In this issue, Wang Fengming continues his explanation of the various kinds of jin and their uses. Jin can be hard to understand so the information he gives is valuable.Wang is one of Feng Zhiquang’s top students and taught for many years in Europe before coming to the U.S. recently.
Another article in this issue also examines jin from the standpoint of recognizing and cultivating jin. It is written by Robert Chuckrow, who was an early student of Cheng Man-ch’ing in New York City.
Many martial arts concentrate their training on using and refining applications. In Tai Chi, too, applications are emphasized in self-defense training. This is an exciting phase of martial arts training. But self-defense training does not ripen until the student has developed jin through practice of form or zhan zhuang.
One former martial artist mentioned to me that some of his martial arts friends had said that Tai Chi was just forms. If a martial artist spends all his time practicing applications, it can be exciting but there is something missing if one does not practice forms. It is largely through the practice of forms that one refines Jin as well as balance, timing, coordination and internal equilibrium.
This gives one an edge in applications beyond just strength, speed and quickness. It also gives a subtlety to applications which explains how some masters have been able to defeat or overwhelm an opponent using little or no visible strength.
During an interview years ago, I was told of an encounter in Peking the famous Chen stylist Chen Fake had with a bigger more muscular wrestler. They were on a demonstration platform in front of many people and made contact with their arms. They stood there a short while without moving and then the wrestler withdrew. Later he came up to Chen Fake and thanked him for not embarrassing him.
People experience jin differently. It should involve the whole body, from the bottom of the feet up through the legs, the back, the neck and out through the arms and hands as described in the Tai Chi Classics. And its use is always subject to the principles of yin and yang.
Robert Chuckrow, whose Ph.D. is in experimental physics, has studied Taiji and other movement, self-development, and healing arts since 1970, primarily with Cheng Man-ch’ing, William C. C. Chen, and Harvey I. Sober. He has taught Taiji extensively.
The second half of the article by David Lee about Wang Zongyue’s classic about Tai Chi appears in this issue. Wang’s classic is one of the most important Tai Chi documents. It provides guidelines for solo practice and push hands.
Many aspects of practice depend on trial and error. But that is the only way to continually progress. There are always adjustments to be made and, hopefully, they will be the correct adjustments. If not then more adjustments will have to be made. What is constant are the principles.
In the article by Vincent Chu, Liu Xi Wen and Robert A. Anderson, there is a valuable discussion of jin and how to develop it.
The key to using jin is listening jin (ting jin) and understanding jin (dong jin). It is not possible to use jin effectively unless one can listen to it and understand it.
Listening jin refers to the process of feeling your own jin as it moves through your body. This occurs by paying attention to the inner movement of energy as you practice your form or standing postures.
The same process is involved with understanding jin, which in the article is described as the result of the participation of consciousness and qi that causes brute force to slowly progress to jin power. The article describes in detail uses of dong jin and jin in terms of self-defense applications and health.
Rob Talbot of Auckland, NZ, expresses some consternation with a trend in China to have performers taught to look directly at the striking hand or weapon when they do postures.
Instead, he cites Yang Cheng-fu’s statement that when the hand, waist and foot act, the spirit of the eyes should follow them.”
Talbot interprets Yang Cheng-fu’s statement as referring to an inner awareness, or kinaesthetic sense. And this is what he feels practitioners must cultivate.
There is another reply to the debate about dumbing down Tai Chi. In a letter to the editor in this issue, Dr. Keith Jeffery of Parksville, BC, Canada, argues in favor of simplifying Tai Chi to get people started. He sells a series of EasyTaiChi DVDs that he feels makes Tai Chi more accessible to people. There is a good deal to be said for this kind of effort, but at the same time it can also be said that there is no easy Tai Chi. Life is not easy. Change is not easy.•