Donnerstag, 31. Dezember 2009

Article: To Talk about Perseverance

Xu Wen (Dr. Zee)

Issue 20, p. 7 of the Journal of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai

Perseverance has the meaning of stamina. The five-point motto of Ma Yueliang finishes with perseverance. It says that while practising Taijiquan one has to have a long the four points of stillness, lightness, slowness and conscientiousness also perseverance. Only then Taijiquan can develop its effects.

Ma Yueliang in the 1930's

Taijiquan is not a panacea, which works right away. Taijiquan follows the "laws of the nature", does search for "being conscious" and the endowed inborn root of the movements. The basic ability of the conscious movement is inborn, but "being close to each other by our inner nature, we separate from each other by our habits". Because of this one loses the inborn. So in physical exercises one does not develop one's original capabilities to the full extent, as it would have been possible, or worse, one develops unfavourable variances. When practising Taijiquan one goes through subjective efforts, but it is a process that changes the objective world and where one looks for the lost endowed inborn.

This process is long-term and life long. Though the Taijiquan movements should become part of daily life, at best a kind of key idea, which you are looking for in all movements, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. However, if you "diligently work one day, but there are ten days of rest" you are not following the five-point motto of Ma Yueliang. This also means that you do not prevent diseases or strengthen the body. The goal of Taijiquan, the long life and the eternal spring, will be a question.

It is unusual for young people to begin to learn Taijiquan. They often find not much joy in this kind of movement or even think they are boring. So at the start one should make an individual plan for each one. It is essential to fix the time frame and the amount of stuff to learn. This must be done consciously. But one must also decide with the whole heart to improve. It's like in calligraphy:

"Only after a hundred days of practice with the characters it shows effect."

When you practised Taijiquan three months, you can see the first effects. One can e.g. feel fine, the appetite is good, the limbs are healthy, and after a long time, chronic diseases can improve or the outbreak of them can be prevented. If one gets the taste for it, it increases the confidence and the resolution to practice Taijiquan.

The conditions of individual students are not the same. This must also have an influence to the character and the level of training. The old teachers demanded that one should do the form a ten thousand times in about three years. This shows that if you do the form just once a day, it is only enough to keep it. For today's people, it is certainly very difficult to do the form ten times a day. It would be best to do the form twice a day, because the first time is just to warm up. This is important, because you can't reach stillness by just pushing a button. Only at the second time you can achieve "The heart/mind (xin) leads qi. The qi moves the body.", because now the mind got still. Body and spirit are in harmony, what even increases the result.

As in the phrase: "Relax and stillness as the reaction", you will feel very comfortable now. Even if you want to stop, you can't do it and you feel like a third time. On the other hand, if you are to much distracted by the daily live and it is just hard to concentrate and you have to force yourself to do Taijiquan you should stop the training for a while or take a rest after the first irregularities.

Taijiquan can be divided into two major parts. One part is called the "exercise of the foundation (ti)" or the "exercise of the cultural (wen)." The exercise of the cultural is the high ability (gongfu) of the knowledge of oneself and the practice of the conscious, original abilities. The doing of the form is the practice of the cultural. One must also practice to let the qi flow, even if "the qi flows throughout the body without hindrance" is not easy and it needs two or three years of practice. The second part is the Push Hands.

Push Hands is the "exercise of the application (yong)", also called the "exercise of the martial (wu)". It is the high skill of how to deal with somebody else. You have to reach the level of the understanding jin-power (dongjin), which is not easy and only succeeded after a long time. Only if you have done an extensive training for a long time, you can find step by step depth through practice. But if you go this way, you will find success. But, no matter whether exercising the foundation or the application, if you want go this way, in any case perseverance is the most important point.

Mittwoch, 9. Dezember 2009

Classic: Secret Song of the Eight Methods (Bafa mijue)

How to explain the meaning of ?
To lead the other (yindao)
and let him come forward.
Following the other’s incoming force.
Light and subtle, without losing
contact or resisting.
The power ebbs out naturally (ziran)
into the emptiness.
Throw or attack follows naturally (ziran).
Maintain your own centre.
This can not be exploited by the other.

Translated by Freya and Martin Boedicker

Dienstag, 8. Dezember 2009

Link: On the Marionette Theatre

An inspiring text:

I was astounded to see the bear standing upright on his hind legs, his back against the post to which he was chained, his right paw raised ready for battle. He looked me straight in the eye. This was his fighting posture. I wasn't sure if I was dreaming, seeing such an opponent. They urged me to attack. "See if you can hit him!" they shouted. As I had now recovered somewhat from my astonishment I fell on him with my rapier. The bear made a slight movement with his paw and parried my thrust. I feinted, to deceive him. The bear did not move. I attacked again, this time with all the skill I could muster. I know I would certainly have thrust my way through to a human breast, but the bear made a slight movement with his paw and parried my thrust.

Read the full text.

Text: The Difference between Theory and Philosophy

With publishing The Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan I discussed the topic ‘Philosophy’ with a lot of people. I found out, that for many people the difference between ‚philosophy‘ and ‚theory‘ is not 100 % clear. Thus here a try for a definition:

Theory: A theory, in the scientific sense of the word, is an analytic structure designed to explain observations and makes one able to give a prognosis

Philosophy: Philosophy (literally: love of wisdom) is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as human existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and so on.

Thus one can say, that theory explains, how Tai Chi Chuan works and philosophy explains why one should do Tai Chi Chuan.

Montag, 7. Dezember 2009

Text: Talking about Wu Style Taijiquan

An excerpt from the Club Magazine No. 17 of the Jian Quan Taijiquan Association Shanghai, 31.3.1986

Chinese martial arts look back on a long tradition. There are many different schools and styles. Taijiquan is divided into five styles: Yang, Wu, Chen, Wu (Hao) and Sun. A hundred flowers blossom and contend in their beauty. One day I asked my teacher Ma Yueliang for advice: „Master Ma, what is Wu Style Taijiquan?“

Master Ma Yueliang answered: „The Wu Style of Taijiquan was founded by the grandfather of my wife. His son Wu Jianquan continued it. Passed on from generation to generation it developed a calm, light and soft character and became a unique style.“ While saying this words he automatically started to perform martial arts movements and said: „Look at these movements. Like flowing water. Like a willow at the shore of a lake. Sublime like a wonderful flowing poem. No wonder that for some practitioners Taijiquan is a movement full of poetry.“

Freitag, 27. November 2009

Article: The Mutual Creation of Yin and Yang Completes Foundation (ti) and Application (yong)

From Zhou Huasong
From the Club Journal of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai
Translated by Freya and Martin Boedicker

The martial arts are divided into internal and external styles. Taijiquan belongs to the internal styles. If one learns Taijiquan, one may not separate from its roots. Primarily this means that one may not turn away from the actual goal:

Taijiquan is an internal martial art.

It calls itself also martial art of the internal exercise, where it is important to practice qi. This qi is however not the one that can be found in outside nature, but it is the consciousness, which flows activated by the movements of the martial art through the nervous system. Look for stillness in the movements. In the movement find stillness. The whole body follows the movements of the consciousness in accordance with the physical laws of the cosmos. Implemented by the five internal organs [heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidneys] and the six hollow organs [stomach, gallbladder, sanjiao, bladder, large intestine and small intestine].

If the consciousness fills all functional activities of the body, then this lets the whole body become a unit. The blood circulation and the nervous system move like the stars - an eternal cycle. If something moves, there is nothing that does not move. If there is something still, there is nothing that is not still. In the whole body there is the mutual creation of yin and yang. If one actually follows that goal and the principles of Taijiquan, converts them into practice and proceeds step by step, then one will arrive from practicing the foundation (ti) to the practicing of the application (yong).

For the method of the foundation one finds explanations mainly in the texts The Taijiquan Classic and The Taijiquan Treatise. For the exercise of the application in Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Basic Movements, the Song of the Thirteen Basic Movements and the Song of the Striking Hands. The method of our Taijiquan is obtained by the words and the example of the old masters. But one can completely naturally experience the correctness of the theory of the Classic and the Treatise on his own by industrious learning, intensive deepening and untiring practice.

About the practicing of the foundation:

In the Taijiquan Classic it is stated:

"Taiji is born out of wuji. It is the origin of movement and stillness and the mother of yin and yang."

This says clearly that Taijiquan is a martial art, that emphasise the mutual transformation of yin and yang, as well as stillness and movement. One tries to strike the other one not by the use of raw strength on the outside, but by the movement qi in the body inside.

If one practices the form, it is, like already described, the process of outside movements of the martial art, but special value becomes on the effect qi, whether inside or outside. One cannot only pay attention simply to the outside form. First of all it must be, like it is said in the Treatise:

"It is exerted through the legs, controlled by the waist (yao) and expressed by the hands and the fingers. From the feet to the legs and then the waist - it is always completely and unbroken. In advancing forward and retreating backward, one can gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage (shi). If you not gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage, your body will be unorganised and confused. This mistake must certainly be sought in the waist or the legs. Up or down, forward or backward, left or right, it is generally like that. This is all connected to the intention (yi) and not to something external.”

About the practicing of the application:

Taijiquan is a martial art and the ability of fighting is an inseparable component. The expression of this ability lies in the thirteen basic movements: peng, lü, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, kao, to advance, to retreat, to look left, to look right, stability. The stability, which is called also central equilibrium (zhongding), is of highest importance. The other twelve basic movements need all central equilibrium. After that follows the demand of the change of empty (xu) and full (shi), as well as yin and yang. In the Song of the Thirteen Basic Movements it is stated:

"The thirteen basic movements - none of them should be treated lightly. It is known: the source (the thirteen basic movements) is the waist (yao). You must pay attention to the interchange between empty and full. The qi flows through the body without hindrance. In stillness one encounters movement, in movement one encounters stillness. According with one’s opponent the transformation seems to be miraculous. Keep each movement in your heart/consciousness (xin) and consider its purpose. It will come - even though one will not notices - through time and ceaseless practice (gongfu)."

This shows clearly the way of fighting in Taijiquan and how one can reach it by hard training of the thirteen basic movements.

Whether one practices the foundation or the application, from the beginning to the end Taijiquan is based in summary on the large principle of the mutual creation of yin and yang, empty and full, as well as stillness and movement. If we learn Taijiquan, we should also not separate from the following principle:

"You may ask, what are the criteria of foundation and application? Intention (yi) and qi as the rulers - bones and flesh as a the servants. Become aware of the ultimate purpose. To prolong life. To extend the years. Eternal spring."

The ancestors gave us the following teachings:

"It is to be wished that the heroes of this world use it to prolong their lives and not only for martial arts."

In the martial art Taijiquan the techniques and the internal strength (de) must be considered in the same way. That means that Taijiquan is simply the noble idea of the ideal of harmony.

Mittwoch, 18. November 2009

Link: The Thirteen Basic Movements of Taijiquan

Here one finds an article from our Theory Journal Taijiquan Lilun:

The 13 Basic Movements of Taijiquan
For more Info about the Journal:

Please click here.

Dienstag, 10. November 2009

Classic: The Body, the Waist and the Crown of the Head

From the Explanation of the Method of Taiji (Taiji fashuo), text 8

The body, the waist and the crown of the head, how can you not pay attention to them?
If one of it is lacking, you waste your gongfu (your time and hard work).
The waist and the crown of the head can be studied a lifetime.
If the body follows my wishes, I can extend and relax.
If you give up this truth, what can you finally reach?
After ten years you will still be confused.

Translation by Freya and Martin Boedicker

Donnerstag, 5. November 2009

Article: A Closer Look at the Classics

By Freya and Martin Boedicker

The Classics of Tai Chi Chuan offer deep knowledge. But as a westerner it is often hard to get the full picture by reading a translation. It is always worth the time to explore a more detailed explanation. We want to show this at one example:

Here is a sentence from the Song of Striking Hands (Dashouge):

yinjin luokong hejichu

Here a popular translation: "Lead into the emptiness and then discharge."

It is a short sentence and for those who practice Pushhands, quite clear. But we still think one can get more out of the original text.
First we want to look at the Chinese word yin.

Yin has the meaning of ‘to lead‘, or ‘to guide‘. Thus the general rule to answer an attack in Tai Chi Chuan is the following:

First, lead the incoming strength into emptiness, and then strike back.

But how can one attain this on a high level?

Maybe the second meaning of the character yin can help us.

The second meaning of yin is ‘to temp’ or ‘to lure’ and is a jin-power on its own. In Chen Gong’s book The Theory of the Jin-Power it is stated: “If the other one moves, I tempt him to move on a course which I select for him”.

This means for me, that the guidance of an opponent can be done in a way that I tempt him to do movements he does not want to do. E.g. I provoke him to attack at a certain point, thus I know where he attacks and I can let his strength fall into the emptiness. By tempting the opponent I can get very early control of the situation. Acting early makes actions effortless and natural. This is in the end the great ideal of Chinese philosophy, especially found in Laozi.

Lead into the emptiness: In Chinese one finds one more word: yinjin (we had before: leading/guiding) - luokong (which has in addition the word luo).

Luo means ‘falling’ and kong means ‘space’ or ‘emptiness’.

Luo means ‘falling’, but often the feeling of the word luo is very passive like in luoye - the leaves are falling. They are not dropped, but they fall on their own.

So yinjin luokong is not just ‘Lead into the emptiness’, but:

I am leading/tempting the opponent in such a way, that he falls on his own or by his own action/aggression into the emptiness.

So the full translation could be:

I am leading/tempting the opponent in such a way, that he falls on his own/or by his own action/aggression into the emptiness, then I strike back.

Isn't this great - no wonder they called the art Tai Chi Chuan, the martial art of the supreme ultimate.

Mittwoch, 21. Oktober 2009

Book: The Importance of Living

Lin Yutang: The Importance of Living

Lin Yutang explains 1930 the Chinese Thinking to the Westerners.
An absolut must for everybody.

I love the subtitle: The Noble Art of Leaving Things Undone

Here one can read it online: The Importance of Living

Montag, 5. Oktober 2009

Link: Philosophy Text

Here one can find the Text of Master Hwa: Philosophy of Tai Chi

Freitag, 2. Oktober 2009

Article: Taijiquan – Intelligence in Motion

By Arno Matthias

Students of Taijiquan begin by learning the Slow Form. Although made up of a sequence of martial arts movements, Ma Jiangbao insists that one should not think about the applications while running the Form (we do pushhands to learn applications). On the other hand, since all the movements have been tried and tested in combat over hundreds of years, they have been shaped by the laws of physics and physiology.

During training one can experience some of these universal laws and become conscious of them and carry these insights over into everyday life. A few examples are discussed in this article.

Little extras
As we all know, doing more than is necessary is the most common mistake when practising the Form. For example, after completion of Yu Bei Shi (’Preparation’, the first movement of the Form) students often not only hold their hands horizontally, but raise their shoulders or pull their elbows back or to the side. When only a turn of the waist is called for, students also move their arms (Shuang Bian = ‘Double whip’, the first of the preliminary exercises, Lan Que Wei = ‘Outline the sparrow’s tail’, etc.). At home and at work (e.g. when using a computer) we frown, raise our shoulders, grit our teeth and so forth. All of this is extra work that is not only unnecessary but can even be harmful.

Too much of a good thing
Standing really low, in Xu Bu (‘Empty step’) for example, is good, but not so low that the knees are no longer parallel. In some positions we have to make a fist - but not clench it. In some movements (e.g. Shuang Bian, Bai He Liang Chi = ‘The white crane spreads its wings’ ) we have to turn the waist – but not to the point of twisting the knees. While driving a car we will sometimes catch ourselves pushing the brakes really hard – although the car is no longer moving, or clenching the steering wheel far more than necessary. More abstract examples of the same idea are over-protective parents, or the extra lump of sugar that spoils the tea. During sparring (push hands) the partner will immediately take advantage of this mistake, for ”vis consili expers mole ruit sua“ (Horace: usually translated as “Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.”)

Showing respect for gravity
How easily do we forget that gravity is pulling at us every second of our lives and always in the same direction (down). To avoid damage to bones, muscles and nerves we should at all times keep our centre of gravity within our “bearing area” (if one is standing, this is the area between the feet). Every single movement or position of the Form could serve as an example, but it is especially important to hold the head right. The head is supported at a point behind its own centre of gravity, which is bad enough as it is, and it is therefore essential never to stick out the chin out or tilt the head back even slightly!
Respect for gravity can and should of course be extended to all the immutable laws that govern us. A lot of grief is generated by fighting the unwinnable fight, by hoping, wishing, condemning, regretting.
William Faulkner defined intelligence as ”the ability to accept environment“. The same idea was expressed by Cicero: "Legum servi sumus, ut liberi esse possimus" (“We have to be slaves of the laws so that we can be free”) and also by Mr. Scott from Star Trek: “You cannae change the laws of physics.”

Optimal alignment of the bone structure
Quite often not falling over (i.e. balancing your own weight) is not your only task. When gardening, trying to open a heavy door, or lifting heavy things or doing other work we should always make use of the hardness of our bones. When you do Lou Xi Ao Bu (‘Brush knee’), Dao Nian Hou (‘Step back and repulse monkey’) and other movements correctly, you extend your body between the floor (back foot) and the imaginary opponent (front hand) so that all the involved joints are perfectly aligned. This enables you to make use of all the muscles along the way (especially the knee extensors: the powerful muscles that stretch the leg) and to channel their power towards the point of impact. Carry loads as close as possible to your body. If you bend down to pick something up, bend one knee and rest your weight on it. A good model for this principle is a folding rule: if you wanted to push someone with it, all its joints had to be in line. Dan Bian (‘Single whip’) is only one example that, in the Form, hands and feet are connected at all times. In the position at the end of Ti Shou Shang Shi (‘Raise the hand and step up’, just before Bai He Liang Chi) there is only one correct position for the upper hand. You can find the right place by having a partner push heavily down on your hand: the smallest deviation up or down, left or right, back or forth will result in a collapse of the posture’s structure. If you feel that you are standing under the pressure with your whole body (and not just your feeble arm or torso muscles) you have found it.

Finish together
Only forces that are active at the same time, add up. If you want to push someone but do it by first stretching the back leg, then turning the body, then stretching the arm, only this last force (of the weak triceps) will reach the opponent and have an effect. A collaboration and hence addition of forces can only be obtained with the correct timing: hands start, the torso joins in, the legs join in and, most important, they finish together. In the Form no part of the body moves in isolation, there are only whole-body movements, or, since the movements are planned and supervised by the mind, whole-person movements.
In realistic self-defence, where the attacker has chosen me as a victim because he is stronger, all my single forces may be too weak: my muscles alone, my voice alone, my stamina, courage, technique, wit, knowledge, willpower alone will not save me; only if I can ‘ignite’ them all at the same time (to achieve this, I use the power of my imagination) can I scare him away.

Do the right thing
In Japan the term ma-ai, meaning harmonious or “right” distance, is very important in all social affairs. In Karate it denotes the distance between the two sparring partners/opponents. The first turn to the right (between Tai Ji Qi Shi = ‘Tai chi beginning form’ and Lan Que Wei) as well as the first 90º turn to the left (Lou Xi Ao Bu) teaches us to extend the front arm not by moving the hand away from the shoulder but vice versa. No matter how strong or unbudging my counterpart is, I can always adjust ma-ai by moving myself.
An example from Aikido self-defence: The attacker grabs my wrists from behind. I take a step back until my arms are at my sides. My opponent, even if he is much stronger than me, cannot prevent this, whereas I wouldn’t be able to pull him nearer to me. Now I can lean my body-weight on his hands (not only respecting gravity, but using it) by going down on my knees (keep your arms straight!) and he has to let go. Another example from Ju Jutsu self-defence: The attacker, standing in front of me, grabs my arm with both hands. I leave the grip as it is, walk around it and apply an elbow or head lock or any other counterattack.
More generally, one could say that you should not limit yourself to reacting to the actions of others but that you can and should do the right thing. This idea was made famous by Gandhi, who fought for the freedom of India, never against the British occupation (he called it ”satyagraha“ – the power of truth). It is very important to understand this distinction.

Keep on keeping on
Tai Chi is beneficial only when you do it, not just when you know how to do it. Many students, being typical Europeans, come to class wishing “to learn Taijiquan". Fortunately, the slow form has the wisdom to be so complicated and full of detail that one lifetime is not enough to ”learn it“. If there was a wonder pill that could make you know every movement of every form of every style, you would gain nothing – you would still have to get up and do it. The term Gong Fu (formerly known as Kung Fu), which translates as “work and time”, is often used to express the same idea Virgil wrote down more than 2000 years ago: “labor vincit omnia improbus” – effort overcomes every difficulty.

Text: Silent Nobility

Hi All,

I would like to add something. Here is a writing I thought you might appreciate: 'Silent Nobility' by philosopher Prof. Pascal Mercier :

"It is a mistake to believe that the decisive moments of a life when its direction changes forever must be marked by sentimental loud and shrill dramatics, manifested by violent inner surges. This is a sentimental fairy tale invented by drunken journalists, flashbulb happy film-makers and readers of the tabloids.

In truth the dramatic moments of a life-determining experience are often unbelievably low-key. It has so little in common with the bang, the flash or the volcanic eruption that, at the moment it happens, the experience is often not even noticed.

When it unfolds it's revolutionary effect and ensures that a life is revealed in a brand new light with a brand new melody,it does that silently and in this wonderful silence resides its special nobility."

In a way it also reminded me of our motto 'You change, I change', but silently (the 25% effort rule for the deep stabilisers).

Hope you enjoyed


André Oelofse, Body Technology

Freitag, 18. September 2009

Article: Why, in Tai Chi Chuan, "to feel" is called "to listen"

From Martin Bödicker

Whenever I remember a lesson of Pushhands with Ma Jiangbao, I think first of his saying: "You have to have a good sensitivity of feeling". The Taichi technical term which fits this requirement is called ting or tingjin. In a literal translation one would have to speak of "to listen" or of a "listening jin-power". But why does one call "feeling" in Tai Chi Chuan "listening (ting)"?

To explain this there have been many speculations in the secondary literature, for example that feeling in Tai Chi Chuan must have the same passive quality as listening and therefore one does not speak of feeling but of listening. This explanation may be clear, but I think it is not sufficient. Inspired by the Chinese strategic thinking and a text of Wu Gongzao (the uncle of Ma Jiangbao) I would like to present here a further possible explanation.

The classical Chinese strategic thinking has many graphic technical terms. Thus the aggressor is called guest (ke) and the defender host (zhu). The guest comes to the host, i.e. the aggressor marches into the territory of the defender. If the defender is unclear about the situation of the aggressor, he will try to clarify it. Therefore he will "ask (wen)" the aggressor, e.g. he will implement a small, simulated attack. As a stratagem this is formulated as follows: "Throw a stone into the dark, to ask for the way (Tou shi wen lu)." The aggressor will now answer and in this way reveal information about himself.

From the above, one can now draw the following picture of a defence situation in the language of the strategists: A host sits at home and expects the guest. As the guest appears, the host asks him about his situation and waits for an answer. One finds this "asking" also in Taichi theory. But asking is here not sufficient, one must also listen (ting) to the other person. This connection can be found in the text "Questions and answers (Wenda)" from Wu Gongzao:

"I have questions, the opponent has answers. One question - one answer. This creates stillness and movement. If there is stillness and movement, full and empty can be differentiated clearly. In Pushhands one uses the intent (yi) to explore and the jin-power to ask. While I wait for his answer, I already listen (ting) his full and empty. If one asks, but one gets no answer, one can advance and strike. If one gets an answer, one must listen (ting) immediately to the differences in stillness and movement and to the orientation of advancing and retreating. So one can differentiate from the outset his full and empty."

"Listening (ting)" is thus a substantial link between guest and host, aggressor and defender. In the case of the Pushhands, "listening" becomes "feeling", which gives one the possibility to check the intention of the aggressor. Of course, in Tai Chi Chuan one still says ting or tingjin to maintain the technical context.

Donnerstag, 17. September 2009

Two Interesting Links

Hi All,

I found two intersting links:

Here one can download and issue of a promising martial arts journal:

And here a clip with some background information to Wu Tai Chi Chuan:

All the best


Freitag, 22. Mai 2009

Text: Should Martial Artists Read Philosophy

I saw yesterday a great film: The Twilight Samurai

There was a dialogue. The Samurai asked his little daughter to learn the Confucius.

So she asked: "If I learn to do needlework, some day I can make kimonos. But what good will book learning ever do to me?"

Samurai: "Well, it probably won't ever be as useful as needlework. But you know ... Book learning gives you power. The power to think. However the world might change, if you have the power to think, you'll always survive somehow. That's true for boys and girls."

One can not express my feelings abouth the question if martial artists should read philosophy better. Practical development alone is not enough. Times can change and one might have to adapt.

In Tai Chi Chuan we are looking constantly for the change and the ability to change relies on the dongjin, the ability to understand. This enables one to follow the other and finally to overcome him.

Thus Tai Chi Chuan teaches us to win through observing and reflecting. Combined with philosophy this can be the tool to react to any changes and challenges in one's personal life. As the Tai Chi Chuan Classics are teaching:

Know yourself and know the other -
stand like a perfectly balanced scale -
move like a turning wheel -
and be free to follow your heart's desires.

Wish you all the best


Mittwoch, 20. Mai 2009

The Special of Taijiquan

From Ma Yueliang and Chen Zhenming
From the Book The Taijiquan of the Wu Jianquan (1934)

In explaining Taijiquan there are different opinions.

Some say: "Taijiquan is both a method and theory of self cultivation, and an exercise with which one finds stillness in movements. This is known as following the combining of yin and yang which corresponds again to taiji. Taijiquan means to follow a method and theory of boxing which always gathering internally and externally shows no form, like the inseparable yin yang of the taiji."

Others say: "Taijiquan has this name, because each movement orients itself in circles and resembles the taiji diagram. Therefore it is called Taiji."

Both explanations are well-founded.

Particularly the last explanation is completely sufficient. The movements of Taijiquan differ from the complete hardness of Shaolinquan, because their principles are emptiness (xu), stillness (jing) and naturalness (ziran) and in Taijiquan one wins by softness (rou). The following presents an analysis of these qualities.

1) Being empty (xu)
The emptiness of Taijiquan does not have the meaning of nullity, but of insubstantial. The emptiness forms the mental. The mental forms the humanspirit (shen). The spirit is the ruler of the body and is fulfilled of qi. Naturalness (ziran) in the motion leads to lightness and skilfulness.

2) Being still (jing)
In the exercise of Shaolinquan, one must be extreme in the use of great strength. That is not suited to most people. One will again and again be out of breath and at the end one will be completely exhausted. Taijiquan is not like that. With its three aspects of the body, the heart/consciousness (xin) and the intent (yi) it tries to find power in stillness. The more slowly the better. The breath is long and the qi sinks to the dantian. This is an expression of the stillness of the body. When practicing everything must be connected. Whether applied to the eyes, hands, waist or feet, this has to be true from head to foot. No parts should be seperate. This is the expression of the stillness of the heart/consciousness (xin). Use the intent (yi) and not external strength. If there is a movement, also the intent (yi) is immediately there. That is the expression of the stillness of the intent (yi).

3) Being natural (ziran)
The movements of Taijiquan are simply completely natural, like the jin-power reaches up to the top of the head, enlarge the chest downward and lift the upper back, relax the waist and drop the buttocks, sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. These are all physical aspects. They correspond to our natural behaviour.

4) Being soft (rou)
When practicing Taijiquan it is most important to avoid the use of strength. It is of fundamental importance that the whole body is relaxed. The qi and the blood are connected. Natural practicing leads in the long term to internal jin-power. The internal jin-power is very soft. If one meets the opponent, one answers with resistance by following flexibly the strength of the opponent. Thus one finds in softness the character of hardness. In the classical texts it is stated: "Highest softness leads to highest hardness."

Sonntag, 3. Mai 2009

Article: Ten Important Points when Practising Tai Chi Chuan

From Ma Hailong, President of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai
Translated by Dr. Martin Boedicker, edited by Kit Gerould

Vitality (jingshen) is an important aspect in the training of Tai Chi Chuan. To improve vitality, one should concentrate during training on ten points:

1. To be centred
The centre is the place which does not moving while one is opening and closing, stretching and bending. When practising Tai Chi Chuan one must keep the idea of being centred in the whole body. Here are two aspects to consider:

- The body posture
In the classic The Song of the Thirteen Basic Movements it is stated: "The coccyx is centred and aligned and the spirit (shen) reaches to the top of the head." Here the back serves as a support and in this way one keeps the centre and is aligned. Following the idea of being hung up from the top of the head the lower jaw is lowered a bit. Thus respiration is easy and flowing, and if one breathes fully into the belly and the chest, heart/consciousness (xin) and qi are centred and harmonious.

- The central equilibrium
The central equilibrium is maintained not only while in a fixed posture, but also in movements, i.e. in the five kinds of steps. Whether one advances, retreats, looks to the left or right, one should always keep the central equilibrium and does not make the mistake of leaning to the side, forward or backward.

2. To be aligned
In every posture one should try one’s best to be absolutely aligned. One should avoid standing bent or twisted. In every movement one must be always stable. One should not lean forwards or backwards. If the centre is stable, one can easily open and close. Otherwise one makes the mistake that "full (shi) and empty (xu) are not clearly differentiated".

3. Firmness
Firmness is related to stillness without movement. One must strive for a firm mind. In the book of The Great Learning (Daxue) it is stated: "If one knows where one has to go, one is firm." This means that one is firm, if one recognizes, what your aim is. An expression of the firmness is: "Heart/consciousness (xin) and qi are clear and harmonious. The vitality penetrates everything." This is one of the roots of Daoism. When practising Tai Chi Chuan, vitality must be protected through clarity, peace and non action (wuwei). It should not be impaired by the outside world. In the Noted Discussions of Shen Hui (Shen Hui Yulu) firmness is explained in the following way: "As soon as one is firm, one has also insight. As soon as one has insight, one is also firm."

4. Gentleness
Gentleness means to avoid absolutely being directed by hardness. One tries to unfold the movements evenly and with ease through naturalness (ziran), without the feeling of stiffness or stagnation.

5. Stillness
Stillness means that one has to strive to concentrate fully on vitality. There are very many explanations in Chinese philosophy of the term stillness. In the book The Great Learning (Daxue) it is stated: "If one knows where one has to go, one is firm. If one has firmness, then one becomes still. If one has stillness, one is peaceful." In the Daodejing of Laozi it is stated: "Achieve the extreme emptiness (xu). Keep the complete stillness. The ten thousand things (wanwu) will prosper. I can see their return." In Buddhism it is stated: "If the spirit is clear and calm, stillnesss bring insight and the insight produces wisdom." In the thoughts of classical Chinese philosophy, stillness is a high ideal. Whatever school one follows, one must achieve this important stage. When practising Tai Chi Chuan one speaks of three ideals of stillness:

- The stillness of the body
The stillness of the body is of great importance. It leads to calm and deep respiration. That is also what is meant if one says: "The qi sinks into the dantian". In Chinese thinking, three kinds of dantian are differentiated. The lower dantian is in the area below the navel. The middle dantian is within the chest area and the upper dantian is between the brows. With stillness in the body, qi and thus the breath can naturally (ziran) sink into the dantian. This idea is also incorporated in the concept of vitality.

- The stillness of heart/consciousness (xin)
In old China the heart/consciousness (xin) is closely connected with vitality. The movements in Tai Chi Chuan are filled with lightness and agility. This is an expression of the concentration of vitality and a result of the stillness of the heart/consciousness (xin).

- The stillness of the spirit
The stillness of the spirit refers to the natural (ziran) relaxation of the body. This is the advanced stage of acting through non-action (wuwei) and it is very difficult to reach. One must practise hard for a long time, and the deepest insight is needed.

6. Lightness and agility
Lightness is the opposite of heaviness. This is an important characteristic of the martial art Tai Chi Chuan. Lightness can be also understood as softness. In the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Basic Movements it is stated: "Extreme softness leads to extreme hardness." Further, the movements are shaped by agility. All movements are co-ordinated. In Chinese, agility can also be understood as sensitivity. Therefore, if one is light and agile one can relax and sink. In the partner exercises one can thereby control by sticking and adhering, which makes it possible to follow and connect without losing or resisting. However, in no case do lightness and agility carry the meaning of carelessness. One does not use explosively breaking out strength, because this could cause the error of double weighting. Carelessness and double weighting are two big errors when practising Tai Chi Chuan, and must be avoided at all times. In the case of fist and hand punches, as well as the kicks, one stretches the limbs, but never pushes through completely or makes them hard. Thus it is also stated: "The power appears to be relaxed, but is not relaxed. The power is ready to open, but it does not open."

7. To be connected
In Tai Chi Chuan all movements are connected. The connection of the movements must be perfect and without error. An important point thereby is the slowness. The search for slowness and being connected is an ambitious goal in Tai Chi Chuan: "The long boxing flows continuously like a long river and the sea."

8. Roundness and aliveness
While exercising Tai Chi Chuan one makes round movements with hands and legs. In the steps one moves in circular arcs. One should not to go straight forward or back. Aliveness has the meaning of agility. Here there are three aspects to be discussed: - The movements have to be completely round. Nothing stands out, collapses or is interrupted. Everything must be merged into a harmonious whole. - Agility and not holding are of great importance. Stretch and bend, open and close, advance and retreat, look up and down – all these happen freely and unhindered. - Roundness develops around the waist as the axle. The turnings become thereby agile and arms and legs have space to move. This is completely like the relationship between a wheel and its axle. This relationship should not be broken, because otherwise the movements fall into disorder.

9. Conscientiousness
Conscientiousness has two important aspects:

- The first aspect of conscientiousness is seriousness. One strives very seriously for real and deep ability. Under no circumstances may one take things easy. For all movements, everyone must be precise and without errors. It is also said: "If one concentrates completely on one point, then one strengthens everything."

- The second aspect of conscientiousness is to fathom something deeply. An old proverb says: "As cut, as filed, as carved, as polished." To fathom something one needs practice and deep thinking. That this is also a pleasure explains Confucius in the Analects: "To learn and to repeat the learned within times, is this is not also a pleasure?"

10. Perseverance
Perseverance has also two aspects:

- The first aspect is persistence. Whether in cold weather or oppressive heat, one should not interrupt the training. Thus it means also: "One practises also in the hottest summer time and in the coldest winter days.”

- In its second aspect, perseverance refers to a certain training time. One can increase one’s own efforts gradually, starting at whatever stage or condition one is in. It is important not be too hasty. The time spent on training and the amount of basic work could be, for example, 45 - 60 minutes. This should contain hard basic work. Only this makes it possible to achieve a high level of ability.

Donnerstag, 12. Februar 2009

Link: Inner Training

After reading the "Written Tradition of Taijquan" people wrote me, that they are interested in the "Inner Training (neiye)", which looks so much like a Taijiquan classic. There is an introduction and some important parts in our book "The Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan" or a bit more here:

Inner Training


Montag, 2. Februar 2009

Article: About the Written Tradition of Taijiquan

Freya and Martin Boedicker

Today Taijiquan is practiced both as a self-cultivation and health technique, as well as a martial art. Quite often this results in the discussion about which of these two fields should be emphasized. Interestingly this issue is already commented in classical texts of Taijiquan. Thus, e.g. in the Explanation of the Three Achievements of the Cultural (wen) and the Martial (wu) of Taijiquan:

The cultural (wen) is cultivated internally and the martial (wu) externally. (...)
Those who practice the method of cultivation equally internally and externally,
will gain great achievement. This is the higher path.
Those, who gain the martial of fighting through the cultural of physical education,
or those who gain the cultural of physical education through the martial of fighting are on the middle path.
Those who know only physical education without ever fighting or those who wants only to fight without physical education are on the lower path.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 3, p. 9)

This statement is precise and clear. There are different paths to practice Taijiquan and one has to choose, which one to follow. As this example shows, the classic texts of Taijiquan are an important guide for one own's training. Ma Yueliang writes on the importance of the classical texts:

"Classic documents written by the ancient masters of Taijiquan are based on their experiences and those of their predecessors. The treaties are terse, concise and contain important meaning in every word, and beginners should study them thoroughly and always keep them in mind. Continual practicing will help them to apprehend the true meanings. The classic stresses the importance of the idea that 'if you don't seek to go in this direction, it will be a shear waste of effort, and that would be such a pity!'" (Ma, Zee, p. 26)

Among the classical texts of Taijiquan, also briefly called the Classics, are the Five Core Classics which were published 1912 by Guan Baiyi:

- The Taijiquan Classic
- The Taijiquan Treatise
- The Mental Elucidation of the 13 Basic Movements
- The Song of the 13 Basic Movements
- The Song of Striking Hands

The authorship of the Five Core Classics is still controversial. Following the spreading of Taijiquan, more and more Classics and commentaries to them of various Taijiquan schools were published. For a deeper understanding of the Classics it should be considered that although Taijiquan is called an Daoist exercise the Classics itself are based on different Chinese schools of thought. This is exemplified in the following.

The cultural (wen)

If the cultural (wen) is a substantial claim in Taijiquan, it must be assumed that the associated intellectual background is supported by Chinese philosophy. Even the name Taijiquan itself refers to a philosophical concept, the concept of taiji. It is mentioned for the first time in the Great Appendix of the Book of Changes (Yijing), where it is stated:

"In the change is taiji, which generates the two forms [yin and yang]."
(Boedicker, p. 6)

Further more, the Book of Changes appears in many aspects as a significant influence on Taijiquan.

In addition to such independent philosophical texts the great philosophical schools clearly marked the written tradition of Taijiquan. The most important philosophical schools in China are the sanjiao, the three teachings: Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. The Daoist influence should be the strongest in the Classics, but unfortunately it is not that easy to show it. Examining e.g. the book Laozi, one will have difficulty to find direct citations between the Laozi and the Classics. Technical key terms, such as dao, de and wuwei are virtually impossible to find. A reference to yin and yang is not enough, since this pair is of great importance in many Chinese schools of thought. Yet surely no one would deny Daoist influence in Taijiquan. It is therefore rather a conceptual orientation - e.g. the preference of the soft. As it says in the Laozi Chapter 78:

The weak overcomes the strong.
The soft overcomes the hard.
This is known by everyone,
but none practices it.
(Boedicker, p. 23)

A different formulation, but the same concept can be found in the Taijiquan Classic:

The other is hard,
I am soft,
this is called going along with (zou).
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2, p. 8)

Further on one can find important clues how to train body and mind. In the Daoist text Inner Training it is stated:

When the body is not aligned,
the inner power (de) cannot develop.
When one is not still inside,
the heart-mind (xin) cannot be well ordered.
Align the body and pay attention to the inner power (de).
Thus one will gradually attain it.
(Boedicker, p. 52)

This text reminds us of important points in the Classics, such as in the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Basic Movements:

If the life force can be lifted,
one is free from worries about heaviness or clumsiness.
This is also called: Suspending the head-top. [...]
The spirit is still and the body is quiet,
always keep this in the heart/mind (xin).
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 4, p. 4)

Thus the written tradition of Taijiquan follows Daoist concepts, but direct quotations of whole sentences can be found in the Classics more in relation to Confucianism. This is not surprising when you consider that we only know about a few Taijiquan masters that they were Daoist hermits. More masters are found in the ruling elite of the country. This also means that they often completed a career as a Confucian official. In China it is said that such people had the ideal to be Confucians in their career and to be Daoist in their leisure time. The writer Lin Yutang called this ideal the "half-and-half-belief." He commented that this "half and half" is "... lying somewhere between action and inaction, between being led by the nose into a world of futile busy-ness and complete flight from a live of responsibilities, and that so far as we can discover with the help of all the philosophies of the world, this is the sanest and happiest ideal for man's live on earth. What is still more important, the mixture of these two different outlooks makes a harmonious personality possible, that harmonious personality which is the acknowledge aim of all culture and education. And significantly, out of this harmonious personality, we see a joy and love of life." (Lin, p. 114)

One of the key concepts of Confucianism is the love for learning. It is defined as a desire fulfilled only by an enduring process. As it is stated in the book Confucius:

To learn
and to repeat from time to time
what has been learned,
is this not a pleasure?"
(Confucius 1, 1, Boedicker, p. 10)

Taijiquan has without doubt absorbed this bequest. Is it not said in the Song of the 13 Basic Movements:

The passing on of basic knowledge
and the guidance to the way
need to happen orally.
Ceaseless practice (gongfu)
is the method of self-cultivation.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2, p. 7)

But not only abstract concepts of Confucianism are found in the Classics. Even Confucian technical terms such as the inner nature xing, including an embedded quote from the book Confucius can be found. Confucius:

By nature we are close to each other,
by habits, we are moving away from each other.
(Confucius 17, 2)

In the classic Our Natural Power of Discrimination:

After we are born, the eyes can see,
the ears can hear, the nose can smell and the mouth can eat.
Colours, sounds, smells and tastes,
these five belong to the innate sensory endowment.
The movements of hands and feet and the skills of the four limbs
belong to the innate endowment of the natural movement.
Even if you consider this,
is it not that by nature we are close to each other,
but by habits we are moving away from each other?
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 5, p . 6)

Of particular importance in the Classics is the Neoconfucian philosophy of the Song period (960 - 1279 AD). It gave Taijiquan its cosmology. The first Neoconfucian Zhou Dunyi said:

Wuji and then taiji.
In movement taiji creates yang.
When the movement has reached its limit there is stillness.
When still, taiji creates yin.
When stillness has reached its limits, there is a return to movement.
Movement and stillness alternate.
Each is the root of the other.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 1, p. 12)

In the Taijiquan Classic it is stated:

Taiji is born out of wuji.
It is the origin of movement and stillness
and the mother of yin and yang.
In movement, it separates;
in stillness, it unites.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2, p. 8)

Thus, in the Classics Confucian influence is significantly visible. But what about Buddhism? That Buddhism was not entirely without influence on the development of Taijiquan can been seen e.g. in a name of the Chen-Style Taijiquan form: "Buddha's warrior pounds mortar". Otherwise, in martial arts Buddhism, represented by Shaolin Kungfu, is rather considered as a counterpart to Taijiquan. After all Taijiquan tried to get a unique position in the world of martial arts. As it said in the Taijiquan Classic:

There are many different kinds of martial arts schools.
The movements might differ,
but in general the following is shared:
The strong oppressing the weak,
slowness resigning in the light of fastness.
The one with power defeats the one without.
The slow hand surrenders to the fast hand.
All of these are indeed inherent natural abilities,
which are not associated with study and practice.
The sentence 'With the use of four ounces
one can easily deflect a thousand pounds',
shows that one should win without the use of force.
Behold, an old man beats away several enemies.
How can this be by fastness?'
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2, p. 8)

Also, there was extensive exchange between the masters of Taijiquan and other martial arts schools. It is known from many Taijiquan masters to have learned other martial arts. Thus Taijiquan developed always in competition and in exchange with other martial arts.

The martial (wu)

The roots of the Classics lie not only in Chinese philosophy. A large number of Taijiquan masters were instructors in the Chinese military. This also coined their language. Thus, e.g. in the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Basic Movements it is stated:

The heart/mind (xin) is the commander,
the qi is the flag
and the waist is the banner.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 4, p. 4)

Being part of the Chinese military Taijiquan masters certainly came in contact with the writings of strategists. The most famous one among them is Sunzi with his book the Art of War (Sunzi Bingfa), but there are still numerous other authors. The influence of the strategic literature expresses itself in the form of analogue thoughts. Thus, e.g. at Tai Gong:

In planning nothing is more important
than not being knowable.
(Sawyer, p. 69)

And in the Taijiquan Classic:

The other does not know me,
I alone know the other.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2, p. 8)

The technical terms for the description of strategic matters come directly from the literature of strategists. Thus one speaks e.g. both among the strategists and in Taijiquan of the strategic advantage (shi). Sunzi:

That the velocity of cascading water
can send boulders bobbing about
is due to its strategic advantage (shi).
That a bird of prey
when it strikes
can smash its victim to pieces
is due to its timing.
So it is with the expert at battle
that his strategic advantage (shi) is channelled
and his timing is precise.
(Ames, p. 120)

The Taijiquan Treatise states:

In advancing and retreating,
one can gain the opportunity
and the strategic advantage (shi).
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 3, p. 4)

Even the concept of full (shi) and empty (xu) are found in both texts. Sunzi:

On the way to victory
avoid the full and attack the emptiness.
(Ames, p. 124)

The Taijiquan Treatise:
Empty and Full have to be clearly distinguished.
Each point has its empty and full aspect.
Everywhere there is always empty and full.
(Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 3, p. 4)

In addition to contact with the military, other martial arts had influence on Taijiquan. Thus, e.g. the founding myth of Taijiquan is also found in other internal martial arts. In a text on the internal martial arts master Wang Chennan, who had no contact to Taijiquan, it is stated:

"Shaolin is famous for its boxers. However, its techniques are chiefly offensive, which creates opportunities for an opponent to exploit. Now there is school that is called 'internal' which overcomes movement with stillness. Attackers are effortless repulsed. Thus we distinguish Shaolin as 'external'. The Internal School was founded by Zhang Sanfeng of the Song dynasty. Zhang Sanfeng was a Daoist alchemist of the Wudang Mountains. He was summoned by Emperor Hui Zong of the Song, but the road was impassable. That night he dreamt that the God of War transmitted the art of boxing to him and the following morning single-handedly killed over a hundred bandits." (Wile, p. 53)

In the Taijiquan Classic it is stated: "This is taken from the work of the teacher Zhang Sanfeng of the Wudang Mountain, who wants the heroes of this world to use it to prolong their lives and not only for martial arts." (Taijiquan-Lilun Issue 2, p. 9)

Overall, one has to say that the masters of Taijiquan in developing their art used ideas from various origins and they have certainly tried to collect the best material for this purpose. Through the study of the Classics everyone can see a successful outcome.

Copyright Boedicker GbR 2009

Ames Roger, Sun-tzu: The Art of War, Ballantine Books, New York 1993
Boedicker, Freya and Martin, The Philsophy of Tai Chi Chuan, Blue Snake Books, Berkley, California, 2009
Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, Quill, New York
Ma Yueliang, Xu Wen, Wushi Taijiquan Tuishou, Xianggang Shanghai Shuju Chuban, Hongkong 1986
Sawyer D. Ralph, The Seven military classics of ancient China, Westview Press, Colorado 1993
Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 1 (in English), Forum for trad. Wu Tai Chi Chuan, Düsseldorf 2003
Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 2 (in English), Forum for trad. Wu Tai Chi Chuan, Düsseldorf 2003
Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 3 (in German), Forum for trad. Wu Tai Chi Chuan, Düsseldorf 2003
Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 4 (in German), Forum for trad. Wu Tai Chi Chuan, Düsseldorf 2003
Taijiquan-Lilun Journal 5 (in German), Forum for trad. Wu Tai Chi Chuan, Düsseldorf 2004
Wile Douglas, T´ai Chi´s Ancesters, Sweet Ch´i Press, New York 1999

Dienstag, 27. Januar 2009

Article: The Importance of the Classical Theory

From Ma Hailong (son of Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang)
From the Magazin of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai Journal 85-86, 25.2.2001, p. 3

Taijiquan is a part of the traditional martial arts of our country and expresses a special branch of gongfu. It's attraction lies in the very subtle effect on human vitality, by which one can reach the highest level of self cultivation and nurturing our inner nature. From the time of outset of Taijiquan until today the masters have worked to improve and perfect it, completing it's form and increasing its depth, without which it would have become an outdated martial art. Naturally there are unique principles connected to it.

Perfect Taijiquan requires not only the finest ability, but also a deep and thorough understanding of its theory. Thus the perfect system of Taijiquan becomes visible. But it does not stop here. There are a great number of classical texts connected to the theory of Taijiquan, like the "Taijiquan Classic", the "Taijiquan Treatise", the "Song of the Thirteen Basic Movements" and others. Each one has its own style and describes in each case aspects of the essentials of Taijiquan. Thus one can receive the thoughts of the old masters. I am of the following opinion:

That the theory originates from the lifelong experience of wise masters, written down and complete. It should be an obligation for every student of Taijiquan to read. It is to be regretted, if during learning Taijiquan no great importance is attached to the reading of this classical theory. Possible reasons for this are to be described in the following:

1) Language difficulties
Many people do not have knowledge of the old-Chinese language. So it is very difficult to understand the texts. Therefore deep research and understanding are impossible.

2) Difficult theory
If one has not the instruction of an intelligent teacher, one will experience difficulties in training. It will not be easy to receive explanations from them. This is a problem if one wants to make fast quantitative and qualitative progress.

3) People's circumstances in today's world
People, who practice Taijiquan, are restricted by their circumstances and the spare time they have. Because of this they put training first and thereby neglect the theory/foundation. When practicing Taijiquan one goes through step by step development over a long-term. If one does not have an excellent foundation, one will not be able to structure the thoughts deeply and reach a high level.

I want further say: I think, we must set greater store by learning and investigation of the theory, because it is an important step in building the foundation. In former times the venerable masters, e.g. my father Ma Yueliang, my mother Wu Yinghua, as well as my uncles Wu Gongyi and Wu Gongzao dedicated regular time to the study and investigation of classical theory. They had a large collection of classical texts and were able to interpret most of it. I in comparison select such writings from these texts, that state important things simply - in order to allow everyone access to their contents.

So, a few simple ideas can help to create a fruitful discussion. I hope my article will create an interest in classical theory.

Sonntag, 25. Januar 2009

Link: Tai Chi Classics

The Tai Chi Classics are the backbone of the study of Tai Chi Chuan.
Here are links collect to a great number of Tai Chi Classics.
They may help to get a depper understanding and a better background to the art of Tai Chi Chuan:


A praise of the East Asia scientist Dr. Rainer Landmann on the "Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan"

A praise of the East Asia scientist Dr. Rainer Landmann on the "Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan":

The German version of the "Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan" was issued in 2005:A great step for all people who are interested in Tai Chi Chuan or in Chinese philosophy.
Tai Chi Chuan Teachers are often asked what to read in order to deepen knowledge, to get background information and to become better acquainted with the ideas behind this art.
It is indeed a difficult question, but Martin and Freya Boedicker were able to answer it in a fascinating way by publishing this masterpiece.

Of course Lao Tzu or the I-ching or Sun Tzu´s Art of War are always worth reading, but the question is which translations should be chosen, which parts of the books are important for a deeper understanding of Tai Chi Chuan.
Only a few people spent the time and the patience to gain the necessary knowledge (in theory and practice) , which is needed to be able to study the main works of Chinese philosophy. But Martin and Freya Boedicker did so and were thus able to identify the essential passages related to Tai Chi Chuan. They chose the most important parts of a dozen of classical writings, made new translations, brought them together with a brilliant short history of each work and added an extremely useful glossary.

To summarize briefly:The philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan is a clear must for everyone who is interested in Tai Chi Chuan, Chinese Martial Arts, Chi Kung or in the Chinese way of thinking. And it is absolutely fascinating and great fun reading it.
Dr. Rainer Landmann (Hamburg/Germany)

Samstag, 24. Januar 2009

General links for Chinese Philosophy

Why Chinese is so damn hard

China the Beautiful Classical Chinese Art, Calligraphy, Poetry, History, Literature, Painting and Philosophy

The Internet Sacred Text Archive One of the largest freely available archive of online books about religion, mythology, folklore and philosophy

Chinese Philosphy Page Chinese Classics Chinese Classics in English and Chinese

Chinaknowledge A universal guide for China studies

Chinese Culture Texts This page contains a summary of all the text files available on this Brooklyn College Core 9 Chinese Culture Website, including Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Legalism, history and others

Essential Readings on Chinese Philosophy This list represents one opinion on the essential secondary readings in English on Chinese philosophy.

Chinese Philosophy The learning module "Chinese Philosophy" is designed as a learning module in the form of a research textbook.

Article: Ziran – the Chinese Concept of Naturalness

An essential concept of Taijiquan, whose importance is repeatedly stressed, is naturalness. This concept is often used when referring to the execution of movements. For example, Wu Yinghua says:

“Whether in the form or in pushhands all movements should be natural.”
(Ma, p. 24)

It is also used to stress the naturalness of breathing. In an interview with the journal “Martial Arts”, (p. 8), Ma Yueliang answers the question of whether the study of Taijiquan is associated with any particular technique of breathing:

“No, only breathe naturally.”

Ma Jiangbao expounds that instead of controlling the breath or adjusting the movements to the breathing, one should breathe as usual when learning the form. A deep and full breathing is achieved through regular practice, and “breathing will adjust quite naturally to the movements.” (Ma, p. 53)

However, students of Taijiquan – particularly Western students – react with a mixture of amusement and helplessness when they meet with difficulties in the execution of movements, and are advised to conduct them, “completely naturally”. This is usually attributable to a misunderstanding based on ignorance about the background meaning of the Chinese concept of ziran.

In Taijiquan, ziran is translated as “naturalness”. But ziran is a concept that has both a colloquial and a philosophical meaning. Ziran is a two-character word that consists of the characters zi and ran.

A simple translation would understand the word as a combination of its single components. A dictionary translates the sign zi with “self” and ran with “so”. Combining its single components would thus render ziran:


This is quite a simple translation, and it does indicate the original idea that informs the ziran concept. In an expanded entry in the same dictionary, we find under ziran:

“nature, naturally, by itself, to let something take its [natural] course”.

Ziran can simply be equated with nature, but it also indicates the inner nature of all beings and things, which are self-so.

If one studies the history of Chinese philosophy, one finds the first usage of the concept of ziran in the Laozi, in the Zhuangzi, in the Mohistic Canon, and also in the Xunzi (see also Röllike).

The concept of ziran was developed as an answer to the question, ‘what is dao?’ In the Laozi, verse 25 says:

Human beings follow the law of earth,
earth follows the law of heaven,
heaven follows the law of dao
and dao follows the law of ziran.

Bauer explains:

"The expression ziran literally means “to be so by itself”. It is first used in the Laozi and refers to the structure of Tao, which cannot be referred back to anything else.” (Bauer, p. 202)

Within daoist tradition all of this implied that through retreating back to nature, one could be nearer to the dao. In observing and imitating nature, and through rejecting human culture, one could perfect one’s own character. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD these ideas changed. It was no longer absolutely necessary to search for the dao in nature, but rather one’s own self became the mirror of the dao.

Bauer says that, “it is the sole acknowledgement of the own self in all expressions and activities of life which is the decisive feature of ‘naturalness’ and ‘freedom’ , which can be found in nature and the dao as well as in the ideal/perfected human being.” (Bauer, p. 203)

According to Wu Yinghua the demand for naturalness can be explained by referring to the origin of many movements of Taijiquan in traditional Chinese martial arts. These movements were developed in accordance with human physiology and the laws of nature. In Taijiquan one says:

Shen xin ziran – the body and the heart-mind are natural.

Through calmness of movement and stillness in the heart-mind (xin) practitioners of Taijiquan shall find and cherish their naturalness. This form of naturalness refers to body and mind and is not assumed to be automatically there, but needs to be worked for and maintained in a continuous process. This becomes apparent when Ma Jiangbao (Ma, p. 53) says about the practice of breathing in Taijiquan:

“Although breathing should not be consciously directed, the correct breathing can only be achieved if the body’s posture is correct: upright position of the head, upright coccyx, upright back, lowered shoulders, elbows and pelvic hips.”

These are the very preconditions, which for most people are not given as matter-of-fact, but need to be achieved and sustained through regular Taijiquan practice.

· Bauer Wolfgang, China und die Hoffnung auf Glück, DTV,
Munich1989 (China and the Hope for Happiness).
· Das neue chinesisch-deutsche Wörterbuch,
The Commercial Press, Kong Kong 1989
(The New Chinese-German Dictionary).
· Ma Jiangbao, Tai Chi Chuan, Mach: Art, Ratingen 1998.
· Martial Arts, Heft No. 8, Martial Arts Verlag,
Stelle-Wittenwurth 1986.
· Rollike Hermann-Josef, Der Ursprung des Ziran-Gedankens
in der chinesischen Philosophie des 4. und 3. Jh. v. Chr.
Europäiche Hochschulschriften: Reihe 27, Asiatische und
Afrikanische Studien, Bd 51, Heidelberg, 1994.
(The Origin of the Ziran Idea in Chinese Philosophy in the
4th and 3rd Century B.C).

Article: The Flow Experience in Tai Chi Chuan

By Martin Boedicker

Tai Chi Chuan is often described as meditation in motion. With this feature, the simultaneity of physical action and the achievement of a meditative state of awareness, Tai Chi Chuan has become famous. This fusion of inner stillness and outer movement leads to a special feeling. One is in the here and now, highly concentrated. All the worries of everyday life are forgotten and it simply feels good. The own body, breathing and the change of movements are perceived without being focused on it. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi saw this kind of inner experience also in artists at their work. He named this state flow experience and investigated it in further studies.

First results of his study showed that many artists even without the prospect of wealth or fame invested a considerable amount of time and effort into their artistic activity. None of the rewards, which are used in the normal working life to motivate employees (money, recognition) played a role. There was also no external motivation. The artistic act was done for its own sake. The motivation must be found in the characteristics of the activity itself. Thus one speaks of intrinsic motivation.

In his further work Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigated, which inner experience takes place when it is activated by intrinsic motivation and what factors affect the intrinsic motivation. He made a study with 200 people, who spend a lot of time with intrinisic motivated activities, such as playing chess, rock climbing, dancing, basketball and composing. It showed that many participants described their experience as a optimal state, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, as being in a flow. Thus Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called it flow-experience. The flow experience can be described in more detail with the following components:

- The self and the activity become a unit
- One is fully concentrated upon the activity
- The thoughts move completely into the background
- Enhanced perception of your own body and the environment
- There is a sense of control of the current situation

In his further exploration of the flow experience Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found the following conditions for the flow experience necessary:

- Fitting of the skill of the performer and the challenge of the task (not too difficult - not too easy)
- Clear task
- Fast feedback on the activity

I think a flow experience can also often be observed in Tai Chi Chuan. The theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi now gives us hints how to reach the flow experience easier in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Here are a few suggestions:

- Define a clear task before the training, e.g. I try to relax the shoulders.
- Choose forms or movements which fit to my current physical and mental situation.
- When practicing individual movements, I try to get a feeling for the movements and correct them if necessary.

In addition to improving one‘s own practice you can also modify the learning of Tai Chi Chuan in such a way that a flow experience can be experienced. Conditions are here:

- The movements to be learned fit in their level of difficulty to the skills of the student.
- The depth of the correction fits to the skills of the student.
- The correction of a movement must be clearly defined.
- There must be a fast feedback on the exercise by the teacher or by one‘s own feeling

The flow experience in the Tai Chi group is certainly something very special. Is it not often like this: The slower the movements, the greater is the inner experience and the faster the time runs.

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Article: To Help the Seedlings Grow

References to Chinese philosophical classics in Western Taijiquan literature

Freya and Martin Boedickerer

If you look closely at Western Taijiquan literature, you can easily find anecdotes or allusions which even a Western reader can identify as references to Chinese philosophical classics. Here are two examples and their sources:

1) When Zhang Sanfeng was asked by a student about the principles [of Taijiquan], he replied by sticking out his tongue. The student didn´t understand. “Do you see my tongue? ’’ The student replied: “Yes.’’ “Did you see my teeth?’’ The student smiled and said: “You have none anymore!’’ “That´s just it. The tongue is soft and supple, it always was there and will be there. The teeth are hard, they do not last and, in the end, they fall out.’’ (Anders, p. 20 f)

This anecdote is surely inspired by the daoist Huainanzi (from the pre-Christian times), where it is written: “Therefore, a weapon which is too rigid, will burst. A piece wood which is too hard, will break. A piece of leather which is too brittle, will tear. The teeth, harder than the tongue, suffer first damage. Therefore the soft and weak are the trunk of the life. The hard and strong are the students of death.’’ (Boedickerer, p. 77)

2) As a tip for the beginner in Taijiquan you can find the following advice: “Even when you think that Taijiquan has its roots in the philosophy of Asia, you should be careful not to mystify or overemphasise the spiritual aspects. Taijiquan lives through its great naturalness and, as you would not pull a seedling to make it grow faster, you should take time to learn Taijiquan step by step.’’ (Engel, p. 124)

This image of the stalk can also be found in the Confucian book Mencius, where a farmer is blamed for being too impatient. This man “was sad that his grain was not growing and so he was pulling at it. In the evening he came home and said to his family: 'Today I am tired, I have been helping the grain grow.’ His son ran out to the fields to have a look and saw that all plants were already withered.’’ (Men 2A/2, p. 55)

These two examples show how ideas of the Chinese philosophical classics entered into Western Taijiquan literature. The authors were certainly not always conscious of the source. But that is not important, providing that, as in these examples, the meaning remains true to the source.

Anders Frieder, Tai Chi Chuan, Econ, Düsseldorf 1994
Engel Siegbert, Tai Chi, BLV Verlag, Munich 2004
Boedicker, Freya and Martin, The Philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan, Berkley, California 2009