Understanding qi as a concept and how it feels in the body can be difficult but Zhang Yun makes an interesting presentation of qi not only in Tai Chi Chuan but within the perspective of Chinese culture. He also describes its idea and use in terms of Tai Chi Chuan applications.
Zhang discusses the difficulties in understanding qi and its uses for people unfamiliar with Chinese culture. And he tells about the importance of integrating qi and internal strength (jin). Integrating the two is where Tai Chi Chuan as an art takes over.
He also discusses the application of qi in Tai Chi applications. One of these is the idea of using the qi to cover the opponent. I remember George Xu describing a master in Hong Kong who was able to use his energy to cover the opponent so that the opponent was unable to mount or complete an attack. I believe this master was Wang Zhuang Hong, who Xu wrote about in the April 2007 issue.
Zhang, who is author of the book, "The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship," studied with the late Wang Peisheng, a practitioner of the Northern Wu style and many other internal martial arts.
Zhou Lishang writes the second and final installment of her interview with Cui Zhongsan, the grandson of the famous Cui Shiyi. He discusses the need for making adjustments in Tai Chi for the hustle and bustle of daily life while using the unique characteristics of Tai Chi to enable people to become more calm, concentrated and moral.
Cui discusses some of the techniques for the Simplified 24 Forms and Tai Chi competition forms.
The practice of Tai Chi Chuan, he said, "is not only the imitation of the actions of the limbs, but also the process of understanding the meaning of Taijiquan in practicing." Because of this, he said, Tai Chi is called, "A boxing of understanding."
In the final installment of Alex Yeo's interview with Sim Pooh Ho, Sim talks about "entering stillness" and, more specifically, "Tai Chi Chuan's entering stillness.”
This might seem a contradiction in terms since Tai Chi's movement would not seem to be compatible with stillness. However, there is a Zen saying that stillness and movement are one. Here, one has to try to understand what stillness means. Stillness of the mind? Stillness of the body? Stillness of the heart or emotions? Is it something or is it the absence of something? And how does one arrive at that condition and sustain it?
Sim, a disciple of Wu Tunan, has previously discussed in earlier issues Ling Kong Jin and Tai Chi Gong. In this issue, he also discusses the Usage Set created by Yang Luchan that was passed down in his family to Yang Shaohou and to Wu Tunan.
He cautions that this type of set should not be used excessively to preserve one's essence to nurture longevity. If one were to practice it excessively, it would likely shorten one's life.
Sim also comments on the importance of using intention and not strength.
Another article, submitted by LeRoy Clark, also tells of the encounter of Sung Shu Ming and Yang Shaohou and the art of Ling Kong Jin. It is the classic story of two high level masters testing each other and respecting each other. The one who is more relaxed wins.
Bernard Williams writes an interesting article based on his interview of Zhu Tiancai, who was among the first of the Chen stylists in the Chen Village to teach outside the village and outside China.
Zhu is very personable and very skilled and not the least of his skills is teaching. I've interviewed him several times and each time he had a storehouse of information about Chen style.
Initially he taught in Singapore and still teaches there but now travels throughout the world. He was interviewed by Williams in New Zealand where Zhu was teaching a seminar.
Internal strength, or neijin, is one of the hidden treasures of the internal martial arts. It is like iron concealed in cotton and it can take many years to develop and refine. But it can be very useful because it can be concealed.
While the procedures to develop this are described in the Tai Chi classics, it is still largely a process of trial and error and sometimes luck. A teacher can help sometimes, but it is the student who has to work with his or her own body and mind to try and achieve it.
It can help to go to seminars where the subtler aspects of the art are discussed and also to read publications that attempt to explain what it is and how it works.
Techniques for strengthening the muscles will help to strengthen the muscles but it won't necessarily help develop internal strength.
Some of the teachers in the Chen village are interviewed by David Gaffney of Manchester, UK, for his article on cultivating internal strength in the Chen style. Their suggestions will help if applied in practice over time, making the proper adjustments along the way.
And while internal strength and neigong will help one’s martial art, they are most helpful for the health benefits they provide and for the process of self-cultivation.
Mike Gentile of Charlotte, NC, has an interesting article that may help people who have a problem setting up a practice routine.
He has been practicing for 22 years and has been teaching full time for 12 years, specializing in seniors.
For many people, practice is a problem, especially as beginners when the learning curve is very steep. Even afterwards, intermediate and advanced students can have a problem disciplining themselves to practice regularly.
For many people, setting a fixed time of day to practice helps to remove the problem of having to decide each day when or if you should practice. Learning and knowing how to do Tai Chi is wonderful. But all the benefits flow from the practice.•