These pages contain comments based on the study of Cheng Man Ching Yang style short form as approved by his teacher, Yang Cheng Fu, the last great Yang master.
The professor (Cheng Man Ching) was accorded one of the highest honors that Chinese culture can bestow, that of being a "master of 5 excellences." He was a great painter, calligrapher, physician, poet, and tai chi master.
Ben Lo, a highly respected student of the professor and teacher of highest reputation, worked with several other well-respected people to translate many of the writings referred to as the Tai Chi classics. Although many people talk about tai chi, an essential part of coming to know tai chi is studying the classics. You may not understand many lines without years of study. No matter, read and contemplate!
Ben found a few essential themes that pervade the teachings. He has described the 5 principles, 4 of which are applicable in many forms, and the 5th only in the Cheng Man Ching form (beautiful ladies hand.)
These principles are:
This is the most important principle, and is one that can never be fully mastered, since you can always relax MORE! This word in Chinese means relax, loosen, slacken, let go, etc. Its character contains the ideas of rootedness and resilience.
2. Upright Body
The headtop is to be suspended, like being gently
drawn toward heaven. The sacrum is to be relaxed (see above), as if a 10,000
pound weight was pulling it into the center of the earth. There is to be
a small 10,000 pound weight at the base of the chin, so that the back of
the neck will be open. The hips are to be parallel to the ground and the
trunk is not to lean forward, back, or to either side.
3. Turn from the waist
The Chinese waist isn't the place we in the west
measure as our skinniest part. It is the functional axis of the body, that
can turn by opening and closing, folding and unfolding one hip joint at
a time (see #4 below.) The waist turns, and the upper body just sits on
top of it, so that the shoulders and hips are always aligned. The classics
state that we "stand like a balance and rotate actively like a wheel."
The image that come to mind for me is that of one vertical axis from the
suspended headtop into the bubbling spring of the substantial foot., and
the waist is the wheel spinning on that axis. There must be no twisting
of the spine, since this is like kinking a garden hose. The energy can't
4. Differentiation of yin and yang
Tai Chi Chuan is experiencing in the body the
essence of Chinese philosophy. In motion, yin and yang are created, and
are mutually interactive, interconnecting, interdependent, and interconsuming.
The first place that one can experience this differentiation of yin and
yang is in our weight distribution. When all of our weight is in one leg
and none is in the other, we have full and empty, yang and yin. When we
shift our weight into the other leg, the full becomes empty and the empty
becomes full. Although weight is the simple example, it is truly the energy,
guided by mindfulness that has either yin or yang quality. Failing to clearly
differentiate weight leads to a condition referred to as "doubleweightedness
This fault is be avoided, since it is antithetic to tai chi.
5. Beautiful ladies hand
The wrist is to be open and not deviated in any
direction. The fingers are to be open (not curled) and all relating in
the same direction. Bending of the wrist has the same effect as twisting
the spine. It "kinks the hose" thereby obstructing the free passage
Careful study of these principles is mandatory to successful practice. TaiJi is NOT about choreography, it is the application of principles to guide the movements. Without such practice, the internal changes cannot unfold.
back to Medical Taiji
back to the two positions