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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - April 2006

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April 2006 - Editor's Notebook

Jin is one of the building blocks of Tai Chi Chuan but it is very often misunderstood. Just exactly what is it? How is it developed? How is it used?

Zhang Yun, who teaches in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, and who was a longtime student of the late Wang Peisheng, gives a very clear picture of what jin is and what li is.

In the first of two articles, he also discusses wai jin and nei jin and how they are used in fighting. He also describes methods of developing jin. In the second article, he will discuss features of high level jin, huan jin (transforming li into jin), yun jin (moving jin through the body), fa jin, xu jin and jin in push hands and fighting.

In the martial arts, strength is so important that there are inevitably many refinements, including a complex vocabulary. It is even more complex in Tai Chi Chuan since strength is always coupled with its opposite and so much of it is in the realm of feeling that cannot be fully expressed in words.

Prof. Cao Yimin in this issue discusses the existence of a second brain called the abdominal brain with some 100 million nerve cells. He says the abdominal brain is in the stomach and is also called the “stomach nervous system.” This system is spread in the tissue cells in the inner wall of the alimentary canal, stomach, large intestine and small intestine.

He suggests that the thinking function of the abdominal brain can be restored through the practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Prof. Cao, a longtime practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan is a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tanya Avner of Redmond, WA, writes about her experience with multiple teachers and multiple generations.

She finds that learning with multiple teachers requires the flexibility to accept different approaches to teaching and accepting the differences in styles.

Many people cannot accept the differences in styles, yet a flexible mind should be inherent in one’s practice.

She also deals with the differences in generations, including the X and Y generations and their difficulty learning Tai Chi Chuan as an enduring practice.

Zhou Lishang continues her interview with Yang Qunli about the Wudang Taiyi Wuxing Boxing. He describes some of the technical methods of practicing the form as well as the fundamental principles, which closely resemble those of Tai Chi Chuan.

Yang said his teacher, Jin Zitao said, “If anyone wants to practice inner boxing, he must begin from practicing looseness and softness, release the waist and hips, guiding qi with the mind.”

Only in this way “can softness be accumulated to become hardness. Then actions look so soft that they are like a silkworm making a cocoon, but once they are used to attacking, they are powerful.”

Vincent Chu in his article also discusses relaxation. He feels that Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art is more than just relaxation and that there is a place for tension. He describes how tension, along with relaxation, should be developed and used.

This is a key issue in practice. Practically, every practitioner has to resolve what relaxation is in practice and how to develop it.

In a sense, the measure of how good one’s Tai Chi is hinges on how relaxed one is externally and internally. Yet to just be relaxed without any vitality or strength is not functional Tai Chi Chuan.

Finding a balance is really the essence of the art. And that balance is always changing as one’s practice progresses.

Cheng Jin Cai of Houston, TX, writes in this issue about three levels of push hands. He feels that learning push hands as well as form is important to help neutralize one’s own body tensions.

Neutralizing tensions, he said, is the first stage, followed by understanding force and then achieving spiritual force.

He gives suggestions on how to progress through these three stages.

“The goal is not to practice just push hands techniques,” he writes. “The goal is to discover to neutralize body tension in the shoulder, elbow and spine.”

Rose Oliver of Shanghai writes of her interview with Wu Mao Gui of Shanghai about the art of Tong Bei Quan. It is an interesting article about Tong Bei Quan, which many martial artists in China learn when they are young. The similarities to Tai Chi training are interesting and even more interesting is Wu’s own description of his studies and frustrations.

Even after 20 years, he was depressed because he felt he had not progressed enough. But then he tells of the turning point that he encountered that opened the way for his further development.

Joe Weinmeister of Watkinsville, GA, writes about well-known basic principles but gives interesting insights based on his own practice and the teachings of his teacher, Weicherng Pan, M.D. Pan studied with Yang stylist, Fu Zhongwen in Shanghai.

It is always interesting to read the various interpretations of the essentials of Tai Chi Chuan. There are always similarities and differences that spark new insights. Sometimes they support what we know and sometimes they contradict it.

Rick Barrett of Staten Island, NY, writes about Xu and Shi two basic components of Tai Chi Chuan practice generally translated as insubstantial and substantial, respectively.

In order to understand concepts of Xu and Shi, it is valuable to be able to understand where they came from since they are rooted in thousands of years of Chinese culture. Without that understanding it can be largely guesswork.

At the same time, it is important to ask why are these or other fundamentals are so important—culturally, martially, philosophically, etc.

This is important because they are not only Chinese terms but universal terms which we need to understand if we are to understand what is real and what is not real.•


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