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Practice

"People are the same by nature. They differ only according to practice."
- Confucius

 

"There is no right or wrong in meditation. There is only practice and no practice."
- Master Eihei Dogen

 

 

Practice is the lifeblood of the martial arts. As both a quantity and a quality, it is what ultimately differentiates success from failure in any attempt to learn a physical skill. Of equal importance in the internal cultivation tradition, it is both the alchemical furnace and the compounded elixir itself. Much more than simply a means to an end -- regardless of whether one is preparing oneself for combat or the afterlife, whether one is seeking more strength, greater health, clearer consciousness or just a little bit better balance -- as long as internal value (gong) is the destination, practice is the path.

Now just to be clear, what is meant here by "practice" is nothing other than the regular physical performance of whatever set or series of techniques is being passed down by whichever lineage or teacher one is studying with. No matter the discrepancies between teachers and lineage branches, between styles of practice and reasons for practice, pretty much all are in agreement that it is primarily through the physical act of repeatedly practicing, studying and performing the particular techniques being taught that a) the said techniques are initially transmitted and b) their mastery is eventually conferred. Thus the theoretical promise of Tai Chi theory is made immanent through practice and through practice alone. This perspective on practice is significantly different from the more familiar Western notion of "practice makes perfect." In this case here, in the classical Tai Chi sense of practice, it would be more like "practice is perfect."

 

 

The particular forms and techniques that we practice at the Falling Water School have been thoroughly time-tested and effectively utilized by multiple generations of highly respected and accomplished practitioners. They were intially taught to us by Master Tung Kaiying of Los Angeles, California, who has been practicing and teaching them his entire life and originally learned them when he was a boy from his grandfather in Hong Kong, Master Tung Yingchieh, who was also a lifelong practitioner and had actually learned how to practice from the choreographer of the form himself, the famous Beijing teacher Master Yang Chengfu, who in turn was merely translating into a new context (widespread public classes) the movements and techniques that he had learned from his father and uncle, who learned them from their father, the great Master Yang Luchan, who was the originator of our current Yang Style system, but who was in turn himself merely adapting into a new context (secularized urban life) the movements and methods that he had learned from his own teacher in rural Chen Village, Master Chen Changxing, where these very same techniques (and many others like them) had been practiced, cultivated and cherished by the lucky Chen family for more than 20 generations prior. And then there was the Master who taught the original Chen patriarch back in the 1500s, and the long line of teachers trailing deep into the mountains behind him at least another 500-1000 years more until the trail finally dissipates into the hermetic oblivion that goes all the way back into the mystical beginnings of Chinese civilization itself.

In other words, this is a very old practice. The cumulative life energy and human experience that has gone into forming the particular postures, movements, and sequences of the exercises and techniques we have come to call Tai Chi Chuan is truly staggering. It is a tremendous honor to be a part of continuing the transmission and to be able to contribute to the global stewardship of the wisdom of the ages in such a way.

This is the reason why we offer a salute both before and after practicing.

 

 

Curriculum of Tai Chi Chuan at the Falling Water School

 

For all prospective students of Tai Chi Chuan the first phase of training is to learn the primary sequence of movements called "slowset" and to be able to perform them on their own from start to finish without interruption. This could take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years depending on the quantity and quality of one's practice.

The next phase is to begin to adapt the principles of Slow Set both inwardly and outwardly in the form of Gong practice and Push Hands training. This means learning and memorizing more of the accompanying exercises and spending more time holding postures and going slower to gently build strength and focus (Gong or "Innate Skill"). It also means getting introduced to the exciting realm of Push Hands, starting with fixed steps and just one hand in Single Circles and gradually evolving into Double Push Hands.

The next phase of training would be to incorporate more variant speeds and a more dynamic expression. This means learning the Fast Set and the Tung Family Set variations. It also means learning the moving step Push Hands routines such as Three-Step, Four Corners and Tiger Stalking.

The next phase is to simply practice more and longer and deeper with increasingly more energy and focus. This would look like learning the Weapon Sets, the Kai He Set, the Partner Practice Forms, the Martial Applications of Slow Set movements and beginning to explore the creative potential of Freestyle Push Hands.

The final phase is to keep persevering in the practice, going ever deeper, getting ever softer and making all the forms more and more of a fluid whole. The subtler aspects of the practice become more and more significant and energy becomes more and more like spirit. At this point in training the most logical step is to start teaching someone else. And thus the circle of Tai Chi continues.

 


Slow Set (Yang Style) - PDF
Fast Set
Family Set (Tung Style) - PDF
Short Knife Set
Long Knife Set
Sword Set
Double Sticks Set
Kai He Set (Wu/Hao Style)

Fixed Push Hands (Single Circle and Double Hands)
Moving Push Hands (Three Steps and Four Corners)
Partner Practice (Dui Lian)
Martial Applications
Freestyle Push Hands

Dragon Walking
Tiger Stalking
Tai Chi Gong
Swing Thing
Standing Tree
Wu Chi Meditation
Eight Pieces of Brocade Qigong - PDF
Five Animal Frolics Qigong

. . .

 


 
Practice Techniques and Body Laws in the Classics
Hao's Treasury of
exquisite Peace
The Art of
Tai Chi Chuan
Method and Application
of Tai Chi Chuan

by Li Yi Yu, 1881

by Yang Chengfu and

Chen Weiming, 1925

by Yang Chengfu and Tung Yingchieh, 1931

涵胸
huddle the chest

拔背
pluck the back

裹襠
bundle the seat

護肫
protect the gut

提頂
lift the crown

吊襠
drop the seat

騰挪
shift swiftly

閃戰
evade struggle

虛領頂勁
empty energy in crown and nape

含胸拔背
harbor the chest and pluck the back

沈肩墜肘
sink the shoulders and drop the elbows

鬆腰
loosen the waist

分虛實
differentiate empty and full

上下相隨
mutually coordinate above and below

內外相合
mutually harmonize inner and outer

相連不斷
continue mutually without stopping

用意不
use mind and not force

動中求靜
move the center and seek calm

提起精神
activate and raise consciousness

虛靈頂勁
empty numinous energy in crown

含胸拔背
harbor the chest and pluck the back

鬆肩墜肘
loosen the shoulders and drop the elbows

氣沉丹田
sink qi to dantian

手與肩平
level the hands with the shoulders

胯與膝平
level the hips with the knees

尻道上提
hold up the spine from the sacrum

尾閭中正
straighten and center the tailbone

內外相合
mutually harmonize inner and outer

不强用力
use strength without force

以心行氣
use mind to move energy

步如貓行
move and step like a cat

上下相隨
mutually coordinate above and below

呼吸自然
breathe naturally as is

一線串成
link one thread through everything

變換在腰
change and transform from the waist

氣行四肢
cycle energy through the four limbs

分淸虛實
clearly differentiate empty and full

圓轉如意
shift and turn as if intending to

 

Practice Tips

 

Master Tung Kaiying offers the following guidelines in order to best maximize the beneficial effects of practicing Tai Chi Chuan (from his recent book "Learning Tai Chi Chuan"):

  • Practice every day. Twice a day (morning and evening) is good, while three times a day is better still.

  • Be serious about your practice. Concentrate on the movements and do not allow your mind to wander. Exercise with your whole being – mind and body. This type of concentration is difficult to achieve, but very important.

  • Be careful not to over exert yourself. Gradually your strength will develop and you will be able to do more. Stop and rest if you become too tired.

  • Do not practice immediately after eating a heavy meal. First rest for thirty to sixty minutes.

  • After practicing, do not sit down immediately. Rather, walk around for a few minutes, relax slowly, and then sit down. This facilitates the circulation of energy and blood.

  • In warm weather, allow your body to cool off naturally after practice. Do not take a cold shower. If you must shower, use warm water, though it is better to wait a little while before bathing. Likewise in cold weather, avoid becoming chilled, especially right after practice, by wearing the appropriate clothing.

Eventually, after some months of practice, students may suddenly have the feeling that they are not doing as well as they were just a little while ago. This should be viewed as a sign of improvement. It shows that the understanding of Tai Chi Chuan is becoming deeper. If one has not improved, how can one judge whether or not one is doing better or worse? How is one able to compare? This is a necessary step for every beginner. Knowing this, do not be discouraged. Continue to practice faithfully with a positive attitude, confident that improvement will come.

 
 

"On the mountain of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

802-349-2725 -- cloudhandy@yahoo.com