Lineage and the Form
The known universe is made up of one thing and one thing only – energy or chi. This chi is influenced into different shapes, components, functions, actions by some overriding direction. This unknowable is called Tao or God or some other term explained to us by mystics who are said to be tuned into this state of awareness. Why does this chi form different states – why is it water, or wood, metal, flesh, blood, even your thoughts? Lots of options about this.
The practice of Tai Chi is designed to take yin or earth chi and blend it with yang or heavenly chi to make human chi. It doesn’t matter if you are conscious of this process or not. It is always happening. It can just be done more effectively when we add our human intention or consciousness. How do we know if this is happening?
The most important evidence is how you feel before and after practice. Do you feel more alive, energetic, centered? Are you less frequently sick, and if you do get out of balance, do you recover more quickly? How about relationships? Do you generally get along with the people you are close to, as well as strangers you encounter? Does your heart cry out to people who are less fortunate than you? If you don’t, I would question what you are doing on the physical, mental level.
I was working this week with an out of town instructor who was visiting Port Townsend. Working with other instructors is always the hardest Tai Chi related activity for me. On a scale of yang to yin, I was much more towards the yang side, while she was way more yin. Her first impulse is to yield, while mine is to stand my ground. Her yielding let me get very close to her center so the slightest fa jing (releasing energy) would throw her away.
This has a lot to do with the lineage of the Yang Style we both practice. Both started with Yang Lu-Chan, then Yang Jien Hou, then Yang Cheng-Fu. From there her lineage went to Chen Wei-Ming and Cheng Man-Ch’ing while mine went to Choy Hok-Peng then Choy Kam-man.
These lines evolved differently. The Cheng Man-Ch’ing ended up quite a bit smaller frame – smaller steps and movements, while Choy’s uses longer, wider steps and is more robust. So our yin and yang qualities are dependent on our physical size and our lineage.
An elephant will never be a snake and vice versa. Nor should it try. But the snake will have some lessons for the elephant, as will the elephant for the snake. It is my feeling that we are given certain gifts, including body type, and we should live in harmony with these. Of course, there are some people much bigger and stronger than I, and I study the snake to learn how to yield, but I gain more benefits by working with my skills and talents.
In doing push hands, you want the opponent to tighten his or her body in the attempt to uproot you. Then it is easy to use an ounce to overcome a pound. When I won the Grand Championship at The Taste of China, I was the lightest person in my weight class. In order not to get pushed around, I had to become the snake, yielding at every yang attempt by the opponent, until he was just barely standing on the edge of a cliff. With not much effort, I could pull or push him over.
I want to be well rounded. Able to be soft or firm depending on the situation. So I train both. I put more time and effort into my particular strength – that of a strong body connection and deep root. I like the feeling. I prefer trumpeting like an elephant to hissing like a snake.
Why Study a Tai Chi Weapon Form
The idea of studying, and practicing a Tai Chi weapon form is foreign to most weatern Tai Chi students. Yet there are many good reasons to do so.
First, one learns the principles of Tai Chi philosophy in action. Join, stick, neutralize, return the energy, are played out quite clearly in partner forms.
Second, one learns how to use tools with the least effort to gain the most result. How to hold an object without the hand getting tired. How to use the torso to wield a heavy object. How not to use force against froce and still attain the desired result.
Third, it is fun to play actions one has not previously trained for, or thought harmonious with a peaceful nature. Baby animals learn essential life skills by play fighting with their nest mates and parents. We do the same with our classmates in a supportive environment.
So come join us for the study of the Partner Cane Form, the most simple and direct weapon form of the Tai Chi cirrucilum. Sat. July 7, 1 to 4 PM at he Studio. $30 fee. All students are welcome.