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June 2008 - Editor's Notebook

While push hands can work as largely an intuitive art, it is most successful when the players are aware of such basics as ting jin and dong jin--the ability to listen to energy and to understand energy.


Li Lian, a student of Wu Tunan, is interviewed for a third installment of his series on push hands and discusses these abilities as well as clarifying the meaning of many other terms and methods important in push hands.

Lian says: “The listening power of a person in mutual confrontation in push hands is with his own feeling, to perceive and judge the intention of the opponent, whether he attacks or protects.”

How to develop listening power? Well, doing push hands is certainly an important way. But there are other methods well. Do form practice and other solo exercises can help one to listen and understand energy. In order to listen to another person’s energy, it is necessary to listen to one’s own energy. By knowing the intricacies of one’s own energy, one can understand another’s energy.

During one of my interviews with Chen Qingzhou, I asked him how develop ting jin, and he said it was through doing the form.


For many people, the practice of Tai Chi weapons such as the sword, broadsword, staff and spear are the most interesting aspects of the art. The sword usually gets most of the interest but the broadsword is also challenging.
Zhang Yun, author of a book, “The Art of Chinese Swordsmanship,” writes in this issue about the Dao, or broadsword. He discusses history of the Dao, including the evolution of its shape, and the combat uses of various parts of the Dao.
He also writes about the skill sets of the broadsword, the application of Tai Chi principles in the way that it is used.
He says: Like Taiji Quan, Taiji Dao must follow Taiji principles. We must understand how to apply the yin and yang concepts into its applications. It uses special training methods to change people’s abilities to relax and integrate their body.

C. M. Havens continues the ongoing saga of his experience with his teacher, Earnest Gow. In this article, Havens tells about the feelings of pain in his knuckles from studying another martial art and the response of his teacher to train him in exercises that develop his ability to use elbow stroke techniques.
He appears to have a healthy but sometimes challenging relationship with his teacher, Mr. Gow, who teaches him some of the subtleties of the Tai Chi elbow.
Usually, the elbow stroke and shoulder stroke are not emphasized in training although they are two of the most important Tai Chi techniques.

Vincent Chu follows up his translation of an article by Liu Xi Wen with an article jointly written with Liu Xi Wen about Yang Shao Hou, his personality and skills, and his students.
The older brother of Yang Chengfu, Yang Shao Hou was highly skilled. They write that he was very strict in his teaching, especially in push hands. They quote him as saying: “It is better to learn from a friend than a student. It is better to work alone on application than with a partner. I believe excellent skill comes from strict training.”

Ni Hua-Ching when I interviewed him in 1989 was said to be in his 80’s. But information I was given last month is that almost 20 years later he is still alive and now living in China. When I interviewed him, he looked much younger than what one might expect of someone in their 80’s. And he was mentally very sharp. Physically, he was able to pose for the Tai Chi photos without any difficulty and, as the photos show, with a smile.
His Taoist understanding and his method of teaching were quite benign.
Certainly it would be hard to argue with his statement:
"In Tai Chi Chuan and in Taoism, you learn the same basic principles: naturalness, balance, poise, symmetry and harmony. All the great principles are easy. They can greatly guide you life. In Tai Chi Chuan all your learning is in one piece. What you do with your whole being and your whole learning is inside your Tai Chi practice."

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