Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Gift of Small Frame

At the WTBA USA Workshop, earlier this year, I was properly introduced to the small frame version of Yang Taiji by Erle Montaigue. I have been working on it ever since, and I am finally beginning to glimpse the enormity of this gift. I have a long way to go with this, and it is one of my Winter training goals. But even the small breakthrough that I have witnessed is powerful beyond description. And it is, like many internal practices, difficult to describe.

Being primarily a Chen-Hunyuan practitioner, my movements are big and expansive by design. When doing any of my forms, the martial intent is clear in my mind. The moves should be crisp and the intention clear and unambiguous to an outside observer. That is how it should be. However, over time the Taiji practitioner should concentrate more the internal movement and less on the external. As that happens the moves aren't so clear and unambiguous to the outside observer. But they are extremely powerful and moving to the practitioner. Many of us have witnessed a Master performing his form and wondered why it seemed so vague and indirect. That is because his intention was internal and the external movement is a mere reflection of the internal action.

As I have progressed in my Taiji training I have often felt as if I am backing up. It seems the more I learn, the less I know. I feel as if I am in a constant state of 'just beginning'. This is a potent example of that. Doing form at the small frame level is an incredible tool for accumulating internal power. And it is incredibly difficult. However, even to the degree that I understand it and am able to practice it, it has been extremely rewarding. That, I guess, is the trade-off for being an eternal beginner. The thrill of newfound treasure is constantly recurring.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chen Zhonghua and his Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method

Shang Lee has a wonderful blog entitled The Journey Within. He has interpreted a text written by Sun Zhonghua, a 19th generation Chen Style Master and a 2nd generation Hunyuan Style Master, on the Practical Method Chen Taiji of Chen Zhonghua. Not only do I recommend Shang's blog, but I highly recommend this article. It is a great introduction to a true Taiji Master.

The article, in 4 parts, can be found here.

"This is a translation and my interpretation of the text written by Sun Zhonghua. He is the 19th generation master of Chen Style Taijiquan and a 2nd generation master of Hunyuan Tai Ji. I hope I did it justice with my translation, and didn’t lose the spirit he is trying to convey. I have to split it in parts as this is a long article and it’ll probably take me some time to translate. Also, I’m savouring the text. It’s great reading it the second time round. :) Hope you enjoy it. You can find the full text here if you can read Chinese. You can find other parts here: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |


People train in martial arts for a variety of reasons, but if there is someone who is in love with martial arts to the point of addiction, this must be caused by a rare gene in his DNA. The evolution of this gene would most likely come from hunting and the battles that the previous generations have to fight, where those instincts are then secretly passed on to these “martial art addicts”. History has shown that even with the ban on martial arts or the downplay of martial arts to give way to a more “civilized” way of learning, all did not manage to suppress this rare gene from being passed down through the generations.

There are plenty of different martial arts, and Tai Ji Quan is one of them. It has a rich content, focusing both on health and self-defense. All you need to train in Tai Ji is a bit of space. There are no special requirements on how tall you are or how heavy you are. Because of this lack of special requirements, there are now plenty of people choosing this over other forms of martial art, one estimate of practitioners numbering 200 million people!

Now that the benefits of health and general well-being is being recognized in Tai Ji, the application and self-defense part of Tai Ji is largely neglected. There is nothing wrong with this being a personal choice, but do not think that your personal choice of ignoring Tai Ji applications makes what you are learning is Tai Ji. By removing applications from Tai Ji, Tai Ji becomes fake Tai Ji, it losses its intrinsic nature. Just like how you would say that a dance is not a dance because it doesn’t look like dancing. Moreover, if you don’t understand the application, the external movements will be wrong. This can only lead to one conclusion – we are not inheriting and passing on Tai Ji as a complete cultural artifact, instead we are stripping the spirit of Tai Ji from the art, mutating it, and allowing it to be passed on only in name. I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but this inevitable outcome has given me sleepless nights. Whenever I am giving a talk, I always urge my audiences, “To pass on and expand on the real Tai Ji, anyone who is interested and has the necessary conditions to learn the martial aspects of Tai Ji, please devote as much time and effort into it as you can.”

Continued in Part 2…"