Tai Chi Articles
An Extract from
Tai Chi and The Code of Life
The Ten Essentials of Yang Cheng Fu
The list of ten essential were transcribed by Chen Mei Ming c.1925
- The Energy at the Top of the Head Should Be Light and sensitive
- Sink the Chest and Raise the Back
- Relax the Waist
- Distuinguish Full and Empty
- Sink the Shoulders and Drop the Elbows
- Use the Mind not Strength
- Unity of the Upper and Lower Body
- The Unity of Internal & External
- Continuity Without Interruption
- Seek Stillness in Movement
The following are a more detailed version in a different order, as taught in the Yang Family Tradition by Graham Horwood.
The Earth Element of Taoism is at the heart of the Ten Essentials for the Earth is the Central Equilibrium which is the womb and tomb of the other four phases of change from the Wu Hsing. This centring concept being the Mother principle of Tai Chi. Central Equilibrium centres the energy of the mind, body and soul. It acts as the template of correct body alignment for Tai Chi and chi kung as well as any discipline or sport because it augments the natural chi flow of the body. The following guidelines will centre the organism enhancing the conditions for self defence and health. Even beginners will be able to feel their own chi in minutes, by adopting these methods. It will, as well reinforce the chi of the more experienced.
1) One should never ‘double weight’ during the form, implying that 70% of the weight should always be on one foot or the other. Double weighting causes the chi to stagnate in the lower limbs effecting the distribution of chi throughout the whole body. The same principle applies to the body as any structure, the superior is only safe if the base is secure. Therefore 70 % of the weight of each foot must be positioned over the ‘Bubbling Well Point’, Yongquan, (K.1) with the other 30% left on the heel. This applies to both the ‘weighted’ yang and the accompanying yin foot. This relates to the yang foot of the front and back stances as well. With the exception of such postures as ‘Raise Hands’ where the yin foot is resting gently on the back edge of the heel. Whereas a back stance like ‘Crane Cools Its Wing’ has the yin foot with a 30% weight focus on the Yongquan, the remaining 70% on the Yongquan of the back foot. The ‘Bubbling Well Point’ is a where the Earth ‘chi’ enters and leaves the lower part of the body. This is the root of all the Tai Chi stances, if this part securely adheres to the Earth and intermixes with the chi of the Earth, it helps safeguard Central Equilibrium. The Tai Chi classics refer to this loss of adhesion as floating. It is not by coincidence that this point is the start of the Kidney channel which is the home of pre-birth chi and when K1.is stimulated, it will engender more chi, increasing stability. This 70/30 bias accords with natural law. For example there is 70% water (yin) to 30% land (yang) ratio on the planet Earth. Also the body is a mass of 70% yin to 30% yang, therefore a wholesome diet should contain a natural input of 70% yang foods to 30 % yin and so forth, preferably organic, of plant origin, in season and grown in a similar climate. ( refer to my forthcoming health book-www.taichi-horwood.com)
In order to maintain Central Equilibrium one has to keep the organism as a balanced energy sphere. This means that all yang parts of the body must be convex and all the yin aspects have to be concave. This spherical principle is a basic law of physics, so imagine the human condition to be like a sealed energy ball. However if one pierces a ball, the structure breaks down. This energy ball is maintained by chi flow which is best kept spherical by adopting these ‘family’ methods of Central Equilibrium. Energy can ‘leak’ at every major joint of the body, thus loosing its inner pneumatic quality.
The outer, convex part of a circle is yang and the inner concave aspect being yin. Take an inflated tyre the outer yang side is supported by the inner yin arc, thus holding its pneumatic qualities of support and comfort.. The same law of dynamics applies to chi, therefore a convex aspect will assist yang chi to flow in yang channels and a concave shape will encourage yin energy to run in yin channels.
The feet should arc and cup the ground with the outer topsides of the foot making a convex curve, with the soles (soft aspect) being concave, always ensuring that K.1. is rooted. Chi rises up the body naturally as we age. Therefore the higher the centre of gravity the nearer death. Consequently if chi rises prematurely it indicates an unhealthy condition. This is why the Tai Chi classics prescribe that one breaths with one’s feet, loosely meaning one must keep the centre of gravity in the middle of the body at the Tan Tien. The feet being yang and the head yin, figuratively keeping the human centred between the forces of heaven and earth.
2) Front stances are measured by the width of one’s own shoulders. Whereas a back stance aligns both feet within a parallel corridor structured on the inside by the heel of the weighted, yang, back foot and by the outer edge of the hip of the yin leg. The feet of a front stance should trace the circumference of an imagined Tai Chi yin/yang diagram, which encloses every stance. The diameter of this circle should be equal to the width of one’s own shoulders, (Fig.1) with the toes of each foot being slightly turned in.
The knee of the yang, weighted, leg must be over the toes of the yang foot and the knee of the yin leg must be aligned with the toes of the yin foot. Otherwise the chi will leak or block. The knees of the legs should be subtly flexed out with the toes gently pointing in creating an inner concave and outer convex to the shape of the legs. Problems with the lower limbs, where chi flow has been inhibited by accident or illness causes a yinnising of the legs, where the knees buckle in towards each other. This can be seen in multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and their like. Also if a person naturally has feet that turn in, it indicates a yang constitution whereas if the feet turn out, it shows the person to be more yin. This can even be seen in very young children even before they walk determining the type of constitution inherited from the parents before and during gestation.
3) The sacrum must be kept plumb. This means that the hips and the pelvis should be aligned in an horizontal plane, thus preventing displacement of the necessary vertical quality of the spine and the aural chi. Chi has many orbits in the body besides the meridians. There are also eddies of energy which flow in and around the organism. For example chi flows out of the top of the head by way of the Baihui (GV.20) creating an circular aura around and down to the feet.. This arc is reinforced and interacts with the horizontal flows which are mainly controlled by the alignment of the hips and shoulders. These energy fields can now be captured by Kirlian photography. Master Chu was unaware of Kirlian photos of the body but his alignment principles accord exactly with these now visible energy auras.
Drop the shoulders implies that the arms should hang loose, keeping the shoulders in a relaxed horizontal plane which ensures that these energy paths remain ordered as well retaining the hermetic quality of Tai Chi. The horizontal alignment of the hips and shoulders also help keep the spine vertical. The spine should also have a gentle convex bow shape, thus accentuating the three main gates of chi amplification on the Dumo. The first is the Ming Men which stimulates kidney chi (GV.4). The next is the Shenzu (GV.12) located between the shoulder blades assisting chi to be fed to the arms. Lastly the Jamen (GV.15) at the base of the hairline at the middle of the neck controlling the medulla oblongata and all its nerve and brain functions. The human Medulla Oblongata is the only one in any species on Earth to be directly over the spine and under the brain. The Tai Chi dictum ‘the head must be kept light and sensitive’ refers to the cranium summit point, the Baihui (GV.20), acting as though it was being pulled up vertically. This ethereal point is the bridge between the upward flow and the descending arc of chi in the microcosmic orbit, invigorating the centres of the brain. The Baihui is considered a point equated with Niewan or Nirvana, enlightenment. If the Yongquan is well rooted and the Baihui is light and sensitive the body will be in harmony with the chi of Heaven and Earth.
The tongue is curled up to lightly touch the roof of the mouth, linking the Dumo and Renmo channels. Here the tongue creates an outward facing curve (convex) to attract the chi to the inner (concave) aspect of the tongue in its descending phase. The chin is kept in and the chest concave, at point Shanzong (CV.17) on the sternum, if this point is painful when pressed, undue stress is being placed on the heart chi.
4) The arms must be relaxed and held in a circular fashion at all times. Depending on technique one being side convex and the other concave. Hence ‘seek the straight from the curve and the curve from the straight’. The elbows and shoulders must be kept low and loose, which keeps the chi centred at the Tan Tien. If the shoulders are raised the chi will float out of the body by way of the lung. This ‘negative chi’ posture causes a raised shoulder effect which can be seen in asthmatics and when people are frightened. Whilst pointing the elbows downwards one should hold them slightly away from the body to prevent any restriction of chi flow. If the elbows are directed towards the knees in this way, it protects the floating ribs.
5) The wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, hips and shoulders must be kept relaxed and rounded and never held at acute, chi blocking angles. These six joints are called the six thieves for when they are out of alignment the energy will leak out. Chi flows more readily around a circular frame. Always keeping the yang sides of the body and limbs convex and the yin aspect concave. The yin side of a person is determined by where the yin meridians are, being the front of the body, the inside of the arms and legs. Whereas the yang aspect of the limbs and body is where the yang chi runs, mainly on the outer surface of the arms and legs and back.
6) The spirit moves the chi that moves the body. ‘Thought chi’ follows the mind and as the mind intent becomes stronger, the conscious chi will become more powerful. The mind’s eye is always focussed at the Tan Tien thus creating a connected circuit form centre to periphery. This seemingly impossible task is started by simply visualising that the chi is circulating as outlined below in the chi kung. With practice, this inner ideation process of chi projection will pave the way to more involved patterns of chi circulation. After a while and relative effort as the thought chi becomes clearer, it will follow the intent of the mind more easily. One must remain ‘Sung’, which loosely translated means to keep relaxed while maintaining all of the controlling parameters of Tai Chi’s Central Equilibrium.
7) Yang Cheng Fu declares ‘Relax the waist’. The waist rules the body’. Here he means if the waist is rigidly held and not supple there will be no connection between upper and lower. I specified in,1, that if there is no root there is no real posture and the waist must act like the centre of a wheel being the central pivot thus being able to control the deflection of attacks and smoothly issue back power. Supple waist supple chi. This is accomplished firstly in a physical manner by ensuring all movements adopt ‘Chan Shu Jian, the silk cocoon reeling’ technique which screws the weight and chi into the rooted leg and out to the limbs simultaneously .
This process is then internalised by ideation where the chi does the ‘turning’ instead of the body thus making the outer twist invisible. The chi is directed outwards to the upper limbs and simultaneously down to K1. in two complimentary, spirallic actions, with the waist being the centre of each twist of chi.
8) ‘Use the mind not strength’ is where the nei kung or internal systems exploit the ability of the mind to move ‘thought chi’ chi around the body, consciously. This controls the nervous impulses which govern the muscles and tendon movement of the limbs, in a smooth and very efficient manner. In this way the body’s internal energy is harnessed more effectively because if rigid tension is used as in external forms of exercise the mother chi is depleted more quickly, as well as restricting the passage of chi in the channels. The wei kung systems like karate and kung fu train the body’s reactive nerve systems rather like a machine gun, firing out wasteful impulses through the motor and sensory nerve fibres. Although this type of movement has initial success it will eventually cause internal damage also slowing down nerve reaction and response time. This stressful type of strength damages liver chi, creating a viscous circle by impairing the chi of the muscles and tendons.
Therefore external disciplines are slower, more harmful, wasteful and need to rely on ‘tricks’ to arrive at moderate results. Chi, trained by nei kung, is like an electrical force field, utilising the meridians to focus the chi in a continuous stream of energy around body, reacting immediately at the command of the mind. This method can be used in healing by passing the chi along blocked channels of a patient or martially by disturbing the chi flow in an assailant. The power and result of the chi implanted is adjusted by mind intent. The more sophisticated one’s ability, the more possibilities one’s chi projection has. The first stage is to imagine that the chi is flowing out to the periphery on a yang breath and back to the Tan Tien on an in breath, this is explained in the ball breathing below. After a period of perseverance and careful reflection, one can replace the physical actions by the intent of thought chi, using the body as a vehicle for chi transportation.
The relative success of developing chi will depend on the amount and quality of pre birth chi available. The initial training of ‘thought chi’ is the debacle of the legendary ability of the adepts of Wudang and the Yang Clan to levitate, as well as being responsible for the many cited and unusual feats that these determined specialists were able to accomplish, perhaps exaggerated over time, but who knows. The Yang Family’s very private joke of duping the despotic Emperors and Courtiers of the Ching Dynasty for two centuries is certain and was only made possible by these hidden secrets of mind intent which is the way they retained their prowess and their necks in tact for so long.
9) ‘Continuity without interruption’ is a Tai Chi phrase poetically elucidated by Lao tzu, who wrote that the ocean is mightier than the river because it lies below. This natural system of distillation and supply is only made possible by the constant rhythm of Nature, which generates this classic example of the flowing, circular pattern of creation. The same is true of a human being, if one moves in a gentle relaxed, constant, controlled, spirallic and centred way, the chi will respond accordingly. The outer is a reflection of the inner and vice versa. This is one of the main reasons that the apparent empty, slow deliberate movements of Tai Chi Chuan can secrete under its popular visual image, a dynamic system of self defence and self-improvement.
10) ‘Seek stillness in movement’ is the opposite to the Chi Kung ideal of seeking movement in stillness. This is where the body is kept still, permitting one to activate the jing into chi, fuse it with the mind then circulate it around the body in chi kung or Tai Chi. This is counter balanced by maintaining an ’empty’ state whilst practicing Tai Chi. Here one has to incorporate the formula of chi kung and the tenets of Central Equilibrium in a total intrinsic blend. These principles will then become second nature arriving at the point of an innate, stillness in movement. Chi will only manifest itself when the organism is quiet and still, preparing the way for ‘Tung Chin’.