What exactly is Tai Chi or Taijiquan and how do we know when we are not doing it? Well, in today's essay Sifu Nigel Sutton shares his thoughts on this which are rooted in Daoist philosophy. 

He then explains that even though many think taiji practice must be light, this cannot be at the exclusion of 4 very important principles. Read on and see what they are.

Dr. Mark Wiley
Publisher, Tambuli Media
By Nigel Sutton

In this age of a horde of internet taijiquan "experts" it is common to hear the statement, this or that is not taijiquan. To which my usual response is that since taijiquan is based on the taiji (yin/yang symbol), which is a universal philosophy, that is it encompasses everything, anything that is not taiji must similarly be taiji. This is basic Daoism. Many of these same "experts" will tell you that when pushing hands (they seldom talk about application because that might involve force and therefore be a bit too dirty for the pure art of taijiquan)... your touch must be butterfly/feather/ "very soft thing" light. If not, you are just using force and that is not taijiquan, or so their lament goes.

Well here is some news for you, such "very soft" touching is not taijiquan… unless, wait for it, unless…it contains or allows the ability to put into action four extremely important taijiquan teachings. These four words, all very similar in English, are Stick, Connect, Adhere and Follow. The original four Chinese characters have shades of meaning which convey slight
differences. I remember Master Tan Ching Ngee explaining these to me as follows: 

Zhan – sticks very close so that you can't get it off, or get away from it.

Nian  continuous, can't be cut off or separated.

Tie – lightly adhering, on the surface (shares a connection with zhan).

Sui – follow closely (connected to nian).

Now, for all of these four to be present you have to have a connection to your partner/opponent that allows, facilitates and creates this stickiness, so that he is not able to escape nor move closer without feeling that you are still in control. This necessitates a degree of pressure – you have to be extending your ting jing (tactile sensitivity) beyond the external skin and right to the heart of the other person, ideally right to their center of gravity.

While the skilled exponent is able to do this with the lightest of touches, the truth of the matter is that, as a beginner, the amount of pressure you have to place on your partner is often too great and seldom consistent, but, as you become more skilled you become more consistent and can achieve more with a lighter pressure.

This pressure that you apply to the opponent in order to exercise ting jing and dong jing, is best explained using the analogy of a traditional Chinese set of scales. If you want to weigh something  you first have to place the object to be weighed on the scale. Many taijiquan adepts, with their feather-light touches seem to have mastered the art of weighing objects without even placing them on the scales. 

Now, it seems to me, when meeting, these experts and their followers, with their super-light, gossamer touches, that we are faced with two choices. One, and probably the most honorable, is to walk away and leave them to their taiji "self-gratification." The other, which is much more satisfying but which often smacks of bullying, is to dump them on their backsides, to show them in as graphic manner as possible that what they do does not work – it never has, it never will. This might convince them that it would be better to find a real teacher, close their mouths and  open their ears long enough to gain some real skill.

In the meantime we hope they will stay away from cameras and resist the urge to share their rubbish with everyone else on the worldwide web.
Wisdom of Taiji Masters

In this ground-breaking book, author Nigel Sutton presents the wisdom, skill and experience of contemporary masters of Cheng Man Ching's Taijiquan as practiced in Malaysia and Singapore. Included are full discussions on training, teaching, Taiji principles, weapons, push hands, sparring, challenge matches, mind-body-spirit development, and stories of the late Master Cheng. Two generations of revered masters discuss Cheng's art in detail, including: Lau Kim Hong, Lee Bei Lei, Zhou Mu Tu, Ho Ah San, Tan Ching Ning, Dr. Fong Fung Tong, Wu Chiang Hsing and Koh Ah Tee.

Retail: $21.95

Special email savings 20%

Discount Code: save20
Enter code at checkout

Tambuli Media, 1121 N. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 60-179, Spring House, PA 19477, United States

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign