Greetings. While the rest of the U.S. bakes under extreme heat, we here in the Pacific Northwest enjoy mild conditions. The Park was nice and cool. There were groups of Native Americans who stopped off in Port Townsend on their way to Alaska in dug-out canoes. Way cool. Below are a couple of questions from online students and answers. Hope it helps.

Internal Energy
From: João Lucas

Hello Michael,

In your online tai chi short form course you say:\”Joining, sticking, listening, and leading are wondrous skills that can be acquired through diligent practice. For this, you will need a partner.\” This is on lesson 5, movement rollback. Does this means that I have to practice these movements with a partner in order to be able to practice the solo form correctly?


This is a good question, and important for those of us who offer instruction over the internet. For those of you fortunate enough to have a Tai Chi class available, it is not an issue, unless the instructor does not use partner work to experience these important skills. But I assume that Joao does not. So what can he do?

He certainly can learn the solo form correctly, at home, by himself. Even though I attended classes with Master Choy for many years, he didn’t use partner techniques to aid in understanding. I learned the form from the outside first, copying what he was doing, until it came naturally. Then when I started to teach, I figured out the internal work by being forced to answer questions posed by students.

As for the skills Joao mentions, push hands skills, he can learn this on his own. One can have all the theory in the world, and not the internal understanding. If I say to you ‘Imagine rubbing your hand over the skin of a whale”, if you have never done it, you couldn’t. Is it soft, firm, scaly, warm? But if you have ever touched a whale, you can bring your mind back to that place where the touching the whale exists and you can remember. So if you want to have the psycho/physical experience of joining and sticking you can do it with a friend or family member, or even by yourself. If you touch the back of one of your forearms against the inside of the other, you can get the joining, sticking, leading, listening feeling in your body/mind.You can play with this learning by moving one arm around and having the other stick, with the same pressure at all times. Try rolling motions, side to side, up and down. Try walking around, moving in many different ways, and still keep the same sticking pressure. Then when you come to a place in the form where this skill would occur, you will have the inner understanding of what it feels like from the inside, thereby increasing these skills.

Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art. The form is a pantomime of real movements. So spend the time to understand what each movement is doing in relation to a partner. At what point in the movement do I first touch and with what part of my body? Where on his body am I touching? What is he doing and what am I doing in response? It is important to realize that energy follows the mind, so where you put your mind, the energy will follow. If I am concentrating on the back of my forarm, that is where the energy will flow to. The more concentration/focus, the more energy will be created. We are learning to connect the mind to various parts of our bodies for healing, loving, and martial skills.

T’ai Ch’i Ch’uan, Tai Chi Chuan, Taiji Quan, Tai Chi
I was recently asked what the difference in meaning between these words, if any. I am not a scholor of Chinese language, so here is my answer. When Master Choy, my first, and main, instructor wrote T’ai Ch’i Ch’uan. That is how I spelled it for the first several years of my teaching and writing. At some point, another writer spelled it Tai Chi Chuan. I thought that was fine, eliminating the apostrophes. The new spelling was easier for studetnts to understand as the apostrophes were confusing. At some point several years ago, the Chinese government authorized the use of new spelling for words that are translated into English – pinyin romanization. I, having used one spelling for so long, made a conscious decision to mostly, but not always, stick to the method I was comfortable with. As for the use of just Tai Chi, it is even more simple, most people understand it, and it eliminates the martial art word (Ch’uan) which most people are not interested in. In any case, Tai Chi refers to the symbol we are all familiar with, the double fish. The interaction of yin and yang. Chuan means martial art so the name means “the martial art based on the philosophy of yin and yang.”

Best Wishes,