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‘Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.’

– Lao Tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Marie Favorito and Sharon Smith – Instructors

For those who may not have read this before, here’s a nice article
from the Qi Journal by Yang Chengfu’s senior student, Li YaXuan

From a speech in 1956

“… So subtle; so subtle; as if there is no sound.
Immortal, immortal; as if there is no shape…”

Prior to producing momentum, the body gesture should be stable and
the balance completely centered. The mind and body should be relaxed.
There should be no hesitation, no rigidity. Remove all distracting
thoughts from the mind and allow the return of the body gesture to
that state of being natural. With this, you can start to move.

When moving, use your heart/intention and qi to do the moving, to do
the operation. Use your spine and waist as an axis in producing the
boxing sequence. Your moving momentum should be like that of a moving
cloud, like running water, like pulling a thread, and like a hanging
thread. Usually twenty minutes to a half hour is about right to
complete the frame. After practice your mind and spirit should feel
uplifted; your mind and perception, clear. This will show that your
practice is on the right track. Once you reach this level, you should
quietly reach awareness. Reaching this level is really not difficult.
Avoid rigidity and hardness in the body. Avoid moving the four limbs
independently, by themselves. Use your intention and qi to carry the
movement. The whole body should be relaxed. Sinking your qi and
momentum to the lower place is taiji’s correct rule. I (Teacher Li)
have often seen taiji practicioners allowing their four limbs to move
completely by themselves and to move without guidance. This may look
fancy but it is a mistake.

Master Li Ya Xuan
After practicing awhile you should feel your palm and the inside of
your fingers, i.e., the belly of the fingers, should feel the
fullness of qi and intention. This proves that qi and blood have
already reached the tip, the recesses, of your body. Based on this
achievement, if you continue to practice your skill, you will
eventually, spontaneously reach the level of awareness and
connection. If you practice for a lengthy time without being able to
feel this sensation, that means that your qi and intention and skill
frame are incorrect. In that case, you should immediately seek a good
teacher to guide you further, otherwise, if you continue to practice
incorrectly too long, it will not be possible to ever make the
corrections needed.

Use your mind to operate your qi. Use your qi to operate your body.
Use your eyes to look inside, to sense how the body and the mind are
connected; to see how your spirit and qi are relaxed. After awhile,
you will automatically reach the level of unity of inside with
outside; unity of upper with lower. If you pay attention only to the
external skill movement, you are focusing only on external skills.
Your spirit and intention should stay inside to facilitate, to
reserve the quiet energy. When you use energy, the correct method is
to have a harvest before you start. Remember, every movement should
be clean and relaxed. With this your perspicacity, alacrity, and
flexibility can grow. Avoid becoming angry and displaying combative
signs such as clenching teeth and staring angrily with your eyes.
Those intentions and mannerisms are harmful; avoid them.

Some may ask, “If you do not have intention during the practice, when
you need it during combat, how can you then use it?” Actually,
practice is the time for building and accumulating your qi and
spirit. If you consolidate your qi and spirit, when you need them,
they will easily come out. If during practice you become extremely
angry and show such energy and qi externally, you will exhaust your
qi and spirit. In this case, since your qi then cannot accumulate,
when needed you will not have a sufficient supply to be able to make
a truly surprising movement.

Your upper body should have an empty and flexible spirit. Your middle
body should have the energy of the waist and spine. Your lower part
should have the qi of the dantien. These three parts are combined.
The external and internal are connected. With these your movement
will be appropriate. Everything should be natural. Do not pay
attention to any single, particular part of your body. If you think
only of sinking your qi then your qi will hesitate. If you think only
of making your spirit higher, of lifting up your spirit, your spirit
will be restricted. That is not a Taoist natural quality.

What do we mean by empty, flexible, top of head energy? This means
when your body gesture is comfortable and straight, settled, your
empty, flexible qi will automatically reach the top. This is not
something you can simply, intentionally cause by thinking a force to
the top. If you intentionally use force to reach your top, you will
have the characteristic of being straight and hard but without the
empty and flexible. Intentionally, trying to force a quality is
something that must be avoided in acquiring tai qi skill.

To practice taiji skill, you should first rely on a good teacher to
show the use of these skills. Secondly, you should understand the
theory of the great Teacher Chang San Feng and Wang T’sungYueh. You
should have no distraction during the practice, otherwise, you will
go the wrong way. In addition, when you do taijiquan you should not
practice external skill boxing, otherwise, your effort will be
without achievement.

This skill is called “relaxed and flexible energy”. Therefore, when
you use this energy there is no sound. When a person is hit,
externally there is no sign but internally, the penetration has
already been made. The external skill is a so-called tense and hard
energy. When this is used, you hear a “thump”, “tung”, “whap” sound.
When a person is hit, externally they show a red welt, or a red and
blue wound but internally there may be no penetration. Some say that
the taijiquan skill must be combined with other skills in order to be
useful. This really shows their lack of true teaching, of true
learning of taijiquan. This person does not understand taijiquan
theory and really is showing ignorance.

When people first learning the boxing frame, within a few days they
will feel muscle pain in their legs. After a month, they may feel
knee pain. After that they may feel some shoulder soreness. Learners
should not be surprised with this. This is a natural process. This
also is how a good teacher gives correct guidance. Continue the
practice and the soreness and pain will heal. Later, your skill will
be much improved. If people fear soreness and pain and then stop
practicing, only to re-start after the pain goes away, thus are only
doing a sporadic, start and stop practice, they are really wasting
their time. If you learn taiji boxing but never feel any leg pain,
knee pain, or shoulder soreness, then the teacher is not giving
correct guidance. You must select another teacher, a good teacher.
When you relax, first relax your mind. This is most important because
the mind is the host of the entire body. After the mind is relaxed,
the whole body then also is relaxed. If you use your mind to
influence the body after awhile you will automatically achieve real
relaxation. This will allow production of your internal energy.
The whole body, the qi, and momentum should be relaxed and open. With
this the empty and flexible can reach the top. Every movement is like
that of a river and the sea. Every step is like that of a cat. The
lower and upper should follow each other. Inside and outside should
cooperate completely with one another. With this, internal energy
will be produced.

When doing the skill, do not just move your four limbs. Rather, use
your mind to move them; use your qi to carry them; use your waist to
guide them; use your intention to induce. With this the upper, the
lower, the internal, and the external can become connected by one qi;
this is needed.

If you make even just a single gesture, not only must your four limbs
open but also your mind, your intention, your chest, should be closed
first; then all open together. All movement always starts from inside
and goes towards the outside. This is why tai qi is called an
internal skill, an internal kung.
Internally you should use your mind and intention as the host, the
head. Externally you should use the waist and the spine as the axis;
be completely centered. Internal/ external, upper and lower parts all
become one. With this there is something whose wonder is beyond
understanding.

Seek coordination of the upper and lower. This is the beginning step
of practice. Next, try to sense gingerly, look for something very
light, flexible, like cotton – soft. This is the middle level skill.
Finally, seek the empty and nothing in there. This is the last
research focus. When your body is light and flexible, there is still
something there. If you reach the level of empty and nothing, then
actually everything will follow your intention. This really is
reaching the most wonderful, mysterious level.

When Teacher Chengfu pushed hands and used his launching energy, his
eyes would give a certain extremely stern and dark look that caused
fright. The opponent then would feel stunning surprise and deep fear
of loss of life or eminent death. This shows how the spirit and body
can become one within a moment; how the whole body force can be
mobilized, concentrated, focused and produced within an extremely
short period of time. Because this happens within the briefest of
moments with the quickness of a thought, so suddenly, the opponent is
not able to make a defense. Besides that, there is no way to defend
against this.

Everyday, when we practice, we practice slowly. This slow practice
helps accumulate the spirit, qi, and intention. This is how the
internal and external cooperate to show such wonder. If you practice
too fast, not only will you not accumulate spirit and qi but,
internally and externally, the parts can not cooperate to the
appropriate degree needed. Therefore, even if you do the launching
energy, it will not be full. In addition, neither will your force be
capable of surprise.

When the whole body relaxes, the upper and lower parts must be
completely relaxed. This is one of the necessary conditions of
taijiquan. If your movement is not complete, or is complete but not
relaxed; or if you only relax your shoulder but your waist, kua,
belly, and back do not know what is relaxed; or after practice, your
palm does not feel inflated, then this shows you did not have the
right teacher. I have often seen practicioners shake their body and
make lots of sounds. Their heads are like those of sale-pitching
people; swollen, manicured, proper, everything in place, and with a
look of arrogance and a condenscending attitude. They think taiji
only “talks” about being soft and does not “speak” of force.
Actually, these types of arrogant, over-confident people do not know
that taijiquan has it’s own theory and can only be learned from a
teacher. It is not something you can learn by mere observation.
Taijiquan is not something you can just figure out by yourself at
home.

In the practice, you should feel the whole body relax and also feel
the movements being clean. If the whole body is stable and sunk then
the whole body will be comfortable and connected. In every movement
you should quietly think of how to use your intention, of how to send
your intention to the other’s body, and of how to enter inside the
other’s body. With this method, after a long period of practice, you
will see progress.

When your spirit and qi return inside and are reserved in your bones,
the whole body will be full of empty and flexible qi. If you then
want to be light, you will be light; if you want to be heavy, you
will be heavy. For skilled people who feel light – it is as if there
is nothing there. For skilled people who feel heavy – it is as if the
weight would break a mountain.

This is how you should practice your essence and transform your qi;
this is how you then practice your qi to transform your spirit. Upon
reaching the spiritual, you can reach the level of emptiness. To
reach the level of empty and flexible, you must start with being
solid. If you want to be light and quick, you must start with being
heavy and stable. After you practice the skill for quite a long time,
you can then reach the level of extremely light, extremely quick,
empty, and flexible.

In the very beginning, if you try too soon to acquire the empty and
flexible, light and quick, then your whole body movement will be full
of confusion. If at the very beginning, you talk too much of empty
and flexibility you will then acquire floating and be of no use. In
taiji these types of people are the so-called “those who do not go
out of their house for ten days.” Actually, if you do not have a true
teacher, a truly good teacher, ten years, or even after all your life
you will not be able to “go out of your house” with the skill.
Taijiquan is a skill of reaching a maximum result via a minimum
movement. When they move the hand, there is no comparison. They are
empty and wonderful. All phenomena are incorporated therein.
Regardless of how the other attacks, I rely on my empty and flexible
qi.

I can change according to any opportunity presented. I can follow the
momentum and respond accordingly, appropriately. Each and every
response is just right. People should not focus merely on just one
gesture, just one hand. If they do that they will miss the larger
picture. If you use the great Dao (Tao) to connect every movement, to
learn just one thing really, really well then everything will be
okay. If you only think of using one gesture, one momentum, one qi,
then the 10,000 changes are always possible. The intelligent person
will do that.

SIDEBAR
Li YaXuan
Teacher Li YaXuan was senior, early disciple of the profound master
Yang Chengfu. Teacher Li later taught government and military
officials frankly and was highly respected by all for his unselfish
attitude, high martial ethic, and high level skills. When reading the
late Teacher Li’s descriptions, his excellent martial ethic, a
critical key to receiving profound knowledge, soon becomes crystal
clear. In fact, in one descriptive story to be shared later, his
ethic and morality is both emotionally touching and nearly beyond
normal comprehension.

Within the following explanation Teacher Li discusses the highest
levels of achievement in taijiquan, namely, acquiring levels of
awareness, achieving the light and flexible skills, and finally,
acquiring the empty and flexible qi. In earlier times, taiji at these
levels was also called “qi boxing” or “spirit or immortal boxing”. Li
YaXuan was born in 1894 and died in 1976. He was an ardent, devoted
student of Yang Chengfu and, although much lesser known in the west,
he was actually senior in all aspects to better-known non-family
students established in the USA after ‘liberation’. Teacher Li also
knew and taught in association with Yang ShaoHao and was associated
with and taught at the highest level of martial art in China.
Special gratitude is due and given Teacher Chen LongXiang and Teacher
Li MinDi, son-in-law and daughter of Master Li, for their wonderful
gift, on a recent visit, of Teacher Li’s explanations and his
stories, of which the following is merely a small part. Mr. Chen and
Ms. Li, husband and wife, carry on Teacher Li YaXuan’s excellent
tradition of martial ethic and unselfish, noncommercial devotion to
the original tradition of taijiquan.

There are five taboos of practice in the acquisition of this skill:

1. Those not selecting the right teacher, enter the wrong school and
the external skill tops and is dominate. Once acquired, this habit,
even if the learner later meets a truly skilled person, will be
ingrained and not be correctable for internal use.
2. Those not believing their teacher strongly, completely enough.
They do not completely follow the teacher’s theory of practice. These
people pretend they are smarter and think east, think west, and
attempt to use other theories in combination with this skill. Their
minds and spirits become a mess. All sorts of problems manifest.
These problems are extremely difficult to correct.
3. Those who indulge in bad habits like smoking, gambling, and
prostitution. These exhaust energy, qi, and spirit. They confuse
minds. These people will never understand and can never reach a good
level of awareness.
4. The over-practice of external family skills, hard skills, like
breathing qi, making strong, exertion and effort, and the clinching
of teeth. Intense staring with the eyes, making the belly full and
then striking the belly. The use of an instrument to hit the body or
the use of a hammer to hit the head. These hard, external practices
and abuses severely harm and deaden our most valuable nervous system.
This causes parts of the nervous system to become numb, deadened, and
to be without awareness. People who have done this type of training
cannot reach good levels of taijiquan practice.
5. Those people who only learn a little bit of taiji then leave their
teacher and go out and show off in front of other people in an
attempt to falsely gain respect. These types of people are often
induced into learning other types of skills. Their’s is a show of
mere ego, not skill. After they start on the wrong path, they can
never be corrected.

The above five types of people are those who cannot reach the
awareness level of taji. The true skill, the main skill, is to make
your mind clear, and to focus your mind. But in order to clear your
mind and to concentrate, to focus, you should first become very
stable and very quiet. Only after becoming quiet can you become
clear. At that point you can focus, meditate. This is the way to
reach awareness. After achieving beginning awareness, you can reach
an even higher level of awareness. You can then reach understanding.
Later, you can reach the level of precise understanding. So, if you
want to clear your mind, before settling your mind, you must have the
intention of restoring your mind to the state of being without
thought; your body without action; to feeling no body, no mind. Once
reaching this state of “no action” your mind is able to become
enlightened.

After reaching enlightment, any awareness, any sensation, any
perception of conscious is that claimed by the scholars of
Confucious. That consciousness does not come from continual thinking.
If you use your mind to think of penetrating a wall without a door,
you just visualize going through the wall; if you think of working in
poison ivy, you visualize just passing through as if there is no
road – if you practice in this manner, the more you practice this
way, the farther you will be from taijiquan. A true teacher is needed.
In practicing taijiquan, you need to be quietly contemplative while
practicing the operation. If not, you will not be able to understand
what is correct. If you do not practice, then your arm, your whole
body, will not be able to follow the mind to move. Therefore, the two
aspects must be done together. This means you cultivate both your
mind and your body. If you just spend time vigorously, physically
practicing, working the body, even if you make your tendons, your
bones, your skin, and your flesh suffer, your mind and spirit will
only be confused and, although you may sweat profusely, you will be
wasting your energy, your qi, and your spirit. You will only harm
your attempt to acquire the internal skill. You will receive little
real benefit.

Cultivating the empty and flexible produces a high spirit, alertness,
readiness, eagerness, perspicacity, high energy, and profound
judgment. This keen judgment then used to acquire awareness of
internal boxing’s method. If you use these methods to defend
yourself, you will have an excellent self-defense and you will also
be able to handle any bully. If you use this skill in business, you
will understand the business very clearly, with perspicacity, and
will always succeed. If you use this method to cultivate your body,
you will achieve longevity beyond that normal.

This skill is made up of three aspects: your spirit, qi, and body.
The main emphasis is on enhancing your spirit. Afterwards comes the
practice of qi. Last in importance is the practice of your physical
body.

What is the meaning of spirit? Spirit here refers to something in
addition to our whole body, it is empty, it is flexible, there is
momentum, a function of mind, controller of intention. The movement
cannot be predicted, thus, in addition to the flexible, there is
quickness and the concept of changing. Spirit is really not involved
with clenching of teeth, intensely staring, or the use of physical
effort to produce qi.

What is the meaning of qi? qi may refer to breathing. It is that that
sinks downward when you acquire stability. It is not something seen
in muscle or use of effort to breathe. The body is stable and
comfortable. Movement should be flexible and light. Merely taking a
standing position to strike sand bags, beating the body, or striking
objects with the hands will enhance neither spirit nor qi. Those
people who practice the spirit cannot be without qi and the body –
they have all three. Rather, there is merely an emphasis on spirit
development. For those people who merely practice qi, they may have
some qi, they may have some body, but their spirit is lacking. Those
who only practice the body aspect also have some spirit and some qi,
however, they can not completely know the wonder of the spirit.
In the practice, if your intention does not completely reach the
breadth of your mind, your body gesture cannot be relaxed. Without
proper relaxation, the upper and lower will not follow or be
coordinated. Thus, your internal and external cannot match. Then your
breathing may not be comfortable. At this point, with these problems,
you should seek a good teacher for guidance otherwise, you will harm
and worsen your practice.

If the mind thinks of relaxing after awhile the body gesture will
also relax. Every movement should be followed by heart and qi. Then
your four limbs will follow nature and the internal/external will
become fit. With this your boxing intention can reach your hand.
Stillness and contemplation will allow you to reach the level of your
mind controlling everything. Everything should follow slowness, being
stable, being quiet, and reaching stillness. If the mind is not clear
and the qi floats, the more you practice with these illnesses, the
farther you will go from boxing’s intention. In this case, even if
you practice like this for your whole life, you qi will not reach
your hand. Learners should persevere, should have talent, and should
have a true teacher in order to achieve success. Even with these
qualities, in addition, the teacher and theory must be respected.
With all these present, perhaps in one or two years you may reach
some success. However, if you leave the teacher too early, you may
have some problems and attain no awareness. One way to avoid this is
to be open, to sense how the body and mind are connected. Quietly
think about what the teacher advised you about the practice. Also,
think of and visualize how the teacher practiced the gesture. With
this your problem may not become too deeply rooted. Otherwise, if you
make just a small mistake early there will be no end. It is like a
horse without a rein, it cannot be guided.

People’s practice problems may be visible or invisible. The visible
problem is easily corrected, however, those invisible are very
difficult to rectify. For example, some of these types of problems
may be the hand and the feet being high or low, or not in balance, or
not matching, or the direction is not correct, or the waist or kua
are not straight, not horizontal, or the spine is not relaxed. These
are visible problems. They are easily corrected. But, if your mind
and intention are in the wrong way and, thus, your movement and
spirit do not follow one another and your mind and body,
internally/externally, do not match; these are invisible diseases.
These diseases sometimes appear, sometimes do not appear. You can
sense it but it is difficult for you to describe or pin down. It is
very difficult to correct and eliminate these problems.
For people internally ill, regardless of how they spend their
practice, the gesture and momentum will always show ugliness. That is
because they do not listen to the teacher’s words of how to practice.
Again, they spend too much time thinking of east, thinking of west.
That is how they go down the wrong path. Learners, in particular,
should be aware of these problems.

I have often seen people who already have practiced for many years
but still cannot produce internal energy. They cannot respond
appropriately. Their hand is confused; their feet do not know what to
do; they are unable to sense. Their eyes show hesitation or hastiness
and they just fight without preparation. These are further examples
of the internal diseases. They are very difficult to cure.
Every movement should follow the breathing. Use breathing to
facilitate opening and closing. This is the so-called “using the qi
to move the body”. Every movement should have “quan” (martial)
intention. For example, when the fist comes out, carry the fist with
intention. When pulling the fist back, use intention to take it back.
Practice with the saber, sword, or spear should also follow this
advice. You cannot throw away your intention and simply allow your
four limbs to move independently. Internal movement is a combination
of mind controlling the body and the body controlling the hand. Every
hand and leg movement starts with your mind. From first the internal
the external is reached. This is the so-called “internal skill”.
Once expertness is reached then a mere thought, i.e., the mind just
thinking in one direction is able to cause just single movement that
starts and instantaneously encompasses the whole body. With this, the
whole body force will be permeated completely throughout the body.
Yet, without a good teacher people cannot reach this level. External
skill only heeds external gesture; it is external movement. Their
gesture and frame often may be very big and often may look very
quick. In reality, however, it may not be so quick.

Internal skill emphasizes awareness based upon understanding energy.
Understanding energy internally makes awareness go inside. Although
movement may appear slow, actually, it may not be slow. In addition,
in combat we decide how big the energy is, the appropriate time, the
movement–low and quick, and the target. Since everything, including
direction, is calculated, this calculation is based on hearing
energy. This hearing energy comes from relaxed, soft, sinking,
stillness, and slow practice daily. Boxing skill is an individual,
bare-handed strategy. The mind and head represent the headquarters.
The waist and chest are main but smaller fighting groups. The hands
and feet are the smallest and lowest level of the fighting groups.
The skin may be comparable to guards. The nervous system may be
considered the system of communications.

Once you have contact with the enemy, the nervous system will pass
the news to the head and heart. The head and heart make a decision,
according to the situation, to guide the waist and body; to guide the
four limbs and head and legs. If the nervous system cannot transfer
this information, it is impossible to know from which direction the
enemy is coming from or his magnitude. An appropriate response will
then be impossible. Even if you have great force, if you do not use
it appropriately you will be defeated. Use your hands and feet to
protect your heart and body. If you cannot use your gesture
appropriately you will not be able to reach your goal. The waist and
spine are the axis for the use of the hands and legs. If transitions
are not done flexibly a good result is not possible. The head and
heart are the headquarters of the whole body. Therefore, awareness
must be very clear and flexible, otherwise, a good command cannot be
made.

During combat, if you need to be quick, you must be quick; if you
need to be slow, be slow. In this art not even a single mistake is
allowed. Move forward, move backward, left, right, you can not have
even one hesitation, otherwise, all may be lost. So we can see the
importance of the nervous system being clear. Therefore, taiji skill
mainly emphasizes making your mind quiet and your temper concentrated
and focused. This keeps the nervous system clear. Some do not
understand this and place strong emphasis on the exercise of their
muscles. Actually, this also damages the most valuable nervous
system. This is a tragedy.

Those who like large muscles and strength probably have only two
chances in combat. First, during an attack, regardless whether moving
back or forth, they must be very quick. They will want their muscles
to respond very quickly. The question is whether or not their muscles
are very sensitive; yet even if they are quick, they cannot attack at
the correct time. This may only create confusion.

Crouching Tiger…
Crouching tiger, hidden dragon is not merely the title of the recent
blockbuster movie. This expression actually is borrowed from the
Chinese language. In Chinese it refers to coming across a heretofore,
unknown, ‘hidden’ individual of high skill; hidden, crouching, ready
to pounce on the over-confident, innocent. In one sense, the late Li
YaXuan could be considered to be a crouching tiger, hidden dragon in
the west. This is because he is so unknown here. In China, however,
Teacher Li’s work and words are far from hidden. In fact, he was well
known and widely respected in China prior to his death in 1976. His
story and advice merit careful reading. The Yang’s divided their
teaching into three basic phases: learning the external, learning the
internal, and finally training the mind. Teacher Li hits all three in
his discussions and even touches very briefly on the last, the most
advanced training methodology.

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon is not merely the title of the recent
blockbuster movie. This expression actually is borrowed from the
Chinese language. In Chinese it refers to coming across a heretofore,
unknown, ‘hidden’ individual of high skill; hidden, crouching, ready
to pounce on the over-confident, innocent. In one sense, the late Li
YaXuan could be considered to be a crouching tiger, hidden dragon in
the west. This is because he is so unknown here. In China, however,
Teacher Li’s work and words are far from hidden. In fact, he was well
known and widely respected in China prior to his death in 1976. His
story and advice merit careful reading. The Yang’s divided their
teaching into three basic phases: learning the external, learning the
internal, and finally training the mind. Teacher Li hits all three in
his discussions and even touches very briefly on the last, the most
advanced training methodology.

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon is not merely the title of the recent
blockbuster movie. This expression actually is borrowed from the
Chinese language. In Chinese it refers to coming across a heretofore,
unknown, ‘hidden’ individual of high skill; hidden, crouching, ready
to pounce on the over-confident, innocent. In one sense, the late Li
YaXuan could be considered to be a crouching tiger, hidden dragon in
the west. This is because he is so unknown here. In China, however,
Teacher Li’s work and words are far from hidden. In fact, he was well
known and widely respected in China prior to his death in 1976. His
story and advice merit careful reading. The Yang’s divided their
teaching into three basic phases: learning the external, learning the
internal, and finally training the mind. Teacher Li hits all three in
his discussions and even touches very briefly on the last, the most
advanced training methodology.

Original taiji learners at the source often use the term “frame” for
what most westerners call the “form” or “set”. Considering
construction, be it a house or building a skill, the term is both
more precise and descriptive, therefore, this use is most
appropriate. This term is used frequently.

Secondly, when these people hit others, they obviously hope the other
feels great pain. In addition, these people often want their muscles
large enough and strong enough to absorb the pain of being hit by
others. The question here is during the attack, if the timing is not
correct, they will use a lot of strength but will hit empty space. If
you make a defensive gesture at the incorrect time, this only shows
weakness to others. This results in much more harm. So then, what is
the use of having large, strong muscles? Further, when you are
attacked, you must be very quick. You must move with suddenness. In
combat there is not enough time to think of producing strength in
your muscles. Finally, when others attack the most vulnerable parts
of your body, strong muscles are of no use for defense or to respond.
Taijiquan is a skill with shape and without shape. Although it has
shape when an opponent attacks you, your whole body must be very
reserved and display nearly nothing in there. This will make the
opponent catch an empty shadow so to speak and, thus, not harm you.
If the enemy thinks you are empty and, on the other hand, if you show
your emptiness but can suddenly attack like thunder, thunder so quick
and strong that people must duck and cover their ears, so as to make
them totally scared, scared for their life, then this is enticing
into emptiness. Taijiquan is a skill based on unpredictable
opportunity. If the other thinks you cannot attack, you should just
move your mind suddenly to attack. If others think you will come then
you should transform as if you have nothing to attack. This is the so-
called “being suddenly visible; suddenly invisible”.

The practice frame was designed to cultivate your mind and qi. Push-
hands is done to acquire listening energy. Scatter-hands is practiced
to acquire skill of hand, eyes, body, and the step method. So, this
boxing practices heart, physical essence, qi, and spirit. When you
practice the skill, your qi must be sinking. Do not intentionally
sink it, that is, do not think of sinking the qi. Rather, use true,
fundamental intention to infuse the qi during your breathing.

Emptiness is so empty it’s as if it is solid. Being solid is so solid
it’s as if it is empty. There is something there but it’s as if there
is nothing there. Relax, let go, softness–use these to produce the
empty and flexible qi. This will enhance your perspicacity. Place
your mind and body in the right place to establish the fundamental
source. With this you can show gesture and seriousness. If your body
and mind are not correct, your gesture will show shallowness and be
overly light, floating. These qualities too easily tempt bullies.

Emptiness and flexibility are the first key to the skill. Understand
this theory like a genius then in one or two years full awareness may
be reached. An unintelligent person may spend their whole life in
practice and study but will still not be able to reach this level.
Thus, a person’s achievement, deep or shallow, is also a function of
a person’s innate talent and intelligence. Not everyone can be placed
in the same category. Practice the skill in the early morning or in
the quiet of the night without disturbance from others practicing. Do
not show off in front of other people. A poem entitled, “Poem of
Movement” explains, “The Great Dao (Tao) cannot be removed from even
the smallest, lowliest piece of ground.”

Do not have intention. Do not have the mind. Do not rely on your
chest to move the energy and qi. Your mind should completely relax
and follow nature. Allow all parts of the body to naturally rely on
one-another. Once you are without intention, once you are without
mind, the true mind is then in the place where there is no mind. Once
you do not have mind in the middle, you will not have a shape. At
that time, emptiness will produce the true empty and flexible. Feel
the connection with the universe. Everything comes from nature.

In a discussion on boxing, while there are many different schools, it
is noteworthy that they also have many similarities. Externally they
practice the hard and quick and use force; they attempt to make qi
strong, leave the spirit and talk about severity. For those people,
however, who place emphasis on the quick, hard, their mind can hardly
be still, can hardly be quiet. For those who use qi to try to inflate
their qi, their breathing cannot be comfortable. For those who
emphasize severity, they cannot cultivate a harmonious qi. These
methods really will harm the tendon, harm the flesh, and will exhaust
the spirit and qi. These practices will harm the empty and flexible
skills and prevent their acquisition. That kind of boxing cannot
cultivate longevity.

When practicing be stable and quiet, comfortable and relaxed, in
order to cultivate the empty and flexible qi. Thus, when you use this
qi, it is cold, it jumps, it is sudden, it is quick, as if you spit
out the energy from your dantien. Always sense the empty and flexible
qi and momentum. Then, during combat you can be fully aware of the
other’s force. With this, the road to victory is already half
traveled. Without the empty and flexible qi and momentum, if someone
attacks, you will have no awareness of his situation. In this case,
in the confrontation your movement will create confusion and you will
attempt to hit the other without any plan. This is not taiji skill.
If you have the empty and flexible qi, momentum; if your waist and
legs are light and wonderful; if you have spirit and qi, if they are
full; then externally you will be able to show the qi gesture. Then,
if your movement is also cold and quick; then, if you then use this
qi to cultivate the body, you will have longevity. If, on the other
hand, you use these internal skills to defend yourself, you will be
able to do so. With this awareness and these high skills, challenges
in both your personal life and business life may be handled easily.
———————————————————-

Li YaXuan, From a speech on February 6, 1956. Translated by Key Sun,
Ph.D., private student of Master Yang SongQuan born and raised in
Chen Village. Edited by LeRoy Clark, private student of Master Fu
ShengYuan.

By Bill Douglas

According to a twenty-year study by Kaiser Permanente, between seventy and eighty-five percent of illness is caused by stress, meaning that in the U.S. alone stress is costing us about one-trillion dollars per year in healthcare costs. Since most absenteeism is due to stress, US business is losing upwards of $300 billion per year.

On a more personal level, it is disturbing to realize that aging is accelerated by stress, and stress is a growing issue with all of us. Studies show that change is stressful, even “good” change. So as we computer jockeys settle into the saddle of a new age of rapidly changing information, we need an edge that can help us stay healthy, sane, “younger” and more vibrant, even as we are often at the very center of the hurricane of modern change, such as keeping up with new hardware and software.

Ironically an ancient mind/body tool provides the perfect balm for our generation’s modern problems — it is called “Tai Chi” (pronounced tie-chee). T’ai Chi is a gentle series of relaxing motions that cleanse the body’s tissue of accumulated stress and, by doing so, boosts all aspects of our health systems. According to emerging research boosting the immune system’s strength dramatically, while reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety, and even reducing chronic pain conditions, are just a few of T’ai Chi’s myriad benefits.

What makes ancient T’ai Chi the perfect modern balm is that it doesn’t require special facilities or clothing, and doesn’t even make you break a sweat, meaning you can do it in office attire in an empty boardroom just by kicking off your heels. Yet, it provides the same euphoria of a long run, the cardiovascular benefit of moderate impact aerobics, and burns nearly as many calories as downhill skiing.

Our time is filled with paradox. A problem in this modern age stems from the great promise of the information age — a tidal wave of data being created by and offered to our “left brain”; that part of our minds that is analytical, calculating, and categorizing the world. Of course, this is a powerful and important part of who we are. This is the part of the mind that gets things done, pays the rent, builds the houses, and makes the cars. Our “right brain,” however, is getting left behind in our rapidly changing techno-world, and this imbalance of thought processes is at the heart of modern stress.

Our right brain is the feeling, smelling, sensing . . . enjoying part of the mind. This is the part of the mind that smells the flowers, not to analyze the smell, but to be filled with its beauty — and this is the part that has been left behind in the digital world. When we go to the cyber mall, for example, our right brain doesn’t get to play. The cyber mall is a wonderful thing that saves us time, money, and gas for our cars (and thereby saves the environment), but there are no Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to smell in cyberspace, or warm sunlight streaming in through the big skylights.

So what do we do? We get the best of both worlds. T’ai Chi is a series of exercises to balance the mind. T’ai Chi teaches us to experience life for sheer pleasure, thereby creating balance in our busy “get things done yesterday” world. If you learn T’ai Chi and practice in the morning before you sit down at your computer, your right brain (the sensing and enjoying brain) will be turned on more. You will feel the texture of your computer keys. You will remember to take the time to get a nice cup of green tea or herbal cinnamon spice tea, and you’ll interrupt your staccato keyboard occasionally to smell the tea’s rich aroma, feel the warmth in your hands, and breathe the breath of life deeply into your lungs.

Although you are at the cutting edge of the information age revolution, you are also in the garden of life. This will give you an edge in the long run. Why? Because chronic stress diminishes our cognitive skills and therefore, our creativity.

Einstein said, “Creativity is more important than knowledge.” Even if we have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, if we are too stressed out to use the knowledge “creatively,” we are much less effective. Plus, we’re not as much fun!

The bottom line is T’ai Chi is a set of exercises to practice enjoying life. It’s not enough just to say, “I’m going to enjoy life more.” We actually have to practice mind/body tools that can positively affect our brain wave activity, in an integrative way, as T’ai Chi is proven to do.

T’ai Chi is an extremely sophisticated mind/body science that evolved over millennia, and is now being made available to all of us after centuries of being closely guarded secrets in China. Even though the practices are ancient, they are in many ways just as cutting edge as the multi-gigabyte computer.

Don’t just be “cutting edge” with your left-brain. Go all the way and stretch the envelope with your right brain, too, by weaving T’ai Chi into your life. You will be forever glad you did, as you discover balance and calm in the eye of the modern world’s ever accelerating storm of changes rushing at us.

Author’s Bio

Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, and is the Founder of World T’ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 60 nations each year). Bill has authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong.” Bill’s been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The South China Morning Post, Reader’s Digest, etc.

RELAX and REGENERATE!

On April 25-27th please join Senior Healing Tao Instructors, Marie Favorito and Sharon Smith for a Special Weekend Retreat of Taoist Meditation and Chi Kung. Explore the mystery and healing power of chi, build a more intimate relationship with your energy, Immerse yourself in the Tao practice and return to your life refreshed and renewed

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to study with Marie and Sharon who together have over 50 years of experience in the Taoist arts! We guarantee that you will come away with a solid base for your Healing Tao practice. This will be held at beautiful Angels’ Rest in Leyden, Massachusetts (2 hours west of Boston & 3 hrs from New York City).

Your retreat fee of $475.00 includes all teaching, accommodations on Friday and Saturday nights, and six high quality organic meals. Arrival is on Friday at 3:30 PM and departure will be Sunday at 4:30 PM. Accommodations are elegant dormitory style with 2 to 5 per room (because of space limitations, there are no single rooms). Each guest will enjoy the beautiful facility, high-quality linens and towels, and restful sleep on a Posturpedic mattress. You may want to bring your own towel for the pool & hot tubs and comfortable shoes for exploring the surroundings. The retreat is limited to 22 participants.

You are sure to be inspired and refreshed by the energy we will generate in this beautiful country setting. Angels’s Rest is in the heart of nature, in the small, peaceful town of Leyden. Located on 20+ acres of private woodlands and meadows in the Berkshire foothills of Western Massachusetts, the elevation of Angels’ Rest offers breathtaking and far-reaching views of mountains to the east and south. With its pristine natural environment, comfortable quarters, and personal care, Angels’ Rest creates the perfect setting conducive for deep work in Meditation and Chi Kung.




*This weekend retreat is also important training for those Healing Tao students interested in becoming Associate Instructors (first level of instructor certification). If your intention is to train for this HTIA Certification now or in the future, this workshop is a MUST! Students who already have the prerequisites may be eligible for Associate Instructor Certification. Marie and Sharon will make these determinations after the weekend. See www.taoinstructors.org for information on prerequisites. Or speak with Sharon or Marie. Students in training will arrive earlier on Friday afternoon for their first session.

We will emphasize the following practices:

The Microcosmic Orbit Meditation
The Inner Smile Meditation
The Six Healing Sounds Chi Kung

Taoist meditation practice starts with opening The Microcosmic Orbit, a meditation practice in which you focus on circulating your life force through two of the most important energy channels in your body. These two channels, the Functional (Ren Mai), and the Governor, (Du Mai), connect in a flowing circle going up the spine, over the head, and down the front center of the body. The front and back channels are joined to form a circuit of continuous energy flow which is called the Microcosmic Orbit. Bringing your tongue to the roof of your mouth generates this connection. Also referred to as the small heavenly cycle, this meditation allows you to increase, recycle, and store reservoirs of chi in an energy center in your abdomen called the lower Dan Tien. The
Microcosmic Orbit meditation is further enhanced by blending and supplementing your body’s own energy with the energies of Nature, the Universal, Cosmic, and Earth Forces which surround us. This not only raises your ‘vibration’, but greatly increased resistance to stress and illness.

The Inner Smile is the most basic, profound relaxation meditation in the Healing Tao. This meditation begins in the eyes and quickly produces the relaxation response. It calms and strengthens your nervous system by bringing the energy and essence of a smile and healing light into your body. In addition, the Inner Smile harmonizes your emotions and enables your body to rejuvenate itself with light, relaxation and the power of your mind. Using this focus and mindfulness, you guide the smiling essence through your major organs, the digestive tract, the brain and spine, enlivening and strengthening the central nervous system. Used as a tool, the Inner Smile meditation helps you handle life’s everyday challenges, allowing you to stay centered in the most trying of situations. Learn to Transform Stress into Chi and vitality that can be used for healing and creativity!

The Six Healing Sounds is a simple but profound practice that balances and regulates the body temperature by releasing trapped cold or heat, creating perfect ‘weather’ inside. Based on Chinese medicinal principles, this sitting chi kung involves simple arm movements synchronized with the breath and meditation to relieve stress, cool the inner organs, and cultivate tranquility, energizing the body with regular practice. Useful for anyone in any stage of health or healing.The Sounds are easy to learn and joyful to practice. They are part of the ancient and often overlooked science of Traditional Chinese Medicine. For centuries they have been used for detoxifying, strengthening, and regenerating the internal organs having a positive effect on physical health, emotional stability and spiritual unfoldment.

SImple Chi Kung to wake up your chi! Movements and meditations to lubricate the joints, stimulate chi flow in the organ systems, and set up a positive emotional disposition. Chi Kung literally translates as “skill in using energy.” Chi Kung means the practice or discipline of moving your life force and breath. Chi Kung provides internal power that can improve general health and is claimed to help maintain youthfulness. Chi Kung practice increases your Chi (Life Force) and brings a sense of calm and centeredness. With the graceful moves of Chi Kung, you can invigorate yourself, sculpt a lean, supple, agile body, fine tune your senses and supercharge your immune system.

The fee for this weekend retreat is $475.00 which
includes all teaching, accommodations on Friday and Saturday nights, and six high quality organic meals. For more information please visit www.bostonhealingtao.com

Retreat Payment Policy:

Full payment is required by April 1st, 2008. Any refunds requested prior to April 1, 2008 will incur a $100 cancellation fee. After that, refunds will be made only if a replacement can be found. This policy is firm.

Publication:

MayoClinic.com

Publisher:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Date:

Nov 15, 2007

The ancient art of tai chi uses gentle flowing movements to reduce stress of today’s busy lifestyles and improve health. Find out how to get started.

The graceful images of people gliding through dance-like poses as they practice tai chi (TIE-chee) are compelling. Simply watching them is relaxing. Tai chi, in fact, is often described as “meditation in motion” because it promotes serenity through gentle movements — connecting the mind and body.

Originally developed in China as a form of self-defense, tai chi is a graceful form of exercise that has existed for some 2,000 years. Practiced regularly, tai chi can help you reduce stress and enjoy other health benefits.

Understanding tai chi

Tai chi, sometimes called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. To do tai chi, you perform a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner. Each posture flows into the next without pausing.

Anyone, regardless of age or physical ability, can practice tai chi. It doesn’t take physical prowess. Rather, tai chi emphasizes technique over strength.

Tai chi is used to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve muscle strength and definition
  • Increase energy, stamina and agility
  • Increase feelings of well-being

Tai chi has more than 100 possible movements and positions. You can find several that you like and stick with those, or explore the full range. The intensity of tai chi varies somewhat depending on the form or style practiced. Some forms of tai chi are more fast-paced than others, for instance. However, most forms are gentle and suitable for everyone. And they all include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing.

Although tai chi is generally safe, consider talking with your doctor before starting a new program. This is particularly important if you have any problems with your joints, spine or heart.

Stress reduction and other benefits of tai chi

Like other practices that bring mind and body together, tai chi can reduce stress. During tai chi, you focus on movement and breathing. This combination creates a state of relaxation and calm. Stress, anxiety and tension should melt away as you focus on the present, and the effects may last well after you stop your tai chi session.

Tai chi may also help your overall health, although it’s not a substitute for traditional medical care. Tai chi is generally safe for people of all ages and levels of fitness. Older adults may especially find tai chi appealing because the movements are low impact and put minimal stress on muscles and joints. Tai chi may also be helpful if you have arthritis or are recovering from an injury.

Despite its ancient history, tai chi has been studied scientifically only in recent years. And that research is suggesting that tai chi may offer numerous other benefits beyond stress reduction, including:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Reducing the number of falls
  • Improving sleep quality, such as staying asleep longer at night and feeling more alert during the day
  • Slowing bone loss in women after menopause
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Improving everyday physical functioning

Learning to do tai chi

Wondering how to get started in tai chi? You don’t need any special clothing or equipment to do tai chi. To gain full benefits, however, it may be best to seek guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor.

A tai chi instructor can teach you specific positions and how to regulate your breathing. An instructor also can teach you how to practice tai chi safely, especially if you have injuries, chronic conditions, or balance or coordination problems. Although tai chi is slow and gentle, with virtually no negative side effects, injuries are possible if tai chi isn’t done properly. It’s possible you could strain yourself or overdo it when first learning. Or if you have balance problems, you could fall during tai chi.

You can find tai chi classes in many communities today. Contact your local senior center, YMCA or YWCA, health club, community education center or wellness facility for help finding qualified instructors.

During tai chi classes, the instructor can give you personal guidance and correct any errors in your style before they become habit. Eventually, you may feel confident enough to do tai chi on your own. But if you like the social element, consider sticking with group classes.

Putting tai chi into practice

To reap the greatest stress reduction benefits from tai chi, consider practicing it regularly. Many people find it helpful to practice tai chi in the same place and at the same time every day to develop a routine. But if your schedule is erratic, do tai chi whenever you have a few minutes.

You can even draw on the soothing concepts of tai chi without performing the actual movements if you get stuck in stressful situations — a traffic jam or a work conflict, for instance.

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