Dienstag, 27. Juli 2010

Article: Before (xian) and After (hou)

Before (xian) and after (hou)

By Wang Pinzheng
Translated by Martin Boedicker

When a calligrapher is writing, his imagination (yi) resides first in his brush. When a painter starts painting a picture, he already has a clear image of it in his mind. This is because they first think about what to do. This is related to the demand in Taijiquan to Lead the qi with the heart/mind (xin). Move the body with qi and Imagination and qi as the rulers – bones and flesh as the servants. In Taijiquan also one emphasises before and after: The ruler gives orders to the subject. This short sentence means that imagination and qi control the movements.

In the book Wu style Taichichuan the first movement is called Preparation (yubeishi). This movement completely embodies the meaning of Imagination and qi control the movement. When performing the preparation you should pay attention to three aspects:

1) The body is upright. Erect head and empty neck (xuling dingjin). Expand the chest downward and lift the upper back (huilin dingjin). The arms hang down naturally (ziran) and the feet are parallel and shoulder width apart. The knees are very slightly bent. In this posture the upper part of the body is relaxed (empty like the heart/mind) and the lower part of the body is strong (full). This is a harmonious body.

2) The mouth is lightly closed. You breathe deeply through the nose. Let the air sink slowly to the dantian (near the navel). After breathing in, you slowly breathe out through the nose. When the chest is expanded downward, the diaphragm can move freely.Thus it creates the movement of breathing in and out. This is harmonious breathing.

3) Both eyes are calm and do not wander around. You free yourself of confused thoughts. The visual focus is kept inside. Other thoughts are dropped. This is a harmonious heart/mind.

After breathing in and out 3-5 times, you reach relaxation (song) without stagnation in the whole body. The breathing is soft and without any interruption. The heart/mind is calm and empty of thoughts. The mind makes the arms stretch out very slowly to a horizontal position and continue by falling back to their original position.The movement of preparation is the beginning of the form. You go on immediately. While you are moving with the outside of your body during the exercise, you are full (shi) inside using your imagination. The breathing is calm. Hard and soft mutually complement each other. The heart/mind is calm, the qi is harmonious and you don´t think about anything. Qi and blood circulate and the whole body is connected. This is what the Classic of Taijiquan (Taijiquanjing) describes as it flows continuously like a long river and the sea.

When you have finished the form, you realize that your mind is clear and the qi refreshed. As mentioned before, if you don´t pay attention to the preparation you will not reach the harmony of the heart/mind. You will practise hastily and it will be difficult to reach a state of relaxation and calmness. The principle ’Lead the qi with the heart/mind. Move the body with qi’ must be followed as our taijiquan ancestors followed it in their training: Essence, qi and mind are concentrated. The dantian is filled with qi, fingers and palms are full of warmth in every movement. This is a sensation like completing an electrical circuit: „When the imagination comes, the qi comes as well and then comes the muscular power (li).“ In this way ability (gongfu) is created.

Obviously, the essential aspects of before and after are also of importance to pushhands. In double hand pushhands you have to control the opponent by using imagination: If he does not move, I do not move. If he moves imperceptibly, I move first. With the vital force (jingshen) it is possible to adapt to the attack of the opponent. When he advances one yard, I admit one yard, not 0.9 or 1.1 yards. This simply means not to resist and not to lose contact. The opponent advances, I retreat. The other one is hard, I am soft. This has to fit exactly and requires the ability to know one’s opponent.

To obtain this ability, the imagination has to precede the movement. You reach it step by step by practice. When practising Taijiquan you usually work with the image Even when one´s own jin-power breaks off, the imagination continues to exist. Every movement of the hands, every step is a defence, neutralizing or sending out jin-power (fajin). This is an example of using imagination in every movement of your practice. It becomes a habit and the ability in pushhands grows with it.

A strategist who wants to achieve a victory has to ’make plans in the headquarters’ before the battle. Before practising Taijiquan you have to eliminate the hundred illnesses and strengthen the body. Afterwards you should use imagination, not muscular power, to control the movements. Then it is easy to reach the qi of early heaven and the goal of longevity.