Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Confucius’ Teachings on Self-improvement

Many times, when I teach a new class, I encounter the following situation: I am with a new student and am correcting a wrong move, and the student feels embarrassed and thinks he/she should know this move well already. When I ask my students, “do you have any questions to ask?” they often choose not to ask questions so they don’t feel embarrassed. The fact is that this is only their first or second class. It is expected that you can’t master a movement by only watching it and practicing it a few times.

I remember a story about Kong Qiu from the Spring and Autumn period in China (722-481 BC). He was one of the smartest men in China in that time. People respected him. You might know him as Confucius.

Once, Confucius participated in an ancestor worship ceremony. He asked many people questions about this ceremony about almost every detail. Some people laughed at him behind his back. They said he did not understand etiquette. After hearing these remarks Confucius said, "If I do not know something, I need to ask to understand. This is the real way to understanding etiquette. Be sensitive and eager to learn. Always ask questions. A diligent and intelligent person should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask questions of people at any level.”

If we can understand this story about Confucius and put it into practice, then we can really learn things. If we are not ashamed to ask questions, then we can really improve. If a smart person like Confucius can do that, why can’t we all do the same thing in our lives and our Tai Chi?

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Chen-Style Tai Chi Real Tai Chi?

While I was learning Tai Chi from few different masters in China, one of them mentioned that Chen-Style Tai Chi is not real Tai Chi. The reasons he gave were that Chen-Style has moves like jumping that use “double-weight” and are therefore against the fundamental Tai Chi principle of single-weightiness. Chen-Style also embraces power-releasing moves that contradict another fundamental principle of Tai Chi: “don’t use force.”

As many people know, Yang Chen Fu (1883-1936) was the founder of the Yang form of Tai Chi that we are practicing now. Yang Chen Fu was the grandson of Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872) of Yongnian County, in Northern China. Yang Lu Chan came to Chen Village and learned Tai Chi from the Chen Family. In the years that followed, there was no one that did Tai Chi Chuan that had not, in some way, been helped by his influence, including his son Yang Jian Hou and grandson Yang Chen Fu. Yang Jian Hou made some changes and improvements to the original style he and his father learned from the Chen Village. When Yang Chen Fu came of age, he altered the style to more closely resemble the form we know today. He removed jumping, power-stepping and the lower stances, giving us the more open and relaxed, natural and lively, centered and round, simple but detailed movements that have become the standard Yang-Style Tai Chi form.

Today, Chen-Style Tai Chi retains many traditional movements. It is a combination of soft and hard, high and low, fast and slow, motion and stillness, power and emptiness. It has its own unique points. The long fist (1st Chen form) is combination of soft and hard. The Cannon fist (2nd Form), on power releasing, turning and jumping with a few soft movements.

Both Chen and Yang-Style Tai Chi Chuan are treasures of Internal Martial Arts. Yang-Style would not exist had Yang Lu Chan not learned from the Chen family. The real martial artist must respect and master both forms.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

8 Ways to Find out if You are Really Doing Tai Chi

Chinese martial arts can be divided into two different divisions, internal and external. Each one tries to arrive at the same destination, but they get there by different routes. External Kung Fu uses physical strength and speed. Internal Kung Fu (Tai Chi) uses balance, awareness, sensitivity, and an opponent's force against them.

I am going to list 8 differences between Tai Chi and external Kung Fu to help you better understand them.

1. Against Vs. Following Power:
External Kung Fu: External Kung Fu involves a lot of blocking. That’s working against power.
Tai Chi: Tai Chi follows the power and energy instead of blocking against it.

2. Whole body movement vs. Partial body movement:
External Kung Fu: In External Kung Fu, you move your arm or leg to block or attack.
Tai Chi: In Tai Chi, you move your whole body together in a fluid motion.

3. Goal of Attack: Partial damage to the body vs. Unbalance of the whole body
External Kung Fu: The goal is to attack your opponent’s body parts such as his face or ribs.
Tai Chi: The goal is to throw your opponent’s whole body off balance.

4. Separating Offence and Defense Vs. Combining Offence and Defense
External Kung Fu: In Kung Fu, a kick is an offensive move and a block is defensive. Each move has its own usage.
Tai Chi: In Tai Chi, offence and defense are mixed. Peng (outward expanding energy) and Lu (receiving energy) often work together in the same move and even reverse. Like Ying and Yang, they are often changing.

5. Straight vs. Circular
External Kung Fu: Straight line punch and kicks
Tai Chi: All energy moves in a circle.

6. Fast vs. Slow
External Kung Fu: Speed and fast moves are the key to winning
Tai Chi: Slow, direct movements are the key to control

7. Break Moves vs. Continuous Movements
External Kung Fu: There is break time between offensive and defensive moves
Tai Chi: All movements are continuous. The whole form continues in one motion.

8. Power vs. No Power
External Kung Fu: Power dominates the fighting
Tai Chi: Does not emphasize force and power. The transfer of energy dominates the fighting, such as leveraging your opponent’s energy.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kong Rong Teaches us Courtesy and Respect

Last week, I bought some chocolate bars. But it was warm out and a few of them melted and hardened again. I ate the ugly ones myself and shared the good ones with friends. One of my good friends asked me why I didn’t save the good ones for myself. To explain, I told him a story about the Chinese bureaucrat, poet and war-lord Kong Rong when he was just four years old.

Kong Rong (153 – 208) lived during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. He was also the 20th generation descendant of Confucius. He had six brothers, five older and one younger.

One day, when he was four years old, a friend brought his family some pears for his grandmother’s birthday. His father asked each of his seven sons to choose his own pear. First he asked the youngest brother. The youngest chose the biggest pear. Kong Rong was next. He chose the smallest.

His father was surprised and asked him why. Kong Rong said, “Just as there are taller and shorter trees, I have older and younger brothers. Respect for elders is part of humanity. I am one of the younger bothers, therefore I should take the smallest pear, and leave the big pears to the elders.”

His father then asked him, “what about your little brother?”

Kong Rong said, “I am an older brother to my younger brother. I should take care of him, and that’s why I should let him have the bigger one.”

Kong Rong went on to become a great scholar. He was always good-tempered and hospitable, and his house was always full of guests.

My father told me this story when I was little. I remember that he told me that one should never take advantage of others. I have benefited from this story my entire life. Kong Rong acted this way when he was just four years old. This is incredible. Imagine if we could all act like that. It is important to show courtesy and respect to your classmates and teacher while learning Tai Chi or other disciplines. You will learn better if you are polite and respectful to people.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010