Monday, April 25, 2011

Secrets of Tai Chi Circles Revealed

Most Tai Chi forms are a combination of different circular movements. Improving your Tai Chi circles is the key to a successful Tai Chi form.

Without a basic understanding of circles and how they are used in Tai Chi forms, it’s not possible to do Tai Chi well. Here, I’ll explain both basic and expanded circle forms.

Basic Circle Forms:

Circle Forms: In Tai Chi, a circle can take the form of a full circle, a half circle, or a partial circle such as an arc or a bow.*
Circle Size: In Tai Chi we talk about circles expanding or shrinking; circles can be large, medium, and small.
Circle Orientation: Circles can be vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.
Circle Position: Circles can be inside or outside of a sphere.
Circle Direction: In Tai Chi, circular movements can rotate from top to bottom, from bottom to top, from left to right, or from right to left.
Direction of Motion: Motion can be clockwise or counter clockwise.

Expanded Circle Forms:

Circles with Multiple Motions: A common advanced form is a circle with five motions, starting with a circle with the body centered, then adding advance movements, and retreating steps (moving left or right).
Circles with Mixed Directions: Both hands can circle in the same or in different directions.
Linked Circles:
The “S-line”** is an example of a linked circle. It is a link of two arcs, a medium arc followed by a small one.
Twisted Circles:
Silk reeling circles” are a great example of twisted circles.

After you read about all the forms of circle, you can now apply them into your practice. There is always ying and yang (empty and solid) in your circle, which means peng (ward off) and lu (roll-in) are involved. One of my favorite Chinese Tai Chi poems does a great job of discussing the opening and closing of our circles and the changes of ying and yang. I’m translating the poem for you here:

Once opening and once closing,

Once stabilized and once changed,

Solid and Empty mix into position,

Suddenly present, then suddenly disappear.
In the first line, the poem discusses the circle expanding and shrinking.
The second line explains the regular form and changes of the circles.
The final two lines mention ying and yang and mixed directions.

When every step involves circular movement, your Tai Chi will become less stiff and more rounded. Once you are familiar with all the basic circle forms in your daily Tai Chi practice and can link them together in transitions, your form will be more smooth and relaxed. When your yi (concentration) can control all these circular movements, you will surely bring your Tai Chi to another level.

* "Zhang Lu Ping on Five Bows of Tai Chi" in Tai Chi Magazine, by Peter Capell, June, 1992.

** "How Lu Ping Zhang Uses The Powerful 'S Principle' (the Deadly Art of 'S')" by Peter Capell, Tai Chi Magazine, October, 1992.

Copyrights Huan's Tai Chi 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tai Chi Applications: Good Idea for Beginners?

In Tai Chi, we say, “Train the body, but practice the applications.” To train the body is to improve your forms and energy. To practice the applications is to practice how to use Tai Chi on offense and defense. Most people think of Tai Chi applications as moves like punching, kicking, or joint locking.

However, if we only use one or two applications to explain a single movement, then we can’t really understand the movement. Because each movement can be used for many different applications, for a beginner to understand a form in the context of a single application may be misleading.

To really improve your form, you must be familiar with all its parts, master all the gestures and then get rid of stiffness and soften and smooth all the moves. After that, your whole body can move together. Your internal and external body will coordinate and you can then increase your energy. Once you have more energy, then you will sense and listen better.

A good time to learn applications is after you have smoothed all the movements and softened all the joints. The application will come out more naturally without a lot of effort. It will take you more time to learn but you will have a greater understanding.

Hurrying to focus on applications as a beginner is not a good idea. In Chinese, we say, “you can’t eat hot Tofu in hurry.” Tai Chi applications are like hot Tofu. Take your time!

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Remembrance of My Father: Tai Chi Teacher and Math Professor, Zhang Lu Ping

Many of my father's students and I share a same question everyday when we are doing
Tai Chi. "What will Lu Ping say about my Tai Chi today?"

"Dad, I got long emails from your Tai Chi students today, they still remember you until this day even though it has been 12 years. Hope you are well in heaven, having your daily tea and Tai Chi."

Feel free to read: some of his students sharing his life stories on Tai Chi Magazine.