An explanation

If you search for Taiji principles on the Internet, or come from another school, you will recognise that a range of principles is defined. Some say there are 5, others 10, some have even more.

Most describe the principles by using a range of ideas from the way movements are to be carried out to explanations of internal power (ch'i). Rather than duplicate any of those I have chosen to concentrate on what are, generally, understood as the most important ideas behind Taiji.

The following is not a criticism of those other explanations. Rather it is an attempt to explain how the adoption of certain key ideas can be done in Taiji practice based on what Wee Kee-Jin transferred from GM Huang.

The principles of Tai ji chuan

松 Song - downwards intention/lightness

If there is one key to understanding how Tai ji works it is probably "song". Yet this is also the most difficult thing to understand.

Notice that it is described as an intention. That is because that is all it is - an intention. It is always there. Whether your body is going up or down or moving side to side.

Song is dynamic - it increases and decreases. Wee Kee-Jin talks of doing your Tai ji with awareness. Song is an awareness that, eventually, will always be there.

It will be like the movement of the air through trees. The air is always moving even if you can't hear it. And sometimes you can. That is what I mean by increasing and decreasing.

And song is "sneaky". You can't tell when it increases and when it decreases. Song is also, to a large degree, the result of developing the application of the other principles.

Song is sometimes described as "Letting the mind lead." Initially the beginning of song can be developed by reminding yourself to relax.

Unraveling the silk thread

Silk is quite strong. Yet, when unraveling silk from the cocoon, it is important to pick up speed slowly. If there is a sudden jerk the thread breaks. This is how the Tai ji form is to be done

The central point of equilibrium must be utilised to make sure the movements go from the inside out. It is the central point of equilibrium (or dantein) that moves and the rest of the body follows.

The idea of unraveling the silk thread is one of the reasons why Tai ji is done slowly - at first.

This idea is sometimes described "continuity without interruption". You should think of the end of one movement as the beginning of the next.

Connectedness

Drawing in and and sending out. If movements start from the central point of equilibrium they must be transferred to the extremities in a flowing manner. The entire body is involved in the action. The movements and of the arms and legs are connected to the shoulders and hips as they relax. So you can picture movements as being sent out from the dantien and then being drawn back into the dantien.

Rather than a sequence of movements you should see movements as a wave that reaches out and then returns to the center.

Head to ground and under the ground. The body is not just connected from head to feet. It is also connected to an "upside down mirror" of yourself under your feet. In other words the root of your structure goes as far into the ground as your height reaches above the ground.

Utilise the central point of equilibrium

Movements begin from the central point of equilibrium and travel out from there in a wave. Yet there is no sequence of movements. As Wee Kee-Jin describes "If the central point moves 5 percent then the fingers move point 5 percent. There is no separation."

The central point is also called the dantien. This is a point two finger widths below your navel and just in front of the spine. It helps if you can picture this as working like a gyroscope. It is always moving (cycling) both horizontally and vertically

The central point is to be used in making parts of the body substantial and insubstantial. Visualise it as slowing down and reversing direction rather than stopping and then starting in another direction.

Separate substantial and insubstantial

In its simplist form this means to clearly separate which leg is insubstantial and which leg is substantial (or empty). But, really, that is rather simple.

Substantial/insubstantial must be seen as operating in a diagonal manner. That is, if your right leg is insubstantial then so is your left arm. If your left leg is substantial then so is your right arm.

You can see that this idea of substantial/insubstantial relates to the idea of connectedness. If you adopt this idea it will be very hard to move you and you will be able to move partners easily.

If you don't adopt this idea you will be evenly weighted too often. You will be easy to move and will need to use force if you wish to move your partner.

Cultivate a tai ji structure - relax

In some respects this is the first principle that needs to be learned.

To develop a Tai ji structure first tuck in your chin and lift the back of the neck. At the same time place your tongue lightly on the top of your mouth and breath through your nose using your diaphragm. Then sink the chest (in, not down) and allow the shoulders to relax. Straighten the spine and relax the hips to allow the coccyx (tail bone) to tuck in. The body must be vertical and the tip of the coccyx line up with the crown of the head. This is the alighnment of the central point of equilibrium.

The legs must be slightly bent, buttocks relaxed and the hips parallel with the ground. The result of all that is a body that is relaxed.

When moving the same structure is maintained and legs are made substantial by the movement of the central point closer to the center of the relevant foot. A leg is made completely substantial when the coccyx is over the heel. At that point the other foot is empty and can be moved.

As you can see, movement in Tai ji is carried out in a manner that is quite different from the way most people move most of the time. But the effect is to enable the person to stay balanced at all times without excess tension.