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Theory of Taijiquan

Everything that divides returns to one, and difference leads to accord. Every single thing that exists between Heaven and Earth, between the 4 limits and 8 directions, has it's own place and each of the 10,000 things has their own source of origin. One root can divide into 10,000 branches, and 10,000 branches can unite in one root. The philosophy of the fist follows the same principle. Taijiquan has many external forms, but every move is full of power. Though the forms are constantly changing, their power has the same source. That which is termed unity, is the unity of the whole body from the top of the head to the heels and toes of the feet, the 4 limbs and the skeleton. Its internal side is represented by the organs, tendons and bones, and the external is represented by the muscles, flesh and skin. Try to split it and it will not split. Hit it and it will not break. If the upper is moving, the lower is following. If the lower is moving, the upper is just leading it. If the upper and lower are moving, the centre responds to their movement, when the centre moves the upper and lower are in harmony with it. The external and internal connect with each other, the front and back support each other. That's why Confucius said: ‘One thread (shen) runs through all my teaching’.


Everything should be done without effort. At the right time move like a dragon or a tiger, go ahead like a thunderstorm, like lightning. In another situation be calm, do not show yourself, be still like a mountain. When you are calm and empty everything in you, even the smallest part of you, is calm. When you move there is nothing in you that does not move. If one part moves, everything moves. Be like water sinking without stopping. Be like fire spreading in circle that can not be put out. Do not allow empty thoughts, do not be overwhelmed by problems, act honestly, and truthfully depending on the situation, nothing more, nothing less. Accumulating Spiritual (internal) power is a process of working on it day by day. Excellence comes from long, long practise. To achieve knowledge like "one thread", which is the foundation of our school, you must learn until you get to the limits of knowledge, only then can real mastery occur. Regardless of the difficulty of comprehending this philosophy, work hard on improving your level of mastery without laziness, but do not go over your limits. Learn in the correct order. Only then will all parts of your body unite as one, up and down, internal and external will create "one thread", all that is divided will unite, all opposition will come to a balance and the whole body will come back to "one qi".



There is nothing between Heaven and Earth that leaves but does not return, and anything that is straight will bend. Everything has its opposite, in every advance there is a movement back. That is the entire truth. If one is united, why does it divide in to two. That, which is termed duality is actually just breathing in and breathing out. Breathing out is Yang, and breathing in is Yin. Rising up is Yang, and sinking down is Yin. That is the principle of Yin and Yang.


What is pure and impure? That which rises is pure, that which sinks is impure. Pure is Yang, and impure is Yin. Qi cannot be without yin and yang, just as a human cannot be without movement and stillness. Although qi divides in two, it comes back to one, You should not attach yourself to oppositions.


Three Links, Three Knots, Three Parts

Qi fills the whole body, and the body is divided in many parts. If we think from the point of view of the separate parts, we are going astray from the true meaning of martial arts. It’s better if we recognise only three links in the body. Those are: the head, body and legs. In the head the upper link is the forehead, the nose is the middle link and the mouth is the lower link. In the body, the chest is upper link, the stomach is the middle link and the dan tien is the lower link. In the leg, the thigh is upper link, the knee is the middle link and the foot is the lower link. In the arm the shoulder is the upper link, the elbow is the middle link and the palm is the lower link. So we can find these three links all over body. If you don’t understand where the upper link is the body won't have a head. If you don't know where the middle link is, there won't be fullness in the body. If you don't know where the lower link is, you won't have a root in your legs. That is why you should pay attention on the three links. When qi moves, it does it by going up from outer links through the middle links and terminates in the root link. It is so if we see the body by its parts. If we see it as one, then all parts are just one link.


The Four Ends

The ends of the external body ends are termed the four ends. If qi fills the inner body it expresses itself in the four ends. What are the four ends? First of all is the hair, which is the end of the blood. The blood is an ocean of energy. The tongue is the end of the flesh. The flesh is the house of the energy. If the energy is not in the flesh, there is no place to accumulate it. Teeth are the ends of our skeleton, and the nails are the ends of our tendons. Qi is born in the bones and then go to the tendons. So if it doesn't get to the teeth and nails it does not fill the body. If all of the four ends are filled, the qi of the whole body will be enough.


The Three Unities

The three unities means: the heart unites with the will, the qi unites with physical strength and the tendons with the bones. These are the three internal unities. When the palms move in time with the feet, the elbows are in balance with the knees, the shoulders with the thighs, these are called the three external unities. When the left palm is in balance with the right foot, the left elbow with the right knee, the left shoulder with the right thigh, these are called the three unities of left and right. When the head moves with palms, the palms with the body, and the body with the steps, we have the three outer unities. And when the heart is in balance with the eyes, the gall bladder with tendons, the spleen with the flesh, the lungs with the body, the kidneys with the bones, these are called the internal unities. If we summarise, if one thing moves there is nothing that does not move. All unities are one unity. Everything is one.


The Six Leaders

What are the 6 leaders? The head is the crown of the 6 Yang beginnings so the head should be recognised as leader of the whole body. The palm is brought forward, and its base is in the shoulder. If the shoulder is not active, the palm will not move forward, therefore the shoulder should be treated as one of the leaders of the body. As energy accumulates in the shoulder, qi works through the spine. If the spine does not take the role of a leader, the energy in the body will disperse and will lose power. That's why the spine is one of the body’s leaders. The will is pierces the whole body and shows itself through the steps. If the steps do not lead, the will loses its power. That is why you should pay attention to them. Besides, to go up and left you should lead with the right. To go up and right, you should lead with the left. All together there are six leaders. When one thing is leading a movement, everything in the body moves. That is the principle of the six leaders.


The Technique of Stepping

Footwork is the foundation of the whole body, stepping is the essence of all movement. All action in a fight depends on stepping. Is it possible to attain the secrets of countless changes in body without the stepping correctly? There is a saying: ‘observation is in the eyes, intention is in the heart, and the effortless movement depends completely on the steps’. All movements originate in the nameless, inspiration has its beginning in the unconscious. The legs purposely begin to move before the rest of the body. That is called: the upper is still wanting to start moving, and lower is already following. You should clearly distinguish between the front leg and back leg in your steps. In every single moment of a move, front and back leg must move in harmony. If we generalise, the liveliness of a movement depends on the steps. The significance of each step is of great importance.


Soft and Hard

The secret of applying martial arts is in the energy and power. The energy can be strong or weak, the power soft or hard. Strong energy corresponds to hard power, weak energy to soft power. The distribution of hardness and softness depends on the skill of combining power and dexterity. The act of hard or soft power comes from the way qi is expressed. When the limbs are moving and the qi is turned outwards, while inside you are calm and secure, then the power is hard. When the energy is accumulated inside, while outside you're light and yielding the power is soft. But applying hardness is impossible without softness. Without softness, your speed will not be great. Applying softness without hardness is impossible too. If there isn't hardness, the attack will not penetrate. Hardness and softness supplement each other, which makes all punches natural. Hardness and softness cannot be separated, in any art of the fist art you should remember that!


Principles of Applying a Martial Art

In our philosophy it is said: ‘a punch comes from the heart’, the fist follows the will. Always know yourself, know your opponent and change in response to the situation. The fighting art is similar to the art of war: ‘strike with chaos, attack where he is unprepared, appear where you are unexpected’. You look empty, but you are full. You look full, but actually you are empty. Empty the fullness, fill the emptiness, hold on for the roots and strive for the branches. There are no rules to fighting. Look like flying dragon or a ferocious tiger, when attacking your opponent shoot into his space like a cannon. Upper, middle and lower should be filled with one qi. The body and limbs move in accord with the principles. The hands do not move without purpose. Don't punch emptiness. The spirit should rise. The ancestors said: ‘the heart is like gunpowder, the hands like a bullet’. When inspiration comes even a bird will not escape the attack. The body is like a bent bow, the hands are like shooting arrows. From the sound of the string birds fall dead – that is the power of a wonderful skill. When attacking high observe what's happening low. The hands move fast, the legs are light. Survey the situation. Step as softly as a cat. The heart should be united. The eyes should be clear. When the arms and legs move together you will find the original movement. If the arm is moving, but not the body, the attack will not succeed. When the arm moves with the body, the opponent will be stamped down like grass. When you practise alone, do it like you are fighting someone. When you fight someone do it like there is no one in front of you. The heart should lead everything. The will should conqueror everything. The body should attack. The steps should pass through. The head should be upright. The waist should sink. The Dan tien should rotate. From the top of the head to the heels and toes everything should be filled with one qi. Moving first is the teacher, and moving after learns the lesson. It is better to think how to attack than how to retreat. The secret of mastery is in the unity of the heart and nothing else. Wuji becomes taiji. The original one becomes the two qis. Yin and yang surge through the three links like breaking waves. They manifest in the four ends and reach fullness in the circle of 5 elements. You should practise taijiquan constantly. In the beginning it is difficult but later it will be natural. That's the philosophy of the fist.


Song of secret transmission

Esoteric variant:

The whole body is emptiness. No forms, no shapes. Responding to all things, keep naturalness, musical plates are hanging on the West Mountain. Tiger roars, monkey screams, water is clear, river is calm. The river flows, the sea spreads, the nature is achieved (reached) and the destiny fulfilled


Understandable variant:

Forgetting yourself and others, internal and external are One. Following your heart’s desires, you're open to Heaven. Purify the Yin in yourself, the heart will die, but the spirit will live. Blood and energy are flowing freely, while body is filled with spirit.


8 Principles of Taijiquan

1. Centredness / Jun / - consciousness and energy in the body are in harmony, the centre of gravity is always at the level of the waist.

2. Confidence / jan / - the body is always in balance, the centre of gravity is never out of the centre line

3. Rest / An / - movement requires no effort, it is fluid, and the breaths are equal

4. Overflow / shu / - the body and spirit are in a secret musical rhythm of folding unfolding, opening and closing

5. Lightness / Qin / - it's as if you walk on water, fly in the air, have no weight

6. Spirituality / lin / -a special kind of sensitivity which tells you how to follow the flow of life

7. Fullness / man / - perfection, internal completion in every movement and moment in your practice.

8. Liveliness / Ho / - the highest quality of movement, it's coming from all the Taiji methods of training. Alive movement is effective in all situations and all ways of applying force.

Written by Chen Changxing