Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Four Primary Hands (Nucleus)
1. Peng is in the arms (Kan)
2. Lu is in the palms (Li)
3. Ji is in the back of hands (Zhen)
4. An is in the waist (Dui)
Four Supplemental Hands
1. Cai is in the fingers (Qian)
2. Lie is in the armpits (Kun)
3. Zhou is in the bend (Gen)
4. Kao is in the shoulders and chest (Xun)
Internal Power Methods
1. Peng must be held up (propped up)
2. Lu must be light
3. Ji must be horizontal
4. An must be attacking
5. Cai must be substantial
6. Lie must be sudden (surprising)
7. Zhou must be pounding
8. Kao must be crushing
Five Elements and Five Steps
1. Advance is in Cloud Hands (Metal) (Front)
2. Retreat is in Repulse Monkey (Wood) (Rear)
3. Looking is in the three forwards (Water) (Left)
4. Gazing is in the Seven Stars (Fire) (Right)
5. Central Equilibrium is in the opening (Earth) (Center)
Substantial and Insubstantial Explained
1. The center is obtain in the horizontal
2. Stagnation is in double weighting
3. Passage is in single lightness
Basic Combat Theory
1. Emptiness is within defense
2. Fullness is within attack
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Taijiquan emphasizes "first using the mind to activate motion followed by the shape.” This means bringing together the spirit, intent, internal energy, and the body to form a superior boxing skill. Harmonizing the internal means circulating the internal energy with the intent. This will improve the functions of the central nervous system and improve the mental functions of the brain. All movements, no matter how small, should be controlled by the intent. Over time the practitioner should strive to achieve the three internal harmonies. This consists of harmonizing the spirit with the intent, harmonizing the intent with the internal energy, and harmonizing the internal energy with strength. Harmonizing the external means differentiating the changes of emptiness and fullness within the movements of Taijiquan. The external shape consists of the external body such as the legs, torso, and arms. By allowing the nine major joints to be relaxed, loosened, and exercised there will be improvement in coordinating the upper and lower body as well as an overall stimulation to the entire body. The internal and external must combine into a harmonious blend both in form and spirit. These two must never be separated. Each posture must have a mutual relationship with the internal spirit and intent.
Speaking in terms of the physiological side of motion of the human body, movement is derived from the joints that connect the bones and their related muscle groups. The human body is comprised of 206 connections between the bones. Those connections that are mobile are termed joints. Most movement of the human body is activated by both the joints and the muscles/tendons connected to the bone. This movement is mutually coordinated under the control of the nervous system.
Taijiquan is a highly sophisticated martial art which does not use only the extremities for execution of techniques. The Classics state that "internally we practice the one breath, externally we develop the tendons, bones, and skin.” The "one breath" that is mentioned here is referring to the "original internal energy or yuan qi" or often called "pre-heaven energy or xiantian qi.” The internal energy or internal strength (neijin) which manifests from this is controlled under the guidance of the mind. It is often mentioned in the Taiji Classics as "using the intent to lead the internal energy.” "Externally developing the tendons, bones, and skin" point to the use of "the neijin moving the body" which is manifested by the continuous spiraling and twisting motion of the spine, waist, wrists, knees, ankles, etc. This mutual coordination of both the internal and external components of proper Taijiquan practice will not only strengthen the agility and flexibility of the various joints in the entire body, but it will also greatly enhance the development of neijin.
During the practice of Taijiquan, each movement must emphasize the mutual coordination of the upper and lower body. The Taiji Classics state that "when one point moves then all points must also move.” Each movement must be produced by the turning of the waist which, in turn, will move all parts of the body in unison. All parts of the body must be coordinated with the movement of the waist. The energy is generated in the feet, issued through the legs, controlled in the waist, and driven out through the hands and fingers. This must be conducted in one breath. By controlling the postures in this way, one will be able to manifest internal force. The waist and spine order the movements, the spirit in the eyes follows along, and the hands and feet follow the motion. Upper and lower movements are tightly connected into a natural body. The nucleus of coordinating the upper and lower body movements is in the agile changes of the mind or intent. The feet will allow the body to become stable and rooted. This type of rooting must be controlled by the waist and groin. The waist is the controller for issuing internal force. For this to occur, however, the upper and lower parts of the body must be regulated into one body.
Another aspect of coordinating the upper and lower body movements is the harmonization of the three externals. This means combining or linking up the hands and feet, elbows and knees, and hips and shoulders. In other words, the upper and lower extremities must be mutually coordinated during practice, especially the above-mentioned joints. At the same time, every part of the torso must also follow in unison to allow the body, hands, steps, and eyes to move in one complete direction. This will focus the intent and will concentrate the internal strength to form a united body.
What, then, is internal strength (neijin)? In general, it refers to the power (jin li) developed within the body. Li (power) and jin (strength/energy) cannot be completely separated, but each are different. Li is square and jin is round. Li is sluggish and jin is smooth. Li is slow and jin is fast. Li is dispersed and jin is gathered. Taijiquan is a martial art style which places great emphasis on neijin, not brute force, to conduct all techniques. This use of neijin must be constantly put into place no matter if it during the practice of the routine or during the two person drill of push hands. This neijin is the elastic and buoyant strength that one obtains in practice by maintaining constant connection throughout the body from the ground up to the tips of the fingers. When accomplished, one has attained the so-called elastic strength of being hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Yang Cheng Fu stated this by saying, "Taijiquan is metal wrapped in cotton.” This type of strength is often noted as "the shape is not revealed externally, the ability is accumulated inside.”
The neijin of Taijiquan is composed of eight types of strength. These eight types include wardoff (pengjin), rollback (lujin), press (jijin), push (anjin), pluck (caijin), split (liejin), elbow (zhoujin), and bump (kaojin). Even though the names of these neijins are different, they are all characteristically related to the spiraling nature of reeling silk energy.
Where does neijin originate? The Taiji Classics state that "the strength of the palm, wrist, elbow, and shoulder, back, waist, hip, knee, and foot, and upper and lower nine joints are successively issued from the waist,” "when the internal energy is in the hands, the key is in the waist", and "when practicing martial arts without the use of the waist, high skill level will be difficult to achieve.” As can be seen, no matter if it is in the practice of the routine or push hands, the key point to increasing neijin is in the proper practice of working the waist.
From a physiological point of view, the waist is found in the torso of the human body. It is above the hips and below the rib cage. The anterior side of the waist conceals the dantian which is approximately three fingers below the navel (qihai point). The posterior side of the waist conceals the mingmen point which is located on the spine directly across from the navel. This area is considered the center of the human body. When the internal energy is being emitted outward, it is emitted out from the dantian, when the energy is being pulled in, it is pulled in from the dantian. "The internal energy sinks down into the dantian, the upper body is empty and the lower body is full, the internal energy is concentrated in the center, emptiness and sharpness are contained inside.” Reeling silk energy is issued from the kidneys, rises from the dantian, and spreads over the entire body. Internally it activates the organs and skeletal system, externally it moves the muscles, skin, and hair. Neijin will move the entire body reaching to the four extremities. If neijin is plentiful, then there will be various sensations throughout the body such as heating of the skin, swelling of the fingers, heaviness in the heels of the feet, sinking in the dantian, and other natural phenomena.
The principles of Taijiquan require that one be able to differentiate between emptiness and fullness. It is said in the Taiji Classics that "when one differentiates between fullness and emptiness, all parts will mutually follow, guide the power (of the opponent) to enter emptiness and borrow (opponent's) force to attack.” If one cannot differentiate between fullness and emptiness, then one will not be able to move all parts of the body as a complete unit. If this cannot occur, then one cannot dissolve the opponent's force. Consequently, one will not be able to use the opponent’s attacking force for a counter attack. Fullness and emptiness is in the transformation of the kidneys and waist. The center of this transformation is in the mingmen point between the kidneys. The mind must be continuously concentrated on the mingmen point to maintain centeredness and to prevent tilting and leaning of the body. When in motion, use the mingmen point as the originator of the driving force to change between full and empty and to lead the relaxed and sunk arc-like motion of the chest and back muscles. Only when this has been satisfied can one fill the body with neijin, dissolve force in a circular manner, and borrow the opponent's attacking force. It is often said that "the entire body is a fist" or that "the entire body is taiji" when being able to differentiate between fullness and emptiness.
From the perspective of motor mechanics, the waist is the impetus of motion. In the Classics it is stated that "the mingmen which is between the kidneys is the key impetus for the upper and lower body.” The waist must preserve and regulate the body's center to allow movement to be light, agile, and stable. If movement is only from the arms and hands, the body will be disconnected. It is said that the more forceful the hands move without the control of the waist, the more dispersed will be the technique.
How does one increase the strength of the waist and improve the agility and flexibility of the waist to achieve an increase in neijin? The principles of Taijiquan demand that the postures and techniques conducted in practice must be done correctly. One must empty the neck and suspend the energy upward, relax the shoulders and sink the elbows, hollow the chest and sink the waist, open and round the groin, bend the knees and relax the hips, sink the internal energy into the dantian, and many others. One of the most important requirements is to hollow the chest and sink the waist. One must be able to twist, invigorate, and sink the waist, and relax, close, and buckle the groin. When twisting the waist, the groin must buckle. If this does not occur, then the neijin will be dispersed. When invigorating the waist, the groin must relax. If it does not relax, then the neijin will be sluggish. When sinking the waist, the groin must close. If it does not close, then the neijin will only be superficial. In summary of this, one must be relaxed, sunk, upright, and lively. Upright means that the torso must be held erect and straight. The body must be centered, upright, tranquil, and calm. Only by maintaining a straight tail bone will the spirit reach to the top of the head. By maintaining an upright posture, one will be able to stabilize one's center in order to transmit the neijin out to the extremities originating from the axis of the waist. Relax by allowing the waist to slightly contract inward and by releasing tension in the rib cage region. This will help to sink the force of the waist in a downward direction. When the waist is completely relaxed, then the internal energy will naturally sink down into the dantian and the lower frame of the body will be rooted and stable. In addition, the upper and lower body movements will be more circular, agile, and powerful. It must be pointed out, however, that the waist cannot be overly relaxed. If the waist is too soft, there will be no power. In the same line, the waist cannot use an excess amount of force while conducting a technique. If too much force is used, the technique will be too stiff. Stiffness will destroy the body's ability to move with agility and to issue internal force. Sinking the waist is to allow the waist to settle in a downward direction based on the natural curvature of the human body. No matter if it is advancing, retreating, or turning, by sinking the waist one will have better control of one's center and balance. It is important to remember that the waist is the axis which activates the motion of the limbs. In this way one will conform to the principle of "coordination of upper and lower body movement" as told by Yang Cheng Fu in his Ten Essentials of Taijiquan Practice.
By using the concentrated energy of the upper and lower nine joints of the body with the waist, one will be able to issue out neijin. This cannot be learned overnight and cannot be readily learned without a competent instructor. The following exercise, based on Cloud Hands, will help to illustrate the use of the waist to lead the motion of the arms and hands.
Stand with the legs in a high horse stance posture. The weight can be equally distributed in this exercise. The left arm is embracing in front of the body with the palm facing in at neck level. The right arm is extended out to the right side of the body with the palm facing down toward the ground at waist level.
Slowly begin to use the waist as the pivot to turn to the left. The left arm moves 90 degrees to the left side while the right arm moves 90 degrees to the front. The arm and hand positions do not change while the turning is conducted. All motion is conducted by the waist. Note that the lower body does not move. It is particularly important not to turn from the hips since this will cause the legs to twist. This will then cause a disconnection from the ground up to the hands.
The upper body continues to turn to the left to allow the palms to pass each other. The left palm turns sideways to face to the front while the right palm moves up and turns sideways to face to the rear. The two palms pass each other at chest level. Following, the left palm slowly moves down to waist level with the palm side facing down toward the ground. The right palm moves up to neck level while facing in toward the body. Repeat the sequence on the other side.
The overall turning sequence should be 180 degrees to the left and right. The turning and twisting will not only aid in making the waist more subtle, it will also produce a massaging effect on the internal organs of the lower torso. This particular training exercise is very valuable for those with diseases of the stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, and spleen. This exercise is also very beneficial for those with lower back and spine disorders.
Whenever the "use of intent" is mentioned with regard to the practice of Taijiquan, most Taijiquan practitioners think "the mind is the primary controller and the body is the follower, longevity and health is like an eternal spring" from the Songs of the Thirteen Postures. During the practice of Taijiquan, one should maintain a naturally relaxed posture using the mind/intent without the use of external strength. Every movement must be led by the use of the mind. The classics state that the mind leads the internal energy and the internal energy leads the motion of the body. There should never be any type of external brute force used in the performance of the movements. Even though this is a very important principle in the practice of Taijiquan, many beginners often find this to be quite difficult to put into action. Intent of the mind is also required to stimulate the central nervous system to allow the movements to occur. If there is no intent, then there will be no movement. The movements of the body and the activities of the internal organs are synthesized under the orders of the nervous system.
The body must be relaxed and flexible through the use of the mind. The arms and legs should feel as if they have no bones to allow the internal strength to be emitted out naturally without brute force. Through continuous practice with this mind set, one will produce true internal strength, soft on the outside, but strong on the inside.
Meanings of Intent
Combat and cultivation are the two primary functions of Taijiquan practice. From the study of the Taijiquan Classics, Discussion of Taijiquan,” Songs of the Thirteen Postures, The Heart of the Thirteen Posture Movements, The Song of the Hitting Hands, and other classical writings, one observes that all these documents focus on the terms, practice and usage. The Taiji classics state that the "Internal Fist (neigong quan) must first practice the use of the intent." The Taijiquan document Hardness and Softness of Fist Techniques states "the ever changing form of hardness and softness is found completely within the intent." Various research in psychology suggests that under certain circumstances the mind can change the quality and state of matter within the human body. Taijiquan is a martial art which emphasizes the use of intent to implement movement. This use of intent is a specialized term found within the internal martial arts of China. There are usually three meanings of intent when discussed in Taijiquan. The first meaning is "to pay attention to one's internal strength.” The Heart of the Thirteen Posture Movements states that "the intent of the entire body is placed on the spirit, not on internal energy." The second meaning of intent is the same as the term "internal energy" or qi. For example, "the movement of the intent" or "the intention (qi) must change with vigor while remaining circular and smooth.” The third meaning of intent is "expectations" or "thoughts.” This is illustrated in Yang Cheng Fu's Ten Essential of Taijiquan as “use intent, not muscular strength.”
One of the basic fundamentals of human physiology is that human movement receives impetus from the intent or mind. Everyone must use the mind to make action occur, but Taijiquan places even more emphasis on this type of intention. In any form of movement, be it walking, writing a letter, or practicing Taijiquan, some form of strength is required to complete the motion. Without the use of the muscles no external motion could occur. Intent of the mind is also required to stimulate the central nervous system to allow any particular movement to occur. If there is no intent, then there cannot be movement. Even though in every form of martial art there is the intent of using the mind to apply fighting techniques during practice, there are, however, various degrees of usage within hardness, softness, speed, power, and others. Consequently, each person must find different ways to use the intent to concentrate on the various applications of a specific movement. As can be seen, every style of martial art "uses the intent" to conduct movements and applications. Taijiquan is not the only style with this special requirement. Now, why does Taijiquan emphasize the "use of the intent, not the use of strength"? It is because Taijiquan's use of strength is quite different from other styles of martial arts. The movements of Taijiquan contain soft, slow, smooth, light, and relaxed movements as compared to the fast and hard external styles of martial arts. Because there is a difference in the hard and soft and fast and slow movements, there cannot be the same concentration of thoughts in the mind even though the application may be very similar. On one side, there are the fast movements of martial arts in which attack is conducted during the process of using the mind to apply a technique. Faster martial art movements have a natural relationship with the cause and effect of any given circumstance. The mind cannot change very fast in this kind of situation. On the other hand, the slow movements of Taijiquan have an important function of coordinating the mind with the intent to produce great results in coordination of motion and technique.
Due to the high level of speed and strength in faster forms of martial arts such as Fanziquan, Praying Mantis, and Tongbeiquan, the martial artist can coordinate the mind with the intent during the beginning and ending portions of a technique. Because of the slow and soft movements of Taijiquan, not only can the beginning and ending portions of a technique be controlled with the mind, the intermediate transition can also be controlled. When the practitioner wants to stop, the body will stop, and when the practitioner wants to advance, the body will advance under a totally controlled body and mind. There are two primary functions for this type of practice in terms of self-defense. First, it teaches the person to continuously think during any type of action to bring the mind to a higher level state of consciousness. In other words, one utilizes the strength of the spirit (a psychological function) to influence the training of the physical body to obtain high level skill in martial art application. Second, it teaches the practitioner to unconsciously use minimal techniques to defend and attack against an opponent. In this way, one will conserve energy while obtaining wanted results. The material just discussed explained briefly one difference between two types of self-defense styles, external and internal. Following is a discussion on the theory of how the spirit can influence the physical body.
Spiritual and Physical Connection
One of the most commonly observed examples of how the spirit can influence the function of the physical body is when a very strong-willed person endures physical pain to overcome a particular problem such as a life-threatening event. Under this type of circumstance people can endure pain in the body to overcome obstacles that appear to be humanly impossible. We often hear of a person who uses extraordinary amounts of strength to help save a person in a deadly situation such as lifting a very heavy object to release a trapped person. This illustrates how the ability of the spirit can influence the control of the physical body. An example of a simpler situation is when we are very happy or just in a good mood, everything seems to be so beautiful and our appetite for food will be better than usual. However, if a disturbing event is encountered in our lives, just the opposite will occur. We lose the taste for food and withdraw from reality. These types of situations have happened to almost everyone. Consequently, this can help explain how the psychological functions of the mind affect the physical body. One reason for this is that the nervous system reaches all parts of the body. When external stimulation is encountered, the first to react is the part of the nervous system closest to the stimuli. After the sensation is felt, the impulses are sent along the nerves to the central nervous system. This process will affect the functions of thought and knowledge. This function of thought and knowledge is called consciousness. Consciousness is the foundation of various senses and ideas which aid us in rationalizing events.
Those whose work envelopes the treatment of various ailments with the use of hypnosis also utilize the psychological character of the patient to achieve beneficial results. In some cases, in fact, we unintentionally use hypnosis to achieve success with only the use of words. For example, there was a twelve year old girl in Shanghai who could not walk due to a long sickness. The reason the girl could not walk was because she did not believe that walking was possible. After the family convinced the girl she could walk, she finally stood up and was able to walk. This was a case in which there was no surgery or doctor’s interference with the girl’s problem. It was with the use of intent that the girl was able to overcome her fear of not being able to walk. The girl was convinced she could walk and therefore she did. One other short example is that in recent years Russian scientists have been able to use hypnosis on athletes to aid in the improvement of sporting events. With these and other examples one can suggest that there is a close relationship between psychological functions of the mind and physical exercise. Taijiquan beginners should try to understand the principles of the mind/intent to more deeply comprehend the functions behind the "use of the mind, not the use of strength" in the practice of Taijiquan.
In the Taijiquan classics there is a statement, "the mind should move the internal energy and the internal energy should move the body.” Even though this is a very important principle in the practice of Taijiquan, many beginners often find this to be quite difficult to put into action. In actuality, the mind in the above statement is the use of the intent. The most difficult portion of the statement to understand is the movement of internal energy and the use of internal energy. What after all is this "internal energy" in regard to this statement? The internal energy that is discussed here is not the air that we breathe into the lungs, but it is the matter that nourishes the nervous system. The movements of the body and the activities of internal organs are synthesized under the orders of the nervous system. As can be seen, the use of the mind to move the internal energy, not only implies the use of the intent, but also explains the relationship between the intent and physical movement. Using the mind to stimulate the nervous system causes the body to be connected in a more stable manner. When the body can connect then there will be a better means of issuing internal strength from the ground up through the body in martial application.
The main point in the above discussion was to demonstrate the relationship between the psychological functions of the mind and Taijiquan movement, and to illustrate how these functions are brought into the practice of Taijiquan. We all know there are many different points to comprehend during the study of Taijiquan. This comprehension can bring many benefits in regard to health and self-defense. However, the founders of Taijiquan looked at both the physical and mental training of Taijiquan with equally high regard. Because the founders deeply believed in the theory that the mind could cooperate with the body, there arose the highest fundamental of "using the mind, not strength" to generate motion under the influence of the intent. This will, in return, improve the quality of movement in Taijiquan. Consequently, during the practice of Taijiquan, one should not just satisfy the requirements of the form's appearance in terms of posture and movement, but, at the same time, one should also include the mental process of thinking while conducting the postures and movements.
Even though the above material may seem relatively simple, the results of practice are not readily achieved overnight. One must allow the spirit to influence the development of the physical body under the strict and continuous training of the routine. Because of the importance of the "use of the mind, not strength" in the theory of Taijiquan, this very complex topic must be discussed and considered even though we still have much more to learn about the way the mind influences the body.
The following is a brief description of the basic essentials for the training of the eyes and intent during the practice of Taijiquan.
One of the first mistakes many practitioners run into is keeping the eyesight behind the hands. In the Taiji Classics, it is stated that "the hands and eyes must mutually follow each other", however, many people take this to mean that wherever the hands go so do the eyes. Many think that the eyes should always be pasted on the movement of the hands. This is a mistake and a problem that should be corrected. If this is practiced for a long time, many types of bad habits will develop such as staring only at a single object or looking down at the ground. When an opponent is encountered, one will always lose because of the lack of eye contact. The thoughts will be obscured and the movements will be slowed down. The true meaning behind "the hands and eyes must mutually follow each other" is when the eyes arrive so do the hands. It does not mean that the eyes must look directly at the hands during Taiji movement. There are many Taijiquan movements which do not demand that the eyes look at or follow in the direction of the hands. An example of this is "White Crane Spreads Wings". In this posture, the eyes must first arrive before the hands stop moving. One cannot look at the hands in this posture because one moves up while the other moves down. Should the eyes follow the hands then the principle of keeping the head held upright will be broken. The important point in this is that the eyes must lead the action of the movements to produce increase the intent of the posture. This will then bring about greater internal connection and strength.
The second mistake made by many practitioners is to lower the eye lids during practice. There are many people who lower the eye lids as if half a sleep during the practice of Taijiquan in order to feel calm and tranquil. This type of training is in fact destroying the ability to train the intent for self-defense situations. This also mixes the moving practice of Taijiquan with the sitting or standing meditation postures which utilize the closing of the eye lids. Furthermore, this will destroy the spirit which is developed during the practice of Taijiquan and could cause the problem of closing the eyes during contact with an opponent. Consequently, during the practice of the routine, one should not allow the eye lids to lower down. Only in this way can the requirement of "moving within silence" be attained. To reiterate, if one practices with the eye lids lowered for a long period of time, the eyesight will become stagnant and without any vigor, thereby losing a valuable tool for self-defense.
As can be seen, Taijiquan is a very beneficial exercise for the improvement and maintenance of the body's mental and physical health and well-being. Through the continued practice of Taijiquan, many remarkable benefits will naturally appear. Many people in today's society expect sudden improvement of the body's health and superior fighting skills with only minimal time conducted in the practice of Taijiquan. This is a big misconception and should be explained to those who are beginning the study of Taijiquan. Only through diligent practice and perseverance will the true benefits of the style be known. Many people believe that there is some sort of secret which will make the difference in the benefits received from martial arts training. The only secret, however, is practice. A regular practice schedule is one of the most important essentials in Taijiquan and other forms of martial arts. Should one only practice once a week, one will only receive slight benefits, should one practice everyday, one will receive much more both in terms of physical and mental well-being.
Ebooks and Videos may be purchased by contacting Ted at email@example.com.
An Anthology of Yang Style Taijiquan
This authoritative book is one of the few English books that details the history, principles, health benefits, and martial aspects of Yang Style Taijiquan. Six chapters present material on history, principles, health benefits, push hands, straightsword, combat related information and questions and answers. Photographs of Yang Chengfu performing the entire 85 posture routine is included in the book. Much of the material within this book comes from sources such as Fu Zhongwen, Mei Ying Sheng, Zhao Bin, and other top Taijiquan masters. 8.5 X 11. 213 pp. Numerous diagrams and photographs. Electronic book. The book can be viewed with Adobe Acrobat Viewer or their ebook viewer.
Xiang Gong Qigong
Xiang Gong is a traditional 2,000 year old Buddhist Qigong style. Qigong is a ancient form of exercise designed to strengthen one's internal energy and overall health. Xiang Gong is considered to be an effective form of exercise for generating internal energy and improving the health of the body. This style is very easy to learn and requires no previous background in martial arts to practice. The book includes the elementary level, self-massage techniques, and questions and answers about the style. 65 pp. Electronic Book. The ebook will be emailed to your email box upon receipt of funds. The ebook can be viewed with Adobe Acrobat Viewer.
108 Posture Yang Style Taijiquan
This video was produced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China during the Spring of 2002. Mei Ying Sheng and one of his female students demonstrate the entire Yang style long routine set in a very beautiful park. The movements are clearly demonstrated for the viewer to observe the details of various movements such as the Turning Body Palm and the Cat Walk. The video is in VCD format. Purchase both the Yang Style Taiji Weapons video and the 108 Yang Style Taijiquan video for $49.95.
Yang Style Taijiquan, Straightsword, and Broadsword
This video was produced in Leshan, Sichuan Province, China during the Spring of 2005. Ted Knecht demonstrates the 108 posture long form, 54 posture straight sword, and the 40 posture broadsword with a running commentary by Master Mei Yingsheng. The movements are clearly demonstrated for the viewer to observe the details of these Taiji routines. This video is in VCD format.
Yang Style Taiji Weapons
This video was produced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China during the Spring of 2002. Mei Ying Sheng and one of his female students demonstrate the Yang Style 54 Posture Taiji Straightsword and the 40 Posture Taiji Broadsword in their entirety. The movements are clearly demonstrated for the viewer to observe the details of these two sword routines. This video is in VCD format. Purchase both the Yang Style Taiji Weapons video and the 108 Yang Style Taijiquan video for $49.95.
Internal Energy and Warm-ups
This video consists of six different exercise programs designed to work the entire body. The six exercises include Joint Rotations, 8 Motions for Health, Taiji Intent Gong, Taiji Loosening Exercises, Buddhist Qigong, and Body Tapping. The video is broken down into an instruction section and a "follow me" section. The movements are clearly demonstrated for the viewer to learn the details of each exercise. Each exercise has thorough descriptions of breathing and proper posture. 60 minutes. DVD format.
Xiang Gong Qigong
The elementary level of this Buddhist internal energy style is taught in this video. Knecht who studied this while living in China demonstrates the exercise and gives detailed instructions on each movement. There are only 15 movements which are very easy to learn and to master. The system is intended to increase energy levels and benefit health. Easy to learn for people of any age. No background in other styles is needed. 35 minutes. The Ebook on Xiang Gong is highly recommended for a greater understanding of the style. DVD format.
Late Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu described in his book, "The Practice of Taijiquan", that "the two legs be differentiated into yin and yang, and should raise and lower as if walking like a cat". In the book entitled, "Essentials of Free Sparring", Master Wu Yu Xiang wrote that "one should step like a walking cat and move like pulling (drawing) silk". Students of later generations called the advancing steps and footwork found in Taijiquan as the "Taiji Cat Walk", "Taiji Tiger Step", or plainly as the "Taiji Step". The Taiji Cat Walk appears a total of 58 times and is the most basic stepping method in the Yang style 108 posture routine.
The Taiji Classics state that "if the hands advance three percent, then the legs advance seven percent". This demonstrates the importance of stance work and stepping in Taijiquan. There is also a saying which says that if one can perform a proper "Taiji Cat Walk", it does not necessarily mean one's Taijiquan is good, but in order to be very good at Taijiquan, one must have a proper "Taiji Cat Walk".
The legs move slowly and evenly under the control of the waist and spine while performing the "Taiji Cat Walk". Close to half of the largest muscles groups found within the body are below the waist and abdomen. The "Taiji Cat Walk" will allow all the muscles, ligaments, joints, etc. to obtain maximum range of exercise with the least amount of resistance. The action which occurs in the legs is similar to the motion of twisting (draining) a wet towel. All of the fibers within the towel (legs) will receive varying degrees of twisting and pressure. This action which will naturally harmonize the body in varying degrees can produce the following physiological health benefits:
1) Benefits on the Cardiovascular System: In one's lifetime, the legs and feet are under the pressure of the body's weight for approximately two thirds of the time. The feet are the furthest extension of the body from the heart. Consequently, the blood which is pumped from the heart to the feet and recirculated back to the heart will have an increase in difficulty in it's ability to circulate. This may lead to various ailments in the legs and feet. The "Taiji Cat Walk" will allow the repeated twisting and wrapping of the muscles to produce a very prominent overall pressuring action on the walls of the blood vessels in the lower extremities. The blood vessels will have more strength to contract and expand and will enhance the circulation of blood back to the heart. The heart will in turn have a greater supply of blood to nourish the body.
The "massaging" effect of Taijiquan on the muscle walls of the blood vessels can prevent the deposition of cholesterol on the walls of the blood vessels. This will, therefore, increase the elasticity and strength of the blood vessel walls. Among all exercise therapies which aid in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the "Taiji Cat Walk" is at the forefront. A few years ago the author conducted a study on the effects of practicing Yang style Taijiquan (with emphasis on the "Taiji Cat Walk") on 220 middle-aged and elderly people. The result of the study concluded a positive decrease in blood pressure for those suffering from high blood pressure.
The degree of exercise in Taijiquan is determined by the distance between the feet while in a bow stance. A wide and low stance will result in the greatest degree of exercise; while a stance which is high and narrow will result in a lower degree of exercise. After one has partaked in a round of Taijiquan using a low and wide stance, one will greatly perspire, the internal energy (Qi) will be harmonized, and the heart rate will be slightly raised as compared to normal activities. The heart rate may raise up to 100 beats per minute (athletes possibly lower). Some people may consider this quality of movement to be minimal; however, this phenomena is quite different from ordinary sporting exercise. The movements of Taijiquan are under a so-called "Qi State" which is very difficult to describe in words.
The author with over 40 years of practical experience in Chinese and Western medicine has found that people who have practiced Taijiquan for many years have a lower pulse rate than those who do not participate in Taijiquan. No matter under what type of activity, either active or passive, the pulse rate is slower and more even in Taijiquan practitioners. According to scientific research of doctors in China and abroad, a pulse rate which is slow and even will allow the rest period of the heart's muscles to increase and will also allow a greater release of blood from the heart's chambers. A beneficial effect of this will decrease sediment built up in the blood and will also decrease the hardening of the blood vessels. Furthermore, high blood pressure will be lowered which is one the main reason for heart disease and death.
Based on recent medical research, findings have shown that heart rate is inversely related to longevity in animal studies. Mice have a heart rate of approximately 900 beats per minute and live for approximately two years; on the other hand, the heart rate of elephants is approximately 30 beats per minute and they can live from 40 to 50 years. The length of life in humans which is also correlated to this inverse relationship has been know for quite some time in Chinese medical theory. Taijiquan, in general, has the perfect quality of motion to allow the heart rate and the movements of Taijiquan to be directly proportionate.
2) Benefits on the Meridians and Acu-points of the Body: The normal function of internal organs, skin, muscles, tendons, and bones rely upon the complete openness of the meridian network. Among the twelve ordinary meridians in the body, there are three yin and three yang feet meridians which ascend or descend at the toes. Moreover, there are 41 acu-points below the ankle joint of both feet which have a very direct relationship to one's health. These 41 points are connected along channels to the top of the head and to various tissues and organs in the torso and arms. The physiological ability and pathology of the tissue and organs receive stimulation from the feet. This is related to a saying which states that "when one meridian is in disharmony, the body will not be in perfect health".
In regards to the study of meridians in traditional Chinese medicine, "Foot Reflexology" has become very popular and of interest in Europe, America, and Japan. They have been able to utilize state-of-the-art equipment to pin point 36 reflex points on the bottom of the feet. Various methods of stimulation are used on these reflex points to achieve the goal of curing illnesses and improving health. At a factory in Japan, a 75 meter long rock road has been designed in which small, sharp pebbles protrude out of the ground. The employees will walk this "road of health" twice before beginning work. This is conducted to stimulate the bottom of the feet to reach the goal of optimal health. The "Taiji Cat Walk" promotes a reflex action on the feet against the ground to massage the bottom of the feet and to stimulate the meridians and acu-points. This method is much different than ordinary walking and jogging; and it is more natural and complete than "foot reflexology" and the "road of health" methods described above. The following is a description of the reflex response of the "Taiji Cat Walk" which uses a left bow stance stepping into a right bow stance:
Because the "Taiji Cat Walk" is conducted with the legs half squatted down, the body must maintain a balanced and level posture throughout the motion. When the right heel slowly and evenly leaves the ground to advance forward, the reflex action of the right foot against the ground results from lifting motion starting in the heel, then the ball, and finally in the toes. This reflex response is from weak to strong. When the toes leave the ground, the reflex response towards the toes is from strong to weak. When the right foot lowers back to the ground first on the heel, then the ball, and finally the toes, the reflex response is again from weak to strong. During the process of the right foot advancing to the front to form a right bow stance, the weight maintained on the left leg has a reflex action on the heel, ball, and toes which is from strong to weak and then from weak to strong.
The reflex response on the feet against the ground evolves into a slow, gentle, and even massage from the heel down to the toes and is very beneficial to the stimulation of the 41 acu-points on the feet. The reflex response can also lead to the opening of the meridians and to the regulation of the blood and internal energy.
The "Taiji Cat Walk" will cause a relatively strong person to break out into a sweat within two or three minutes of continuous practice. The quality of movement in the "Taiji Cat Walk" and it's massaging action on the feet is, in general, an "exercise" which surpasses other forms of exercise conducted in the same amount of time.
3) Benefits to the Muscles, Bones, and Tendons Below the Waist and Abdomen: The "Taiji Cat Walk" is performed while the two legs are half squatted down and the weight of the body is continuously changing back and forth from one leg to the other. Because the movement is like a "cloud floating and water flowing" and the weight of the body is maintained on one leg during slow and even movement, all of the muscles, bones, joints, and tendons below the waist will become stronger and more agile. People who practice Taijiquan for a long time will see an increase in muscle size and strength. In Chinese medicine the saying, "the legs are the mirror of one's health", means the health of the legs are of prime importance to one's overall health.
Because the "Taiji Cat Walk" can harmonize and combine the blood and internal energy of the lower body together, this can aid in the prevention and/or healing of lumbar hyperplasia, heel spurs, deformed knees and various other degenerate aliments which commonly occur in old age. Some women over the age of 40, for unknown reasons, get edema (swelling) of the legs. Because of the water retention in the legs, this will chronically lead to unfavorable effects on the stimulation of the meridians and acu-points of the feet. The "Taiji Cat Walk" is one of the most ideal ways to alleviate this problem.
The abdomen must correspondingly conduct circular motions in order to turn and relax the waist. This will allow the lateral, vertical, inner oblique, and outer oblique muscles to be interchangeably stretched and contracted; thereby, allowing the flexibility of the muscle layers to be increased and strengthened. Besides having a massing effect on the internal organs in the torso, it can reduce excess fatty deposits on the abdomen wall and also heal ailments such as a "collapsed stomach". Consequently, the "Taiji Cat Walk" is a very effective prescription for one's overall well being.
Dr. Mei Ying Sheng has been researching Yang style Taijiquan and practicing both Western and traditional Chinese medicine for the past 40 years. He was a physician and surgeon for many high ranking Buddhist monks and lay people in Tibet for 20 years. Through the healing benefits of Taijiquan, Dr. Mei was able to help cure a high ranking government official from Si Chuan Province of a cancerous stomach tumor. Doctors could not operate due to the size of the tumor. Consequently, the man came to Dr. Mei Ying Sheng for traditional Chinese medical treatment. Dr. Mei assessed the condition of the patient and by isolating and then teaching various movements found within Taijiquan, as a supplement to the form, the tumor gradually reduced in size and finally disappeared. To this day, the man goes into the Emei Mountains every morning and performs Taijiquan. Since retiring from a professional medical career, Dr. Mei and his family have recently moved to the city of Shen Zhen located in Guang Dong Province, China where he teaches Yang style Taijiquan, straight sword, broadsword, push hands, and qi gong with his youngest daughter. Dr. Mei is also utilizing his abilities in medicine and Taijiquan to help patients in a more quicker recovery from drug addiction at various drug rehabilitation center in southern China.