THE INSIGHTS OF WU GONGZAO

太極拳講義
TAIJI BOXING EXPLAINED
著作者 吳公藻
by Wu Gongzao
校正者 吳公儀
text proofread by Wu Gongyi
[published by the 湖南國術訓練所 Hunan Martial Arts Training Institute, June, 1935]

[translation by Paul Brennan, Dec, 2018]

吳公藻編
by Wu Gongzao:
太極拳講義
Taiji Boxing Explained
何鍵題
– calligraphy by He Jian

向愷然序
PREFACE BY XIANG KAIRAN [a dialogue]

客有致疑於太極拳者。曰。拳之為用。主搏人。四肢百骸。人所同具。欲操勝算。捨快與力奚由。故拳家有一快不破。一硬不破之言。乃今之言太極拳者。則曰。以不用力為體。以慢為用。得毋與拳之原理相悖謬乎。
A doubter of Taiji Boxing once said to me: “The main function of a boxing art is for fighting opponents. Four limbs and a body – it’s the same set-up for everyone. But if you want to win, why would you dispense with speed and strength? As boxing masters say: ‘unbeatable speed, unbreakable hardness’. But nowadays there are Taiji Boxing practitioners saying: ‘To put forth no exertion is the foundation, and in slowness lies the function.’ In relation to the other boxing principle, isn’t this a ludicrous statement?”

余曰。誠然。拳之為用。捨力與快無由。客將謂拳之快而多力者。有逾於太極拳者乎。
To this I said: “Yes indeed. There’s no reason to abandon strength and speed for the functionality of those other boxing arts. But are you suggesting that boxing practitioners with great speed and strength would defeat a Taiji boxer?”

客曰。吾習太極拳三年於茲矣。先晢嘗詔吾曰。一舉動週身俱要輕靈。用勁如抽絲。不可斷續。是云云者。非慢而不用力之謂乎。吾寢饋其中。無間寒燠。然嘗與里中之習他拳纔數月者角。輒敗退不知所以支吾之道。曩固疑其非搏人之術。茲益信其然矣。今吾子顧曰。拳之快而多力者。無逾此。願聞其說。
He then said: “I’ve now been practicing Taiji Boxing for three years. Previous masters explain to us: ‘Once there is any movement, your entire body should have lightness and nimbleness.’ ‘Move energy as if drawing silk.’ ‘Do not allow there to be breaks in the flow.’ Aren’t such statements saying that it’s slow and doesn’t use strength? I’ve obsessed over this even in my sleep and practiced constantly no matter what the weather’s like. Nevertheless, when I tried wrestling with a practitioner of another boxing art in my hometown, who had only been training for a few months, I was defeated, for I had no idea what to do. I then strongly suspected that this isn’t a fightworthy art and I’ve come to believe even more that this is the case. But now you instead say that boxing arts that are fast and strong do not surpass this one. I wish to hear your explanation.”

余曰。異哉子之所謂快與硬也。豈不以手之屈伸。足之進退為快。肌膚之粗糙。筋骨之堅實為硬乎。是屬於人類自然之本能。無關藝術之修養者也。且屈伸進退。為用甚簡。雖至迅。必有間。人得而乘焉。太極拳之為用。雖亦不離乎屈伸進退。然曲中求直。其象如圜。唯其圜也。為用不拘一方。猶之槍之為用。人知其在頴也。刀之為用。人知其在鋒也。非甚簡矣乎。若夫圜之為用。則無在無不在也。唯其用之無不在也。故一舉動週身俱要輕靈。庶幾無習於拳者。難於掌。習於臀者。難於足之病。其迅捷視他拳不可以數字計。拳經載。一處有一處虛實。處處總此一虛實。又謂。一動無有不動。一靜無有不靜。是可知其一舉動為用之繁賾矣。他拳鮮不用斷勁者。斷而復續。授隙於人。太極拳泯斷續之跡。用時隨在可斷。斷而復連。王宗岳謂粘卽是走。走卽是粘。人不知我。我獨知人。正是於此等處。用力久而後能臻於縝密。試思一舉動之為用遍週身。處處皆當詳審其虛實所在。則其形於外者。安得不慢乎。
I responded: “How strange. Isn’t what you’re saying about speed and hardness a matter of the speed of the arms bending and extending, of the feet advancing and retreating, and of the hardness of tough skin and muscle, of robust bone and sinew? These are natural human capacities, nothing to do with developed martial skill. For that matter, bending, extending, advancing, retreating are extremely simple actions, and no matter how fast they’re performed, they’ll surely leave a gap for the opponent to take advantage of. Although applications in Taiji Boxing don’t depart from bending, extending, advancing, retreating, they also have the quality of ‘within curving, seek to be straightening’, and is rounded in appearance. Because of its roundness, its functionality is unlimited.
  “Compare this to using a spear, which everyone knows is mainly a matter of using the spear tip, or to using a saber, which everyone knows is mainly a matter of using the saber edge. Are they not extremely simple? But the applicability of roundness reaches nowhere and everywhere, and thus it can function anywhere. Hence: ‘Once there is any movement, your entire body should have lightness and nimbleness.’ This frees you almost fully from the errors made by those who overtrain punching and so have difficulty striking with the palm, or those who overtrain striking with the hips and so have difficulty kicking.
  “The speed of this art thus can’t even be measured in the same way as for other boxing arts. It says in the classics: ‘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.’ Also: ‘If one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.’ From this we can know that once there is any movement, its function will be complex and subtle.
  “Other boxing arts rarely do not employ an interrupted energy, stopping and then starting up again, leaving a gap for an opponent to exploit. In Taiji Boxing, there is no indication of any stopping and starting, because during application you can ‘disconnect but stay connected’. Wang Zongyue said: ‘In sticking there is yielding and in yielding there is sticking… He does not know me, only I know him.’ This is exactly the idea. After working at it for a long time, you’ll be able to achieve this quality even at a level of minute detail. Consider that ‘once there is any movement’, you’re using your entire body, examining for emptiness and fullness everywhere, so of course the outward appearance would seem slowed down.”

客曰。慢之道。得聞命矣。其以無力為多力之說。可得聞乎。
He then asked: “Having heard the theory of slowness, can I hear the explanation for no strength being great strength?”

余曰。拳術不貴力。而貴勁。不僅太極拳也。一切拳術。則皆然矣。夫人不患無力。特患其力之不能集中耳。力為人所恆有。世固無力之人。一臂之重十斤。能屈伸運動。則一臂具十斤之力矣。一身之重數十斤。未聞其足之不能自舉。則足具數十斤之力矣。此為天下至弱者之所同具。但以其為力而非勁也。不能集中一點。以傳達於敵人之身。故不足貴。習拳者。在使力化為勁。倘能以十斤之勁。集於手而中於人。人必傷。數十斤之勁。集於足而中於人。人必斃。則亦何患乎力之不多也。他拳之勢。掌則為掌。肘則為肘。顯然易知。然學者積久成習。尚多有麤疏木强。不能集中其勁以達於敵人者。病在知有力之為力。不知無力之為力也。握拳透爪。嚙齒穿齦。自視殊武健。而不知力因此已陷於肩背。徒為他人攻擊之藉。力雖大何補。太極拳之原則。在化力為勁。尤在能任意集中。用之則行。舍之則藏。無麤疏木强之弊。無屈伸斷續之跡。故經曰。無氣者純剛。是不用力也。非不用勁也。
I said: “Boxing arts do not value strength, but power. This is not only the case in Taiji Boxing, but in all boxing arts. A practitioner does not worry that he has no force, only that his force cannot be concentrated.
  “Strength is something everyone has, even those who hardly have any. An arm may weigh ten pounds. It can therefore move by bending and extending with the force of ten pounds. A body may weigh a hundred pounds. There is no one who can’t lift his own foot, therefore the leg acts with the force of a hundred pounds. Even the weakest people in the world have this much strength. But this is merely a matter of strength rather than power. It can’t be focused at a point and transmitted into the opponent’s body, therefore it’s not really worthwhile.
  “A boxing arts practitioner seeks to convert strength into power. If he can concentrate ten pounds of power into his hand and hit the opponent with it, the opponent is sure to be injured. If he can concentrate a hundred pounds of power into his foot and hit the opponent with it, the opponent is sure to be killed. So why would there be any worry about not having a lot of strength?
  “In the postures of other boxing arts, a palm strike is clearly a palm strike and an elbow strike is obviously an elbow strike. But the students form habits through long-term practice and end up maintaining a mindless stiffness, unable to concentrate power and send it into opponents. The error lies in treating strength as strength and not understanding how going without strength can be strength.
  “They clench their fists so hard that they look like talons protruding, and they clench their teeth so hard that they look like they’ll bite through their own faces. They imagine themselves to be replete with martial skill, but they don’t understand that their strength has become stuck in their shoulders and back, giving their opponents an opportunity to attack. So even with great strength, what help would it be?
  “The principle in Taiji Boxing is to convert strength into power, and particularly to be able to focus it as you please. When you apply it, it is in action. When not applying it, it is stored away. There are no errors of rough-edged stiffness, nor signs of bending and extending, stopping and starting. Therefore it says in the classics: ‘If you ignore the energy and let it take care of itself, there will be pure strength.’ So it is not a matter of putting forth exertion, but of applying power.”

客曰。誠如吾子之說。則吾三年來寢饋其中。未嘗不慢。未嘗用力。何為而不得一當也。
He said: “What you say rings true. But I’ve been completely absorbed in the training for three years, I’ve never rushed through the set, and I’ve never used any exertion. So why can’t I get it right?”

余曰。古人緣理以造勢。吾人應卽勢以明理。不知理而徒練勢。他拳且不可。况精深博大之太極拳乎。雖寢處其中三十年。亦何益也。
I said: “Previous generations made the postures according to principles, and so we should practice the postures in order to understand their principles. But if we don’t come to understand the principles and we’re just practicing the postures, we wouldn’t be able to succeed even in other boxing arts, much less in the case of deeply profound Taiji Boxing. Even if we put all our time into it over the course of thirty years, we’d get nothing out of it.”

客曰。然則如何而後可。
He asked: “That being the case, what should we do to succeed?”

余曰。練體、惟熟讀經論。力求體驗。練用、則玩索打手歌。及十三勢行功心解。斯亦可矣。
I answered: “To train foundation, you only have to study the classics and strive to experience what they discuss. To train function, specifically ponder the Playing Hands Song and Understanding How to Practice. By this means, you will succeed.”

客曰。是不待吾子之命。曩嘗從事於斯矣。論言、由着熟漸悟懂勁。由懂勁階及神明。吾日習幾三十遍。着法不為不熟矣。為時三年。用力不為不久矣。而豁然貫通之效不見。是以疑之。
He said: “Before you suggested it, I’d actually already studied them. The Treatise says: ‘Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will work your way toward something miraculous. [But unless you practice a lot over a long time, you will never have a breakthrough.]’ Everyday I practice almost thirty rounds of the solo set, so the techniques can’t really be considered uningrained, and after three whole years, my great deal of practice can’t really be considered to have happened over a brief time. But I haven’t yet witnessed any results on the level of a ‘breakthrough’, and thus I’m in doubt.”

余曰。子之所謂着熟者。殆其形於外之進退周旋歟。若能心知其意。虛實分明。則勢愈練而意愈縝密。所謂行氣如九曲球。無微不至。則一身之四肢百骸。無在不可以蓄勁。無在不可以發勁。卽是隨處能走。隨處能粘。復安有敗退於學他拳纔數月者之理。
I said: “By ‘ingrained techniques’, do you mean outward postures such as advancing, retreating, turning around? If you’re to understand such actions in terms of intention, emptiness and fullness will be clearly distinguished, and then the more you practice the postures, the more meticulous your intention will become. It is said: ‘Move energy as though through a winding-path pearl, penetrating even the smallest nook.’ This means that the whole body, its four limbs and hundreds of bones, can store power in every part and issue power from any part. What this means is that you’re everywhere able to yield, everywhere able to stick. And then how would you be defeated through the principles of someone who has been studying some other boxing art for just a few months?”

客至是恍然若有所悟。曰。虛實無定時。無定位。以意為變化。於理則然矣。施之於事。每苦進退失據。甚且頂抗蠻觸於不自覺。雙重之病。有若天性使然。避之甚難。吾非不知病在虛實未分明也。觸覺未敏銳也。然有時明知其然。而法無可施者。其故亦別有在乎。
He seemed to arrive at a sudden realization and said: “As the timing or position is never certain when it comes to emptiness and fullness, the intention has to be on adapting. This principle makes sense. But whatever I try to do, I always advance or retreat in vain, even to the point that there’s a great deal of resistance in my touch and yet I’m not aware of it. The error of double pressure seems to be an inherent part of me, really difficult to avoid. It’s not that I don’t know that the error lies in not clearly distinguishing between emptiness and fullness, it’s that I don’t yet have a keen enough sensitivity to do it well. There are times when I know exactly what’s going on, but I can’t carry out any technique. So is there still some other problem?”

余曰。十三勢以中定為主。掤捋擠按十二勢為輔。有中定。然後有一切。一切勢皆不離乎中定。然後足以言應付。陳品三謂開闔虛實。卽為拳經。吾人應知無中定。安有開闔。譬之戶牖。開闔在樞。樞若動搖。云何開闔。不開不闔。虛實焉求。是可知無中定之虛實。非虛實也。無中定之觸覺。猶瞽之視。跛之履。觸如不觸。覺如不覺也。經曰。中正安舒。安舒云者。定之謂也。
I said: “Within the thirteen dynamics, being centered is the priority. The other twelve – warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, and so on – are just there to assist. If you have that quality of being centered, then you have everything. When none of your postures exist independent from centeredness, then you’ll be ready to talk about applying them. Chen Pinsan [Chen Xin] said: ‘Open and close, emptiness and fullness – these are the keys to the art.’ We should understand that when we don’t have centeredness, there’s no opening and closing.
  “For example, the opening and closing of a door depends upon its hinges. If a hinge slips into an awkward angle, will it open or close well? Without opening and closing, you won’t be able to seek emptiness and fullness. Thus you can understand that any emptiness or fullness you feel when not centered is neither emptiness nor fullness. Being without a sense of centeredness is like a blind man’s sight, a lame man’s steps, touching when without a sense of touch, perceiving when without ability to perceive. It says in the classics: ‘Your posture must be straight and comfortable.’ That word ‘comfortable’ is the indicator of being centered.”

客曰。求中定有道乎。
He then asked: “Is there a method for developing centeredness?”

余曰。子但知虛實無定時。無定位。以意為變化。而不知每一虛實。皆先有中定。而後有變化。處處有虛實。卽處處有中定。蓄法無定法。而一切法皆從中定中出。則聖人復起。不易吾言也。法遍周身。中定亦遍周身。然初學者。不足以語此。無已。則求左右開闔之樞。在脊。上下開闔之樞。在腰。先哲所謂力由脊發。所謂尾閭正中。所謂氣貼背斂入脊骨。所謂頂頭懸。皆明示其樞在脊也。所謂腰如車軸。所謂腰為纛。所謂命意源頭在腰際。所謂刻刻留心在腰間。所謂主宰於腰。皆明示其樞在腰也。學者先求得腰脊之中定。然後一切法。乃有中定。非然者。雖童而習之。以至於皓首。猶無益也。十三勢歌云。若不向此推求去。枉費工夫貽嘆息。鳴呼。昔賢悲憫之言。如聞其聲矣。
I said: “You merely understand that emptiness and fullness have no fixed moment or position, and your intention is to switch them, but you don’t understand that for every instance of emptiness and fullness, there first has to be centeredness in order to switch them. There’s everywhere an emptiness and a fullness, and so there’s everywhere a centeredness. Because the techniques are not fixed, every technique emerges from centeredness. Even if Zhang Sanfeng rose from the dead right now, he couldn’t alter this point.
  “The techniques involve the whole body, and centeredness also involves the whole body. But since beginners are not equipped to understand this, they ought to just confine themselves to seeking the mechanism of opening and closing to the left and right in the spine, and the mechanism of opening and closing above and below in the waist. The previous masters said: ‘Power comes from your spine.’ ‘Your tailbone is centered.’ ‘Energy stays near your back and gathers in your spine.’ ‘Your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended.’ These clearly indicate the pivot is in the spine. ‘Your waist is like an axle.’ ‘Your waist is a banner.’ ‘The command comes from your lower back.’ ‘At every moment, pay attention to your waist.’ ‘Direct it from your waist.’ These clearly indicate the pivot is in the waist.
  “If you first seek centeredness in your waist and spine, then every technique will have the quality of centeredness. If not, then even if you practice from youth to old age, it’ll seem like you’ve gotten nothing out of it. It says in the Thirteen Dynamics Song: ‘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.’ Alas, these wistful words from the wise men of a previous generation do seem to go unheard.”

客聞而再拜曰。微吾子言。吾雖日讀經論。而不得間也。抑更有請者。經言氣宜鼓盪。論言。氣沉丹田。十三勢歌言。氣遍身軀不少滯。十三勢行功心解言。以心行氣。以氣運身。其言氣者多矣。究竟氣以何法使鼓盪。使沉丹田。使遍身軀。心、如何行氣。氣、如何運身。明知氣為此中肝要。然苦無下手處。且丹田在臍以下。今之生理學家。謂呼吸以肺不以腹。橫膈膜以下。非呼吸所能達。所謂腹部呼吸者。橫膈膜之運動而已。其將以何法使氣沉丹田。
Having heard this explanation, he politely said: “How profound your words are. Despite studying the classics daily, I still haven’t been able to understand their content, and so I have some more questions. It says in the Classic: ‘Energy should be roused.’ It says in the Treatise: ‘Energy sinks down to your elixir field.’ It says in the Thirteen Dynamics Song: ‘Then energy will flow through your whole body without getting stuck anywhere.’ It says in Understanding How to Practice: ‘Use mind to move energy… Use energy to move your body.’ The mentions of ‘energy’ are numerous. How exactly does one ‘rouse’ energy, or get it to sink to the elixir field, or flow through the whole body? And does mind move energy, or energy move the body?
  “Moreover, the ‘elixir field’ lies below the navel, but modern physiologists say that breathing uses the lungs rather than the abdomen. The diaphragm moves downward, but the breath is not able to reach that far. Therefore ‘abdominal breathing’ is just the movement of the diaphragm. So what method is there to get ‘energy’ to sink to the elixir field?”

余曰。善哉問乎。夫人捨呼吸外無氣。所謂氣沉丹田。卽意存丹田也。亦卽所謂腹內鬆淨氣騰然。刻刻留心在腰際也。習太極拳者。求每勢之開闔。勢勢存心。揆其用意。然後以呼吸附麗於開闔之中。呼為開。吸為闔。各勢中有手開闔。足開闔。身開闔。縱橫開闔。內外開闔。一開闔卽一呼吸。開闔所在。卽意所在。亦卽呼吸所在。習之旣久。自然氣遍周身。下手之功在呼吸。成就玄妙不思議之功。亦在呼吸。行功心解中。謂能呼吸。而後能靈活者。此也。
I said: “Good questions. Without breathing, there’s no energy. It is said: ‘Energy sinks down to your elixir field.’ This means that intention stays at your elixir field. It’s also said: ‘At every moment, pay attention to your waist, for if there is relaxation and stillness within your belly, energy is primed.’
  “Practitioners of Taiji Boxing seek for opening and closing within every posture. ‘In every movement, very deliberately control it by the use of intention.’ But within opening and closing, there’s breathing involved. Exhaling makes opening. Inhaling makes closing. Within every posture, there’s opening and closing in the arms, the legs, the body. There’s vertical and horizontal opening and closing, and internal and external opening and closing. A single ‘opening and closing’ means an exhaling and inhaling. Where there’s opening and closing, there’s intention, and there’s also exhaling and inhaling.
  “If you practice over a long time, there will naturally be energy flowing throughout your whole body. The work lies in the breathing, so achieving unimaginable skill also lies in the breathing. It says in Understanding How to Practice: ‘Your ability to be nimble lies in your ability to breathe.’ This is what that is talking about.”

客曰。讀太極拳經論者多矣。果能心領神會。事理無礙者。實未易多覯。吾子曷書適所論列者。以昭式來茲。或亦足為研習此道者解感之一助歟。
He said: “There are many who have read the Taiji Boxing classics, but few have understood their reasoning. Could you maybe make some commentary to these texts to make it clear for new students and help to better explain it for seasoned practitioners?”

余曰唯。
To which I said: “Hmm, I think maybe we just did.”

湖南國術訓練所太極拳教官吳雨亭君。能傳其父鑑泉先生之術。有聲於時。並為諸生編太極拳術講義。以視當世僅注圖解。毫無當於精義。或摭拾五行八卦與藝術無關之艱深易理諸著作。自有天壤之別。責序於余。余久悲此道之難有正知見也。與客適所論列。復為吳著所不詳。故書以歸之。是為序。
民國二十四年六月平江向愷然序於湖南國術訓練所
In the Hunan Martial Arts Training Institute is the Taiji Boxing teacher Wu Yuting [Gongzao], who is able to pass down the art of his father, Wu Jianquan, and has also built his own reputation. He has written Taiji Boxing Explained in order to share information with this generation, a generation which has overly focused on images and hardly at all on essential concepts. Some people have merely drawn theories from the five elements and eight trigrams, and others have written strained interpretations of how the techniques are associated with the theory in the Book of Changes even though they are actually worlds apart. Wu demanded a preface of me, as I myself have long been troubled by how difficult it is to see this art getting understood properly. Fittingly, I happened to have a conversation with someone that contributed a few extra details which Wu’s writings have not covered, and so I wrote it down and am giving it to him as my preface.
  - written by Xiang Kairan of Pingjiang, at the Hunan Martial Arts Training Institute, June, 1935

自序
AUTHOR’S PREFACE

拳術一道。不外强健筋骨。調和氣血。而太極拳。乃循太極動靜之理以為法。採虛實變化之妙而為用。動靜者、行意之本源。虛實者、運勁之基礎。蘊之於內者曰勁。以為體。形之於外者曰勢、以為用。以靜制動。動中求靜。以柔尅剛。剛以濟柔。逆來順受。純任自然。蓋由於感覺使然。感之於身。覺之於心。身有所感。心有所覺。聽其虛實。問其動靜。得其重心。然後審己量敵。運用機勢。變換虛實。攻而取之。經云。斯技旁門甚多。槪不外有力打無力。又曰。察四兩撥千斤之句。顯非力勝。夫有力打無力。斯乃先天自然之能。生而知之。非學而後能之。所謂四兩撥千斤者。實則合乎權衡之理。無論體之輕重。力之大小。能在一動之間。移其重心。使之全身牽動。故太極拳之動作。所以異於他技者。非務以力勝人也。推而進之。不惟强筋健骨。調和氣血。而自能修養身心。却病延年。為後天養生之妙道焉。
近年來當道諸公。提倡國術不遺餘力。用以振發民族。尚武精神。引起國人之注意。而一般行政機關。及學校法團。尤注重於太極拳。風行所至。幾遍全國。以其動作緩和。吻合生理。雖老少童婦。習之咸宜。蓋無妨於體質也。
公藻於民國二十二年隨褚民誼先生來湘觀光國術。承主席何公之邀。擔任湖南國術訓練所太極拳教官。駒光易逝。倐忽三載。間嘗以我國數千年來。關於國術一道。競以門戶相尚。師弟相承。互為守秘。無籍可稽。漸至淹没。終於失傳。殊堪痛惜。誠武道之大不幸也。近世志士。鑒於外侮日迫。民氣消沉。痛往昔之錯謬。倡為國術救國。各有消滅門戶惡習之見解。著作專書。梓行於世。闡揚各個門派之真精神。俾人人得有公開研究機會。公藻祖傳斯道。三世於茲。家父傳人最多。入室弟子。如褚民誼、徐致一、王志羣、馬岳樑、吳圖南輩。各有著述刋行。吾道光明。實不後人。公藻頻年教學相長。常以經驗所得。筆之於書。管窺蠡測。未敢公諸大雅。蓋亦藏拙之意耳。客歲何公。復聘家兄子鎭。任本所太極拳主教。三湘人士。慕斯道者。步趨益衆。而秘書向愷然先生。為吾道同志。造詣頗深。鑒於所中學子。習太極拳者。苦無成文法理。可以觀摩。督公藻編纂太極拳講義一書。義不容辭。爰將舊作重新整理。分為上下二篇。俾從學諸生有所準繩。卽他日公藻去湘。人手一篇。亦有按圖索驥之便矣。
公藻不敏。習斯道二十餘年。徒以東西飄泊。粗無成就。旣愧綘灌無文。復悵隨陸不武。茲書之出。難免掛一漏萬。深望吾道同志。博雅君子。摘我瑕疵。匡我不逮。拋磚引玉。惠我珠璣。不獨公藻之幸。亦吾道之光也。
民國廿四年六月北京吳公藻序於湖南國術訓練所
Boxing arts are little more than a means of strengthening sinews and bone, and regulating breath and blood. But Taiji Boxing takes the taiji [“grand polarity”] concept of movement/stillness for its method and the subtle transformations of emptiness/fullness for its function. Movement and stillness form the framework for the actions of intention. Emptiness and fullness form the basis of expressing power. What is stored within is “power”. It provides the foundation. The external shape is the “posture”. It provides the function.
  Use stillness to control movement, and within movement seek to find stillness. Use softness to overcome hardness, and use hardness to assist softness. Receive whatever comes at you, responding to it with a pure naturalness. It all comes down to sensitivity, which is comprised of feeling with the body and perceiving with the mind: what is felt by the body is then perceived by the mind. Listen for the opponent’s emptiness and fullness, inquire into his movement and stillness, and find his center of balance. Then assess yourself and estimate him, making use of timing and positioning, switch emptiness and fullness, attack, and win.
  It says in the Classic: “There are many other schools of boxing arts besides this one… They generally do not go beyond the strong bullying the weak.” And also: “Examine the phrase ‘four ounces deflects a thousand pounds’, which is clearly not a victory obtained through strength… The strong beating the weak is a matter of inherent natural ability and bears no relation to skill that is learned.” Innate knowledge is not learned ability. The concept of “four ounces deflects a thousand pounds” conforms to the principle of the counterpoise weight being slid along a steelyard scale. Regardless of the weight of the opponent’s body or the extent of his strength, you can with one little movement shift his center of balance, causing it to affect his whole body.
  Therefore the movements in Taiji Boxing are different from those in other arts because it does not rely on using strength to defeat opponents. Furthermore, this art is not only a means of strengthening sinews and bone, of regulating breath and blood, but is inherently equipped for cultivating body and mind, for preventing illness and prolonging life, and is thus a marvelous method of nurturing health.
  In recent years, those in government have been doing their utmost to promote Chinese martial arts in order the rouse the people’s martial spirit. To draw the attention of our countrymen, ordinary administrative bodies and educational institutions have given particular focus to Taiji Boxing, which has become popular throughout the nation. Because its mild movements conform to physiological principles, it is suitable for all to practice – young and old, women and children – regardless of physique.
  In 1933, I went with Chu Minyi to observe the state of martial arts in Hunan. I was subsequently appointed to the position of Taiji Boxing instructor at the Hunan Martial Arts Training Institute, at the invitation of He Jian [governor of Hunan, who also oversaw the staffing of the Institute], and these past three years have raced by.
  Throughout our nation’s several thousand years of history, our martial arts have existed in a state of competition. Though styles respected each other, they passed their arts down only to disciples and otherwise kept their teachings secret from each other, and thus they made no books that could be examined. The result of this is that most of these arts gradually faded away until they were ultimately lost forever. This is unbearably tragic. Truly our martial ways have been greatly unfortunate.
  But now men of integrity have seen that the threat of foreign aggression is increasing by the day and that the morale of the people has plummeted. Bitter about the mistakes of the past, they have decided to promote our martial arts in order to rescue the nation. Whatever is left of these lost arts is being published in specialized manuals to spread the authentic spirit of the various styles and share with everyone the opportunity to study them.
  I received my art as a family transmission, passed down through three generations, mostly from father to son. Among my father’s other students are Chu Minyi, Xu Zhiyi, Wang Zhiqun [Runsheng], Ma Yueliang, and Wu Tunan, who have each published writings which gloriously illuminate our art. I have not actually been lagging behind them. Over the years, I have learned a great deal from teaching the art, and I too have often written down what I have gained through experience. It is just that I had never yet dared to show my shallow understandings to such refined gentlemen and instead decided to hide my inadequate attempts.
  Last year, He Jian appointed my elder brother Zizhen [Gongyi] to be the head Taiji Boxing instructor for the school. The people of Hunan so admired this art that students have swelled in number. But Xiang Kairan, who has been serving as the school secretary and is my comrade in this art, in which he is highly accomplished, noticed that the students were suffering from having no written theory to study alongside their training. Thus I was told to make a book explaining Taiji Boxing. Accepting this as a duty, I then made a fresh arrangement of my old scribblings, intending to divide it into two volumes, in order for students to have some criteria to work from, and so that someday when I depart from Hunan they will be able to simply pick up the book and use it to find their way.
  I am not terribly bright. I have been practicing this art for more than twenty years, and after traveling from place to place with it, I am still at a rather crude level, and [quoting from Chu Dawen’s Gazetteer of Shanxi, book 61] “I am ashamed that I have conquered no lands nor made any literary achievements”. When this book comes out, it will probably have more things wrong than right, and so I sincerely hope that my more scholarly martial arts comrades will seize upon my errors and not hold back from offering corrections. I am “tossing out a brick to draw forth jade”, so please favor me with your gems. It would not only be a blessing to me, it would also make the art shine brighter.
  - written by Wu Gongzao of Beijing, at the Hunan Martial Arts Training Institute, June, 1935

吳鑑泉先生肖像
Portrait of Wu Jianquan:

校正者吳公儀
Proofreader, Wu Gongyi:

著者吳公藻
Author, Wu Gongzao:

太極拳講義
TAIJI BOXING EXPLAINED
吴公藻編
by Wu Gongzao

總論
[ONE] GENERAL INTRODUCTION

拳術一道。不外强健筋骨。調和氣血。修養身心。却病延年。實為後天養生之術。太極拳。乃循太極動靜之理以為法。採虛實變化之妙而為用。其姿勢也中正安舒。其動作也輕靈圓活。故一動無有不動。一靜無有不靜。其動靜之理。與道家之坐功。互相吻合。實道家之行功。在拳理言之故稱內家。因與道本為一體。老幼婦孺。均可練習。其功用純任自然。學之毫無痛苦。誠有益無害之運動也。苟能精勤研究。歷久不懈。則愈練愈精。愈精愈微。由微入妙。由妙入神。不但有益於身心。更能增進智慧。獲益殊非淺尠也。
Boxing arts are little more than a means of strengthening sinews and bone, and regulating breath and blood. But an art which cultivates body and mind, which prevents illness and prolongs life, would be an even better method for nurturing health. For that there is Taiji Boxing, which takes the taiji concept of movement/stillness for its method and the subtle transformations of emptiness/fullness for its function.
  The postures are centered and upright, calm and comfortable. The movements are light and sensitive, rounded and lively. It is said: “If one part moves, every part moves, and if one part is still, every part is still.” This principle of movement conforms to Daoist sitting meditation, or rather to Daoist moving meditation. The boxing theory is deemed to be of the “internal school” because it shares the same philosophical foundation as Daoism. It can be practiced by everyone – young and old, women and children – because it is performed with a pure naturalness, the student enduring no pains at all. It is truly an exercise that has only benefits and no harms.
  If you can study it devotedly, committing to it for a long time without slacking, then the more you practice, the more refined your skill will be. The more it is refined, the more subtle it becomes, until it goes from subtle to incredible, from incredible to magical. It will not only be helpful to both body and mind, for it can also increase wisdom, and thus its benefits are by no means meager.

太極拳十三勢大義
[TWO] THE BASIC MEANING OF TAIJI BOXING’S THIRTEEN DYNAMICS

十三勢者。按五行八卦原理。卽推手之十三種總勁。非另有十三個姿勢。五行者。卽進,退,顧,盼,定,之謂。分為內外兩解。行於外者。卽前進,後退,左顧,右盼,中定,行於內者。卽粘,連,黏,隨,不丢頂。八卦者。亦分內外兩解。行於外者。卽四正,四隅,蘊於內者。卽掤,捋,擠,按,採,挒,肘,靠,八法也。行於外者為勢。蘊於內者為勁。學者以拳為體。以推手為用。經曰。其根在脚。發於腿。主宰於腰。形於手指。實為太極拳之精義。學者不可不留意焉。
The thirteen dynamics are based on the principles of the five elements and eight trigrams. They are the thirteen kinds of energy in pushing hands, not thirteen specific postures. There are two versions of the five elements – internal and external. Externally, they are advancing, retreating, stepping to the left, stepping to the right, and staying in the center. Internally, they are the qualities of sticking, connecting, adhering, following, and neither coming away nor crashing in. The eight trigrams also have internal and external versions. Externally, they are four cardinal directions and four corner directions. Internally, they are the eight actions of warding off, rolling back, pressing, pushing, plucking, rending, elbowing, and bumping. They are expressed outwardly as postures, but dwell within as energies. Treat the solo set as the foundation, the pushing hands exercise as the function. It says in the classics: “Starting from your foot, issue through your leg, directing it at your waist, and expressing it at your fingers.” These energies form the very essence of Taiji Boxing. You must devote attention to them.

五行要義詳解
[THREE] THE FIVE ELEMENTS EXPLAINED IN DETAIL

五行者。金,木,水,火,土也。五行之勁。曰粘,連,黏,隨,不丢頂。茲將各勁詳解於後。
The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire, earth. The energies of the five elements are sticking, connecting, adhering, following, and neither coming away nor crashing in. Each of these energies is explained in detail below:

(一)粘者。如兩物互交粘之使起。在太極拳語中謂之勁。此勁非直接粘起。實間接而生。含有勁意雙兼兩義。如推手或交手時。對方體質强大。力氣充實。椿步穩固。似難使其掀動。或移其重心。然以粘勁。能使其自動失中。用意探之。使其氣騰。全神上注。則其體重而足輕。其根自斷。此卽彼之反動力所致。吾則順勢撤手。而以不丢不頂之勁。引彼懸空。是謂粘勁。
夫勁如粘球。一撫一提之間。運用純熟。球不離手。粘之卽起。所謂粘卽是走。走卽是粘之謂也。
意者。設想之謂。以虛實之理。使敵出其不意。攻其不備。對方雖實力充足。據險以守。不畏攻擊。不畏力敵。然最忌誘敵。吾若以利誘之。使其棄守為攻。實力分散。吾則分而擊之。是誘而殺之。亦其自取敗亡。所謂攻其所不守。守其所不攻之道也。學者務須時時體會。久而自驗。
1. Sticking is like two objects becoming stuck together. It is referred to in Taiji Boxing as an “energy” because it is an indirect rather than a literal form of sticking. Within it are the two concepts of energy and intention. During pushing hands or sparring, if the opponent’s physique is large and powerful, he is full of strength, and his stance is stable, it will seem difficult to move him or even affect his balance. But by using sticking energy, you can cause him to lose his center by himself. Test him by using intention, causing his energy to become agitated and all of his spirit to concentrate upward, with the result that his body may be heavy but his feet will become light, and he will break his own root. This is caused by his own reaction, and so you can simply go along with it and allow it to happen, using the energy of neither coming away nor crashing in to lead him into emptiness. This is the energy of sticking.
  This energy is like a sticking to a ball. [Imagine dribbling a basketball.] Give it a pat and then lift your hand. If this is done right, the ball will seem to not lose contact, sticking to your hand as you lift it. This is what is meant by “sticking is yielding and yielding is sticking”. “Intention” means imaginatively using the principle of emptiness and fullness in order to catch the opponent off guard and attack him unprepared. Even if he is very strong, is in a solid defensive position, is not worried about being attacked, or about how strong you may be, he is nevertheless very wary of been lured into a trap. If you entice him with the promise of some advantage, it causes him to abandon his defensive position in order to attack, scattering his strength and enabling you to attack him in some area where he is now reduced. In this way, you trick him into fighting, and thereby he defeats himself. This is the principle of “attack where he does not defend and defend where he does not attack”. You have to constantly work to understand this, and then after a long time, you will naturally get it through experience.

(二)連者。貫也。不中斷。不脫離。接續聯綿。無停無止。無息無休。是為連勁。
2. Connecting means “linking together”. Do not interrupt the movement or come out of synch with it. Let it be continuous, without any pauses or haltings. This is the energy of connecting.

(三)黏者。粘貼之謂。彼進我退。彼退我進。彼浮我隨。彼沉我鬆。丢之不開。投之不脫。如粘如貼。不丢不頂。是謂之黏勁。
3. To adhere means to “be glued”. As he advances, retreat. As he retreats, advance. When he is floating, follow. When he is sinking, loosen. He tries to disconnect but cannot come away. He tries to cast you off but cannot escape. Stick as though glued to him, neither coming away nor crashing in. This is the energy of adhering.

(四)隨者。從也。緩急相隨。進退相依。不卽不離。不先不後。捨己從人。是謂之隨。
4. Following means to “go along with”. Match the opponent’s speed. Coordinate with his advancing and retreating, neither overreaching nor separating. Without acting before or after, let go of yourself and go along with him. This is the energy of following.

(五)不丢頂。丢者開也。頂者抵也。不脫離。不抵抗。不搶先。不落後。五行之源。輕靈之本。是為不丢頂勁。
5. Neither come away nor crash in. Coming away means separating. Crashing in means resisting. Neither separate nor resist. Do not force your way ahead nor lag behind. The key to the rest of the five elements, and the basis of sensitivity, is the energy of neither coming away nor crashing in.

八法祕訣
[FOUR] SECRETS OF THE EIGHT TECHNIQUES

掤勁義何解。如水負行舟。先實丹田氣。次要頂頭懸。全體彈簧力。開合一定間。任有千斤重。飄浮亦不難。
What is meant by “warding off”?
It is like water floating a moving boat.
First fill your elixir field with energy,
then you must suspend your headtop.
Your whole body has a springy force
in the instant between opening and closing.
Do not worry about a thousand pounds of force coming at you.
Just float it and there will be no problem.

捋勁義何解。引導使之前。順其來時力。輕靈不丢頂。力盡自然空。丢擊任自然。重心自維持。莫被他人乘。
What is meant by “rolling back”?
Induce the opponent to come forward.
Then go along with his incoming force,
but staying nimble, neither coming away nor crashing in.
Once his power has naturally dissipated,
then you may disconnect and attack as you please.
Maintain your own balance
so that you do not instead become his victim.

擠勁義何解。用時有兩方。直接單純意。迎合一動中。間接反應力。如球撞壁還。又如錢投鼓。躍然聲鏗鏘。
What is meant by “pressing”?
There are two ways to apply it.
You may act directly from your own clear intention,
dealing with him in a single action.
Or you may act indirectly, reacting to his force,
which will make him like a ball bouncing off a wall,
or like a coin tossed onto a drum
that then leaps away with a chiming sound.

按勁義何解。運用似水行。柔中寓剛强。急流勢難當。遇高則澎滿。逢窪向下潛。波浪有起伏。有孔無不入。
What is meant by “pushing”?
It is like flowing water.
Within its softness lurks hardness.
Is it not difficult to stay up when standing in rapids?
Meeting a tall obstacle, water swells up heavily.
Finding a hole, it floods down into it.
Waves rise and fall.
There is no gap that water does not enter.

採勁義何解。如權之引衡。任你力巨細。權後知輕重。轉移祗四兩。千斤亦可平。若問理何在。幹捍之作用。
What is meant by “plucking”?
It is like the counterpoise of a steelyard scale sliding out to balance something.
No matter how great or small the opponent’s force is,
you will know the weight of it once it is balanced.
Even the shifting of a mere four ounces
can balance out a thousand pounds.
What is the theory behind this?
That of the lever.

挒勁義何解。旋轉若飛輪。投物於其上。脫然擲丈尋。君不見漩渦。捲浪若螺紋。落葉墮其上。倐爾便沉淪。
What is meant by “rending”?
It rotates like a flywheel.
Throw an object at it
and it will immediately be hurled over ten feet away.
Have you ever watched a whirlpool?
The waves curl in like the threads around a screw.
Any leaf that falls onto it
is quickly engulfed.

肘勁義何解。方法有五行。陰陽分上下。虛實須辨淸。連環勢莫擋。開花捶更凶。六勁融通後。運用始無窮。
What is meant by “elbowing”?
The technique contains the five elements.
The passive and active aspects will be revealed above and below.
Emptiness and fullness have to be clearly distinguished.
Continuous techniques are harder to defend against.
A “blooming-flower punch” [i.e. a backfist unfurling out of a stopped elbow attack] is even more brutal [than the prevented elbow would have been on its own].
Once your “six energies” [of structure (supporting forward and back, left and right, up and down)] are unified,
you will be able to apply endless techniques.

靠勁義何解。其法分肩背。斜飛勢用肩。肩中還有背。一旦得機勢。轟然如搗碓。仔細維重心。失中徒無功。
What is meant by “bumping”?
The technique divides into using the shoulder or the back.
The DIAGONAL FLYING POSTURE uses the shoulder,
but when using your shoulder, you can also continue into using your back.
If suddenly you have the opportunity,
crash into him as though you are collapsing onto him.
But be very mindful about maintaining your balance,
for if you lose it, you will have wasted your effort.

慢與不用力之解釋
[FIVE] EXPLAINING WHY THE ART IS DONE SLOWLY AND WITHOUT EXERTION

太極拳慢而無力。學者多懷疑之。或謂不能用。徒能鍛鍊身體。蓋練拳之道。首宜研究學理。學理瞭然。再學方法。方法精熟。始能應用。非拳術之不能應用。實功夫之尚未練到耳。如鍊鋼然。由生鐵。而鍊成熟鐵。由熟鐵。而鍊成純鋼。非經過長時間之火候不為功。夫太極拳之所以由慢而成者。其練習時間。純任自然。不尚力氣。而尚用意。用力則笨。用氣則滯。是以沉氣鬆力為要。太極拳。以靜制動。以柔制剛。無中生有。有若無。實若虛。逆來順受。不丢不頂。均係虛實之變化也。慢者緩也。慢所以靜。靜所以守。守之謂定。此卽心氣之中定也。心定而後靜。靜而後神安。神安而後氣沉。氣沉而後精神團聚。乃能聚精會神。一氣貫通。慢由於心細。心細則神淸。神淸則氣爽。乃無氣滯之弊。快由於心粗。心粗由於急。急則氣浮。氣浮不沉。心急不靜。不沉不靜。心無所守。則散亂之病生。虛靈二字。更無由求。以靜制動。以柔制剛者。由於感覺使然。故其拳架係鍛鍊身心以為體。功夫出自推手而為用。推手之初步。專在摩練感覺。身有所感。心有所覺。感應精微。致用無窮。故能知己知彼。其滋味則心領神會。非筆墨所能形容。其變化之無窮。皆由感覺之靈敏。故能知其虛實。而便利從心。此慢與不用力之義也。
Because Taiji Boxing is performed slowly and without exertion, students often doubt it. Or they will say that it cannot be applied and is only good for training the body. To train in the ways of this art, you should start with the principles. Once the principles are understood, then learn the techniques. Once you are skillful with the techniques, you will then be able to apply the art. It is not that the art is not applicable, it is just that skill has not yet been trained. It is like the process of steelmaking. First pig iron is smelted to produce wrought iron, then wrought iron is further smelted to make pure steel. If you do not go through a similar process of “cooking” yourself with the training over a long period, you will not develop any skill.
  Taiji Boxing is done slowly because there has to be a pure naturalness while practicing. Do not rely on strength and vigor, instead make use of intention. Using strength will only make you clumsier. Using vigor will only end up making your movements sluggish. Therefore you should sink your energy and relax your strength. Taiji Boxing uses stillness to control movement, softness to control hardness. There is a something that arises from nothing, a something that still seems to be nothing, a fullness that seems to be empty. Go along with whatever comes at you, neither coming away from it nor crashing into it. This has to do with the alternations between emptiness and fullness.
  By “slow” is meant leisurely. By moving slowly, you will have a sense of stillness, which will lead to a sense of maintaining your state, which is called “stability”. This is the centered stability of mind and energy. Once your mind is stable, there is quietude. Once there is quietude, your spirit is calm. Once your spirit is calm, then energy sinks. With your energy sinking, then essence and spirit gather and unite. Able to concentrate essence and spirit, there will be a single flow running through the movement.
  Slowness comes from being meticulous. With that level of careful attention, your spirit will be clear. Once your spirit is clear, your energy will be clean, and thereby free of the error of sluggishness. Moving fast comes from being careless. Carelessness comes from being in a hurry. When your mind is in a hurry, your energy will be floating rather than sinking. With your mind in a hurry and your energy not sinking, there will be no sense of stillness and you will be unable to maintain stability, which will then generate the error of panic, and there will be no longer be a way to operate from a state of naturalness.
  Using stillness to control movement and using softness to control hardness depend on sensitivity. The foundation of the art lies in the training of body and mind that occurs through doing the solo set, but the function lies in the skill that comes from doing pushing hands. In the beginning of learning pushing hands, focus on developing sensitivity. Body feels, mind perceives. Once your responses to what you sense are refined and subtle, applicability will be limitless, and you will truly be able to know both self and opponent. (This is an experience that will be understood instinctively and is not really something that can be put into words.) The limitlessness of adaptability comes from the acuteness of one’s sensitivity. Therefore if you can know where your opponent is empty and full, you will easily be able to do as you please. This is the significance of slowness and not using exertion.

中定
[SIX] CENTERED STABILITY

伸屈開合之未發謂之中。寂然不動謂之定。心氣淸和。精神貫頂。不偏不倚。是為中定之氣。亦道之本也。
Before you have expressed any extending or bending, opening or closing, you are in a state of being centered. When you are [quoting from part 10 of the commentary section of the Book of Changes:] “[without thought, without action,] silent and still”, you are in a state of stability. When your mind is clear and your energy is harmonious, spirit is coursing through to your headtop, and you are not leaning in any direction, this is the state of “centered stability”, which also happens to be the whole foundation of the art.

虛領頂勁
[SEVEN] FORCELESSLY PRESS UP YOUR HEADTOP

頂勁者。卽頂頭懸。頭頂正直。腹內鬆淨。氣沉丹田。精神貫頂。如不倒翁。上輕下沉。又如水中浮瓢。漂然不沒之意。歌曰。
To “press up your headtop” means that your “headtop is pulled up as if suspended”. With your headtop upright, your belly can be completely relaxed. Energy will sink to your elixir field and spirit will course through to your headtop. You will be like a round-bottomed doll, light above, heavy below, or like a buoy that stays afloat on the water rather than vanishing under the surface. Here is a poem on the subject:

神淸氣沉任自然。漂漂盪盪浪裏攢。憑你風浪來推打。上輕下沉不倒顚。
With your mind clear and your energy sinking, you will move with naturalness,
despite being buffeted by winds and waves.
No matter what difficulties push and punch at you,
you will remain light above and heavy below, and thus you will not be toppled over.

感覺
[EIGHT] SENSITIVITY

身有所感。心有所覺。有感必有應。一切動靜皆為感。感則必有應。所應復為感。所感復有應。所以互生不已。感通之理。精義入微。以致用也。推手初步。專在摩練感覺。感覺靈敏。則變化精微。所以無窮也。
When your body feels something, your mind then perceives it, and thus whenever you have any sensation, it will cause you to react to it. At every moment, whether you are in a state of movement or stillness, there will be something to feel, and therefore there will also be something to react to. Your response will create new sensations, and those sensations will in turn produce new responses, and in this way they give rise to each other ceaselessly. The concept of sensing what is going on is essential for being able to apply techniques. In the beginning of training in pushing hands, focus on developing sensitivity. Once your sensitivity is acute, your adaptability will be profound, and then you will have no limitations.

聽勁
[NINE] LISTENING TO ENERGY

聽之謂權。卽權其輕重也。在推手為偵察敵情。聽之於心。凝之於耳。行之於氣。運之於手。所謂以心行意。以意行氣。以氣運身。聽而後發。聽勁要準確靈敏。隨其伸。就其屈。乃能進退自如。
To “listen” means to weigh, as in assessing whether the opponent is being light or heavy. Listening in pushing hands is like the scout who reconnoiters the enemy’s situation. Listening lies in your mind, whereas focusing your attention is what is carried out by your ears. Moving lies with your energy, whereas wielding techniques is what is carried out by your hands. It is said: “Use the mind to move intention. Use intention to move energy. Use energy to move the body.” Therefore listen first and then issue. When listening to energy, you have to have accuracy and sensitivity. Go along with the opponent’s extending, then move in toward his bending. Thus you will be able to advance and retreat smoothly.

問答
[TEN] ASKING & ANSWERING

我有所問。彼有所答。一問一答。則生動靜。旣有動靜。虛實分明。在推手則以意探之。以勁問之。俟其答復。再聽其虛實。若問而不答。則可進而擊之。若有所答。則須聽其動靜之緩急。及進退之方向。始能辨其虛實也。
I “ask” for information. The opponent supplies the answer. Each exchange of asking and answering will spark movement or stillness. Once there is any kind of movement, emptiness and fullness will become distinct. While pushing hands, use intention to probe the situation and use energy to ask the opponent what he is doing. Await his answer, listening for where he is empty and full. If you ask and there is no answer, then you can advance and attack. If there is an answer, then you must listen for the speed of his movement and the direction of his advance or retreat in order to be able to distinguish where he is empty and full.

虛實
[ELEVEN] EMPTINESS & FULLNESS

兵不厭詐。以計勝人也。計者虛實之謂。拳術亦然。姿勢,動作,用意,運勁。各有虛實。知虛實而善利用。雖虛為實。雖實猶虛。以實擊虛。避實擊虛。指上打下。聲東擊西。或先重而後輕。或先輕而後重。隱現無常。沉浮不定。使敵不知吾之虛實。而吾處處求敵之虛實。彼實則避之。彼虛則擊之。隨機應變。聽其勁。觀其動。得其機。攻其勢。如醫者視病而投藥。必先診其脈。觀其色。察其聲。問其症。故曰。虛實宜分淸楚。一處自有一處虛實。處處總此一虛實也。
Armies do not mind cheating [“All’s fair in war.”] and will use strategies to defeat the enemy. Such tricks are what is meant by “emptiness and fullness”. [In fact the sixth chapter of the Art of War is titled “Emptiness & Fullness”. The term could also be rendered as “fake and real”.] The same is true in boxing arts. Postures, movements, intentions, energies – they all have an element of emptiness and fullness.
  Understand emptiness and fullness, and be good at making use of them. Being empty, become full. Becoming full, seem still to be empty. Attack a place of emptiness by filling it in. Avoid a place of fullness by emptying. Aim above and then strike below, applying the strategy of “threatening to the east but striking to the west”. Start with heaviness and then become light, or start with lightness and then become heavy. Disappear and appear inconstantly. Sink and float unpredictably. This causes the opponent to never know where you are empty and full, whereas you can always find his emptiness and fullness. Avoid him where he is full and attack him where he is empty, responding according to the situation.
  Listen to his energy, observe his movement, catch his timing, and attack his position. It is like a doctor examining a patient. He first has to check his pulse, observe his complexion, listen to his body’s sounds, and ask about symptoms, and then he will be able to prescribe the right medicine. Thus it is said: “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.”

量敵
[TWELVE] ESTIMATING THE OPPONENT

兵法云。知己知彼。百戰百勝。是故整軍行旅之初。當先審己量敵。而計其勝負之情也。誠哉斯言。勝負之機。在知與不知耳。拳雖小道。其理亦然。以已之短。當人之長。謂之失計。以己之長。當人之短。謂之得計。取勝之道。在得失之間。故量敵最關重要也。
太極拳之所謂間答。卽問其動靜。目的在聽其勁之方向與重心。卽偵察敵情之意。所謂量敵也。彼我在未進行攻擊以前。吾應以靜待動。以逸待勞。毫無成見。彼未動。我不動。彼微動。我先動。貴在彼我相交一動之間。卽知其虛實而應付之。此均由於感覺。聽勁,虛實,問答,量敵,而來。學者應注意致力焉。
It says in the Art of War [chapter 3]: “Knowing both self and opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” True words indeed. Before preparing to mobilize, it is necessary to first take stock both of one’s own forces and the enemy’s situation in order to calculate how to defeat him. The difference between success or failure is a matter of knowledge versus ignorance. Although a boxing art is a lesser art, the same principle still applies. If you use your weaknesses to attack his strengths, you will lose, but if you use your strengths to attack his weaknesses, you will win. The means to victory lies on a fine line between winning and losing, therefore estimating the opponent is crucial to tip the balance.
  In Taiji Boxing’s “asking and answering”, inquire into the state of his movement or stillness, the purpose being to “listen” for the direction of his energy and the position of his center of balance. Estimating the opponent is therefore the same idea as reconnoitering the enemy’s situation. Before you and he and have advanced to attack each other, you should be using stillness to await his movement, using leisure to await his fatigue, and be entirely without any certainties as to what he is going to do. “If he takes no action, I take no action, but once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted.” It is vital in the moment you connect that you learn the status of his emptiness and fullness in order to deal with it. To estimate the opponent is all down to sensitivity, listening to energy, asking and answering, and emptiness and fullness. You have to devote your attention to it.

知機
[THIRTEEN] KNOWING THE RIGHT MOMENT

機者。陰陽未分。虛無緲茫。謂之機。先機之謂也。卽是無聲無臭。無形無象。在應用時。是未有動靜。未成姿勢。是無機會也。工夫高者。皆能知機。能知機。能造勢。所謂無中生有。乘機而動。下者。不知機。故不得勢。所謂先知先覺。後知後覺。不知不覺。此為吾道之三大境界。凡屬吾門。一經推手。自然領會。彼我之高下。無須相角勝負。譬如圍棋。高者每下一子。皆有用意。眼光遠大。着不虛發。氣俱聯貫。而占局勢。其勝負之情己定。下者。眼光淺近。心無成竹。不得先手。隨人擺脫。而自顧不暇。其必敗也已知。推手之理亦然。高者。心氣沉靜。姿態大雅。逆來順受。運用自如。下者。進則無門。退則無路。攻之不可。守之無術。此卽知機與不知機之分耳。
The decisive moment is before passive and active qualities have become distinct, while they are still a vagueness in a void. Thus the right moment is: right before it happens. It is silent and intangible, formless and shapeless. When applying a technique, do it before the opponent moves, before he has a definite posture, when he still has no opportunity.
  One who is highly skilled is always able to know the right moment, and so he is able to create the right position. While something emerges from nothing, he takes advantage of an opportunity and acts. One who has a low level of skill does not know the right moment and therefore cannot get into the right position. It is said that to know before, to realize after, and to not notice at all are the three main skill levels in our art [in descending order]. When someone in our art has gone through the process of training in pushing hands, he immediately knows if his opponent has a higher or lower skill level than himself and does not need to wrestle to find out.
  For an analogy, it is like encirclement chess. When one who is highly skilled puts down a piece, it is always with purpose. He sees many moves in advance, and so he always moves with precision and his energy flows through every step of the process. He is able to predict everything that will happen, and so victory and defeat are already clear to him. One who has a low level of skill does not see far ahead and has no plan in mind at all [“a mind without a finished bamboo” – the phrase originally describing a painter who simply starts painting an image without having a sense of what the finished product should look like]. Unable to go on the offensive, he merely responds to whatever move the opponent has just made. As he is kept too busy with just keeping up, his defeat is already certain.
  The same principle applies in pushing hands. One who is highly skilled has a calm mind, a settled energy, and an elegant demeanor. He receives whatever comes at him and deals with it smoothly. One who has a low level of skill has no path of advance or retreat and no way to attack or defend. This is the difference between understanding timing and not understanding timing.

重心
[FOURTEEN] THE CENTER OF BALANCE

凡人有四肢軀幹。頭為首。其站立俯仰。亦各有姿勢。姿勢立。則生重心。重心穩固。所謂得機得勢。重心失中。乃有顚倒之虞。卽不得機。不得勢也。拳術,功用之基礎。則在重心之穩固與否。而重心又有固定與活動之分。固定者。是專主自己練習拳術之時。每一動作。一姿勢。均須時時注意之。或轉動。或進退皆然。重心與虛實本屬一體。虛實能變換無常。重心則不然。雖能移動。因係全體之主宰。不能輕舉妄動。使敵知吾虛實。又如作戰然。心為令。氣為旗。腰為纛。太極拳以勁為戰術。虛實為戰畧。意氣為指揮。聽勁為間牒。重心為主帥。學者。應時時揣摸默識體會之。此為斯道全體大用也。重心活動之謂。係在彼我相較之間。雖在决鬥之中。必須時時維持自己之重心。而攻擊他人之重心。卽堅守全軍之司令。而不使主帥有所失利也。
A person has four limbs and a trunk, led by the head. The positions of standing straight, leaning slightly forward, and leaning slightly back each have particular postures that go with them. Once in a posture, it will produce a center of balance. When your balance is solid, you will be in the right place at the right time. When you lose your center of balance, you will be in danger of falling into disorder, and you will end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  The whole basis of applying a boxing art comes down to whether or not your balance is stable. But there is also the distinction between stability and maneuverability. As for stability, every movement and posture during the solo practice has to be given attention. Sometimes you will be advancing, sometimes retreating, sometimes turning, and this will involve your center of gravity in the workings of emptiness and fullness. Emptiness and fullness can alternate inconstantly, but your center of balance has to stay stable because it is in charge of your whole body even when you are shifting positions. You must not act rashly, which would cause the opponent to know the status of your emptiness and fullness.
  A fight is like a battle. “The mind makes the command, the energy is its flag, and the waist is its banner.” Taiji Boxing is like a military operation in this way: it is emptiness and fullness that forms the strategy, it is intention that sends the commands, it is listening that gathers intelligence, and your center of balance is the commander. You should constantly contemplate what you experience, for this will make the art complete in terms of both foundation and function.
  Maneuverability has to do with when you are competing with an opponent. Although in the midst of a struggle, you must at all times preserve your own center of balance and attack his. This is like protecting the commander of an army. Do not allow your general to fall.

雙重
[FIFTEEN] ON DOUBLE PRESSURE

雙重者。無虛實之謂也。雙重之病。有單方。與雙方及兩手兩足之分。經云。偏沉則隨。雙重則滯。又云,有數年純功而不能運化者。率為人制。雙重之病未悟耳。故雙重之病。最難自悟自覺。非知虛實之理。不易避免。能解此病。則聽勁,感覺,虛實,問答,皆能融會貫通焉。脚踏車之所以能行動灣轉自如者。均力學也。人坐於車上。手拂之。足踏之。目視之。身隨之。其重心在腰。而司顧盼,以手輔助之。其輪盤置於車之中心。兩足踏於脚蹬之上。一踏一提。則輪齒絞練而帶動前進矣。若使兩足同時用力踏之。則車卽行停止前進。此蓋雙重之病耳。
夫推手亦然。對方用力推我。吾若仍以力相抵抗之。因而相持。則謂之滯。此卽双方之双重也。若我或彼。各順其勢。不以力抵抗。而順對方來力之方向撤囘。引之前進。然須不丢不頂。則必有一方之力落空。此卽偏沉所致。如我擬攻對方之側面。使其倒地。若以兩手直接推之。而對方氣力强大。不可挫其鋒。須以虛實之法。雙手撫其肩。我左手由彼之右肩下捋。同時我右手擊其左肩。此時我之兩手作交叉之勢。同主一方。而發勁成一圜形。則彼可側斜而倒。因彼同時不能上下相顧。而失利也。此卽吾發勁偏沉所致也。學者悟一而知十。所謂由着熟。而漸悟懂勁也。
“Double pressure” means that there is no distinction between emptiness and fullness. The error of double pressure is divided into occurring on one side [resisting against the opponent with one hand while in a bow stance], occurring on both sides [resisting against the opponent with both hands while in a bow stance], and occurring in both hands and both feet all at the same time [resisting against the opponent with both hands while facing him squarely in a horse-riding stance].
  It says in the Classic: “If you drop one side, you can move. If you have equal pressure on both sides, you will be stuck.” And also: “We often see one who has practiced hard for many years yet is unable to perform any neutralizations and is generally under the opponent’s control, and the issue here is that this error of double pressure has not yet been understood.” Therefore the error of double pressure is very difficult to comprehend, much less be aware of, and if you do not understand the principle of emptiness and fullness, it will not be easy to avoid. But you can fix this problem by way of sensitivity, listening to energy, asking and answering, and emptiness and fullness, all of which are tools that will help you through to success.
  The reason a bicycle can move smoothly is all a matter of the science of mechanics. You sit on the seat, hands on the handlebars, feet on the pedals. Your eyes are looking ahead of you, body following, your center of balance in your waist. You control your movement side to side with the assistance of your hands, the steering pivot placed at the centerline of the bicycle. Your feet are on the pedals, one foot pressing down as the other is rising up, causing the gearing teeth to twine the chain around, thereby leading the bicycle forward. But if both feet press down at the same time, the bicycle will come to a halt. This is due to the error of double pressure. [This analogy is weakened because Wu is describing a foot-braking bicycle as opposed to one with the hand-braking system that is far more common nowadays, but the essential idea is still a good one: if you push along one side of a wheel, it will rotate, but if you push in the same direction along both sides, it will stop rotating.]
  The same principle applies to pushing hands. If the opponent uses strength to push you and you also use strength to resist against him, you will both become stuck in a stalemate. This is a situation of double pressure on both sides. If either of you instead goes along with the incoming force, there will be no resistance. If you withdraw in the direction of his incoming force, it will draw him forward. As long as you are “neither coming away nor crashing in”, this will cause his force on one side to fall into emptiness. This is the result of “dropping one side”. [Returning to the wheel analogy, the effect is the same as pushing along both sides of a wheel and then taking one hand away, causing the wheel to again rotate.]
  Suppose you want to make the opponent topple by attacking him from the side. You might try to do a direct push, even with both hands, but if he has great strength, you will not be able to upset his structure. Instead you have to use the principle of emptiness and fullness. With both hands touching his shoulders, your left hand does a rollback below his right shoulder and your right hand at the same time attacks his left shoulder. Your hands are now forming a crossed position as they come into line with each other and you issue power along a curve, causing him to be leaned aside and fall away.
  The reason this occurs is because he is unable to coordinate his upper body with his lower body and thus ends up in a disadvantageous position. This is the result of issuing power on one side while dropping the other side [your right hand expressing while your left hand is rolling back.] If you can grasp this one technique [being the rending technique], you will understand the rest. [Lun Yu, 5.8: “After learning just one thing, he knows ten.”] Thus it is said: “Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies.”

捨己從人
[SIXTEEN] LET GO OF YOURSELF AND FOLLOW THE OPPONENT

捨己從人。是捨棄自己的主張。而依從他人動作。在太極拳中。為最難能之事。因兩人在交手之時。勝負之觀念重。彼我决不相容。何况互相攻擊。或在相持之中。而棄其權利。所謂捨己從人。不僅作字面解釋而矣。在吾道中。其寓意至深。學者當於惟務養性。四字下功夫。經云。無極而生。動靜之機。陰陽之母也。動靜為性。陰陽為理。故性理為道之本源。養性之說。是學者應時時致力修養。潛心揣摩。心領神會。久之自能豁然貫通矣。又云。由着熟而漸悟懂勁。懂勁後而階及神明。此乃循環之理。歸宗之意。蓋所謂超以象外。得其寰中。功夫練到精微。能造機造勢。不愁無得機得勢處。能處處隨曲就伸。則無往不利。如此乃能捨己從人。
To “let go of yourself and follow the opponent” means to abandon your own plans and act in accordance with his movement. This is the most difficult thing to do in Taiji Boxing, because when two people cross hands, the idea of winning or losing gains weight. You and the opponent are entirely at odds with each other, and moreover trying to attack one another, and so you may become locked in a stalemate until one of you gives up. Thus it is said: “Let go of yourself and follow the opponent.” But this phrase is not used in its literal meaning. Within our art, it goes a little deeper than that.
  Students should restrain themselves, training with the mantra of “I will let go of myself and follow the opponent” in mind. It says in the Classic: “Taiji is born of wuji. It is the manifestation of movement and stillness, giving rise to the passive and active aspects.” “Movement and stillness” are the physical embodiment. “Passive and active” are the philosophical principle. The embodiment and the principle form the basis of the art. Self-restraint requires constant dedication, concentration, and instinct. After a long time, you will naturally become ready for it to suddenly all make sense to you.
  It also says: “Once you have ingrained these techniques, you will gradually come to identify energies, and then from there you will work your way toward something miraculous.” This is the cyclic principle, the idea of “returning home”, as is expressed by [quoting from Sikong Tu’s The Twenty-Four Kinds of Poetry, poem 1]: “Transcend external appearances and obtain the center of the world.” [This quote is itself drawing from Zhuangzi, chapter 2: “Obtain the center of the circle and from there respond limitlessly.”] Once your skill is refined, you will be able to produce the right timing and the right position, and no longer have to worry about choosing the wrong moment or being in the wrong position. By always being able to “comply and bend, then engage and extend”, everything you try will work. It is in this sense that you will have the ability of letting go of yourself and following the opponent.

鼓盪
[SEVENTEEN] “AGITATE, AGITATE, AGITATE!”

氣沉,腰鬆,腹淨,含胸,拔背,沉肩,垂肘,節節舒展。動之。靜之。虛之。實之。呼之。吸之。開之。合之。剛之。柔之。緩之。急之。此種混合之勁。乃是鼓盪也。是故以心行意。以意行氣。以氣運身。乃生鼓盪之勁。由心氣貫串。陰陽變化而來。如颶風駭浪。雲行水流。如鳶飛魚躍。兔起鶻落。載沉載浮。忽隱忽現。大氣鼓盪。風雲莫測者也。太極推手。最後工夫有爛採花者。「又名採浪花」。全以鼓盪之勁。鼓動對方。使之如海船遇風。出入波濤之中。眩暈無主。頃斜顚簸。自身重心。難以捉摸。卽鼓盪之作用也。
Sink your energy, loosen your waist, and relax your belly. Contain your chest and pluck up your back. Sink your shoulders and droop your elbows. Stretch out each joint one after another. And then, move and be still, empty and fill, inhale and exhale, open and close, use hardness and use softness, move slow and move quick, and so on. The mixing of such opposites is what it means to agitate.
  Start with: “Use the mind to move intention. Use intention to move energy. Use energy to move the body.” Then develop an agitating energy. With mind and energy coursing through, let passive and active switch back and forth. Be like a hurricane forming, waves crashing, clouds rolling, water flowing, or like a hawk soaring, a fish leaping, a rabbit bolting, a falcon diving. Suddenly sink and suddenly rise. Suddenly hide and suddenly appear. Like changes in the weather, be as unpredictable as wind and clouds.
  The final exercise in Taiji’s pushing hands is “plucking random flowers” [i.e. freeplay] (also called “plucking at the sea spray”), and is entirely composed of agitation. Agitate the opponent, causing him to be like a boat on the sea encountering a storm and getting tossed around by the waves. Make him dizzy and disoriented, wobbly and jolted, and keep your own center of balance impossible for him to find. This is the function of agitation.

基礎
[EIGHTEEN] FUNDAMENTALS

太極拳以拳架為體。以推手為用。在初學盤架時。基礎最關重要。其姿勢務求正確。而中正安舒。其動作必須緩和。而輕靈圓活。此係入門之徑。學者循序而進。不致妄費功夫。而得其捷徑也。
In Taiji Boxing, the solo set is the foundation and the pushing hands training is the function. In the beginning of learning the solo set, the key fundamentals are: the postures should be accurate, meaning that they should be centered and upright, calm and comfortable; and the movements should be moderate, meaning that they should be light and sensitive, rounded and lively. These things form a pathway into the art. If you progress through them in the proper sequence, the result will not be that have wasted your time, and instead will turn out to be a shortcut.

中者。心氣中和。神淸氣沉。其根在脚。卽是立點。重心繫於腰脊。所謂命意源頭在腰隙。精神含歛於內。不表於外。乃能中定沉靜矣。
Centered: having a sense of your mind and energy being in state of harmoniousness.
  Your mind is clear and your energy is sinking. Techniques are rooted in your feet, being what you are standing on. Your center of balance then lies in your lower back, as is indicated by “the command comes from your lower back”. With spirit contained within rather than exhibited externally, you will thus be able to be centered and calm.

正者。姿勢端正。每一姿勢。務宜端正。而忌偏斜。然各種姿勢。各不相同。或仰,或俯,或伸。或屈。非盡中正。是以其發勁。及其用意之方向。而求其重心。蓋重心為全體樞紐。重心立。則開合靈活自如。重心不立。則開合失其關鍵。如車軸為車輪之樞紐。若使車軸。置於偏斜。而不適於車身之重心處。則車輪轉動。進退失其效用矣。故拳架之姿勢。務求正確。則重心平穩。要不自牽扯其重心。而辯別虛實也。
Upright: having a sense of your posture being properly aligned.
  Every posture should be performed with accuracy, never misaligned. However, each posture is different. Sometimes there is a forward lean, a backward lean, a reaching out, a bending in, not entirely centered or entirely upright. Therefore you have to seek to be balanced in the context of issuing power and the direction that you are sending your intention. Your “center of balance” is your body’s pivot point. When your center of balance is right, then you can open and close with nimbleness and naturalness. When your center of balance is off, then all of your openings and closings will have no leverage.
  This is like a wheel spinning around an axle. If the wheel is installed at an improper angle, it will not be suitable for supporting the weight of the car, and the turning of the wheel will not effectively move the car either forward or in reverse. Therefore the postures in the boxing set need to be accurate and your center of balance needs to be stable. Only when your posture is not impeding your balance will you be in a position to distinguish between emptiness and fullness.

安者。安然之意。切忌牽强。由自然之中。得其安適。乃無氣滯之弊。而能氣遍身軀矣。此由於姿勢安穩動作均匀。呼吸平和。神氣鎭靜所致。
Calm: having a sense of peacefulness.
  Avoid forcing yourself. Starting from a state of naturalness, seek to become comfortable. You will then be without the error of energy stagnating and instead energy will be able to move throughout your body. This is because your postures are stable, your movements are even, and your breath is gentle, and the result will be that your spirit is calm.

舒者。舒展之謂。故云先求開展。後求緊凑。初學盤架時。姿勢動作。務求開展。使全體關節。節節舒展之。然非故意用力伸張筋骨。於自然之中。徐徐鬆展。久之自然鬆活沉着矣。
Comfortable: having a sense of being stretched out.
  It is said: “First strive to open up, then strive to close up.” When beginning to learn the solo set, the postures and movements should all be opened up, causing every joint in the body to get stretched one after another. However, this is not a matter of deliberately using any effort to extend the sinews and bones, just naturally and gradually loosening. Then after a long time, you will easily feel very relaxed and settled.

輕者。輕虛之意。然忌漂浮。在盤架時。動作要輕靈而和緩。往復乃能自如。久之自生鬆活之勁。進而生粘黏之勁。故輕字是練太極拳下手之處。入門之途徑。
Light: having a ghostly lightness of touch.
  This does not mean that you are floating up. When going through the solo set, the movement should be delicate and gentle, and then you will be able to go back and forth smoothly. After a long time, you will naturally develop an energy that is loose and lively, and then you will progress to having an energy that is sticking and adhering. Thus the concept of “lightness” is an important ingredient to have when you set about learning Taiji Boxing, providing a way into the art.

靈者。靈敏之謂。由輕虛而鬆沉。由鬆沉而粘黏。能粘黏。卽能連隨。能連隨。而後方能靈敏。則可悟及不丟不頂矣。
Sensitive: having a keen awareness.
  From having a ghostly lightness will come relaxing and sinking. From relaxing and sinking will come sticking and adhering. Able to stick and adhere, you will be able to connect and follow. Able to connect and follow, you will then be able to be keenly aware. And you will then be capable of comprehending the concept of “neither coming away nor crashing in”.

圓者。圓滿之謂。每一姿勢一動作。務求圓滿。而無缺陷。則能完整一氣。而免凸凹斷續之病。推手運用各勁。非圓不靈。能圓則活。處處能圓。則無往不利。
Rounded: having a sense of completeness in the movements.
  In every posture and movement, strive to have a rounded fullness, without any cracks or gaps, and then you will able to have a single flow all the way through. Avoid the errors of having pits or protrusions anywhere, or any breaks in the flow. In the pushing hands techniques, if there is no roundness, you will lack sensitivity, whereas if your movements can be rounded, there will then be a liveliness. Always be able to be rounded, and then you will always be victorious.

活者。靈活之謂。無笨重遲滯之意。上述各節。貫通後。則伸屈開合。進退俯仰。無不自由。所謂能呼吸。而後能靈活也。
Lively: having a sense of flexibility in the movements.
  The idea is that you lack clumsiness or sluggishness. Once you have thoroughly understood the rest of the points above, then extending and bending, opening and closing, advancing and retreating, leaning forward or back, will all be performed with great freedom of movement. When all is said and done, “your ability to be nimble lies in your ability to breathe”.

授受
[NINETEEN] ON GIVING INSTRUCTION

夫人之性情。各有不同。大抵可分為兩種。曰剛,與柔,是也。剛性急而烈。上者為强。下者為暴。强者喜爭。故其學拳時多務於剛。以其性喜爭强鬥勝。不屈人下也。柔者性和而順。上者心氣中和而篤敬。故其學拳時。多務於柔。以其性喜和平多涵養也。暴者。性燥而魯莽。故其學拳時。專務於猛。而無精細之趣。柔之下者。性柔而弱。意志不强。少進取心。故其學拳時不求甚解。然武人貴志剛而性柔。有智,有仁,有勇。方為剛柔相濟。如此乃能進德修業矣。上述性別。關乎學者之本性。應注意之。學者以性情之不同。而所得結果亦異。間賞竊觀。學太極拳者。雖同一師承。而其拳之姿勢。與理論之解釋各異。因而遺下多少疑竇及誤會。凡此蓋亦教授者因其人之性情而授受之耳。所謂差之毫釐。謬以千里。故特表而出之。以解釋羣疑。而資參考焉。
Everyone has a different temperament. For the most part, there are two kinds of people: hard and soft.
  Hard people are impatient and intense. The best of them are merely forceful. Forceful people love to compete, and thus when learning a boxing art, they tend to emphasize hardness because they want to win and will not yield to other people. The worst of them they are outright violent. Violent people are crude and rash, and thus when learning a boxing art, they focus on fierceness and have no interest in precision.
  Soft people are mild and agreeable. The best of them are even-tempered and respectful, and thus when learning a boxing art they tend to emphasize softness because they want to diffuse situations and are full of patience. The worst of them overdo their softness to the point of weakness. They have no determination, no initiative, and thus when learning a boxing art, they do not strive for a thorough understanding.
  However, warriors value hardness of will and softness of temperament. Possessing the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and courage, they thus have a state of hardness and softness complementing each other. In this way, they are able to enhance their virtue and enrich their learning. Attention should be given to these two types of temperament, for students have different dispositions and consequently they will obtain different results. Observe them practicing and you will see that even if students of Taiji Boxing are learning from the same teacher, they are bound to perform the postures differently and have a different understanding of the principles.
  It is for this reason that there are many gaps and mistakes in the transmission of the art over generations, and it is generally due to teachers who have given instruction based on the student’s disposition [i.e. tailoring the art to fit the student instead of expecting the student to simply learn the art, and thereby unwittingly allowing the art to become altered for no legitimate reason]. As it is said: “Miss by an inch, lose by a mile.” This is why I have listed some of these differences of disposition above, to serve as a reference for clearing up such doubts.

[APPENDICES – THE TAIJI CLASSICS]

太極拳論
[I] TAIJI BOXING TREATISE

一舉動。周身俱要輕靈。尤須貫串。氣宜鼓盪。神宜內歛。無使有缺陷處。無使有凸凹處。無使有斷續處。其根在脚。發於腿。主宰於腰。形於手指。由脚而腿而腰。總須完整一氣。向前退後。乃得機得勢。有不得機得勢處。身便散亂。其病必於腿腰求之。上下前後左右皆然。凡此皆是意。不在外面。有上卽有下。有前卽有後。有左卽有右。如意要向上。卽寓下意。若將物掀起而加以挫之之意。斯其根自斷。乃壞之速而無疑。虛實宜分淸楚。一處自有一處虛實。處處總此一虛實。周身節節貫串。無令絲毫間斷耳。
Once there is any movement, your entire body should have lightness and nimbleness. 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 power through your leg, directing it from your waist, and expressing it at your fingers. From foot through leg through waist, it must be a 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.

長拳者。如長江大海。滔滔不絕也。十三勢者。掤,捋,擠,按,採,挒,肘,靠,此八卦也。進步,退步,左顧,右盼,中定,此五行也,掤,捋,擠,按,卽乾,坤,坎,離,四正方也。採,挒,肘,靠,卽巽,震,兌,艮,四斜角也。進,退,顧,盼,定,卽金,木,水,火,土也。(原注云此係武當山張三丰老師遺論欲天下豪傑延年益夀不徒作技藝之末也)
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. 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.
  (A 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.”)

太極拳經 山右王宗岳遺著
[II] TAIJI BOXING CLASSIC (by Wang Zongyue of Shanxi)

太極者。無極而生。動靜之機。陰陽之母也。動之則分。靜之則合。無過不及。隨曲就伸。人剛我柔謂之走。我順人背謂之黏。動急則急應。動緩則緩隨。雖變化萬端。而理為一貫。由着熟而漸悟懂勁。由懂勁而階及神明。然非用力之久。不能豁然貫通焉。虛領頂勁。氣沉丹田。不偏不倚。忽隱忽現。左重則左虛。右重則右虛。仰之則彌高。俯之則彌深。進之則愈長。退之則愈促。一羽不能加。蠅蟲不能落。人不知我。我獨知人。英雄所向無敵。蓋皆由此而及也。斯技旁門甚多。雖勢有區別。槪不外乎壯欺弱慢讓快耳。有力打無力。手慢讓手快。是皆先天自然之能。非關學力而有為也。察四兩撥千斤之句。顯非力勝。觀耄耋能禦衆之形。快何能為。立如平準。活如車輪。偏沈則隨。雙重則滯。每見數年純功。不能運化者。率皆自為人制。雙重之病未悟耳。欲避此病。須知陰陽。黏卽是走。走卽是黏。陰不離陽。陽不離陰。陰陽相濟。方為懂勁。懂勁後。愈練愈精。默識揣摩。漸至從心所欲。本是舍己從人。多誤舍近求遠。所謂差之毫釐。謬以千里。學者不可不詳辨焉。
Taiji [“grand polarity”] is born of wuji [“nonpolarity”]. It is the manifestation of movement and stillness, 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 deflects 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.

十三勢歌
[III] THIRTEEN DYNAMICS SONG

十三勢勢莫輕視。命意源頭在腰隙。變轉虛實須留意。氣遍身軀不少滯。靜中觸動動猶靜。因敵變化示神奇。勢勢存心揆用意。得來不覺費功夫。刻刻留心在腰間。腹內鬆淨氣騰然。尾閭中正神貫頂。滿身輕利頂頭懸。仔細留心向推求。屈伸開合聽自由。入門引路須口授。功夫無息法自修。若言體用何為準。意氣君來骨肉臣。想推用意終何在。益夀延年不老春。歌兮歌兮百四十。字字真切義無遺。若不向此推求去。枉費功夫貽嘆惜。
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 nimble 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.

十三勢行功心解
[IV] UNDERSTANDING HOW TO PRACTICE THE THIRTEEN DYNAMICS

以心行氣。務令沈着。乃能收歛入骨。以氣運身。務令順遂。乃能便利從心。精神能提得起。則無遲重之虞。所謂頂頭懸也。意氣須換得靈。乃有圓活之趣。所謂變動虛實也。發勁須沉着鬆淨。專主一方。立身須中正安舒。支撐八面。行氣如九曲珠。無往不利。(氣遍身軀之謂)運動如百鍊鋼。何堅不摧。形如搏兔之鵠。神如捕鼠之貓。靜如山岳。動若江河。蓄勁如開弓。發勁如放箭。曲中求直。蓄而後發。力由脊發。步隨身換。收卽是放。斷而復連。往復須有摺疊。進退須由轉換。極柔軟然後極堅硬。能呼吸。然後能靈活。氣以直養而無害。勁以曲蓄而有餘。心為令。氣為旗。腰為纛。先求開展。後求緊凑。乃可臻於縝密矣。
Use mind to move 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 your spirit can be raised up, 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 nimble and your headtop will be pulled up as if suspended”. Your mind must perform alternations nimbly, and then you will have the qualities of roundness and liveliness. 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. 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 nimble 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.

又曰。先在心。後在身。腹鬆。氣歛入骨。神舒體靜。刻刻在心。切記一動無有不動。一靜無有不靜。牽動往來氣貼背。歛入脊骨。內固精神。外示安逸。邁步如貓行。運動如抽絲。全神意在精神。不在氣。在氣則滯。有氣者無力。無氣者純剛。氣若車輪。腰如車軸。
It is also said:
  First in the mind, then in the body.
  With your abdomen relaxed, energy collects in your bones. 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.
  Throughout your body, 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.

打手歌
[V] PLAYING HANDS SONG

掤捋擠按須認眞。上下相隨人難進。任他巨力來打我。牽動四兩撥千斤。引入落空合卽出。粘連黏隨不丢頂。
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 divert his of a thousand pounds.
Guiding him in to land on nothing, I then close on him and send him away.
I stick, connect, adhere, and follow, neither coming away nor crashing in.

又曰。彼不動,己不動。彼微動,己先動。勁似鬆非鬆。將展未展。勁斷意不斷。
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 relaxed but not relaxed, about to expand but not yet expanding. And then even though my power finishes, my intention still continues…

This entry was posted in Taiji. Bookmark the permalink.