TAIJI BOXING PHOTOGRAPHED
by Chu Minyi
[published by 上海九福有限公司發行 The Many Blessings Company of Shanghai, 1929]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Feb, 2016]
Taiji Boxing Photographed
– calligraphy by Chu Minyi
Portrait of Chu Minyi
Chu Minyi’s physique
Portrait of Wu Jianquan
Taiji Boxing expert Wu Jianquan
Preface by Huang Chujiu
Preface by Chu Minyi
One – The Taiji Boxing Treatise
Two – The Taiji Boxing Classic
Three – Thirteen Dynamics Song
Four – Understanding How to Practice the Thirteen Dynamics
Five – Playing Hands Song
Six – The Taiji Boxing Postures Names in Sequence
with the Taiji Boxing photos in sequence
1. TAIJI POSTURE
2. BEGINNING POSTURE
3. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 1
4. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 2
5. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 3
6. SINGLE WHIP
7. RAISE THE HANDS – Part 1
8. RAISE THE HANDS – Part 2
9. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Part 1
10. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Part 2
11. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Left
12. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Right
13. PLAY THE LUTE
14. ADVANCE (OR WITHDRAW), PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH – Part 1
15. ADVANCE (OR WITHDRAW), PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH – Part 2
16. SEALING SHUT
17. CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN
18. DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP
19. GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW
20. RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY – Part 1
21. RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY – Part 2
22. DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE
23. NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA
24. FAN THROUGH THE BACK
25. TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH
26. CLOUDING HANDS – Part 1
27. CLOUDING HANDS – Part 2
28. RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE – Left
29. KICK TO THE SIDE – Right
30. RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE – Right
31. KICK TO THE SIDE – Left
32. TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK – Part 1
33. TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK – Part 2
34. ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH
35. TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK – Part 1
36. TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK – Part 2
37. DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS – Part 1
38. DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS – Part 2
39. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE LEFT – Part 1
40. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE LEFT – Part 2
41. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE RIGHT – Part 1
42. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE RIGHT – Part 2
43. MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE – Left
44. MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE – Right
45. LOW POSTURE
46. GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG
47. PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
48. CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK
49. BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO CROTCH
50. STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER
51. STEP BACK TO THE RIDE THE TIGER
52. SPIN AROUND ON THE FOOT, SWINGING LOTUS KICK
53. BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER
Explanation of Taiji Boxing Pushing Hands Apparatus
Photo of the Taiji Stick
Photo of the Taiji Ball
Photos of the Taiji Stick Being Used
Photos of the Taiji Ball Being Used
PREFACE [BY HUANG CHUJIU]
For a nation to survive in the world in the longer term and not be weeded out by competition, it needs to become a scientific culture and a tightly organized society. Furthermore, everyone in it should have developing minds and healthy bodies. However, whether a scientific civilization, a material civilization, or a spiritual civilization, all depend on the health of the body in order for it to be maintained and to progress. Therefore the major factor in a nation’s survival is nothing more than the health of the body.
Our Chinese nation was founded five thousand years ago and now has a population of four hundred million. This has been achieved by reproducing on an unbeatable scale, and again this is due to the care our ancestors took over the health of their bodies. But in our modern era, intellectual aspirations have been given so much more weight over martial concerns that the physical constitution of our people has steadily degraded. Without it, a scientific and material civilization cannot function to its full capacity. Consequently, our economy has increasingly diminished and the nation is on the verge of disintegrating. We must point to poverty and feebleness for the cause.
There is nowadays a scheme for saving the nation, and it is simply a matter of rescuing the poor and the weak. We will improve our material condition by manufacturing domestically instead of having economic dependence on foreigners. This is a means of rescuing the poor. We will coordinate health care and pharmaceuticals to enhance the physical well-being of our people. This is a means of rescuing the weak.
I founded the Many Blessings Company with the original intention of selling “Key to Longevity” [an all-around medicinal tonic], but the ways of strengthening the body go beyond mere medicines. There is also the training of the body by way of martial arts. Our nation’s martial arts were the earliest to be developed and are quite capable of dominating the world. Japan obtained but a smattering [“one scale from a fish”] of our martial arts, and then because of it their nation was bolstered by bushido. We on the other hand have cast these arts aside and ignored them, resulting in the weakness we have accumulated. But there are gentlemen nowadays with high ideals who have begun to understand the significance of martial arts and to loudly proclaim it, encouraging research and individual practice.
Member of the Central Committee Chu Minyi, a pillar of the Republic, is especially skilled in martial arts, and he considers Taiji Boxing to be their quintessence. Regardless of man or woman, young or old, all can practice, and the extent of its results merely depends on the amount of seriousness a practitioner puts into it. It is full of benefits and devoid of harms, and so it is surely the perfect exercise, which is why he does his utmost to promote it. Moreover, he has invented a variety of apparatus for practicing the art in order to better reveal its essentials. When I heard about them, I admired him and wished to learn.
Chu has generously shared his photographs of Wu Jianquan, one of Taiji Boxing’s elders, whose attainments are extremely profound. Equipped with these photos, one can practice step by step. I would not dare to keep them a secret, and wish instead to spread them widely and share them with everyone. Already generous enough to allow their exhibition, Chu has also added introductory explanation. Despite being so busy with government affairs, burdened with heavy responsibilities and countless important tasks, Chu has managed to also put energy into this project, and is thus worthy of even greater respect. That is why, before I send this book to the press for publication, I have overlooked that I am not a literate person and have made this preface.
– written by Huang Chujiu, called Cuojiu, at the “Knowing What is Enough” Cottage, Mar, 1929
PREFACE [BY CHU MINYI]
Boxing arts train body and mind, and rouse the spirit. Our nation’s boxing arts are extremely ancient in origin, and because their postures and applications are different, the styles and their names are consequently distinct. There are styles that value being impressively dramatic, and there are those prefer to be unassumingly calm. Thus while none of them are complete, all of them are capable of developing the body. However, styles tend to generate a sectarian bias [“to go into it as a lord and emerge as its slave”] and make an endless amount of noise about how great they are. Tracing back through their development, it turns out there are generally no more than two schools of thought: Wudang and Shaolin. Wudang emphasizes softness, the power stored inwardly. Shaolin emphasizes hardness, the power expressed outwardly.
In recent years, styles of Shaolin have become very abundant. The more it spreads, the more varieties of it branch off. One after another, a new version sets out on its own, intent on proving it is the most startling and unique one yet, and they have gradually lost touch with the original purpose of it as physical education. When beginners train in such styles, they then get half the result for twice the effort. When weak people practice such styles, the harms are many and the benefits are few. Thus I have no particular desire for them.
Taiji Boxing is the mildest of the boxing arts of the internal school and the most capable of developing the body. Therefore I am quite addicted to it and have practiced daily without fail, even during the worst of winter and summer. The longer you practice it, the more you will discover its limitless subtleties. Its effects are grand and its merits are many. There are really no other boxing arts to match it.
The several sections below describe its characteristics of posture and movement, use of intention and issuing of power, skill building and health cultivation:
Taiji Boxing’s postures are very numerous (as the photos reveal), but they always conform to the five elements and eight trigrams, which form the thirteen dynamics. What is meant by the “five elements”? The steps of advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center. What is meant by the “eight trigrams”? The techniques of warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping. These thirteen kinds of postural dynamics have to be understood by students of Taiji Boxing. Let us practice every day without ever skipping a day. Then after several years of experience, we will naturally come to fully comprehend all the subtleties within the art, and the benefits will not be meager.
Taiji Boxing’s movements are slow and even. External styles of boxing arts may seem to produce quick results, but there are so many bad habits that come with them. In the case of Taiji Boxing, the emphasis is on the liveliness of the muscles and bones, therefore the most important qualities in every movement are softness and mildness. If it is done slowly, then it can be soft. If it is done evenly, then it can be mild.
Furthermore, the various movements all have a round shape, for it is within a circle that the transformations of emptiness and fullness are generated. The art’s limitless subtleties lie within these changes of emptiness and fullness. A beginner may not yet be able to understand this, but if you practice for a long time, you will perform with the proficiency you imagine, and your fascination for what you are doing will have no end.
This art is sufficient for the task of developing the physique, but it is also able to regulate the temperament. Thus it can be said to cultivate both body and mind, and is therefore the most appropriate method of promoting physical education.
3. Using Intention
When practicing Taiji Boxing, it should have a pure naturalness. Instead of emphasizing exertion and emotion, you should emphasize using intention. Using exertion makes you clumsy. Using emotion slows you down. Therefore quelling emotion and letting go of exertion are requirements. Quelling emotion regulates the breath. Relaxing exertion promotes innate strength and inhibits acquired strength. Innate strength is real strength, whereas acquired strength is contrived strength. The former has a smooth energy, the latter a coarse energy. Taiji Boxing focuses on receiving coarse energy with smooth energy. By using the smooth to defeat the coarse, it is therefore not necessary to put forth excessive effort.
The exertion and emotion of external styles of boxing arts is always contrived. A strong person considers difficulty to be ability, thus this type of training is deemed “hard”. If your practice is inappropriate, it will create many bad habits. For one who does hard training every day, his power will be spent as soon as it is expressed, nothing left in storage. Even if he practices for many years, he will progress only superficially, not really building up any inner power at all.
Because Taiji Boxing does not use excessive exertion or emotion, the practice is entirely a matter of intention. If you can use intention, you will be able to conceal power inwardly rather than revealing it outwardly. Energy sinks to your elixir field rather than getting stuck in your chest. If you avoid using excessive exertion and emotion as you practice over a long period, you will accumulate more and more power. And then when you need it, you will be able to wield it freely, without any difficulty and without forcing it.
Consider a laborer, who puts forth effort in his work every day. He always uses all of his strength when he applies it, nothing left over. Therefore after many years of labor, his strength is no greater than when he started. The hard training of external stylists resembles this situation.
4. Issuing Power
Power divides into hard and soft. What is meant by “hard” power? This is when your power contains a quality of resistance, no matter the extent of the power, and goes forward with simple determination. What is meant by “soft” power? This is when you go along with the expanding and contracting of the opponent’s power instead of adding any resistance to it.
The subtlety of Taiji Boxing lies in not starting by seeking ways to attack when fighting with an opponent, but instead being able to receive his power without giving any initial resistance to it. Use sticky soft power to neutralize his stubbornly aggressive power. Wait for that moment when his attack has missed and he hopes to try again, then exploit his diminished position by going along with his energy and switching from defensive role to attacker. Once his force has been spent, his balance will have shifted, and he is thereby sure to be defeated.
Taiji Boxing’s movements are endlessly circular. As your balance lies at the center of a circle, you will always be standing stably on your heels. Even if the opponent issues power with great strength, use the principle of receiving his incoming force to lure him into a trap. Wait for his power to come out, then for his balance to falter, and then seize the moment and take control. As it is said [Art of War, chapter 6]: “Avoid him where he is full and attack him where he is empty.” This is the method of softness defeating hardness.
5. Becoming Skillful
As the saying goes, “practice will produce skill”, and Taiji Boxing is based in this notion. Abide by it and you will achieve mastery. The difference between precision and sloppiness in Taiji Boxing depends on the depth or shallowness of your skill. If your skill is deep, then changes between emptiness and fullness will always be clear to you. If the switchings of emptiness and fullness are clear to you, then you will be able to find pathways of ingenuity amidst such changes.
Whenever you put forth effort to be nimble and lively, it resembles an external stylist’s use of exertion and emotion as he puts too much determination into too trivial an objective. The result is a rigid and clumsy strength that is vastly different from skill. Furthermore, by not using excessive force and anger, you can therefore endure longer without getting worn out. Because the movements are round, you can always have a stable center. With a stable center, you will have a solid base. And you will then have no worries about someone attacking you with external strength.
6. Cultivating Health
Boxing arts are essentially a form of physical education, and so health cultivation is naturally a major emphasis. However, this is not represented well by the hard labor of external stylists, and only Taiji Boxing really has the capacity for health cultivation. Regardless of weak or strong, old or young, all can practice it. It is best for us to be able to develop our bodies uniformly, complementing the regular physiological processes within our bodies. Because strenuous exercise does not conform to these processes, it is typically rendered counterproductive.
Hence the movements in Taiji Boxing are unusually delicate. With each movement, the whole body is in motion, and thus no part of the body gets harmfully overworked. Furthermore, because the movements are gentle and nimble, they can regulate the temperament and cultivate one’s character, and because they conform perfectly to physiological processes, they can develop the body uniformly. While practicing, you do not need to put forth undue effort, and so even if you are old or ill, it is not difficult to do. Therefore the claim that it “prevents illness and prolongs life” is truly not a bunch of empty words.
In 1925, I traveled from Guangdong to Beijing to learn from the famous Taiji Boxing master Wu Jianquan. He represents the genuine Wudang teachings, for he has received the authentic transmission of Taiji Boxing. At that time, I once asked him to demonstrate each of the postures so I could take photographs of them to preserve them as a model to emulate. After I returned to Guangdong, I studied constantly with Wang Zhiqun [Runsheng] and Wu Zizhen [Gongyi], making some slight progress. When I came to Shanghai, I met with Xu Zhiyi and we made a deep inquiry into the art. Xu has thoroughly researched into Taiji Boxing theory and has a great deal of experience. He has published the book Simple Introduction to Taiji Boxing [published 1927] and is a top disciple of Wu Jianquan.
Wu himself has recently come to Shanghai, where he continues to teach, leaving Beijing in the hands of other Taiji Boxing masters such as the Yang brothers, Shaohou and Chengfu. Yang Chengfu’s disciple Chen Weiming is also in Shanghai. We are all striving to promote Taiji Boxing here, and our teaching of it could perhaps be called “southern” [simply in contrast to Beijing in the north]. Hence the Many Blessings Company has urged me to send them the photographic plates to share with the world, in order to spread these teachings more widely. As I also consider these boxing skills to be worth strongly advocating, I therefore do not dare to hide them away. But please ignore the crudeness of this introduction. These are just my own humble explanations of the methods and merits of the art, presented here in brief.
– written by Chu Minyi of Wuxing at the French Industrial Training School in Shanghai, Feb 5, 1929
ONE – 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.”)
TWO – 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 ingrained 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.
THREE – 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.
Posture by posture, stay mindful, observing intently.
If something comes at you without your noticing it, you have been wasting your time.
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.
FOUR – 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.
FIVE – 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 pulling 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.
SIX – THE TAIJI BOXING POSTURE NAMES IN SEQUENCE
1. TAIJI POSTURE (photo 1):
2. BEGINNING POSTURE (photo 2):
3. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 1 (photo 3):
4. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 2 (photo 4):
5. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL – Part 3 (photo 5):
6. SINGLE WHIP (photo 6):
7. RAISE THE HANDS – Part 1 (photo 7):
8. RAISE THE HANDS – Part 2 (photo 8):
9. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Part 1 (photo 9):
10. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS – Part 2 (photo 10):
11. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Left (photo 11):
12. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE – Right (photo 12):
13. PLAY THE LUTE (photo 13):
14. ADVANCE (OR WITHDRAW), PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH – Part 1 (photo 14):
15. ADVANCE (OR WITHDRAW), PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH – Part 2 (photo 15):
16. SEALING SHUT (photo 16):
17. CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (photo 17):
18. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (same as in photo 11)
19. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 3 [photos 3-5])
20. DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP (photo 18):
21. GUARDING PUNCH UNDER THE ELBOW (photo 19):
22. RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY – Part 1 (photo 20):
22. RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY – Part 2 (photo 21):
24. DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE (photo 22):
25. RAISE THE HANDS (same as in photo 7 [photos 7 & 8])
26. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS (same as in photo 9 [photos 9 & 10])
27. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (same as in photo 12 )
28. NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA (photo 23):
29. FAN THROUGH THE BACK (photo 24):
30. TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (photo 25):
31. WITHDRAWING STEP, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (same as in photo 14 [photos 14 & 15])
32. STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 4 [photos 4 & 5])
33. SINGLE WHIP (same as in photo 6)
34. CLOUDING HANDS – Part 1 (photo 26):
35. CLOUDING HANDS – Part 2 (photo 27):
36. RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE – Left (photo 28):
37. KICK TO THE SIDE – Right (photo 29):
38. RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE – Right (photo 30):
39. KICK TO THE SIDE – Left (photo 31):
40. TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK – Part 1 (photo 32):
41. TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK – Part 2 (photo 33):
42. ADVANCE, PLANTING PUNCH (photo 34):
43. TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (same as in photo 25)
44. TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK – Part 1 (photo 35):
45. TURN AROUND, DOUBLE KICK – Part 2 (photo 36):
46. DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS – Part 1 (photo 37):
47. DOUBLE PEAKS THROUGH THE EARS – Part 2 (photo 38):
48. DRAPING THE BODY, KICK (same as in photo 35 [photos 35 & 36])
49. TURN AROUND, PRESSING KICK (same as in photo 33)
50. STEP FORWARD, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (same as in photo 15)
51. SEALING SHUT (same as in photo 16)
52. CAPTURE THE TIGER AND SEND IT BACK TO ITS MOUNTAIN (same as in photo 17)
53. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (same as in photo 11)
54. CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 3 [photos 3-5])
55. DIAGONAL SINGLE WHIP (same as in photo 20)
56. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE LEFT – Part 1 (photo 39):
57. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE LEFT – Part 2 (photo 40):
58. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE RIGHT – Part 1 (photo 41):
59. WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE TO THE RIGHT – Part 2 (photo 42):
60. MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE – Left (photo 43):
61. MAIDEN WORKS THE SHUTTLE – Right (photo 44):
62. SINGLE WHIP (same as in photo 6)
63. CLOUDING HANDS (same as in photo 26 [photos 26 & 27])
64. LOW POSTURE (photo 45):
65. GOLDEN ROOSTER STANDS ON ONE LEG (photo 46):
66. RETREAT, DRIVING AWAY THE MONKEY (same as in photo 20 [photos 20 & 21])
67. DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE (same as in photo 22)
68. RAISE THE HANDS (same as in photo 7 [photos 7 & 8])
69. WHITE CRANE SHOWS ITS WINGS (same as in photo 10 [photos 9 & 10])
70. BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE (same as in photo 11)
71. NEEDLE UNDER THE SEA (same as in photo 23)
72. FAN THROUGH THE BACK (same as in photo 24)
73. ADVANCE, PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH (same as in photo 15 [photos 14 & 15])
74. STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 4 [photos 4 & 5])
75. SINGLE WHIP (same as in photo 6)
76. CLOUDING HANDS (same as in photo 26 [photos 26 & 27)
77. RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (same as in photo 28)
78. PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (photo 47):
79. CROSSED-BODY SWINGING LOTUS KICK (photo 48):
80. BRUSH KNEE, PUNCH TO CROTCH (photo 49):
81. STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 4 [photos 4 & 5])
82. SINGLE WHIP (same as in photo 6)
83. LOW POSTURE (same as in photo 45)
84. STEP FORWARD WITH THE BIG DIPPER (photo 50):
85. RETREAT TO SITTING TIGER POSTURE – parts 1 & 2 (photo 51 [photos 51a & 51b]):
86. SPIN AROUND ON THE FOOT, SWINGING LOTUS KICK (photo 52):
87. BEND THE BOW, SHOOT THE TIGER (photo 53):
88. STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (same as in photo 30)
89. PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE (same as in photo 47)
90. TURN AROUND, TORSO-FLUNG PUNCH (same as in photo 25)
91. STEP FORWARD, RISING UP AND REACHING OUT TO THE HORSE (same as in photo 28)
92. STEP FORWARD, CATCH THE SPARROW BY THE TAIL (same as in photo 4 [photos 4 & 5])
93. CLOSING POSTURE (same as in photo 1)
太極拳推手器械之說明 實行國術科學化 褚民誼
EXPLANATION OF TAIJI BOXING PUSHING HANDS APPARATUS – IMPLEMENTING THE SCIENTIZATION OF CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS by Chu Minyi
Boxing arts exercise the muscles and bones, and train both body and mind. Taiji Boxing is able to cultivate body and mind, regulate energy and blood, mold the temperament, and to prevent illness and prolong life. If you practice it for a long time, your delight will only deepen, making it the “great vehicle” among boxing arts. Its movements are mild and its postures are agreeable. As for its applicability, it is able to use stillness to conquer motion, softness to overcome hardness, lightness to defeat heaviness, and smoothness to evade harm. Therefore I am devotedly addicted to it, compelled to practice it every morning even during the worst of winter or summer.
However, if you want to progress in your boxing art, you must practice pushing hands, and pushing hands cannot be practiced unless there are two people. Because the goal is to give one’s whole body a keen sensitivity, there is a quality of neither connecting nor disconnecting, generating “sticking” energy, and results will then manifest. As I myself have often been unable to do any pushing hands, I have had to come up with something to substitute it. After much pondering according to scientific principles, I have produced two kinds of pushing hands apparatus, one with a stick and one with a ball, to take the place of pushing hands.
With these items begins the scientization of Chinese martial arts. As for the eight techniques of pushing hands (warding off, rolling back, press, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping), they can all be applied perfectly well, and with that element of neither connecting nor disconnecting, the same as in pushing hands. Since inventing them, I have received visits from both Chinese and foreign physical educators and boxing arts experts, who have all been amazed beyond words. The basic construction is explained below:
First I had a stick made that can revolve on an axis [i.e. a hollow tube surrounding a rod], both ends of which are attached to eight strips of rubber, and the strips are then fastened to the eight corners of a small room, or to a cube-shaped wooden frame [as in the photos]. In this way, the stick is kept level by the eight pieces of rubber and is suspended in the middle of the space. If a force affects its equilibrium, it will shift along the direction of that force. When the force withdraws, the equilibrium is regained. Thus whatever direction the force comes from – up, down, left, right, forward, back – it generates a variety of movement and the movements can all happen smoothly. Hence the eight techniques within pushing hands can each be performed accordingly as one practices the movements going back and forth with the stick, hardly any different from two people pushing hands.
A posture of using the Taiji stick:
Another posture of using the Taiji stick:
The ball’s diameter is one and a half feet, and its weight is about twenty pounds. It is a brass shell with a nickel coating. It hangs in the air from a rubber strip at the height of a person’s chest. Because it is fastened by a rubber strip, when it encounters an outside force, it will move in the direction of that force – up, down, left, right, forward, or back – and so it can always be turned as you please. Standing in front of or behind the ball, you will be able to execute the various Taiji Boxing postures with great proficiency. As for the eight techniques within pushing hands, they can all be performed, and so it is as though there are two people, even though only one person is practicing. As the refined subtleties of the art can be gradually honed by this means, it is indeed to be considered a scientific tool for training in Taiji Boxing.
A posture of using the Taiji ball:
Another posture of using the Taiji ball:
I constructed the two types of apparatus above using scientific knowledge. They are rather minor inventions and I would not presume to say they are of great advantage to our nation’s martial arts, but for our purpose of promoting martial arts, they would indeed cause them to be more scientific. When we describe these arts as being scientific, we mean that we seek to make them more able to conform to mechanics and psychology, and with particular attention to physiology and health.
Taiji Boxing’s ability is to use lightness to defeat heaviness, softness to overcome hardness. Therefore it already knows how to make use of psychology and has a thorough understanding of mechanics. Its postures are stable, its movements relaxed, it is neither stubborn nor fierce, and it does not do too much, always just enough. Thus it does not need to give extra attention to physiology and health, and even though we hereby proclaim Taiji Boxing to be a scientific martial art, it always has been anyway.
That being the case, in our promoting of martial arts, is it not appropriate to begin with Taiji Boxing? This is why I made these types of apparatus. My aim is to be able to popularize them so that practitioners may get some benefit from them, and also to herald the scientization of our nation’s martial arts.
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The introduction of these training tools at the end of Taiji Boxing Photographed cries out for further information. Chu elaborates upon his inventions, including describing actual exercises, in Appendices 1, 2, 7, and 8 of his Taiji Calisthenics (published Aug, 1931):
I believe there is great benefit to be gained from Taiji Boxing, and so I practice diligently every day. But after going through the solo set, I then feel like doing some pushing hands, and because there is often no one to practice with, I have thus invented a variety of pushing hands apparatus to take the place of a partner. I was motivated to invent them while in Beijing. It was Tan Zhongkui who set me on that path, through whom I met Wu Jianquan. Tan was very skillful in Taiji Boxing, though unfortunately he later did not continue in his training, and so now it has all gone to waste. But he happened to give me some clues during moments of our conversations, in which he explained that there might someday be machines used for practicing this boxing art. Because I was a beginner at the time, I was incapable of comprehending this idea.
Last year I went Europe to observe their health practices, and I practiced every day while on the boat, even teaching my fellow passenger Chen Zongcheng. (He is the Secretary of the International Labor Department, though I do not know if he is still practicing what I taught him.) At that time, I ran through the boxing and sword sets alone on the boat, but I never had any opportunity to do any pushing hands. Sometimes I would stand at the side of the boat and rub my hands along the railing, in the manner of pushing motions, imagining that the railing could roll and circle. I would move upward and downward, to the left and right, but it was not very effective. On the basis of this, I got the idea of and subsequently invented the pushing hands stick.
For the construction of it, first I had a wooden stick made that can revolve on an axis, then attached each end to four rubber strips for it to hang balanced. These four rubber strips are just like the four muscles of the eyes which move them up, down, left, right. Through the control of these four muscles, the eye is able to roll around, and the stick fastened to its rubber strips functions in the same way.
As for the Taiji ball, it was born of the sandbags used in old China. Although they were used as punching bags, the Taiji ball I have invented is to be pushed around by the force of the hands, arms, shoulders, chest, and back. The sandbag was suspended in the air by a rope, but the Taiji ball is suspended by a rubber strip, lending it a springiness so that it shifts along the direction of the person’s push, able to move up or down, left or right, forward or back, with great ease.
There is also a third kind of pushing hands apparatus which is of a somewhat simpler construction [presumably referring to the smaller ball set atop a pole – see further below].
These three kinds of apparatus will enhance pushing hands, and after practicing with them for a long time, you will be able to discover all of the thirteen dynamics: the eight techniques (warding off, rolling back, press, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping) and the five steps (advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying centered).
Whichever is used, I always believe they do not compare to the sensitivity between two people pushing hands, because when using an apparatus, the person is always initiating and the object is always passive, merely going wherever the person’s force sends it, complyingly going away and then correspondingly returning. When pushing hands with a partner, it is not only my intention that is involved, but also the other person’s. I want to put him in the passive role, but sometimes he likewise puts me in the passive role. Therefore pushing hands contains “listening” to energy. Working with an apparatus is easy, whereas working with a partner is more difficult. However, in the course of learning these things, such types of apparatus are an indispensable aide. This is because everything is a process of going from the easy to the difficult. Start by becoming skillful at the easier task of listening to the energy of an apparatus, then progress to the more difficult task of developing listening while pushing hands with a partner.
Similar ideas to my inventions have been thought of in the world of boxing arts, which is filled with grand methods of training, and many might feel these are among the more superfluous, yet I personally find them to be quite a treasure. I hope to popularize them, and that they may become a substitute for more intense and vigorous forms of exercise. Although such activities also have their good points, their benefits do not outweigh their harms, and so they are not worth the effort.
These three kinds of apparatus have a mild and gentle quality, and so using them will be only beneficial and not harmful at all. Even weak and enfeebled people can use them for exercise. This is the greatest of their good points, the fact that they not things that could be appreciated by only the young and tough. I have so far practiced with these kinds of apparatus every day for ten to thirty minutes, sometimes a full hour, and have felt amazingly fast progress. Thus I am very willing to recommend them to ordinary people who have not yet studied Taiji Boxing. Such practice builds up the physique and dispels bodily suffering, enhancing health and happiness.
TRAINING METHODS FOR THE TAIJI BOXING PUSHING HANDS STICK
Training the hand:
Stand in front of the stick, facing to the east, back to the west. Sit your body onto your right leg, your left foot forward, heel touching down. Put your left hand flat on top of the stick, the back of the hand facing upward. See photo 1 [left and right reversed in the photo]:
Your left hand pushes out the stick, moving it first to the east, then to the south, then west, then north, making a flat circle. After several of these circles, switch sides. Sit your body onto your left leg, your right foot forward, heel touching down, and put your right hand flat on top of the stick, the back of the hand facing upward [as in the photo]. With the palm touching the stick, your right hand pushes out the stick, moving it first to the east, then to the north, then west, then south, again making a flat circle. Then perform the exercise with the palm facing upward so the back of the hand is touching the stick. This is the first exercise for the hand.
The second exercise is the same as the first for the hand, foot, and body placement, but the movement instead goes: up, south, down, north – for the left hand – or up, north, down, south – for the right hand – making a crosswise circle.
The third exercise is still the same as the first for the hand, foot, and body placement, but the movement goes [for either hand]: up, east, down, west – or can be switched to up, west, down, east – making a vertical circle.
These three exercises make circles on three different planes: 1 – flat [parallel with the ground], 2 – crosswise [like washing a window], 3 – vertical [like turning an organ grinder]. They therefore travel to a total of six directions: up, down, east (forward), south (left [right]), west (rear), north (right [left]). The three circles together form a sphere.
However, as described above, you would always be sitting your body onto your right leg when using your left hand and onto your left leg when using your right hand. After practicing for a long time, you will be able to switch as you please, and then when using your left hand, you may sit onto your left leg, or when using your right hand, you may sit onto your right leg.
After you are accustomed to doing the exercise with a single hand, progress to do the pushing movements with two hands, making all three circles, moving in all six directions, sitting your body onto either leg.
Once you are skillful in these exercises involving the hand being on top of the stick, you can then change the hand position and put your hand under the stick. Begin with the back of the hand facing the ground, the palm touching the stick, then move on to the back of the hand touching the stick, the palm facing the ground. Sitting onto either leg, switching movements as you please, do the pushing exercises, all three circles, all six directions. In this way, your hand can be suddenly on top of or under the stick, switching easily back and forth. Going from the simple to the complex, from slow to quick, it will at some point seem as though hand and stick are stuck together, without either pressure or separation, without crashing against each other or coming away, fused into one.
Training the wrist area (i.e. the forearm):
Stand in front of the stick, facing to the east, back to the west. Sit your body onto your right leg, your left foot forward, heel touching down. Put your left hand flat on top of the stick, palm facing downward. Your left hand pushes out the stick, moving it first to the east, then to the south, then west, then north, making a flat circle. Then switch to the right wrist, same practice method as for the right hand, and perform all three exercises, making all three circles, moving in all six directions, and the rest you can intuit by analogy [with the exercises for the hand].
When the wrist is on top of the stick, the palm is facing downward. When the wrist is under the stick, the palm is facing upward. Then by changing the direction the palm is facing, the movements are livened, like the hand is twisting on an axle. With the wrist on top of the stick, the palm can suddenly face upward or downward, likewise when under the stick.
For example, put your left wrist on top of the stick, palm facing downward, and begin by pushing out to the east and moving to the south, your hand and wrist now placed sideways on top of the stick, the palm facing to the south. As you then go from the south to the west, the palm faces upward, and upon reaching the north, the palm is again turned over to face downward, as is the wrist.
To reverse the circle, the palm faces downward, and begin by pushing out to the east and moving to the north, the palm also facing to the north. As you then go from the south to the west, your hand and wrist are again placed sideways on top of the stick, the palm facing to the south, and upon reaching the south, the palm is turned over to face upward, as is the wrist. Then when going from the south to the east, the wrist arcs inward for the palm to face downward, restoring your original position.
This description has focused on the left wrist. To practice with the right wrist, simply reverse the directions. It is not difficult to reason out the rest by analogy.
Training the whole arm (i.e. from the shoulder to the wrist)
The methods for practicing with the arm are no different from the explanations above, and so it is not necessary to repeat them, though they do not include the same [twisting] changes as with the wrist.
The three kinds of exercises described above should be practiced distinctly in order to prevent confusion. In other words, when training the hand, focus on the relationship between the hand and the stick, when training the wrist, focus on the relationship between wrist and stick, and when training the arm, between arm and stick. And yet at the same time, the exercises are merged in the sense that when you are doing these pushing movements, your hand, wrist, and arm are rubbing against the stick equally, causing in the upper limbs better livening of the tissues and circulation of the blood. In this manner of the skin being rubbed against the stick, it is like techniques of Chinese tuina or Western massage, because as the muscles and bones are getting livened, the inside of the body receives the effects of being massaged.
However, massage techniques involve a person being rubbed by another person or by an electric machine, both a passive experience, whereas this is a massage involving an apparatus that is an active experience. We often witness people older than ourselves with constant discomfort in their muscles and bones, who are always aching and need to ask others to pound their backs, press their chests, and so on. This is because they did not pay attention to exercise when they were in the prime of life, and hence have become dependent on this kind of passive massage from other people or electric devices. The pushing hands stick can not only exercise our hands and arms, but can also work the back, waist, chest, and ribs, as described below:
Training the back:
Stand with your back to the stick, back and stick touching. Sit your body onto your left leg or right, the opposite foot forward, heel touching down. Lean your body forward, in the manner of drawing a bow, which causes the stick to move upward along your back, then stick out your chest, causing the stick to move downward. See photo 2:
This kind of exercise conforms very much to the Taiji Boxing principle “contain your chest and pluck up your back”, and when you then stick out your chest and arch your back, the stick will move up and down without disconnecting whether you move slowly or quickly. At first, the stick will move up and down more quickly and in only a straight line, but after a long time you will be able to make the stick go from your back’s upper left to lower right, or from upper right to lower left, making a constant circle. Your waist goes along with the movement to twist your body to the left and right.
Another method is to bend forward until your back is under the stick, so that back and stick are parallel with each other while touching. Extend your arms and sway them to each side, making the stick roll over your back to the left and right.
Training the waist and ribs:
With your body sideways, stand next to the stick.
When the stick is placed under your left ribs, sit your body onto your left leg with your right foot forward, heel touching down. Lean your body to the right, causing the stick to go upward along your left ribs, then switch to leaning to the left, bringing the stick back down.
When the stick is placed under your right ribs, sit your body onto your right leg with your left foot forward, heel touching down. Lean your body to the left, causing the stick to go upward along your right ribs, then switch to leaning to the right, bringing the stick back down.
When training your left ribs, you can also sit your body onto your right leg. When training your right ribs, you can also sit your body onto your left leg.
By this means, wherever the stick goes, your waist and ribs are receiving a massage.
Training the chest:
Stand facing the stick, connecting at your chest. Start by sitting your body onto your left leg, bending your chest forward, making the stick go downward, and lean your chest back, causing the stick to go upward as you sit onto your right leg. Then you must send your chest twisting to the left and right, making the stick go from the upper left to the lower right, and from upper right to lower left, again making a circular shape, your waist turning along with the twisting of your chest.
There is also a version when training your chest or back in which you sit your body onto both legs equally, making Taiji Boxing’s SINGLE WHIP posture.
These exercises merge with the principle of “contain your chest and pluck up your back”.
TRAINING METHODS FOR THE TAIJI BOXING PUSHING HANDS BALL
A. Single-arm training
Stand in front of the ball, facing to the east. Sit your body onto your left leg, your left [right] foot forward, heel touching down. Your right hand and forearm touch the side of the ball. Your hand seems to stroke along the ball as it slowly raises up until on top of the ball, then continues to the north and downward, making a crosswise circle. When your hand is on top, the palm is touching the ball. When going from above to the north, the back of the hand is touching the side of the ball. Once under the ball, the hand has turned outward so the palm is again touching.
After doing it in this way several times, you can reverse the direction, the hand and forearm going upward from the north, the back of the hand touching the ball. Once the hand is on top of the ball, the forearm is placed sideways on it, and then once it has gone downward from the south, the hand has turned inward, causing the palm to be touching.
Then after doing it in this way several times, you can sit onto your right leg and exercise your left hand. The practice method is the same as for the right hand, also making a crosswise circle. Once you have become skillful at this exercise, you can also practice with your left hand while sitting on your left leg, and practice with your right hand while sitting on your right leg.
Stand in front of the ball, facing to the east. Sit your body onto your left leg, your right foot forward, heel touching down. Your right hand and forearm are again touching the side of the ball. Your hand seems to stroke along the ball as it slowly goes upward from the east, then to the west, and downward. Your hand and forearm are always touching a hemisphere, making a vertical circle. After several times, you can reverse the direction: to the west from below, then upward, and to the east.
When practicing with your left hand, sit onto your right leg, and make the same two circles as with your right hand. Again, you can also practice with your left hand while sitting on your left leg, and practice with your right hand while sitting on your right leg. These are all exercises you will understand intuitively.
Stand in front of the ball, facing to the east. Sit your body onto your left leg, your right foot forward, heel touching down. Your right hand and forearm are touching under the ball, and the hand gradually shifts around from the east to the north, then to the west, and to the south, making a flat circle. After several times, reverse the direction: from east to south, west, north, again making a flat circle.
When practicing with your left hand, sit onto your right leg, your left foot forward, heel touching down, same as before, making the same two flat circles. Again, you can also practice with your left hand while sitting on your left leg, and practice with your right hand while sitting on your right leg.
B. Double-arm training
Stand in front of the ball, facing to the east. Sit your body onto either leg, the other foot forward, heel touching down. Your hands are in a posture of embracing, bringing the ball to your chest. Start by making a vertical circle with your right hand and forearm: up, west, down, east. While your right hand is going to the west from above, your left hand and forearm are also making a circle downward from the west, then upward to the east.
The direction you are facing, the actions of your hands, and the shifting of the weight are all the same as for the first exercise, but although your hands and forearms are making the same kinds of vertical circles, they are now moving in slightly different directions from each other. For example, as your left hand pushes up, east, down, west, your right hand is pushing up, west, down, east. While this is quite difficult in the beginning of the training, you will be able to do this skillfully once you have been practicing for a long time. The problem is that our nervous system has to make our hands move in opposite directions, which is extremely difficult.
For an analogy, grasp your right hand into a fist, flatten out your left hand, and put them both onto a table. As you do this, try to strike it with your right fist as you rub it with your left hand. [The Western equivalent is of course patting your head while rubbing your tummy.] You have to perform different actions at the same time, which feels like too much to handle and impossible to do smoothly. You will consequently hesitate and end up striking with both hands or rubbing with both hands, and this is because the nervous system is only able to focus on one thing at a time. However, after practicing for a long time, your hands will be able to simultaneously and easily perform different movements.
For your hands to be pushing on the ball to the left and right is easy, but there is a difficulty in pushing upward and downward, and this is because the fastening on top of the ball may get in the way. Therefore the exercises are to be mixed, so that as one hand is pushing left or right in a vertical or crosswise circle, the other hand touches the ball underneath and makes a level circle.
While practicing with both arms, you may sit onto either leg and switch them as you please. Your body may be attacking forward or sitting back. Attacking forward, your body goes forward, your left knee bending, creating a line from toes to knee to nose, your right leg straightening behind and bracing like a pillar. The situation in this case is left foot full, right foot empty. Then sitting back onto your right leg, your left leg in front is touching down with only its heel. The situation in this case is right foot full, left foot empty. In this way, your body is going suddenly forward or suddenly back, and your waist is moving correspondingly.
When practicing the first single-arm exercise with your right arm, the palm and forearm are touching the south side of the ball, then touching the ball with the back of the hand once on the opposite side. In this way, the ball is to the right side of your body rather than directly in front of you. When practicing with your left arm, the situation will be the same [i.e. mirrored – the ball to the left side of your body, palm touching the north side, then back of the hand touching the south side]. During the pushing movement, make two vertical circles – 1. up, east, down, west, 2. up, west, down, east – sitting onto either leg and switching as you please.
The area on top of the ball where it is suspended cannot be used for practice, but the upper left and upper right corner areas can be used. To practice, first sit onto your right leg and place your left forearm forward on the upper left area of the ball, then withdraw to make a circle: to the west from above, below, and to the east. This makes a diagonal circle, halfway between a vertical circle and a crosswise circle. There is also the reverse circle: up, east, down, west. And thus you have both directions of the circle to practice.
When practicing, you should pay attention first of all that your arm seem like a wheel rotating on an axle. Then place your right forearm on the upper right area of the ball and practice the same exercise. And then practice while sitting onto either leg.
C. Training the upper arm
Stand in front of the ball, facing to the east. Sit your body onto your left leg, your right foot forward, heel touching down. Your right shoulder touches the side of the ball and your upper arm circles east, up, west, down, and also west, up, east, down, making the two vertical circles. When practicing with the upper arm, everything is the same as with the forearm, and you may likewise switch onto either leg.
When practicing with your upper arm, you are simultaneously training your arm and your back. Start by leaning your shoulder against the side of the ball with your arm raised to shoulder level. As the tip of your shoulder goes forward, the ball rolls around to your back, and as your shoulder withdraws, the ball goes from your back, along your shoulder until on the side of your arm, making the “bump” posture. This is like the Taiji Boxing postures WILD HORSE VEERS ITS MANE or DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE.
If your shoulder moves more forcefully, the ball can roll fully around your back to your left shoulder, and go along your left arm until again in front. In this way, the ball goes all the way around your body like the moon orbiting the Earth or the Earth orbiting the sun.
There are many methods of sending the ball behind you. For the simplest method, when the ball is in front of you, use your left arm to make a crosswise circle, and once the circle is to the north, lean your shoulder into the ball, rolling it around to your back.
There is also a method to practice reversing incoming force. Push the ball with your hand to make the ball swing away. Then as the ball swings back, your chest goes to the rear to receive it, causing the ball go into an emptiness, then take advantage of the opportunity [i.e. when the pendulum swing reverses its momentum] and push it forward. Here again is the idea of “contain the chest and pluck up the back”.
TAIJI BALL FOR EXERCISING THE HANDS
To focus on exercising the hand and forearm, I have constructed a ball about nine inches wide, placed on the end of a shaft containing a spring, which is set atop a pole. The pole is stood on level ground or on a board. Stand on the end of the board, lean over, and use your hand or forearm to push the ball. The ball can also be revolved all the way around.
TAIJI BALL FOR EXERCISING THE LEGS
To exercise the hips and legs, there is a ball made of bamboo or rattan, around two feet in diameter, placed on the level ground, which is pushed around by the legs.
FIGHTING BALL ARENA
I have also invented a “fighting ball arena”. The arena is round, a circular rack of bamboo or wood to make a basin shape, many thin poles or wood planks inclined toward the center. It goes higher to the outside and is level in the middle. The center of the arena is kept as an open space about ten feet across. From there to the edge is about twenty-five feet. Therefore the whole arena has a diameter of sixty feet.
Stand in the center and use your hands or forearms to roll the ball, made of rattan, three or four feet wide, pushing through it. It will roll naturally, going along with your momentum, as you send it away. The ball rolls to the edge of the arena, and once at the top, rolls back down. Connect to it with your hands, forearms, chest, back, or leg, and send it away again. Therefore the ball is like an opponent, and puts you into various fighting postures. And then once you are skillful at it, you can think of an opponent as being the ball.
For solo practice, this kind of “fighting ball” requires using the arena. When practicing with two, three, or four people, use level ground. Person A rolls the ball away to Person B, then Person B rolls the ball, pushing it to Person C. In this way, many people can take part at the same time. This activity can exercise the whole body.
– – –
We can get a sense of the promotion of Chu’s training tools through the items included below.
Here is a full-page article published in the 精武書報 Jingwu Newspaper, Vol. 2, Issue 17, Mar 30, 1930:
NEW EXERCISES FROM A NEW SCHOOL OF THOUGHT
by Huang Weiqing
Chu Minyi, member of the Central Supervisory Committee, and current president of this association, has all his life laid stress upon physical education. Able to practice what he preaches, and particularly infatuated with the Taiji Boxing art, he has used scientific methods to invent the Taiji pushing hands ball and stick for the enhancement of Chinese martial arts, highly praised by physical educators. Also based on scientific principles, he has invented the “fighting ball arena” as another tool for mild exercise.
On the 10th of this month, there was a celebratory gathering held at the French Industrial Training School on La-fei-de [“Lafayette”] Rd. Once the weather had cleared up after a great deal of rain, guests both Chinese and foreign congregated with pleasure. At the center of it all were VIPs such as Cai Yuanpei, Li Shizeng, Wang Zhengting, Ding Chaowu, former minister to Belgium Wang Jingqi, Railway Department Under-Secretary Li Zhaohuan, and Naval Administration Director Ren Guangyu.
李石曾 蔡元培 褚民誼
Li Shizeng / Cai Yuanpei / Chu Minyi
From the martial arts world there was Tan Fansheng [Tang Hao] representing Zhang Zhijiang, director of the Central Martial Arts Institute, as well as Wu Jianquan, Xu Zhiyi, Liu Baichuan, and others. There were also about a hundred people from both the French and Belgian consulates. The space was filled in a very short time.
After entering the grounds, the guests were received by Chu, along with Wu Tianni and Dai Chunfeng. The fighting ball arena was situated at the southwest corner of the sporting grounds. It was a circular shape about sixty feet in diameter. From a flat center rose bamboo poles as it spread outward. The farther out it went, the higher they got. All the bamboo poles were propped up at the same height all the way around the circle, which was surrounded by a bamboo fence as high as a person. Even seen from a distance, the whole arena seemed very grand. In the middle were placed two balls made of bamboo threads, each about four feet in diameter. When practicing, a person stands in the center and pushes the ball away in all directions, and the ball will return on its own from far away. On the east side of the grounds were also placed three types of Taiji pushing hands balls and the pushing hands stick, all invented by Chu.
The event started at 3pm with Chu performing the fighting ball exercises. He began by using both hands to send the two balls spinning away to each side. Then he went on to kick them around and halt them with his body. Using his whole body and each of his limbs, he went along with the rotating movements of the balls and made use of their momentum, the balls going up onto the rack. Rising, falling, spinning, they were like the Earth and the Moon swirling around each other. The spectators clapped their hands ceaselessly. Chu said this exercise was still in the experimental phase and would be improved on until perfected.
Within the “fighting ball arena” (fighting ball exercises photographed by Guo Xiqi):
Chu Minyi inaugurating the event in the arena:
A posture of pushing a ball:
He then performed with the Taiji brass ball and the Taiji stick, pushing and then receiving, up and down, quickly and slowly, displaying all of the ingenuities of the exercises.
Structure of the apparatus for the “Taiji ball”:
Performing with the Taiji ball:
There was also a smaller bamboo ball, about five times the size of an ordinary soccer ball. When put on the ground, it is moved around with the foot. When put on a table, it is moved around by the body or hands. See photos 1-3:
Chu demonstrated the exercises for the bamboo balls one by one. He says he intends to take his inventions with him to Belgium for the Chinese education exhibit at the International Exposition [at Liège, May-Nov, 1930] so that foreigners can take a look at them.
Then performances continued from Wu Jianquan, Xu Zhiyi, Liu Desheng, Tong Zhongyi, Liu Baichuan, Jin Xiufeng, further livening things with boxing arts demonstrations. Wu Jianquan’s daughter Yinghua did a performance of Taiji Sword that was especially outstanding. On that day, every newspaper reporter busily took photographs. The photos of the event included here were taken by our own Guo Xiqi.
Here are a few photos from issues 1-3 of 國術統一月刊 Martial Arts United Monthly, 1934:
Chu Minyi demonstrating the Taiji pushing hands ball during the opening of the National Games:
At the 18th Northern China Exercise Conference, chief referee over martial arts Chu Minyi demonstrating the Taiji pushing hands ball on a martial arts platform:
Chu Minyi promoting kite flying:
Here is an announcement published in 山西國術體育旬刊 Shanxi Martial Arts & Physical Education Weekly, Vol 1, Issue 34, Aug 10, 1935:
CHU MINYI HAS ALSO INVENTED A “TAIJI WHEEL”
[uncredited, thus presumably written by the periodical’s chief editor,
馬耐冬 Ma Naidong]
To keep young Chinese girls from getting left out, Secretary-General of the Administrative Branch Chu Minyi has now also been promoting kite-flying. He certainly has a restless personality. He not only delights in exercise, but also travel, traditional opera, and boxing arts. He has said: “Among the various boxing arts, the most excellent is Taiji Boxing.”
Several years ago he invented a kind of “Taiji ball”, a huge ball made of rattan, which he pushes around using Taiji techniques, and he still practices with it every day. Recently he has also invented a kind of “Taiji wheel”, which is actually turned by means of a brass handle, and resembles the leather ball commonly used for doing Taiji Boxing pushing techniques. He believes this will be another fresh gain for Chinese martial arts. [Unfortunately there is no photo included of the “wheel”, nor any clear description for exactly what this thing is, though it sounds like it might simply be a device that mimics the action of a grinding millstone, as with a basic pushing hands circle. Fortunately the real value of this article lies with the following paragraph.]
Because his purpose is to encourage and propagate martial arts, he talked with the Venus Film Company about shooting a newsreel of him demonstrating Taiji Boxing. After completing the filming, he very proudly said that he will definitely be taking this newsreel with him when he travels abroad and have it shown everywhere in order to publicize Chinese martial arts.
The film footage mentioned above:
Its title card says:
Chinese Educational Film Society Presents:
MASTER CHU MINYI DEMONSTRATING CHINESE PHYSICAL EDUCATION
Produced by the Venus Film Company
The narrator says:
Secretary-General of the Administrative Branch of the Chinese National Government, Master Chu Minyi, has put great effort into the promoting and researching of physical education, and has also created many new fitness methods. That is why he now, though already at the age of fifty-three, still has the physique of a young man.* Master Chu will now give a very basic run-through of the Taiji Boxing set.
We should understand that the movements of Taiji Boxing are supposed to be slow, soft, even, and continuous. When the movement is complete in this way, the whole body is moving and the arms are moving in arcs, causing the respiration and circulation to be as natural and smooth as clouds moving in the sky and water flowing in the rivers. When practicing, the legs have to stay slightly bent, as though in a posture of riding a horse, facilitating abdominal breathing, causing the weight to sink and the body to become stable.
It is not like forceful exercises that only emphasize strength, nor like quiet sitting meditations that only emphasize breath. This kind of activity is the best exercise for building up the health of the body.
[*This mention of his age, in conjunction with his known birth year of 1884, seems to have caused many people to assume the film is from 1937, a perfectly natural conclusion. But we musn’t forget the extra year the Chinese traditionally add for the “year” spent in the womb, meaning fifty-three would really mean fifty-two, pulling the date of the film back to 1936. However, Chu was born on Jan 17, eleven days before the Chinese New Year began for that year. Another peculiar Chinese tradition is that the New Year marks the ticking of the age-metronome rather than one’s actual birthday, and so everyone is considered a year older at the time of the New Year, and this therefore adds yet another year to Chu’s age. Imagining a new-born infant being considered already a two-year-old may cause us some minor seizures, but the fact that the fifty-three therefore turns out to actually mean fifty-one brings the date of the film into satisfactory alignment with the date of the article above – 1935.]
There are two types of Taiji Boxing practice methods: one is for one person to practice solo, another is for two people to practice together. What is being demonstrated right now is a solo practice method. As for two-person practice, it requires two people of equal level so they can cooperate. Often there is the difficulty of not being able to find a partner. Master Chu spent a very long time considering the solution to this problem, then created two kinds of scientific apparatus. These two kinds of apparatus are simply a stick and a ball.
Ladies and Gentlemen, why is this stick on Master Chu’s body able to tumble all around in this way? Because this free-standing stick is attached to eight strips of rubber which can stretch and contract naturally, and thus can shift according to the direction of the person’s force. The performer therefore applies force upward or downward, to the left or right, forward or back, producing a variety of movements. This stick will move as you please, circling around freely, and so it is the same as when practicing patterns with a partner.
Now Master Chu will demonstrate the Taiji ball. This is a twenty-five pound brass ball hanging from a single rubber strip. The practitioner stands either in front of or behind the ball, making a variety of Taiji Boxing postures. And so this brass ball can be used in the same way as the Taiji stick: it goes along with the direction of the person’s force – up, down, left, right, forward, back – making circular movements.
Here are three stands as models. Two of them represent people with tightness in their backs. People who do not exercise will have stiff spines. People who frequently exercise will have flexible spines.
Kicking a shuttlecock is a common fitness exercise in China, for it can be practiced anywhere by anyone. When kicking the shuttlecock, although the legs and feet are moving the most, the twisting of the waist and neck may cause the hands to drift along with the movement. The eyes in particular are exercised as they follow the shuttlecock up or down, left or right. In this way, the practice can correct the vision. From observing Master Chu’s bearing during this performance, we can know that kicking a shuttlecock is surely an excellent means of exercising the whole body.
Archery was a mandatory ability in ancient China, because it can liven the physique and tone the muscles, as well as train the spirit and cultivate character. However, it has to be practiced frequently, for it is very easy to miss the target. Let’s watch Master Chu as he goes from the outer circles to sending his seventh arrow straight to the bull’s eye!
Here is another priceless piece of Chu footage:
Would someone out there please manufacture these toys so we can all play with them?