This week I would like to return to the book T’ai Chi Chuan For Health and Self-Defense; Philosophy and Practice, by Master T. T. Liang. After translating the three “Tai Chi Classics” (see previous weekly posts-
Master Liang distills and discusses the important principles contained within the Classics. The following chapter is entitled “The Essentials of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.” In my previous posts I have wanted to share the principles that are repeating in the T’ai Chi Classics, but I was not sure how to express them- Master Liang has graciously shared his understanding gained through his years of study of the philosophy and physical movement of T’ai Chi.
The Essentials of T’ai Chi Ch’uan as written by Master Liang
1. The theories behind T’ai Chi Ch’uan are not easy to comprehend because of their depth and subtlety. The techniques, moreover, are quite difficult to acquire.
2. Correct method is of utmost importance. One must learn things in proper sequence and allow progress to come in a gradual and natural manner. Otherwise an entire lifetime of study will be to no avail.
-In the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Treatise attributed to Wang Chung Yueh, one of the T’ai Chi Classics, it is stated “a slightest error or deviation will result in a wide divergence [from the true way]. Therefore the student cannot but thoroughly discriminate the right and wrong. For this reason the Classics have been made.” I think of this principle as applicable to my study of martial arts. Increasingly it seems that in every technique learned, even a small variation can make a huge difference, such as in basic techniques as discussed at our most recent meeting; as another example, variation in grip, pressure and angle in joint locks.
3. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classic states, “The movement of upward and downward, backward and forward, left and right are to be directed by the mind-intent and not by external muscular force.”
4. The mind-intent refers to the internal spiritual function and the outer aspect refers to the movements of the postures motivated by external muscular force.
5. If every movement can be directed by the mind-intent within and manifested without, then the internal spiritual aspect and external physical aspect will be united. Upper and lower parts of the body will move in unison. Thus the body will instantly follow the dictates of the mind and the ch’i, and intrinsic energy will immediately reach the intended point.
6. In the “Song of the Thirteen Postures” it is said, “Pay special attention to your every posture and seek out its hidden meaning, then you can acquire this art without exerting excessive effort.”
7. It is evident that if from the beginning you try to use mind-intent to direct the movements, your skill will be improved by leaps and bounds; gradually when you have mastered the use of your mind you will be able to acquire all the techniques. Therefore the most important guiding point of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is the use of mind-intent to direct the movements.
8. If one can grasp this important guiding point and constantly comprehend the principles, one will obtain the very essence of T’ai Chi. As the T’ai Chi Classics say, “The more you practice, the more you will master the art. By silently remembering and thoroughly comprehending you will eventually reach a state of complete reliance on the mind…”
9. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a combination of civil and martial aspects. The civil aspect stresses principles and the martial aspect stresses techniques. Both aspects must be taken into account; neglecting either one is not real T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
10. The civil aspect is called Tao (principle) and the martial aspect is called skill (technique). In the real T’ai Chi Ch’uan the civil and martial aspects are equally important.
11. Tao emphasizes internal cultivation; skill emphasizes external discipline. Cultivating one’s nature (temperament) is called internal development; training the muscles and bones is called external development… So we can see that the unification of both civil and martial aspects, the equal importance of Tao and techniques, and the internal cultivation with external training are the very best methods for beginners to learn T’ai Chi.
12. When one practices T’ai Chi, one must direct all the movements by mind-intent. As the “Song of the True Interpretation of T’ai Chi” says, “Formless and imageless (forgetting oneself), the whole body completely relaxed (internal and external united into one), and forgetful of everything returning to the natural way (following the desire of the mind)…” This indicates that the mind-intent has reached the ultimate stage.
13. There are three important T’ai Chi Classics. The first, called the T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classic, was created and handed down by Chang San Feng, a Taoist of the late Sung Dynasty. This classic begins by saying, “In every movement the entire body should be light and agile and all of its parts connected like a string of pearls.” The opposite of light and agile is heavy and clumsy and the opposite of connected like a string of pearls is dispersed and confused. This indicates the coordination of substantial and insubstantial and discloses the objective of the fundamental principle of T’ai Chi.
I will continue to share Master Liang’s Essentials of T’ai Chi in my next post. I will also be looking in to the book Journey to Mastery; Feng Shui for Life by Dr. Kathryn Mickle, Ph. D.
Image of Master T. T. Liang is linked from this blog; http://www.garyabersold.com/apps/blog/
Thank you + enjoy your week-