Using four ounces to overcome a thousand pounds is at the heart of Tai Chi practice, yet it is widely misunderstood. The article on Dong Bin by Rose Oliver helps to clarify what it means, especially when Dong talks about the idea of “Wu wo,” or “No me.”
The problem is that human nature and particularly the martial arts tend to focus on and reward individual strength, whether physical strength, mental strength or strength of personality.
Yet the concept of four ounces has considerable merit as evidenced by what Dong Bin has to say and what he is. But to really understand it, one has to learn and relearn it through practice and through one’s life experience.
Even at more than 85 years of age, Dong’s form looks pretty good and his postures in the 1950’s show a lot of energy.
And his life story during the tumultuous 20th century in China is interesting in itself.
Coming from a poor family he started out looking for work as a carpenter. He was lucky to find good teachers, which is not always the case. His major teachers were students of Dong Ying Jie, who studied directly with Yang Cheng-fu.
Too often people who are talented and dedicated cannot find good teachers. Of course, ultimately, one has to be one’s own teacher.
During the Cultural Revolution, he had to work at hard labor.
Rose Oliver is from the UK and has been studying martial arts in Shanghai for several years.
C. M. Havens writes about his learning what he calls rubbing techniques, which are used to defuse an opponent’s force. This is not the same as Dim Mak, or death points or pressure points that can disable an opponent.
He learned the methods from his teacher, Ernest Gow, who taught in his back yard in Canarsie in Brooklyn, NY. Havens describes how his teacher first taught him the techniques in the application of the opening movement of the Yang style.
It is also interesting that Gow, following in the tradition of his father, also taught the Yang style in the reverse or left-handed sequence.
The idea was that doing the form left handed and right handed was the Yang family traditional practice that somehow was dropped out or neglected by Yang Cheng-fu, according to Gow.
Many, if not most teachers do not practice the reverse sequence; although some teachers have modified the traditional Yang style to include left-handed postures that are normally only done right-handed.
Sometimes, like the form by Lee Ying-Arng it is in a short form and sometimes it is in a long form.
Havens has been practicing Tai Chi for 15 years in Brooklyn, NY. His preference is the Yang style but he has also trained in the Sun and Chen styles. He also intensively studied standing meditation and Hsing I.
A third article about Jiang Yukun continues a dialog based on his talks to his students in Beijing about the principles of Taijiquan. In this issue, he discusses six principles and elaborates on their logic and uses for health and self-defense.
From the previous articles, it is clear that he was a martial artist with a broad background and considerable ability.
His take on these principles helps to make clear how they are practiced in the form. The article is also valuable because it includes some of the cultural values that are residual in Taijiquan.
I first heard about Jiang Yukun when interviewing Gao Fu in 1997. She said he was her first teacher when she started serious study and greatly respected him, studying with him until his death.
Gao Fu, who taught for a number of years in Seattle and who died last year, said that Jiang was very conscientious in his teaching, and was always out in the park where he taught, regardless of rain or snow or cold weather.
One of the photos in the June 2006 issue shows Gao Fu in the front row standing beside Jiang.
Dr. Cheng Xianhao’s teacher, Zhu Lianfang, studied with Jiang Yukun. Dr. Cheng, who has written a number of articles for T’AI CHI Magazine, writes in this issue about the Yin-Yang Formula handed down orally from Yang Cheng-fu to Jian Yukun to Dr. Cheng’s teacher, Zhu Lianfang, who passed it on to him.
The formula is difficult to comprehend and Dr. Cheng acknowledges this. But his article helps to explain its meanings.
Greg Brodsky, who studied with Cheng Man-ch’ing and is an ongoing student of William C. C. Chen, writes about the inner work of Tai Chi and the importance of cultivating presence of mind.
It is very difficult to describe this inner work. It can seem that just being present one is not doing anything. Yet in another sense, it is doing everything.
One of the functions of Tai Chi is to resolve inner contradictions or, to put it another way, to distinguish between what is real and not real.
This doesn’t mean getting rid of contradictions or what is not “real.” If there is no Yin there is no Yang. If there are zero ounces, then zero ounces cannot overcome 1,000 pounds.
Exercising presence of mind is a lot like exercising four ounces to overcome 1,000 pounds. It is also a key to understanding emptiness.
There are different methods of teaching students how to get to the next level. In this issue, Dr. Steve Sun tells about a method he devised to help students improve their practice. He uses qigong and repeating key forms in different sequences.•