In this issue there are a number of interesting articles that emphasize important aspects in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan. There is also the report about the death of C. K. Chu, a prominent teacher in New York City.
Chu came to the U. S. from Hong Kong and went to school in the New York City and received a masters degree in Physics, which he taught in New York City schools until his retirement some years ago.
But an important thrust in his life was the martial arts, which he studied in Hong Kong.
C. K. Chu taught the philosophical and structural aspects of Tai Chi as well as the self-defense techniques, training many winners in martial arts competitions.
I grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and lived for a number of years in the East Village in Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn, so I was impressed when I visited him in the 1970s.
I saw that he had what I remember as a multi-level training facility in the Times Square area. It must have taken some kind of physics or Tai Chi wizardry to pay the rent there.
He was very cordial and we discussed his school and what he taught. He was friendly and I am sure he treated other visitors just as cordially.
He wrote a very good book, "T'ai Chi Principes and Practice,” and later wrote several more.
Tai Chi Chuan leaves its imprint on the individual and the individual leaves his imprint on his Tai Chi Chuan. It appeared that this was a happy marriage for him and Tai Chi Chuan.
Some of his students write about their experiences with him over quite a number of years and speak generously of his many favorable attributes.
Wang Fengming writes about the principles and techniques of silk reeling movements, which are essential to all of Tai Chi.
Wang, a student and son-in-law of late Feng Zhiqiang, goes into detail about silk reeling for the body's joints as well as giving information about how to relax the body's joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
One of the problems that students do not often understand is that sometimes the awkwardness or clumsiness encountered in forms practice is not simply poor balance that can be corrected by certain simple adjustments.
A significant problem is tension embedded in muscles, ligaments and tendons over the years that require special exercises or, more importantly, mindful practice of the form over time.
Tensions become embedded in the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints and it takes time and effort in order to relax the tensions.
In Tai Chi there is the idea of ting jin, or listening to the energy, and dong jin, which is understanding the energy.
These processes or used in other disciplines, sometimes using other terms. But the work is still the same.
Ting jin is like being aware in meditation and related activities. Dong jin is like continually understanding the energy at deeper levels, physically, emotionally or spiritually.
You have to be aware of what the body, mind and emotions are doing before you can work with the energies.
You have to work with them in order to cultivate them.
A certain amount of tension will occur through practice but the greater one's insight the better the result.
The problem is compounded by a practitioner not being aware of certain tensions nor how they cause limitations on development.
As Dr. Jie Gu points out in his interesting article, Tai Chi Chuan is a relaxation exercise. But this calls for the practitioner to have the intent to try to relax every step of the way. It is not 100% relaxation but a harmonious blend of strength and relaxation.
Dr. Gu makes an excellent presentation about the spring boxing nature of Tai Chi Chuan.
In 2001, when Feng Zhiqiang travelled to several U.S. cities, one of his students in the San Francisco area took notes on his talks and sent a copy of them to me.
In it Feng was quoted as saying that a practitioner should pay particular attention to springyness and good extension as two key elements of good practice.
As Dr. Gu points out, springyness is essential for both self-defense aspects as well as exerting force against an opponent. Of course, springyness and extension are important to each other.
Dr. Gu goes on to explain many aspects of springyness and the role that our joints play in it.
Part of the work of Tai Chi Chuan practice is to discover how the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints can be used to create differential relaxation and to create springyness.•