Donnerstag, 29. Januar 2015

Article: About Taijiquan

From a lecture by Prof. Ma Hailong on the occasion of his visit to Düsseldorf 2002

Prof. Ma Hailong is the eldest son of Ma Yueliang and Wu Yinghua. He is President of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association in Shanghai. On his third visit to Europe he held a lecture in the Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan. The following are excerpts from his lecture.

Thank you very much for the kind invitation to hold a lecture here in Düsseldorf. Taijiquan is a system which has been a tradition in China for many centuries. The development of Taijiquan has spanned a long period of time. It is said that Zhang Sanfeng from the Wudang Mountains founded Taijiquan during the Tang Dynasty. In Taijiquan he refined the culture of his country. Today one speaks of the five Taijiquan families: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao) and Sun. In the time of the Qing Dynasty the practising of martial arts was very popular. Rich people in those times trained in private circles and invited great masters, such as Yang Luchan (founder of the Yang-style), into their homes to train with them.

Yang Luchan was very famous in his time and was often challenged to fight. Later he gave lessons in the Emperor’s court. One day the Emperor asked Yang Luchan which of his students he could recommend. Yang Luchan said: “There are three who excel.” Each of the three had his own particular skills. “The first, Wan Chun, has particularly hard power (gangjin). Lin Shan is best at exerting power (fajin). Wu Quanyou, however, is the best at gently neutralising energy (rouhua)”. Wu Quanyou, my great-grandfather, became the founder of the Wu-style. It was he who made neutralisation a particular quality in the Taijiquan of our family. The aim of Taijiquan is to manipulate the power of the opponent in order to defeat him/her. That is in fact the essence of Taijiquan.

Learning Taijiquan is not only about learning to defend yourself but also an insight into a certain philosophy. The idea of Taijiquan is not to attack in an uncontrolled manner, but rather the attempt to hold back. This often has some affect on the entire character. My grandparents, uncles and parents, for example, never claimed to be masters. This is part of the philosophy of Taijiquan. Taijiquan is not something for pretentious people.

In many aspects the theory of Taijiquan follows the symbolism of traditional Chinese thinking. In China, for example, it is said that the square is the symbol of the earth. It represents strength and stability. The circle is the symbol of the sky. It signifies softness. Human beings stand between the two and therefore in Taijiquan the positioning of the feet is also based on a square and is an expression of stability. The movement of the arms and the upper part of the body are based on the circle and are soft and flexible. In this way while practising Taijiquan you can simultaneously unite both aspects in yourself.

The knowledge of the theory and practice of Taijiquan should not be confined to the Chinese culture. It should also be established in foreign countries. Three things are necessary for this to happen:

- A very good teacher
- A good learning environment
- A co-operative team spirit

After this, it all depends on hard work. In Taijiquan there is a saying: The teacher only guides you through the door, i.e. he/she teaches only the basics. Then it is all down to practice. The first three prerequisites already exist in Europe. Now all you must do is further develop this and practice a lot.

An important point in the theory and practice of Taijiquan is understanding the jin-power (dongjin). This really is difficult. It is necessary to be aware of how both you and your opponent exert energy. For this purpose you must focus entirely on Feeling (tingjin). It is like reading a poem. To begin with, perhaps, you read only superficially. It is only after in-depth study of the poem that it can be understood in its complexity. Or it is like listening to classical music. One concentrates entirely on the music. That is why you shouldn’t listen to music when practising Taijiquan. When I practise Taijiquan, I practise Taijiquan. When I listen to music, I listen to music. It is the only way I can be completely focussed. This is also called “Heaven and human being are united (tianren heyi)”. I am in complete harmony with my environment and don’t allow myself to be distracted.

Taijiquan is the connection of stillness and movement. When practising Taijiquan you should pay particular attention to the five aspects set out by my father: stillness, lightness, slowness, conscientiousness and perseverance. It is not possible to make progress without them. If you can put these aspects into action, you will have much pleasure in practising Taijiquan and you will achieve a long and happy life. Thank you once again for taking the time to listen to me for so long.

Freitag, 23. Januar 2015

Book: Optimal Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong Teaching

Dear Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong friends,

looking back on 25 years of teaching Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong and training a lot of teachers during that time, I collected my knowledge and wrote a small book:

Optimal Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong Teaching
(68 pages, 7,70 $)

This training manual is a useful guide for everyone interested in teaching Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong - enjoy reading.

Order and more info: here

Martin Boedicker, Germany


- On Pedagogy - Well-Being - Perception - Community - Spirituality - Martial Arts - On Didactic - Defining Content and Goals - General Teaching Concepts - Planning the Chronological Order of the Lesson - The Premises of Learning - Inside or Outside - Specifications of Duration - Learning Modalities - The Appearance of the Teacher - Group Structure - Group Dynamics - Over- and Under-challenging - Disturbances of Teaching - Reflection - On Methodology - A First Methodological Decision - Social Forms of Teaching - General Teaching Methods - Methodological Measures - Memory rehearsal - Learning Aids - Questions

Freitag, 19. Dezember 2014

Sonntag, 7. Dezember 2014

Article: Learning from experience: Stillness (jing) and movement (dong)

By Wang Pinzheng 

From the club magazine No. 5, p. 8 of Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai from 05.15.1982

Taijiquan is a form of movement in which stillness and movement co-exist. In movement there is stillness. In stillness there is movement. Taijiquan prevents and fights diseases, strengthens the body and with continuous training you can defend yourself against a stronger attacker.

As for the stillness:

It refers to the stillness of the life force. When practicing Taijiquan, efforts are made to get a calm heart/mind (xin) and a still spirit (shen). The movements unfold naturally (ziran) and are smooth and graceful, like moving clouds and flowing water. In this way, you can convert the never ending stress of work into a state of stillness. The reduction of stress immediately reduces some tiredness and weakness, which can be eliminated in the long term. Taijiquan helps weariness and leaves one feeling refreshed and relaxed. This is an application of stillness.

Furthermore, if you attain stillness, you are immediately relieved of confused thoughts. Many diseases are originating in "the exhaustion of the internal organs and seven emotions (neishang qiqing)" and interfere with the life force or increase depressive and aggressive states of mind. Through the practice of Taijiquan you can reach natural stillness and relaxation. Nervous symptoms decrease and you are not so easily annoyed. This is what is explained in the Inner Classic:

"The life force is protected insight, thus diseases are prevented."

Although Pushhands is a method of martial arts practice for two partners, it is also based on the idea of stillness and softness. It is not: "He who attacks first is an advantage", but "Meet the offensive with stillness (yi jing dai dong)" and "Overcome hardness with softness (yi rou ke gang)”. If you practice Pushhands, you do not touch the other person heavily. You use just enough strength that you can control the other one. If you attained this great skill, you understand the other quickly and he will be beaten for sure.

Whilst practicing Pushhands you have to make sure that you are very still and not be anxious. The hands are light and the qi sinks. Wrists, elbows, shoulders and other joints must be relaxed and open. Above empty and below full, thus you can change softly.

Your own stillness, lightness, relaxation and softness enable you to distinguish the full and empty of the opponent with a touch. Thus it is possible to act according to the circumstances and to strike back in an appropriate way. When the heart/mind is not calm, you are not focused and the hand movements are faulty. Once the heart/mind is still, you can follow the movement of the other, without losing contact or go against it.

The other uses force - I use the advantage of the soft change. The other does not use force - I also use no force. Imagination (yi) comes first and not the use of force. In the Song of Striking Hands (Dashouge) it is stated:

"If the other does not move, I do not move.
If the other moves imperceptibly, I move first."

Samstag, 22. November 2014

Article: Confucius - China's great Teacher

Look into China in general and Chinese philosophy in particular, and you will inevitably encounter Confucius (551–479 BC) and the philosophy named after him, Confucianism. The Confucian school (rujia) was originally just one movement competing with the other Hundred Schools of Thought. Only later, at the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AC) would Confucianism, as state Confucianism, become a means of preserving the country’s power relationships. From that time on, it became important to distinguish between Confucius and his ideas on the one hand and the doctrinal dogma of State Confucianism on the other.

Confucius: his Life

Confucius or, in Mandarin, Kongzi, was born the descendant of an impoverished family of the lower military nobility in the principality of Lu in 551 BC. His boyhood was spent in straitened circumstances: he was largely self-taught. Tradition has it that he was appointed administrator of the public granaries of Lu at the age of twenty and at this time began a paid career in teaching. Later, Confucius as the first travelling scholar, he travelled the country with many of his disciples and attempted to win over the feudal lords to his theory. He did not meet with great success, however. Confucius died without a written legacy in 479 BC.

Although Confucius did not live to see any great success in the dissemination of his teachings, he became a pioneer for generations of scholars and philosophers. As Fung explains:

”Confucius was the first man in China to make teaching his profession, and thus popularize culture and education. It was he who opened the way for the many travelling scholars and philosophers of succeeding centuries. It was also he who inaugurated, or at least developed, that classes of gentleman in ancient China who was neither farmer, artisan, merchant nor actual official, but was a professional teacher and potential official."
(Fung p. 48.)

Thus, Confucius was not only the first professional teacher in China, but also trained his pupils as teachers. This created the new social class of the scholars (shì). The scholars and their new way of life met with strong resistance. They were accused of being unproductive and in consequence, totally dependent on society. Thus, Han Feizi wrote:

”The literati [Confucians] with their learning, throw the laws into confu- sion. The knights-errant, with their pugnaciousness, transgress the prohibitions. ... Now if one pursues literary studies and practises the arts of conversation, one has none of the labor of cultivating the soil and has the actuality of possesing riches; one has none of the dangers of war and has the honour of noble position. Who, then, would not do this?"
(Fung p. 52).

Despite this criticism of their way of life, the scholars were able to gain a foothold. It was the beginning of a radical change in Chinese society.

The Old Zhou Recalled

Confucius perceived his era as one of rapid decay. The Zhou Dynasty (1122–481 BC) had to all intents collapsed, the country had disintegrated into numerous principalities and was in the grips of discord. The desire for stability drew Confucius’s thinking in its foundations back to the early Zhou period. In the collection of statements his pupils garnered from discussions with the master as the Analects (Lunyu), we read in this respect:

”The Zhou Dynasty looks back upon two dynasties. Consequently, its entire education has been refined. I follow the Zhou." (Wilhelm p. 54).

With that avowal Confucius stands resolutely against his times with an invocation of times past. It is consistent that his doctrine is not a creation of something new, but the attempt to preserve or rouse to new life the old moral and ritual concepts. He characterises his own attitude with the words:

”To transmit, but not to create, to be loyal and to love antiquity.“
(Wilhelm p. 81).

As a condition for restoring the Way indicated by Antiquity, Confucius recommended a patriarchal society in analogy to the hierarchical relationships within families, with clearly assigned roles.

”Let the prince be a prince,
the servant a servant,
let the father be a father,
the son a son.“
(Wilhelm p. 125).

Some Essential Terms

In contrast to the Classical philosophers of the West, Confucius is little concerned with metaphysical or epistemiological enquiry. His eye is chiefly on shaping human relations. With that aim he develops three essential concepts and elucidates how these are to be regulated:

1) To regulate by instilling morals, i.e., by taking to heart the right standards of behaviour
2) to regulate by ritualising roles and patterns of behavior
3) to regulate by the rectification of names.
(Weggel p. 21)

1) Regulation by moralisation is represented by the term, ren. The word does not translate directly, but the two components of the ideogram consist of that for ‘(hu-)man’ and that for ‘two’ and so immediately invokes a context of human relations.

The translated literature duly renders it as human kindness, humanity, morals and the like. But none of the translations covers the entire scope of ren. Ren should be understood as the sum of the interpersonal virtues demanded in Confucianism. They include, for example, filial piety (xiao), trust (xin), conscientiousness (zhong), honesty (cheng), altruism (shu), the reestablishment of rites (li) and justice (yi). Ren is inherent in human nature but must be brought out by education and guidance. Confucius does not satisfy his disciples’ requests for definitions of ren, but illuminates different aspects from case to case. Thus he says, for example:

- ”It is to love your fellow men.“
- ”The firm of spirit, the resolute in character, the simple in manner, and the slow in speech are not far from ren.“
- ”Ren is the denial of self and the response to the right and proper (li)
(Fung p. 69f).

2) Li, the rituals, ceremonies and standards of the Zhou, are the second aspect that Confucius advocates as a governing principle in human relations. Performing the rites as accurately and appropriately as possible is seen as a way of making social life a predictable quantity. Purely performing the rites to the letter is not the main goal, however. The crux is to be inwardly wholly at one with the rites in order to become a gentleman (junzi).

”If I am not present when I give my sacrifice, it is as if I had not sacrificed at all.“
(Wilhelm p. 53)

3) Another fundamental rule of Confucianism is the accordance of names and truth to names, so that the king or father, for instance, behaves as one might justifiably expect of a king or father. By following this rule Confucius is in accord with the expectations implicit in the names and creates a state of order. This is important, as the society thus shaped will be one built on calculability and predictability. Thus, after Confucius, it is a ruler’s duty to rectify the names (zhenming). In the Analects we read:

"For, truly, if the prince is no prince and the servant no servant, the father no father and the son no son: then, though I have my revenues, can I partake of the benefits?"
(Wilhelm p. 125).

In the Beginning there was Study

The master said:

”To learn
and at due times to repeat what one has learned,
is that not after all a pleasure?“
(The Analects p. 2)

The above initial statement in the Analects highlights one of the essential aspects of Confucius’ teaching. Weggel elaborates:

”Day by day to recognise what knowledge one still lacks, and, month by month, to ascertain what one has mastered to date. Only those who learn unceasingly will remain on the right way (dao)."
(Weggel p. 182)

Here the love of study (haoxue) is defined as a desire fulfilled only by an enduring process. According to Confucius, learning takes place in a close teacher-student relationship in which the student shows the teacher respect and the teacher’s attitude to the student is one of love, emotional warmth and attention. The teacher is not to treat all students alike, but each according to his qualities.

As to what form this learning should take, Confucius aimed not at the acquisition of certain techniques, skills or practical know-how in the sense of professional training. The sole aim of study is moral refinement. This is the path to the state of a gentleman (junzi) as distinct from the common man (xiaoren). The master said:

”The gentleman has morality as his basic stuff and by observing the rites puts it into practice, by being modest gives it expression, and by being trustworthy in words brings it to completion. Such is a gentlemen indeed!“
(Lau p. 134).

The Master said:

”The Gentleman makes demands of himself; the common man makes demands of (other) people.“
(Wilhelm p. 158).

By constant self-refinement, the gentleman de- velops a particular position that in Confucius’s eyes places him even above the classical nobility. The Master said:

”Whosoever does not strive assiduously,I shall not aid him in his progress, he who does not struggle for the expression, I shall not reveal it to him. If I show a corner and he cannot transfer it to the other three, I shall not repeat it.“ (Wilhelm p. 83).

The didactic method practised by Confucius de- mands a high input from the student. Weggel elaborates:

”Regarding Confucius’s teaching methods, they were designed above all to promote intuitive understanding, that is, not to present the cardinal principles in abstract terms but to illus- trate them in examples again and again."
(Weggel p. 185).

Combined with the ideal of perseverance (mo), this teaching method leads to sure learning results and independence in action.

As a philosopher of statehood, Confucius certainly did not enjoy any great success during his own lifetime; but as an educator and as a model for all teachers, he entered the cultural history of his country. To this day, joy in learning is a par- ticular characteristic of the Chinese. Horst Hensel is among the writers to have been struck by it, writing on modern Chinese schooling in 1997:

”Chinese schoolchildren seem fundamentally to approve of school – including the mental effort nherent in the process of education. School is socially acknowledged and receives considerable kudos."
(Pädagogik 10, p. 85)

Love of study and respect for its institutions is a legacy that remains alive and well to the present day.

Taijiquan and Confucius

Just as he endowed Chinese society in general with the love of study, Taijiquan without doubt absorbed this bequest too. Do we not read in The Song of the Thirteen Basic Movements (Shisanshi gejue):

„Ceaseless practice (gongfu) is the method of self-cultivation"

Or as Ma Yueliang specifies:

”Whether or not the weather is cold or burning hot, you should train regularly. It is a process of testing the character and strength of mind of the student."
(Wagner and Klüfer p. 13).

But elements from his teaching are not the only connection with Confucius to be found in Taijiquan. The Taijiquan classics also quote him directly or allude to him. The Taijiquan Classic (Taijiquan jing) has this:

”Recognise it silently, try to explore it until one is free to follow the desires of the heart (xin)."

In the Analects (Lunyu) we read:

”At fifteen I set my heart upon learning. At thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground. At forty, I no longer suffered from per- plexities. At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven. At sixty, I heard them with docile ear. At seventy, I was free to follow the desires of the heart; for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right."
(Analects p. 10)

· Fung Yu-Lan, A History Of Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press (Princeton 1952)
· Lau D.C. (ed.), The Analects, Confucius (Penguin Books, London 1979) · Pädagogik 10 (Pädagogische Beiträge Verlag, Hamburg 1997)
· The Analects (Hunan People ́s Publishing House, Changsha 1999) · Wagner Nina, Klüfer Werner, Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan,
Mach:Art (Ratingen 2000)
· Weggel Oskar, Das nachrevolutionäre China,
Mitteilungen des Instituts für Asienkunde, Hamburg (1996)
· Wilhelm Richard (ed.), Kungfutse, Gespräche (Diederichs, Munich 1996)

Montag, 17. November 2014

Link: Words of Experience by Dong Yingjie

Translated by Albert Tang – Little Mountain Tai Club Student

1.Tai Chi Chuan is an internal martial art exercise. Strength is produced in the bones. Power is reserved at the muscles. It does not require one to have tough skin or thick muscles, but sunken “chi” and strong bones are required. Therefore, learners have no suffering of broken bones and hurt muscles, and the tiredness of jumping, but just move naturally to find the potential of power of origin. It is an exercise to develop your original power.

2. The three main points: spirit, intention, and posture (likeness of the movement’s names) have to be there.If the posture is correct, then the spirit and intention are there, and you will have good progression. Also, you will feel differently every day. Learners should try to feel the differences intentionally.

3. If the posture is not correct, then spirit and intention are not there. The result will be just like cooking an empty pot, even after many years of practice you will not be successful. There is a tease saying that ten years of Tai Chi Chuan practice is not as good as three years of kung fu. Therefore, for good Tai Chi Chuan practice: first you have to practice diligently; and secondly you need to have good understanding. Also, the result is dependent on your intelligence, but hard practice can help stupidity. So you should always encourage yourself to practice harder.

More: hier

Mittwoch, 12. November 2014

Article: Learning from Experience: Relax (song) and Lightness (qing)

By Wang Pinzheng

From the club magazine No. 2, p. 8 of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association in Shanghai, 30.4.1981

One of the main goals when practicing Taijiquan is relaxation (song). In Pushhands relaxation is even more important. This is a fact that all know and it seems to be very easy to reach. In fact, it is not so:

Although it is known that beginners do not relax easily, even a long-time friend of Taijiquan who gets involved with someone in a ‘little fight’ and is beaten by the other, will often hear:

"You're not relaxed enough!"

You have to achieve relaxation in the entire body. Starting with lightness (qing) one can gradually achieve relaxation. When practicing the movements the following is important:

The mouth is lightly closed.
You breathe lightly through the nose.
The teeth touch each other very lightly.
The tip of the tongue supports very lightly the palate.
You swallow the saliva very lightly.
The head is erect, as if one carries a bowl
and the apex is very lightly stretched.
The eyes look without effort very lightly forward.
For the outward movements of the hands lightness is needed,
for the inward as well.
In steps the leg is lifted only lightly
and very lightly down again.

The Treatise on Taijiquan (Taijiquan lun) states:

"In every movement, the entire body should be light and agile (ling)."

This is just what is written above. A picture of this is:

"Step, like a cat walking".

In Pushhands: If the other attacks with force, one is in any case not allowed to resist with hard force. You must stick very lightly at the hands of other, follow his movements and guide them forward. Then suddenly one increases the power of the other following the motto:

"If a movement is fast, I respond fast"

And thus the force of the other will have no chance to reach you. Only if you have lightness, you can "know the other". If you use hardness, you "let the other know" and you will be for sure beaten by him.

If lightness is achieved, relaxation develops. The Gongfu improves and the whole body becomes light. The 77-year-old teacher Wu Yinghua has while exercising delicate and graceful postures. The already 81 year old teacher Ma Yueliang swings easily a 3 meter long lance.

This old couple, the lightness of their bodies resembles that of swallows. They walk like a breeze. These 70- and 80-years old, one can not really keep pace with them.

Of course, the lightness of which I spoke has the meaning of lightness of relaxation, softness and agility, but for sure not the meaning of taking things lightly. The meaning of taking things lightly is composed of two main elements: In the form one should not practice unconcentrated. In Pushhands you should not be careless or reckless.