation from instructors and older students in order to avoid going astray, and then you will at least know that aspect of the art.
As for the practice method, although the first posture is merely a posture of preparation, it nevertheless must not be neglected. When standing in it, you must focus your attention, ridding yourself of distracting thoughts, and wait until you feel your mind has achieved a state of calm, then you may begin moving into the second posture, at which time you are going from stillness to movement. Then every movement from that point on is entirely controlled by intention rather than rash effort – this is the most important principle. “In all of these cases, the problem is a matter of your intent” (Treatise) as well as “in every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention” and “mind is sovereign and body is subject” (Thirteen Dynamics Song) and also “use mind to move the energy” and “first in the mind, then in the body” (How to Practice) all clearly express this concept. It is not a difficult concept to explain, but beginners will often understand the idea in their minds yet have no way of realizing it in their practice. This is a commonly unavoidable flaw, and the reason for this is not because they are unable to use intention, but that they are not aware of the stages of progress toward using intention, nor the methods. The three stages are explained below:
A. AWARENESS & ALERTNESS
Since the first sentence of the Treatise mentions “aware and alert”, awareness and alertness can be considered the first stage of skill. The most important thing in seeking awareness and alertness is slowness. If you go through the techniques quickly, you will easily end up floating through them, something you must be wary of.
For example, if you raise a hand, when taking it from its lowest point to its highest point, by no means simply lift it into place. If you do that, the effectiveness of your consciousness will only go as far as distinguishing movement and stillness. But throughout the grey area between movement and stillness, you will then be unable to have a constantly involved consciousness, and you will encourage your movements to become all about merely getting to the next movement. In other words, if your consciousness is ignoring the transition from one movement to another, you will not be able to transition from the original movement into the next movement and have it be driven by consciousness.
Therefore when your mind wants to raise your hand, the hand only needs to be moved very slightly, and then each increment of the raising beyond that will not progress any further unless the movement is continued consciously. This can then be called authentic awareness. To raise the hand to its highest point, it has to go through countless increments of deliberate raising, constantly having the subtlety of following your intention. And this can then be called authentic alertness. “Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk” (How to Practice) points to this concept.
There is connection throughout a posture and connection from one posture to another. Connection within the postures can be divided into these two types:
i. Upper body and lower are to coordinate with each other.
This has to do with the outward appearance of the movements. When your hands move, your waist, legs, and feet should be moving along with them. One part should never be guiding other parts. And although your eyes need not be moving excessively, they have to constantly be involved. “Starting from your foot, …” (Treatise) and “if one part moves, every part moves” (How to Practice) both point to this idea.
ii. Inside and out are to join with each other.
This has to do with the work of regulating the breath. One’s breathing is very related to one’s movement. Actions of opening and closing have to be closely linked to inhaling and exhaling in order to be correct. What is called breathing does not only have to do with the lungs, but also has to include the abdomen in order to then have the best effect. Rousing the energy in the elixir field is the trick to cultivating spirit. Furthermore, the shifting of weight is also closely connected to the breath, something that surely is especially understood by martial arts experts. “Energy should be roused” (Treatise) and “use energy to move your body” (How to Practice) both point to this principle.
Complex connectedness occurs when changing from one posture to another. The transitional movements must flow through and cannot come to a halt. This will ensure that the gap between postures will be the string in a string of pearls, and it will then be correct. In Taiji Boxing, every movement is rounded, and it is from this roundness that you will obtain this flow. But unless you have a foundation of connectedness within single postures, it will certainly be difficult to transition as roundly as you would wish.
I hope you will not skip steps to try and get ahead. It is crucial to go through these stages in order. This is the second stage of skill.
C. EMPTINESS & STILLNESS
This is the third stage of skill, when Taiji Boxing is at its most profound level. If you have no foundation at all, it will be too difficult to understand. In the two stages described above, the stage of awareness and alertness, then the stage of connectedness, both can still use techniques that have shape, but this level is purely a matter of the skill of “using intention rather than exertion” and is to be found within shapelessness.
Emptiness and stillness means that you are to be seeking emptiness within fullness and seeking stillness within movement.
In the beginning of the training, every movement should be controlled by the use of intention, and that level of practice is a matter of fullness. Now as you come into this level, the element of shape will disappear, hence “seeking emptiness within fullness”.
In the opening posture of the solo set, you go from stillness to movement. In the closing posture, you go from movement to stillness. But at this level, there should within every posture always be a feeling of going from movement to stillness. Seek in every movement to have the notion that movement is stillness and stillness is movement, hence “seeking stillness within movement”.
This kind of practice method is most related to psychological function, as presented in Chapter Four for your reference.
2. PARTNER PRACTICE METHODS
The partner practice methods are the pushing hands methods, also called “playing hands”. The Playing Hands Song, included below in Chapter Nine, encapsulates the special instructions which should be known when engaging in pushing hands. Pushing hands is a method of training for fighting, but one who has built a foundation through practicing the solo set will succeed even better at doing pushing hands. Taiji Boxing’s fighting skill furthermore takes the wielding of intention to be the major principle.
Pushing hands has eight basic techniques, which in the terminology of the art are called ward-off, rollback, press, push, pluck, rend, elbow, and bump. (Ward-off is mainly an upward carrying. Push is mainly a downward pressure. Rollback is mainly a retreating neutralization. Press is mainly an advancing stickiness. Pluck is mainly an opportunistic seizing. Rend is mainly a diagonal pushing. Elbowing and bumping are for when the hand techniques are insufficient. These are just the general ideas for these techniques. See the photos included at the beginning of the book.)
When Taiji Boxing is used to deal with an opponent, the greatest of its wonders lies in defeating him by way of emptiness and stillness, meaning that Taiji Boxing’s method is actually a matter of being without method at all. The eight techniques are just explanations for beginners. Once you have learned the eight techniques, be sure not to then claim you are “identifying energies”. If you do not understand this, you will seem to be undiscerning. This is but a process leading toward the training of identifying energies. Selected essentials of this process are presented below:
A. Do not crash in.
Not crashing in means not even slightly resisting. Regardless of whether the opponent’s force is large or small, it should always be yielded to and neutralized. Beginners will only yield to a large force because there is still some resistance in their minds. If this error is not eliminated, it will be difficult to train one’s sensitivity to a high level. “A feather cannot be added” (Classic) indicates a keen sensitivity, and this is always achieved from a habit of not crashing in.
Training this principle primarily lies in using your waist. When your waist is not enough, you can compensate by stepping. But if you are overly willing to step, the effectiveness of your waist will instead become reduced, which in turn will have a large and unfortunate impact on the movement of your whole body.
B. Do not come away.
Not coming away means not disconnecting. Taiji Boxing’s sticking and yielding (not crashing in being the same as yielding) are equally important. If you disconnect when you yield, not only will you have no way of sensing the opponent’s energy, you will also be unable to make use of sticking, the effect of “my energy is smooth while his energy is coarse” [Classic]. The method of not coming away is not really concentrated in the use of your hands. You must use your whole body, any part being able to stick to the opponent’s energy, for it to then be correct. When practicing, you must pay attention to this principle.
C. Strive at first to open up.
It is said that in the beginning of practicing the postures, you should start with the lesser skill of making the movements long and large, stretching the limits of “neither coming away nor crashing in”. You must wait for your skill to gradually deepen, then you can “strive to close up.” The solo set should be done in this way, training to go by way of the large to attain the small, for although small, it would actually be large, much like the substance of a crystal [i.e. consistent precision of microscopic structure amounting to greater overall strength of macroscopic structure].
D. Do not be the first to express power.
It is said that the first to move will be in the stronger position and that speed will then bring victory. Taiji Boxing reverses this concept: it is the one who responds to action that will be in charge of the situation. Therefore wait for the opponent’s energy and take advantage of it. This is the skill of awaiting movement with stillness.
Beginners often feel unaccustomed to this. They get impatient and find it hard not to take the initiative themselves, and they do not consider how risky such a method of practice is. It is necessary to be devoted to the principle of neither coming away nor crashing in. By neither coming away nor crashing in, I can then know all of the opponent’s weak spots. But even though I know them, I do not need to attack them. If his actions do not give me reason to attack them, I am not being skillful if I do.
After practicing in this way over a long period, it will naturally become a habit. The way of applying power is explained by “the power seems to be relaxed but not relaxed, about to express but not yet expressing” (Playing Hands Song). With this concept, you will then be able to apply power without falling into confusion and can attack the opponent in whatever way you wish without ever making a mistake. The usefulness of it is quite beyond the descriptive capacity of words.
E. Know how to adapt.
This has to do with the pushing hands training. Begin by practicing the push technique until you are skillful at it, but then you must not become stubborn about the way it is to be performed. Practice being pushed as much as pushing, and then you will eventually have the complete skill. When moving energy, it should “suddenly hide and suddenly appear” [Classic], and the maneuverings of your hands should be sometimes empty, sometimes full. When practicing the pushing hands skill, you have to understand how to adapt. You can also pay attention to this idea while going through the solo set, but it is not required.
F. “Power finishes, but the intent of it continues.”
In Taiji Boxing, the use of intention rather than exertion is a main principle, as already described above. These words [from the Playing Hands Song] depict a moment when the opponent’s energy is not easy to stick to and follow, and instructs that you must not discontinue your own energy just because of it, nor entirely disconnect from him. You must secretly connect to him by way of intention, thus “disconnect but stay connected” [How to Practice].
This kind of skill can be described as “neither coming away nor crashing in” invisibly. It is also the skill of “merging energy” within the sword method. Practicing this principle entirely lies with using imagination, then after a long time you will naturally grasp it, the work being the same process as for the skill of emptiness and stillness.
The various practice methods above have to do with the physiological aspect. For example, awareness and alertness can prevent harm to your muscles and bones. Connectedness will maintain a more balanced development. Emptiness and stillness will have the subtle effect of cultivating your spirit, and will enhance the flow of energy and blood. Enlarging your movements will have the effect of improving your flexibility. By neither coming away nor crashing in, this will help keep your skin from being injured. Such things that were not mentioned in Chapter Five have been specially included in this chapter to supplement your studies.
CHAPTER EIGHT: FURTHER THOUGHTS
 Someone asked me: “Why the ‘Taiji’ in Taiji Boxing?”
I said: “A ‘taiji’ [‘grand pivot’] is the condition before dividing into the dual polarities of passive and active. When there is movement, it splits into passive and active. When there is stillness, they merge to become a taiji again. In terms of Taiji Boxing’s cultivation aspect, you must train to go from movement toward stillness. This is like passive and active merging to become a taiji. In terms of its defense aspect, its alternations between emptiness and fullness are concealed inwardly rather than revealed outwardly. This is like the taiji not yet splitting into passive and active. And hence the name Taiji.”
 Someone asked me: “If you practice Taiji Boxing when you’re tired, you not only cease to be tired, but you forget you even were tired. Why is this so?”
I said: “Usually when a person is tired, it is because there is fatigue in the body which is kept in rather than dispelled. Rest has the effect of dispelling fatigue, as of course everyone knows. When practicing Taiji Boxing, you do not need to exert yourself, and so it does not add to your fatigue. Furthermore, its method of self-cultivation in fact does the reverse: it emphasizes energizing, relaxation, and quietude. Truly it has the same function as rest, in that the result is the forgetting of your weariness, and this is the reason why.” [Since Taiji apparently has the same effect as rest, it is therefore an EXERCISE that doubles as REST, an excellent example of the passive and active aspects in harmony.]
 Someone asked me: “It’s said that one who has profound skill can, while practicing Taiji Boxing in the summer heat, pleasantly cool his body down. What’s the theory behind this?”
I said: “This has to do with the energy and body being relaxed and calm. The skin, blood vessels, and muscles of your whole body will thus be extremely comfortable, which will cause your sweat glands to secrete, thereby increasing a sense of smooth well-being. This regulating function is the body’s most efficient way of lowering temperature. The internal actions of respiration and circulation can also have the effect of rousing your elixir field in order to increase your ability to then evaporate the sweat away, which really is the proper physiological phenomenon. [In other words, relaxed calmness will get you to sweat just enough to cool you down and keep you from sweating so much that you become uncomfortably soaked.] Therefore there is a pleasantly cool feeling all over the body.”
 Someone asked me: “Taiji Boxing emphasizes using consciousness. So why is it that when one has deep skill, the opponent is often already falling away and one does not know why?”
I said: “This is a function of the nervous system’s reflex centers. For instance, scratching an itch while asleep, or closing one’s eyes when seeing a flash of light, or the way skin and blood vessels contract when encountering cold temperatures – these are all examples of reflex actions. When your sensory nerves receive stimulation, the information does not immediately go to your cerebral cortex and is instead shunted to your reflex centers, which send commands to the motor neurons, generating reflex action. As the saying goes, ‘skill comes from practice’, and this is the reason why.”
 Someone asked me: “Taiji Boxing emphasizes softness, so why does Understanding How to Practice contain the phrase ‘wield power like tempered steel’?”
I said: “Tempering steel makes it soft in that it gives it a springy quality. If it was made hard, then it would break. How to Practice also contains the phrase ‘extreme softness begets extreme hardness’. This implies the message of being soft yet having that springy quality, and can be considered a piece of supporting evidence for this.”
 Someone asked me: “Boxing arts can be reduced from a detailed knowledge down to five terms: ‘focused, sticky, expedient, potent, precise’. [See Boxing Methods of the Internal School in Chapter Nine.] Does Taiji Boxing also have a secret?”
I said: “The secret of Taiji Boxing lies in that word ‘precise’, and that word has two key aspects: timing and target. When you cannot catch the timing, do not attack. When you cannot reach the target, also do not attack. Once timing and target are combined into one, you can begin to say it is right. If so, those other four terms are then fulfilled as well. Therefore I say the secret of Taiji Boxing lies entirely in the word ‘precise’.”
 Someone asked me: “Sitting meditation emphasizes sinking your energy. If you’re not careful when practicing, it’s easy to give yourself a hernia. Taiji Boxing also emphasizes sinking your energy, so shouldn’t you worry about hurting yourself?”
I said: “Sinking your energy should be done very gently – then it is right. If it is too forceful, it is inappropriate. Taiji Boxing always emphasizes what is appropriate and natural. The Treatise says that the “energy should be roused”, but this does not permit the forceful pressing of the elixir field. If you can maintain this intention, how could you hurt yourself?”
 Someone asked me: “The movements in Taiji Boxing are all circular. When encountering an opponent, if you emphasize a circular motion when issuing power, wouldn’t it be slower than a straight motion?”
I said: “Circular movements always apply to neutralizing, not issuing. Taiji Boxing emphasizes not being the first to issue power. When the opponent attacks, first neutralize it, wait for him to be off balance, then attack by issuing power. In Understanding How to Practice, it says: ‘When issuing power, you must sink and relax, concentrating it in one direction.’ You can see from this that issuing power actually cannot be done with a circular motion.”
 Someone asked me about the meaning of neutralizing energy.
I said: “Not crashing in – that’s yielding. Not running away – that’s sticking. Yielding and sticking combined – that’s neutralizing. Yielding emphasizes retreat and is passive. Sticking emphasizes advance and is active. In the Classic, it says: ‘The passive and active exchange roles. Once you have this understanding, you will be identifying energies.’ These words depict neutralizing.”
 Someone asked me: “How do you know whether or not the opponent is off balance?”
I said: “Whether you are receiving an attack or giving one, if there is no reversal of force to stop him from leaning, then the vertical line of his center of gravity must go beyond his base of stability, and so the outcome will be inevitable. Taiji Boxing’s use of yielding energy means not giving him the slightest bit with which to reverse his force, thus causing him to go off balance, and then using sticking energy means to prevent his instability from returning to stability. Once you understand this, you will know whether or not the opponent is off balance. There, isn’t that clear?”
CHAPTER NINE: APPENDICES
1. THE TAIJI BOXING TREATISE
Once there is any movement, your entire body must be aware and alert. There especially needs to be connection from movement to movement. Energy should be roused and spirit should be collected within. Do not allow there to be cracks or gaps anywhere, pits or protrusions anywhere, breaks in the flow anywhere. Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a fully continuous process, and whether advancing or retreating, you will then catch the opportunity and gain the upper hand. If not and your body easily falls into disorder, the problem must be in your waist and legs, so look for it there. This is always so, regardless of the direction of the movement, be it up, down, forward, back, left, right. And in all of these cases, the problem is a matter of your intent and does not lie outside of you.
With an upward comes a downward, with a forward comes a backward, and with a left comes a right. If your intention wants to go upward, then harbor a downward intention, like when you reach down to lift up an object. You thereby add a setback to the opponent’s own intention, thus he cuts his own root and is defeated quickly and certainly. Empty and full must be distinguished clearly. In each part there is a part that is empty and a part that is full. Everywhere it is always like this, an emptiness and a fullness. Throughout your body, as the movement goes from one section to another there has to be connection. Do not allow the slightest break in the connection.
Long Boxing: it is like a long river flowing into the wide ocean, on and on ceaselessly…
The thirteen dynamics are: warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping – which relate to the eight trigrams:
and advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center – which relate to metal, wood, water, fire, and earth: the five elements. These combined [8+5] are called the Thirteen Dynamics.
Warding off, rolling back, pressing, and pushing correspond to ☰, ☷, ☵, and ☲ in the four principle compass directions [meaning simply that these are the primary techniques]. Plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping correspond to ☴, ☳, ☱, and ☶ in the four corner directions [i.e. are the secondary techniques].
Advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center correspond to the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
(An original note says: “This relates to the theory left to us from Zhang Sanfeng of Mt. Wudang. He wanted all the heroes in the world to live long and not merely gain martial skill.”)
2. THE TAIJI BOXING CLASSIC (by Wang Zongyue of Shanxi)
Taiji [“grand polarity”] is born of wuji [“nonpolarity”]. It is the manifestation of movement and stillness, and the mother of yin and yang [the passive and active aspects]. When there is movement, passive and active become distinct from each other. When there is stillness, they return to being indistinguishable.
Neither going too far nor not far enough, comply and bend then engage and extend. He is hard while I am soft – this is yielding. My energy is smooth while his energy is coarse – this is sticking. If he moves fast, I quickly respond, and if his movement is slow, I leisurely follow. Although there is an endless variety of possible scenarios, there is only this single principle [of yielding and sticking] throughout. Once you have engrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will gradually progress toward something miraculous. But unless you practice a lot over a long time, you will never have a breakthrough.
Forcelessly press up your headtop. Energy sinks to your elixir field. Neither lean nor slant. Suddenly hide and suddenly appear. When there is pressure on the left, the left empties. When there is pressure on the right, the right disappears. When looking up, it is still higher. When looking down, it is still lower. When advancing, it is even farther. When retreating, it is even nearer. A feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land. The opponent does not understand me, only I understand him. A hero is one who encounters no opposition, and it is through this kind of method that such a condition is achieved.
There are many other schools of boxing arts besides this one. Although the postures are different between them, they never go beyond the strong bullying the weak and the slow yielding to the fast. The strong beating the weak and the slow submitting to the fast are both a matter of inherent natural ability and bear no relation to skill that is learned. Examine the phrase “four ounces moves a thousand pounds”, which is clearly not a victory obtained through strength. Or consider the sight of an old man repelling a group, which could not come from an aggressive speed.
Stand like a scale. Move like a wheel. If you drop one side, you can move. If you have equal pressure on both sides, you will be stuck. We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations, always under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood. If you want to avoid this error, you must understand passive and active. In sticking there is yielding and in yielding there is sticking. The active does not depart from the passive and the passive does not depart from the active, for the passive and active exchange roles. Once you have this understanding, you will be identifying energies. Once you are identifying energies, then the more you practice, the more efficient your skill will be, and by absorbing through experience and by constantly contemplating, gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want.
The basic of basics is to forget about your plans and simply respond to the opponent. We often make the mistake of ignoring what is right in front of us in favor of something that has nothing to do with our immediate circumstances. For such situations it is said: “Miss by an inch, lose by a mile.” You must understand all this clearly.
3. THIRTEEN DYNAMICS SONG
Do not neglect any of the thirteen dynamics,
their command coming from your lower back.
You must pay attention to the alternation of empty and full,
then energy will flow through your whole body without getting stuck anywhere.
In stillness, movement stirs, and then in moving, seem yet to be in stillness,
for the magic lies in making adjustments based on being receptive to the opponent.
In every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention,
for once you achieve that, it will all be effortless.
At every moment, pay attention to your waist,
for if there is complete relaxation within your belly, energy is primed.
Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop,
thus your whole body will be aware and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.
Pay careful attention in your practice that you are letting bending and extending, contracting and expanding, happen as the situation requires.
Beginning the training requires personal instruction,
but mastering the art depends on your own unceasing effort.
Whether we are discussing in terms of theory or function, what is the constant?
It is that mind is sovereign and body is subject.
If you think about it, what is emphasizing the use of intention going to lead you to?
To a longer life and a longer youth.
Repeatedly recite the words above,
all of which speak clearly and hence their ideas come through without confusion.
If you pay no heed to those ideas, you will go astray in your training,
and you will find you have wasted your time and be left with only sighs of regret.
4. UNDERSTANDING HOW TO PRACTICE THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS
Use mind to move the energy. You must get the energy to sink. It is then able to collect in the bones. Use energy to move your body. You must get the energy to be smooth. Your body can then easily obey your mind.
If you can raise your spirit, then you will be without worry of being slow or weighed down. Thus it is said [in the Thirteen Dynamics Song]: “Your whole body will be aware and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.” Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the delight of being rounded and lively. Thus it is said [also in the Song]: “Pay attention to the alternation of empty and full.”
When issuing power, you must sink and relax, concentrating it in one direction. Your posture must be upright and comfortable, bracing in all directions.
Move energy as though through a winding-path pearl, penetrating even the smallest nook (meaning that the energy is everywhere in the body). Wield power like tempered steel, so strong there is nothing tough enough to stand up against it.
The shape is like a falcon capturing a rabbit. The spirit is like a cat pouncing on a mouse.
In stillness, be like a mountain, and in movement, be like a river.
Store power like drawing a bow. Issue power like loosing an arrow.
Within curving, seek to be straightening. Store and then issue.
Power comes from your spine. Step according to your body’s adjustments.
To gather is to release. Disconnect but stay connected.
In the back and forth [of the arms], there must be folding. In the advance and retreat [of the feet], there must be variation.
Extreme softness begets extreme hardness. Your ability to be lively lies in your ability to breathe.
By nurturing energy with integrity, it will not be corrupted. By storing power in crooked parts, it will be in abundant supply.
The mind makes the command, the energy is its flag, and the waist is its banner.
First strive to open up, then strive to close up, and from there you will be able to attain a refined subtlety.
It is also said:
First in the mind, then in the body.
With your abdomen relaxed, energy gathers in your marrow. Spirit comfortable, body calm – at every moment be mindful of this.
Always remember: if one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.
As the movement leads back and forth, energy sticks to and gathers in your spine.
Inwardly bolster spirit and outwardly show ease.
Step like a cat and move energy as if drawing silk.
The whole of your mind should be on the spirit rather than on the energy, for if you are fixated on the energy, your movement will become sluggish. Whenever your mind is on the energy, there will be no power, whereas if you ignore the energy and let it take care of itself, there will be pure strength.
The energy is like a wheel and the waist is like an axle.
5. PLAYING HANDS SONG
Ward-off, rollback, press, and push must be taken seriously.
With coordination between above and below, the opponent will hardly find a way in.
I will let him attack me with as much power as he likes,
for I will tug with four ounces of force to move his of a thousand pounds.
Guiding him in to land on nothing, I then close on him and send him away.
I stick to him and go along with his movement instead of coming away or crashing in.
It is also said:
If he takes no action, I take no action, but once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted.
The power seems to be relaxed but not relaxed, about to express but not yet expressing. Although the power finishes, the intent of it continues.
6. TAIJI BOXING POSTURE NAMES & THEIR SEQUENCE
 TAIJI BEGINNING POSTURE
 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 RAISE THE HANDS
 WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
 PLAY THE LUTE
 ADVANCE, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
 SEALING SHUT
 CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND ITS BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
 CROSSED HANDS
 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP
 GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW
 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
 DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
 RAISE THE HANDS
 WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
 NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
 FAN THROUGH THE BACK
 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
 WITHDRAWING STEP, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 CLOUDING HANDS
 LEFT RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE
 RIGHT RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 KICK TO THE LEFT SIDE
 TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK
 BRUSH KNEE, ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH
 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 KICK TO THE RIGHT SIDE
 RETREAT, FIGHTING TIGER POSTURE
 DRAPING THE BODY, KICK
 DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS
 KICK TO THE LEFT SIDE
 TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK
 TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
 SEALING SHUT
 CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
 CROSSED HANDS
 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP
 WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE
 MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE
 CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 CLOUDING HANDS
 LOW POSTURE
 GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG
 RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY
 DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
 RAISE THE HANDS
 WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS
 BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE
 NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
 FAN THROUGH THE BACK
 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 CLOUDING HANDS
 RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
 CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK
 BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO THE CROTCH
 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 LOW POSTURE
 STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER
 RETREAT TO SITTING TIGER POSTURE
 TURN AROUND, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
 TURN AROUND, SWINGING LOTUS KICK
 BEND THE BOW TO SHOOT THE TIGER
 STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
 TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
 STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE
 STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL
 SINGLE WHIP
 CLOSING TAIJI
7. BOXING METHODS OF THE INTERNAL SCHOOL OF ZHANG SANFENG (by Huang Baijia of Yuyao)
Shaolin is the peak of refinement for the external arts. Zhang Sanfeng was a Shaolin expert, but he turned the art on its head and thereby created the internal school. Obtaining just a little bit of it is enough to defeat Shaolin. Wang Zhengnan learned it from Dan Sinan and was the only one of his students to obtain the entire curriculum.
When I was young, I did not train at all for the civil service exams, for I preferred doing things that were a little more extreme. Once I had heard about Wang’s fame, I bundled up some provisions and went to the village of Baozhuang to learn from him. Wang was extremely proprietorial toward his art and very picky about accepting students, but he was happy to take me in and teach me. (There were five kinds of people who he would never teach: those who are devious, those who love to fight, those who are addicted to booze, those who gossip, and those who are klutzy.) There was not enough space in his house, so he trained me instead at the neighboring Iron Buddha Temple.
His art has many colorfully named combat techniques (such as: Reaching Punch and Rolling Chop, Punch Across the Center to Each Side, Swinging an Elbow to Force the Door, Waving an Iron Fan Against the Wind, Letting Go of One Object to Fling Another Forward, Pushing an Elbow into the Crotch, Caving in with Your Chest to Pound His Ribs, Emperor Shun is Thrown into the Well, Cutting with Your Wrist to Attack His Joints, Sun Breaking Through Dawn Clouds, Dark Clouds Hiding the Moon, Ape Offers Fruit, Coil an Elbow in to Curl Up and Bump, Immortal Shows a Palm, Drawing a Bow in a Long Stance, Share an Embrace with the Moon, Left & Right Lifting a Rod, Sealing the Door with an Iron Bar, Hanging a Fish on a Branch, Filling the Stomach with Agony, Successive Arrows, Lifting Up a Gold Piece, Holding up a Writing Brush with Both Hands, Arhat Tumbles on the Ground, Pushing Open a Window with Both Hands, Leading a Sheep, Untangling a Rope, Swallow Tilts Up a Cheeks, Tiger Hides its Head, Wrapping All the Way Around His Waist, and so on).
There are also many acupoint targets (such as: points which cause death, muteness, fainting, coughing, as well as the bladder, the “croaking toad”, the “jumping ape”, or Qu Chi [outer part of the bend at the elbow], Suo Hou [spot on the throat between the collar bones], Jie Yi [side of the jaw], He Gu [pit between thumb and forefinger], Nei Guan [inside of forearm near wrist], San Li [outside of forearm near elbow], among others), and many prohibitions against bad habits (do not be lazy, sluggish, or slouching, do not raise your shoulders, step like an old man, stick out your chest, stand too upright, pamper your legs, lift your elbows, sprain your fists, stick your butt out, bend at the waist, engage randomly, or put out both hands with the same reach). But the key principle is practice. Skill will only be achieved through practice. It is not necessary to seek for someone to copy, only to respond to opponents with whatever works, up or down, left or right, forward or back, and to notice the correct moment to engage.
There are furthermore thirty-five hand techniques to practice (chop, erase, shake, knock, bump, wrap, urge, wipe, hack, beat, wave, swing, deflect, slash, clap, cover, meet, cut, spread, carry, entwine, thrust, hook, pull, dazzle, replace, switch, contract, lift, overturn, crush, shoot, insert, peel, and dangle) as well as eighteen stepping techniques (cushion step, rear cushion step, grinding step, racing step, scattering stance, crouching stance, stomping step, withdrawing step, horse-riding stance, high horse-riding stance, alignment stance, immortal’s stance, sideways-body step, turning-body step, chasing step, urgent step, diagonal step, and twisting-vine step).
These elements are all used within the Six Lines and the Ten Sections of Brocade, each recorded in verse:
The Six Lines:
DIPPER POSTURE reaches out and locks up, turning you into a hero.
The THROUGH-THE-ARM punching posture of guardian gods is the highest skill.
IMMORTAL STANDS POINTING TO THE SKY.
Deflect aside and EMBRACE THE MOON, leaving none of it for others.
LIFTING A ROD makes it difficult for surrounding opponents to reach you.
CRUEL HAMMERING, THRUST & WRAP, then SWING BOTH WINGS.
The Ten Sections of Brocade:
BEGINNING POSTURE, TIGER SITS ON ITS MOUNTAIN.
TURN AROUND, THREE QUICK CHASING STEPS.
PROP UP TWO SABERS, WITHDRAWING STEPS.
ROLLING CHOPS WITH THREE ADVANCES AND RETREATS.
PUNCH ACROSS THE BODY TO EACH SIDE, TRIPLE PUNCHES.
PROP UP A SABER AND CHOP, RETURN TO BARRACKS.
KNOTTED FISTS, GRINDING STEP, RESUME ORIGINAL POSTURE.
ROLLING CHOP, RETREAT TO FACE ORIGINAL DIRECTION.
ENTERING STEP, ADVANCING LIKE SLIPPING INTO A SHEATH.
ROLLING CHOP, JUMP BACK TO STARTING POINT.
GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG, PULL THE BOWSTRING TAUT.
LEVEL HORSE-RIDING STANCE, LOOK TO BOTH SIDES.
Considering that these poems are obscure and brief, and therefore hard to hold in the mind, I have added detailed explanations for each of them so as to preserve the material for posterity. (This section of the text has not been included.) [See the complete text of Boxing Methods.]
Wang looked at what I had so far recorded, then smiled and told me: “I’ve practiced this stuff my whole life, but I often still seem to have trouble remembering it all. How’ve you made it is as clear as this? I don’t think your skill in the art will ever be able to live up to this record you’ve made of it.”
The thing Wang gave special attention to, was most triumphant about, and what puts his art above the rest, is his twisting chop. (Boxing experts all agree the technique of chopping is extremely important. There are four kinds of chop: rolling chop, willow leaf chop, crossed-body chop, and Lei Gong [the Chinese god of thunder] chop, to which Wang has added the twisting chop as a way to use a chop to defeat a chop.) This technique came from Wang’s many years of experience. With much thought came realization and then an original creation.
My training at the temple was as precise as making glass and as demanding as constructing a building. After a practice, Wang and I would share some cups of wine, then walk in the moonlight once it had risen over the hills on the horizon, and I heard the brook gently babbling while he talked of old ways and new.
Because he was so generous with me, he trained me at the same time in the methods of spear, saber, sword, and axe. “Once you have learned the boxing sets, the rest of this curriculum is no trouble. Some of the boxing techniques will be just like techniques for the spear, others like techniques for the sword or the axe.” Teaching me even about how to march squads of soldiers or plan for the encampment of an army, he poured out everything he knew to the last drop. “I have no disciples, so I will do my utmost to teach the art to you.”
I was in those days breathing fire out of my nose and jumping all over the place. I admired men like Bo Ji of Suiyang, who thought that the world must not be run by narrow-minded pedants, but instead by those who are able to mount a horse and go kill the enemy and then dismount to seize their king. Only then could one stand tall in the world. But also in those days, peace had been brought to the southwest. Peace had been brought to the southeast. Peace had been brought to the whole nation. It was indeed a time when dragging two stones into place [i.e. building a fortress] was seen as inferior to hammering in a single nail [i.e. building a house].
My parents considered me to be rebellious and out of control, worried that I would turn into a young libertine, so they decided to send me away to study for the civil service examinations. I had myself already become aware that the household was in financial trouble. Under these circumstances, what use would there be in completing my training? I found myself regretting that I had spent my time on it, so I suppressed my feelings and quelled those ambitions, putting my mind instead to the task of mastering the classics. With my bamboo hat and case of books, I set out on the road accompanying Chen Kuixian, Chen Jiemei, Fan Guowen, Wan Jiye, and Zhang Xinyou. All the young gentlemen were then congregated in Ningbo’s eastern quarter.
Wang came to town and went to my dorm. He talked to me about martial arts with still the same tireless sincerity: “Boxing arts are matter of quality, not quantity. Once practiced to the point of skill, there will be no limit to the applicability of the Six Lines set. The techniques within it divide into passive ones and active ones, and altogether make a mere eighteen, the variations of each bringing them up to forty-nine…”
He continued: “A technique such as Punch in Twisting-Vine Step can be performed in any direction – left, right, center, forward, back – and so you must not think of it as being done in only one way…”
He further continued: “Also, boxing arts go from complexity to simplicity. From the seventy-two throwing techniques (such as Reaching Punch and Rolling Chop, Punch Across the Center to Each Side, and other colorfully named combat techniques), there are then the thirty-five hand techniques (chop, erase, shake, knock, bump, and so on), and then the eighteen techniques [testing, sending, aiding, seizing, pulling, pushing, crowding, absorbing, sticking, hoisting, curving, inserting, throwing, propping, rubbing, scattering, vanishing, ejecting] (contained in the Six Lines set). This reduces from eighteen to twelve (overturn, switch, twist, shift, roll, shed, lead, entwine, kneel, sit, drum, grab), and then reducing from twelve, always remember the five words (focused, sticky, expedient, potent, precise). Observe boxing experts, the way they really only think about a few terms…”
I was at the time focused on preparing for the civil service exams, and despite making myself listen, I could not feel as inspired as I used to. Wang himself was destitute, ill, under stress, weary is his heart, sallow in his complexion, worn out…
It is now a mere seven years since Wang died , and our area of the countryside has since become infested with criminals. They wander the roads and litter the fields with the bones of those they prey upon. We now need a hero like Sang Yi who can get rid of them all, but all we have are some candidates for the civil service exams who spend their days snug behind city walls reciting prose and verse. The authorities have made a few proclamations of protection and aid, naively thinking this will somehow administer a pacification of such evil men. The exam candidates for their part have come up with a few slogans about soldiers and farmers joining forces, naively thinking this would somehow have the capacity to manage the situation.
It says in the “Record of the Warrior of Shaanxi” in Great Philosophical Discourses [by Song Lian]: “If Deng Bi was still here, things would surely look different.” [Not many years after the mighty Deng had died, the realm was in chaos.] When I read these words, I cannot help but think about how much we are to miss you, Wang, buried there three feet under the artemisia. Unfortunately he cannot help us now.
I think so fondly about those days of learning from him, but I would not presume to proclaim that such training represents a meaningful scheme for assisting the ruler in pacifying warlords. However, for safeguarding the walls of a single city, like men such as Fan Changsheng or Fan Ya did in protecting their own communities, it does seem to me to be a reasonable course of action. And while it seems impossible that so much trouble has spread throughout the nation, and under our bamboo hats we gaze all around watching the dust rise and have nowhere to flee to, such is the present reality facing us!
There was a time when I regretted that I was learning from Wang, but now I deeply regret that I ever regretted it. I alone was taught his art, but I abandoned his learning. As a result, this art has since become buried away in a big tomb. This is unbearable to me, and so I have devoted myself to writing down as much of these details as I can in order that future generations of enthusiasts can obtain something of the art. But then again, Zhuge Liang wrote in detail the dimensions for his trojan-horse ox thousands of years ago, but who has made any use of it yet?
8. BIO OF ZHANG SONGXI FROM THE RECORDS OF NINGBO PREFECTURE [Book 31: “Those With Skills”]
A native of Yin county, Zhejiang, Zhang Songxi was a superb fighter. His teacher was Sun Shisan, who said that his art started in the Song Dynasty with Zhang Sanfeng, an elixirist of the Wudang mountains. Emperor Huizong summoned Zhang Sanfeng, but his route was blocked and he could not get through. That night in a dream, the first Song Emperor gave him the boxing method, and the next day he single-handedly killed more than a hundred bandits. Thereafter his unique skill became famous everywhere.
After Zhang Sanfeng’s time, his art went on, and during the reign of Emperor Jiajing [1521-1567], it reached Siming, where Zhang Songxi became the top master of it. Zhang Songxi was as courteous as a Confucian scholar, respectful to everyone he met, seeming to be deferential even to his own clothes. When someone sought his art, he declined them with modesty and evaded the subject.
The Shaolin monks were at this time famous fighters throughout the nation, and during the period of Wokou piracy, they had been called upon to fend off the pirates. A mob of seventy of the monks, having heard of Zhang Songxi’s fame, went to his native Yin county to seek him out. Zhang stayed in and hid himself away, but the young monks taunted him to come try his luck. Meeting them all in the upper level of a restaurant while they were comparing their skills with each other, he suddenly started laughing at them. They knew he was Zhang Songxi and then sought to test him. Zhang said, “If you insist upon it, you must talk to the headman of the village to see whether or not death would be permitted.” Then slipping his hands into his sleeves, he took a seat. One of the monks then attacked him with a jumping kick, and Zhang turned his body slightly sideways, lifting his hand to send him away, and the monk flew off like a shooting star, falling heavily to the lower level and almost died. The rest of the monks were astonished and dispersed.
Once when he was entering a city among some youths, they sealed him off within the arched gateway. They surrounded him and saluted, and he was told, “Now that you can’t go forward or back, we trust you will grant us a bout.” Zhang had no choice, so he had the youths pile up some round stones of hundreds of pounds. Wearily he said, “I’m a seventy year old man with no use at all but to see if I can make you gentlemen laugh.” He raised his left hand, leaned in, and brought it down with a chop. And the three stones were split in two. His skill was something rare.
[Of Zhang’s few disciples, the best was Ye Jinquan. Ye Jinquan taught Wu Kunshan, Zhou Yunquan, Dan Sinan, Chen Zhenshi, and Sun Jicha, each of which had students. Wu Kunshan taught Li Tianmu and Xu Daiyue. Li Tianmu taught Yu Bozhong, Chen Maohong and Wu Qilang. Zhou Yunquan taught Lu Shaoqi. Chen Zhenshi taught Xia Zhixi and Dong Fuyu. Sun Jicha taught Chai Yuanming, Yao Shimen, the monk Er, and the monk Wei. Dan Sinan taught Wang Zhengnan. Wang Zhengnan, called Laixian, was a man who valued honor. His behavior was friendly and he cultivated caution, never showing off his abilities.
The skills of fighters are divided into two schools: external and internal. As to the external school, Shaolin is the most well-known style. Its method focuses on offense. Hopping and leaping around, one’s structure sometimes gets compromised, and thus an opponent is often given something to take advantage of. As to the internal school, Zhang Songxi’s teachings are the most authentic version. Its method focuses on defense. If an opponent is not in a bad position, one does not issue power, and so when one does issue power, it is sure to blow the opponent away. Giving the opponent nothing to take advantage of, the art of the internal school is therefore the better one.
When fighting people, those of the internal school always make use of acupoints, acupoints which caused fainting, muteness, or death, and when targeting these acupoints, whether striking them lightly or heavily, they never miss at all. The major key to their art lies in a five-word formula: “focused, sticky, expedient, potent, precise”. Unless one was a direct disciple, one was not taught this. These five terms do not depict techniques, only a way of upgrading technique, in the same manner as these words from Sunzi: “Generals must be humane, sincere, smart, bold, and strict.”]