T'ai Chi Ch'uan, at higher levels, emphasizes the development of internal mechanics and energy processes. Few things are as important as the kua, located where the ball joint of the thighbone, the largest and strongest bone in the body, connects to the hip.
At the beginning of one's study, attention is focused on the arms and hands and legs. But as one progresses, the torso is increasingly important. The hips and the kua then become crucial to the integration of the body.
Chen Zhonghua (Joseph Chen) of Edmonton, AB, Canada, is a disciple of Hong Junsheng and Feng Zhiqiang. Feng is one of the foremost practitioners of Chen style in China today. He and the late Hong Junsheng were students of the famous Chen Fa-ke.
Hong died in 1996. There were articles about him by Peter Shi-Zeng Wu of Australia in the April and June issues of T’AI CHI Magazine in 1998.
Chen Zhonghua gives interesting insights into a difficult subject, the kua. I have asked a number of teachers about the kua, what they are and how they function.
Usually, I received different answers, although that doesn’t mean that anyone was wrong. Rather it is an indication of how hard it is to describe the kuas’ function.
Often it is described as being in the inguinal crease, where each leg joins the torso. When you shift the weight from one leg to the other the kua of the weight-bearing leg is said to have closed and the kua of the non-weight bearing leg is open.
This does not conflict, necessarily, with what Chen Zhonghua says. He is being more specific.
Greg Brodsky’s article represents the kind of serious study that is important and necessary to an understanding of the subtler methods of T’ai Chi Ch’uan practice.
One cannot get “true” understanding from a teacher alone. It largely requires intensive, intuitive study based on one’s individual practice.
People do not become experts or masters based on just practicing what one or more teachers have told them.
A teacher may explain how to turn the waist or how to sink, but the student may not be able to do that because they haven’t become properly song, or relaxed, or understand the relationships of the parts of the body.
Also, teachers, are not all knowing or absolute in their understanding. In addition, a good teacher may leave key matters for their students to explore and understand through their own practice. In the end, the student has to be able to do this to progress.
The T’ai Chi classics, after all, are simple and tersely phrased. But they have multiple meanings, some of them accessible only through long, insightful practice. Long practice alone won’t do it. It has to be insightful. One has to be always looking deeper.
William Ting is from Shanghai, where he trained for many years as a closed door student of Lu Ji-tang.
He has 40 years of martial experience, T’ai Chi and Bagua and other martial arts. For the past 15 years, he has taught in the Mt. Laurel area of South New Jersey.
He teaches a very unique style of T’ai Chi not found extensively outside of China. He has previously written articles about methods and mistakes to avoid in August 1995, Empty and Fullness, August 2000, Flowing and Firmness, October 2000, and Relaxing and Expanding in February 2001.
Tu-Ky Lam writes regularly for T’AI CHI Magazine and has contributed important insights based on his studies with Ma Hong and on his own practice in New Zealand.
Yiquan, as he writes, is an important training methods. While it focuses heavily on standing, meditative postures, it does have other methods of practice to create a bridge to martial skills.
In the June 2003 issue of T’ai Chi Magazine, he wrote about Standing Practice and in June 2004 he wrote about Developing Strength Through Softness.
L. D. Pennington practices in Marietta, OH, at PRIDE Training Center with Catherine and Joseph Bigley, who she wrote are “two wise instructors with quite different teaching styles.” She said, “By learning from them, I have come to appreciate how challenging it is to be a good teacher, even though my background includes many years of teaching other subjects.
“My early lessons revealed that the attitudes and ideas each student brings, and how the novice teacher reacts, form the core for continuing a positive student-teacher relationship.”
Teaching is always a work in progress. Every student represents overt or subtle difficulty as he or she tries to understand what T’ai Chi is and how it works. And, as Pennington said, it is always an interesting challenge to create a group harmony.
In a related article, Dr. Brice Wilkinson discusses the problem of creating a qualified pool of T’ai Chi teachers.
A professor emeritus at Winona State University, Winona, MN, proposes a three-year major program leading to a certificate verifying that students are qualified T’ai Chi teachers.
In the article, he gives a sample proposal to submit to any university.
Dr. Wilkinson and Bahieh H. Wilkinson, an adjunct professor at Winona State University, have taught T’ai Chi there for over 25 years.
They are in their sixth year teaching T’ai Chi to the university’s Warriors basketball team, which last year had their best year ever, winning 24 games and advancing to NCAA regional play.
Dr. Wilkinson currently has four apprentices completing a pilot program to become T’ai Chi instructors.
In Houston, TX, the county parks department has built a 53-foot diameter circular platform with a Yin/Yang diagram for use in practice and demonstrations by the T'ai Chi community.
Mike Cunningham who reports on the project, is a student of Cheng Jincai and a landscape architect for Harris County. He selected the platform as a project because of his interest in T'ai Chi.