Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 330
Essentials of the Practice of Form And Push
Hands by Li I-yu
Li I-yu was a well respected Tai Chi Master in the Wu Style lineage. He lived from 1832 to 1892. It isn’t often I share writings by others, but this well known essay, mostly about Push Hands, is right on. Enjoy.
Formerly people said: being able to attract to emptiness, you can use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds. Not being able to attract to emptiness, you cannot deflect a thousand pounds. The words are simple, but the meaning is complete. The beginner cannot understand it. Here I add some words to explain it. If someone is ambitious to learn this art, he can find some way to enter it and every day he will have improvement.
Desiring to attract to emptiness and use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds, first you must know yourself and others. If you want to know yourself and others, you must give up yourself and follow others. If you give up yourself and follow others, first you must have the correct timing and position. To obtain the correct timing and position, you must first make your body one unit. Desiring to make the body one unit, you must first eliminate hollows and protuberances. To make the whole body without breaks or holes, you must first have the shen (spirit) and ch’i (breath) excited and expanded. If you want the shen and ch ‘i activated and expanded, you must first raise the spirit (pay attention) and the shen should not be unfocussed. To have your shen not unfocussed, you must first have the shen and ch’i gather and penetrate the bones. Desiring the shen and ch’i to penetrate the bones, first you must strengthen the two thighs and loosen the two shoulders and let the ch’i sink down.
The chin (internal force) raises from the feet, changes in the legs, is stored in the chest, moved in the shoulders and commanded in the waist. The upper part connects to the two arms and the lower part follows the legs. It changes inside. To gather is to close and to release is to open. If it is quiet, it is completely still. Still means to close. In closing there is opening. If it is moving, everything moves. Moving is open. In opening there is closing. When the body is touched it revolves freely. There is nowhere that does not obtain power. Then you can attract to emptiness and use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds.
Practicing the form every day is the kung fu (way of practicing) of knowing yourself. When you start to practice, first ask yourself, “Did my whole body follow the previous principles or not?” If one little place didn’t follow (them), then correct it immediately. Therefore, in practicing the form we want slowness not speed. Push hands is the kung fu of knowing others. As for movement and stillness, although it is to know others, you must still ask yourself. If you arrange yourself well, when others touch you, you don’t move a hair. Follow the opportunity and meet his chin (internal force) and let him naturally fall outward. If you feel someplace (in your body) is powerless, it is double-weighted and unchanging. You must seek (the defect) in yin and yang, opening and closing. Know yourself and know others: in one hundred battles you will win one hundred times.