Application Principles for Tai Chi Chuan
Intention is the Master Key to Tai Chi. Applications create intention – deciding what to do, when to do it, and how to get it done in the simplest fashion. Intention (through understanding applications) creates energetic pathways causing nerves to thicken and strengthen, brains to grow larger, muscles to become more responsive. Creativity flourishes. Even if you have no interest in the martial aspects of Tai Chi Chuan, understanding applications will aid in mind/body integration while doing the form.
Here are some principles that lead to acquiring skill in working with applications.
1) Act naturally.
This is so important. Tai Chi is natural movement done in a relaxed, fully aware state. Once you have decided on a course of action based on intention, do it naturally, or practice it until it comes naturally. Reflex action is the fastest way to move.
Tension blocks the flow of energy, thus slowing and restricting movement. Examine your actions with relaxation as an underlying principle.
3)Use Chi not Li.
Chi is natural, relaxed energy, that is smooth and flowing. Li is muscular, hard energy that tends to be choppy with jagged edges. Find a way to do your applications with the least amount of strength possible.
4) Neither too little nor too much.
In Tai Chi, we seek to find the middle way if possible. Use the amount of energy needed – no more or no less. If one uses too much, it is a waste. If too little, you won’t get the job done. Practice until you learn the correct amount needed for the task.
5) Not too early or too late.
There is an ideal time for applications to be most effective. If one is too early, the opponent will still be centered and you will have to use excessive force to overcome his defenses. If too late, he will have the time to regroup and center. The idea is to keep the opponent from finding his center, his rooted-ness, and his ability to move smoothly.
6) Not too close or too far.
Each action has an optimum distance for either defense or offense. Remember the Six Harmonies – foot and hand for distance, knee and elbow for mid-range, hip and shoulder for close in. If you use the wrong tool for the job, it most probably won’t work, at least not optimally. Each distance has a different stance length and width. The further away, the longer the stance. Greater distance for punching, etc., can use a long stance. Stance length is measured by the distance between the front foot heel and the rear foot toe Stance width is determined by the distance between the insides of the feet. In Bow and Sit Stance, width is measured as the distance between the inside of the front foot and the heel of the rear foot). Stance useage also affects the angle of the rear foot to the forward foot direction. Most common is the rear at a 45 degree angle to the direction the forward foot toe is facing.
One also needs to consider the fact that shorter stances allow quicker moves while longer stances give more time for defense and offense.
7) Position your self correctly in relation to the opponent.
The safest place to be in relation to the opponent is behind him. Next would be to the sides, then corners, lastly directly in front. Try to design the application so you gain the advantage of position. Make him face the sun, look up to you, turn his head.
Decide the correct response and position yourself to accomplish this easily. Are you striking, kicking, throwing, or taking him down? Each requires a different position to be effective.
8) Open the doors and windows before entering.
The “doors” are the opening into the center of the opponent from the torso down. The “windows” are opening to the upper body. A good defense will have these openings closed and guarded. It will not be easy to find a way in, and as you try, you are vulnerable.
Make the opponent open the doors and windows for you. Let him come out and look for you. You can storm his castle, smash through the doors and windows, but that takes an overpowering force – not in harmony with Tai Chi principles. Once he opens the doors and windows by himself, you can crawl in, or walk in without much effort. Experience teaches how to encourage the opponent to open for you.
9) Yin precedes yang.
The yin phase of each technique or movement is the initial phase of join, stick, and lead – neutralization. This determines how the yang phase – attack- will be accomplished. Yang against yang is force against force. Yin against yin means nothing is decided and the problem will keep coming back. First join with the energy, understand the problem, and then deal with it in a way that is comfortable to you.
10) Duei La.
All energy expressions, applications, movements, require counterbalance of forces to insure staying in the root if something unexpected happens. If you push with all your might, and the object you are pushing suddenly moves when you don’t expect it, you do not want to lose your balance. So all moves require an internal energy moving in the opposite direction – when going forward, send some energy backward. When moving up, balance with some energy moving down. When moving right, some energy moves left. This is all subtle and requires practice to understand and put into practice. Remember, Tai Chi is natural movement and action. Duei La is a natural action done by everybody at all times, and can be intensified for use in martial applications.
11) Be patient and wait for the right time.
All fruit ripens in it’s own time. All situations will evolve in a natural way. Do not be in a hurry to accomplish a goal you set for your self, or an outcome you plan ahead of time. Take the time during the yin phase to fully understand the situation. Take the time to gain control before you move into the yang phase and react. If you are centered and relaxed with a calm mind, the body will respond appropriately.