Expositions of Insights Into The Practice of The Thirteen Postures
by Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxian) (1812 – 1880)
The hsin [mind-and-heart] mobilizes the ch’i [vital life energy]. Make the ch’i sink calmly; then the ch’i gathers and permeates the bones. The ch’i mobilizes the body. Make it move smoothly, so that it may easily follows the hsin.
The I [mind-intention] and ch’i must interchange agilely, then there is an excellence of roundness and smoothness. This is called “the interplay of insubstantial and substantial.” The hsin is the commander, the ch’i the flag, and the waist the banner. The waist is like the axle and the ch’i is like the wheel.
The ch’i is always nurtured without harm. Let the ch’i move as in a pearl with nine passages without breaks so that there is no part it cannot reach.
In moving the ch’i sticks to the back and permeates the spine.
It is said “first in the hsin, then in the body.” The abdomen relaxes, then the ch’i sinks into the bones. The shen [spirit of vitality] is relaxed and the body calm.
The shen is always in the hsin. Being able to breathe properly leads to agility.
The softest will then become the strongest. When the ching shen is raised, there is no fault of stagnancy and heaviness. This is called suspending the headtop. Inwardly make the shen firm, and outwardly exhibit calmness and peace.
Throughout the body, the I relies on the shen, not on the ch’i. If it relied on the ch’i, it would become stagnant. If there is ch’i, there is no li [external strength]. If there is no ch’i, there is pure steel. The chin [intrinsic strength] is sung [relaxed], but not sung; it is capable of great extension, but is not extended. The chin is broken, but the I is not. The chin is stored (having a surplus) by means of the curved. The li* is released by the back, and the steps follow the changes of the body. The mobilization of the chin is like refining steel a hundred times over. There is nothing hard it cannot destroy. Store up the chin like drawing a bow. Mobilize the chin like drawing silk from a cocoon.
Release the chin like releasing the arrow.
To fa-chin [discharge energy], sink, relax completely, and aim in one direction! In the curve seek the straight, store, then release. Be still as a mountain, move like a great river. The upright body must be stable and comfortable to be able to sustain an attack from any of the eight directions. Walk like a cat. Remember, when moving, there is no place that does not move. When still, there is no place that is not still. First seek extension, then contraction; then it can be fine and subtle. It is said if the opponent does not move, then I do not move. At the opponent’s slightest move, I move first.”
To withdraw is then to release, to release it is necessary to withdraw. In discontinuity there is still continuity. In advancing and returning there must be folding. Going forward and back there must be changes.
The form is like that of a falcon about to seize a rabbit, and the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat.
Yang’s Ten Important Points
by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 – 1936)
1. Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don’t use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch’i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.
2. Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch’i can sink to the tan-t’ien [field of elixir]. Don’t expand the chest: the ch’i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch’i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.
3. Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said “the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist.”
4. Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.
5. Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch’i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. “Sink the elbows” means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.
6. Use the mind instead of force. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li.” In practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan the whole body relaxes. Don’t let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?
The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch’i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch’i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch’i follows it. The ch’i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong.” Someone who has extremely good T’ai Chi Ch’uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don’t use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.
7. Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn’t follow, the whole body is disordered.
8. Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan the main thing is the spirit. Therefore it is said “the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate.” If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.
9. Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is “like a great river rolling on unceasingly.” and that the circulation of the chin is “drawing silk from a cocoon ” They all talk about being connected together.
10. Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch’i sinks to the tan-t’ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.
Song of The Thirteen Postures
The Thirteen Postures should not be taken lightly; the source of the postures is in the waist.
Be mindful of the interchange between insubstantial and substantial; The ch’i circulates throughout the body without hindrance.
Be still, when attacked by the opponent, be tranquil and move in stillness; changes caused by my opponent fill him with wonder.
Study the function of each posture carefully and with deliberation; to achieve the goal is very easy.
Pay attention to the waist at all times; completely relax the abdomen and the ch’i rises up.
When the tailbone is centered and straight, the shen [spirit of vitality] goes through to the headtop.
To make the whole body light and agile suspend the headtop.
Extension and contraction, opening and closing, should be natural.
To enter the door and be shown the way, you must be orally taught. Practice should be uninterrupted, and technique achieved by self study.
Speaking of the body and its function, what is the standard?
The I [mind-intent] and ch’i are king, and the bones and muscles are the court.
Think over carefully what the final purpose is: to lengthen life and maintain youth.
The Song consists of 140 characters; each character is true and the meaning is complete.
If you do not study in this manner, then you will waste your time and sigh with regret.