Tai Chi Ten Essentials
The Tai Chi Ten Essentials of Yang Cheng Fu
The list of tai chi ten essentials were transcribed by Chen Mei Ming c.1925
1. The Energy at the Top of the Head Should Be Light and sensitive
2. Sink the Chest and Raise the Back
3. Relax the Waist
4. Distuinguish Full and Empty
5. Sink the Shoulders and Drop the Elbows
6. Use the Mind not Strength
7. Unity of the Upper and Lower Body
8. The Unity of Internal & External
9. Continuity Without Interruption
10. Seek Stillness in Movement
1) One should never ‘double weight’ during the form, implying that 70% of the weight should always be on one foot or the other. Double weighting causes the chi to stagnate in the lower limbs effecting the distribution of chi throughout the whole body. The same principle applies to the body as any structure, the superior is only safe if the base is secure. Therefore 70 % of the weight of each foot must be positioned over the ‘Bubbling Well Point’, Yongquan, (K.1) with the other 30% left on the heel. This applies to both the ‘weighted’ yang and the accompanying yin foot. This relates to the yang foot of the front and back stances as well. With the exception of such postures as ‘Raise Hands’ where the yin foot is resting gently on the back edge of the heel. Whereas a back stance like ‘Crane Cools Its Wing’ has the yin foot with a 30% weight focus on the Yongquan, the remaining 70% on the Yongquan of the back foot. The ‘Bubbling Well Point’ is a where the Earth ‘chi’ enters and leaves the lower part of the body. This is the root of all the Tai Chi stances, if this part securely adheres to the Earth and intermixes with the chi of the Earth, it helps safeguard Central Equilibrium. The Tai Chi classics refer to this loss of adhesion as floating. It is not by coincidence that this point is the start of the Kidney channel which is the home of pre-birth chi and when K1.is stimulated, it will engender more chi, increasing stability. This 70/30 bias accords with natural law. For example there is 70% water (yin) to 30% land (yang) ratio on the planet Earth. Also the body is a mass of 70% yin to 30% yang, therefore a wholesome diet should contain a natural input of 70% yang foods to 30 % yin and so forth, preferably organic, of plant origin, in season and grown in a similar climate. ( refer to my forthcoming health book-www.taichi-horwood.com)
2) Front stances are measured by the width of one’s own shoulders. Whereas a back stance aligns both feet within a parallel corridor structured on the inside by the heel of the weighted, yang, back foot and by the outer edge of the hip of the yin leg. The feet of a front stance should trace the circumference of an imagined Tai Chi yin/yang diagram, which encloses every stance. The diameter of this circle should be equal to the width of one’s own shoulders, (Fig.1) with the toes of each foot being slightly turned in.
3) The sacrum must be kept plumb. This means that the hips and the pelvis should be aligned in an horizontal plane, thus preventing displacement of the necessary vertical quality of the spine and the aural chi. Chi has many orbits in the body besides the meridians. There are also eddies of energy which flow in and around the organism. For example chi flows out of the top of the head by way of the Baihui (GV.20) creating an circular aura around and down to the feet.. This arc is reinforced and interacts with the horizontal flows which are mainly controlled by the alignment of the hips and shoulders. These energy fields can now be captured by Kirlian photography. Master Chu was unaware of Kirlian photos of the body but his alignment principles accord exactly with these now visible energy auras.
4) The arms must be relaxed and held in a circular fashion at all times. Depending on technique one being side convex and the other concave. Hence ‘seek the straight from the curve and the curve from the straight’. The elbows and shoulders must be kept low and loose, which keeps the chi centred at the Tan Tien. If the shoulders are raised the chi will float out of the body by way of the lung. This ‘negative chi’ posture causes a raised shoulder effect which can be seen in asthmatics and when people are frightened. Whilst pointing the elbows downwards one should hold them slightly away from the body to prevent any restriction of chi flow. If the elbows are directed towards the knees in this way, it protects the floating ribs.
5) The wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, hips and shoulders must be kept relaxed and rounded and never held at acute, chi blocking angles. These six joints are called the six thieves for when they are out of alignment the energy will leak out. Chi flows more readily around a circular frame. Always keeping the yang sides of the body and limbs convex and the yin aspect concave. The yin side of a person is determined by where the yin meridians are, being the front of the body, the inside of the arms and legs. Whereas the yang aspect of the limbs and body is where the yang chi runs, mainly on the outer surface of the arms and legs and back.
6) The spirit moves the chi that moves the body. ‘Thought chi’ follows the mind and as the mind intent becomes stronger, the conscious chi will become more powerful. The mind’s eye is always focussed at the Tan Tien thus creating a connected circuit form centre to periphery. This seemingly impossible task is started by simply visualising that the chi is circulating as outlined below in the chi kung. With practice, this inner ideation process of chi projection will pave the way to more involved patterns of chi circulation. After a while and relative effort as the thought chi becomes clearer, it will follow the intent of the mind more easily. One must remain ‘Sung’, which loosely translated means to keep relaxed while maintaining all of the controlling parameters of Tai Chi’s Central Equilibrium.
7) Yang Cheng Fu declares ‘Relax the waist’. The waist rules the body’. Here he means if the waist is rigidly held and not supple there will be no connection between upper and lower. I specified in,1, that if there is no root there is no real posture and the waist must act like the centre of a wheel being the central pivot thus being able to control the deflection of attacks and smoothly issue back power. Supple waist supple chi. This is accomplished firstly in a physical manner by ensuring all movements adopt ‘Chan Shu Jian, the silk cocoon reeling’ technique which screws the weight and chi into the rooted leg and out to the limbs simultaneously .
8) ‘Use the mind not strength’ is where the nei kung or internal systems exploit the ability of the mind to move ‘thought chi’ chi around the body, consciously. This controls the nervous impulses which govern the muscles and tendon movement of the limbs, in a smooth and very efficient manner. In this way the body’s internal energy is harnessed more effectively because if rigid tension is used as in external forms of exercise the mother chi is depleted more quickly, as well as restricting the passage of chi in the channels. The wei kung systems like karate and kung fu train the body’s reactive nerve systems rather like a machine gun, firing out wasteful impulses through the motor and sensory nerve fibres. Although this type of movement has initial success it will eventually cause internal damage also slowing down nerve reaction and response time. This stressful type of strength damages liver chi, creating a viscous circle by impairing the chi of the muscles and tendons.
9) ‘Continuity without interruption’ is a Tai Chi phrase poetically elucidated by Lao tzu, who wrote that the ocean is mightier than the river because it lies below. This natural system of distillation and supply is only made possible by the constant rhythm of Nature, which generates this classic example of the flowing, circular pattern of creation. The same is true of a human being, if one moves in a gentle relaxed, constant, controlled, spirallic and centred way, the chi will respond accordingly. The outer is a reflection of the inner and vice versa. This is one of the main reasons that the apparent empty, slow deliberate movements of Tai Chi Chuan can secrete under its popular visual image, a dynamic system of self defence and self-improvement.
10) ‘Seek stillness in movement’ is the opposite to the Chi Kung ideal of seeking movement in stillness. This is where the body is kept still, permitting one to activate the jing into chi, fuse it with the mind then circulate it around the body in chi kung or Tai Chi. This is counter balanced by maintaining an ’empty’ state whilst practicing Tai Chi. Here one has to incorporate the formula of chi kung and the tenets of Central Equilibrium in a total intrinsic blend. These principles will then become second nature arriving at the point of an innate, stillness in movement. Chi will only manifest itself when the organism is quiet and still, preparing the way for ‘Tung Chin’.