Tai Chi Pushing Hands Performance and Training
Presented to Master Li Guichang on his 80th birthday
Translated by Huang Guoqi with some help by Martin LaPlatney and Tom Bisio
Tai Ji Tui Shou Yan Lian Zhi Dao
Master Li Guichang is a well-known master of Chinese martial arts in our province. His whole life he has loved Chinese martial arts. He has painstakingly trained Xing Yi, Ba Gua and Tai Chi since he was a teenager and has attained great skills. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China he was, for a long time, a professional Chinese Martial Arts coach. In the first Shanxi Sports Games in 1958 he was awarded 1st place in the Tai Chi Quan competition. He is at present the deputy director of the Shanxi Xing Yi Quan Association.From November 5th to December 5th of 1991 a Tai Chi pushing-hand class was held in the northern city of Taiyuan. Regardless of cold weather and long distance, Master Li Guichang came to instruct the students every day. The students all benefited greatly. In order to further popularize the practical techniques of Tai Chi Quan we have compiled this booklet based upon Master Li’s lecture notes, oral instruction and the students minutes so that enthusiasts of Tai Chi Quan and Tai Chi pushing-hand may sense it’s mysteries.
We would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Song Zhiyong, Li Guichang’s disciple, for his cooperation and assistance in compiling this booklet.
Some mistakes are hard to avoid due to the limitations of our editing knowledge. We hope those who read this will offer their comments and correction.
I. Four Characteristics of Tai Chi Quan
1 Gentleness (Róu Hé Xìng)
The movements should be gentle and slow, using intention and without force. The moving energy should be like pulling away a thread of silk (silk reeling energy). The stepping should be like a cat walking: stable, stretching (implying “soft elasticity”), light, agile and supple (soft, flexible)
2 Consistency (Liánguàn xìng a logical coherence between things, also means continuity, linking together,)
The starting posture and ending posture should be consistent, with no noticeable interruption and moving continuously like clouds and flowing water. The health of the human body depends mainly on the internal organs and the purpose of respiration is to aid in circulation of the blood and qi.
3 Smoothness (Yuán Huó Xìng also implies “roundness”)
In training it is not only necessary to pay attention to the four limbs but also to the body trunk. It is also necessary to pay attention to the coordination of the upper and lower body. One should also notice that the movements are always in curves. Also pay attention to the coordination of the respiration with the movement
4 Completion (Wánzhěng xìng also “integrity” implying wholeness or that everything is interrelated)
The waist is the key. It is necessary that in every movement the body trunk drives the four limbs. Once the waist is tranquil (quite, still) it is tranquil everywhere. Once the waist is in motion everything is in motion. Everywhere starts at once.
1、活泼于腰 2、灵机于顶 3、神通于背
4、流行于气 5、行之于腿 6、蹬之于脚
7、运之于掌 8、贯之于指 9、敛之于髓
10、达之于神 11、疑之于耳 12、息之于鼻
13、呼之于腹 14、纵之于膝 15、发之于毛
II. Sixteen Key Points
Be lively in the waist (the Yāo is full of life and energy)
Be nimble up to the vertex (quick and light in movement and thought all the way up to the top of the head)
The spirit is in the back (also “the god like power is in the back” stressing the importance of spinal flexibility)
The chi should flow smoothly (no stagnations in the body)
Walk with the leg (the line or alignment of the legs (行 Xíng means line but also “foot array”)
Stamp with the foot (to” tread” or press the ground with the feet)
Apply with the palm
Fill into the fingers (consistent energy throughout the body)
Gather in the marrow (“accumulate” “bring together” also implying a contraction of body tissue)
Reach with the spirit (instinctual awareness)
Be suspicious in the ears (implying acute awareness of sound)
Breathe through the nose
Breath out from the abdomen
Spring forward from the knee
Initiate from the hair (the hairs of the whole body, like an animal, instinctual)
Be “mixed” in the whole body (Hún “turbid” thick with suspended matter. Implies a state of potentiality like the Wu before the division into yin and yang.)
1、掤在两臂 2、捋在掌中 3、挤在手背
4、按在腰功 5、采在十指 6、挒在两肱
7、肘在屈使 8、靠在肩胸 9、进在云手
10、退在转肱 11、顾在三前 12、盼在七星
13、定在有隙 14、中在得横 15、滞在双重
16、通在单轻 17、虚在当守 18、实在必冲
III. Eighteen Necessities
1. Ward off (Peng, the energy of shooting a bow or taking a lid off of a container) using the two arms
2. Roll up (Lǚ, usually translated as “Roll Back” in Tai Chi, to stroke or smooth with the fingers, implying gentle pressure) by the palms
3. Squeeze (Jǐ, usually translated as “Press” in Tai Chi, like squeezing or crowding in to enter a crowded bus) using the back of the hand
4. Press (Àn, usually translated as “Push” in Tai Chi. It means to “press down” like the pressure of giving a massage.) using the skill of the waist.
5. Pick up (Cǎi, also “collect” or “gather”) with the ten fingers.
6. Twist (Liè) using the two upper arms. (specifically from the shoulder to the elbow).
7. Keep the elbow flexed (bent)
8. To lean on another by using the shoulder and chest.
9. Advance by using cloud hands. (In this way one can change the angle or cross his hands and create an opening.)
10. Retreat by rotating the upper arm. (from the shoulder to the elbow)
11. Look around in the three directions (be aware of everything around you)
12. Hope (Pàn, “expect”) for the seven stars. (when doing push hands be aware that he might try to strike you with any one of the seven stars, and you could also strike him)
13. Be fixed (Dìng, “stable” “set”) at a gap (take advantage of any opening in his defenses)
14. Gain advantage by using the transverse (Heng, crossing or transverse energy.)
15. Stagnate in double weighting (if you are are double weighted you will be sluggish or stagnate)
16. Single weighted you can enter. (when you are single weighted you can “open up” and enter your opponents space)
17. Use the false to guard (when he is full/firm be empty/soft)
18. Advance in the true (when he is empty/soft be firm/full)
IV. Song of the False and True (substantial/insubstantial, empty/full. Xūshí can be translated as “the actual situation”)
The False and the True are understood by the mind (Shén, spirit/will or heart/mind). Whether the actual situation is False/True or True/False is determined by the actions of the hands.
If one does not understand the theory of “the False and the True” in training martial art than any effort (Gōngfu) is wasted and nothing is achieved. (you will never be able to distinguish the truth of the actual situation when in contact with another person)
Defend by using the False (empty) and using the True (full) attack with the palm. It is difficult to be skillful if one cannot launch an attack in the True.
The False and the True do in fact exist. Attacking with the False or the True will not be in vain.
If the steps are double weighted there is no way to succeed, success can only be achieved by being single weighted.
Entering is the same as dodging and dodging is just to enter. It will not be in vain when retreating becomes advancing.
The Tao is the natural flow of qi. Emptiness and Tranquility are the most difficult requirements.
Learning ten thousand techniques is a waste of time. The body should move like flowing water.
Taoism begins with qi arising from emptiness and then yin and yang are born from qi.
V. Training Song
By training every day, Gongfu can be developed in the time periods of the fourth (spring) and tenth (autumn) Earthly Branch. Either in the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, or in the Dog Day and the Thirty Nine (Sānfú hé sānjiǔ, is a Chinese saying “Dog Day summer training, winter training Thirty Nine” Dog Day refers to the hottest period, mid July to mid August. Thirty Nine refers to the end of the Winter Solstice, the nineteenth day after the Soltice but it doesn’t mean just one day, it means the coldest period of winter, the end of December to mid February.) If you want to develop good Gongfu it is necessary to get up just before dawn. In training continuously for ten years Gongfu can be divided into five levels. Haste makes waste and learning must be consistent. The frame of Gongfu can be learned in half a year and the techniques must be clearly understood. First you must train the qi, the strength comes from the qi.
Use Kou Bu to turn the body and walk the circle. To turn the body back, hook the toe inward. The basic instruction needs to be given orally. If Gongfu is trained without interruption its Dao can be cultivated.
Dragon Body (Lóng shēn) and Snakes Tail (Shé Wěi) Tiger embraces the head (Hǔ bào Tóu) Remove (Bān) Block (Lán also” bar” or “hinder”) Intercept (Jié also “cut-off” or “sever”) Turn (Kòu) the foot and walk freely. Push (Tuī) Prop (Tuō) and Leading (Dàilǐng, Dai “take” Ling “Guide”) resembling a soft ball. The Shēn fǎ (body method) is like a Dragon and also resembles a Snake. The demeanor (Shéntài, “spirit state”) is like a Tiger, wrapping, turning and twisting. Launch an attack like an extremely powerful leopard.
When there is mutual interaction of the yin and yang the hand techniques will be successful. The interplay of positive and negative is a marvelous skill. Common people do not understand the intention within the method.
Seek the root of the changes and the movements in tranquility. Motion arises from tranquility and the body is lively and supple. Advancing should be hidden in retreating and it is necessary to defend while attacking.Suppleness overcomes Firmness when Opening (Kāifàng as in “unblocking” or removing restrictions), Combining (Hé, means “together” the upper and lower body and limbs and the range of motion and speed of movement are integrated) and Receiving (Shō, also “harvesting”, “collecting”, “controlling”)
Empty and nimble up to the top. The waist and hip have “ loose strength” (Jìnsōng), loose but not loose (Sōng, also means “Pine” like the flexibility of a pine branch when covered in snow. When the snow falls off, the branch springs back.) The pulling energy (Sī Jìn) is like pulling a silk thread, stretching but not stretching, similar to a slingshot. A spring does not fear an iron hammers strike.
To prevent illness avoid poking up in deviation (Dǐng biǎn, Dǐng “The crown of the head” biǎn “Flat” not lifting the head correctly). Lift the Grain Duct using Intention and Qi. Straighten the tail so the spirit penetrates the Mud Palace (the brain) Defend with the False, issue with the True, changing hands quickly/cleverly (Líng can be used to mean “clever”, “quick” “alert” “sharp”). Press firmly, if you don’t issue you are just wasting the idea. An excellent speech is just three to five sentences, more than that is just depleting the body.
Travel the world and you cannot find it, but it can be found without effort. (This does not mean no effort only wrong effort. Lái quán bù fèi gōngfu is the second part of the sentence, “come to no effort” is a metaphor meaning “something costs a lot of effort, can’t find it, but inadvertently you get it”. It is like the Daoist saying “The Way is not far from people. It is their expectation of the Way that distances them from it.” The principles are not remote and far away).
It is necessary to practice both the form and push hands. Striking a person is just like walking. The body needs to move forward when the hand reaches. Either on the left or right a single arm has the ability to conquer two.
Strike a person without effort, the art is not skillful if there is effort. When to issue power? In the space between Intention and No Intention (the instinctual moment). Adhere firmly then use power, the qi as heavy as a mountain. Those who have qi do not need strength (muscle) and those who cultivate qi will be firm. Qi is given birth in the Dantian and fills the palm, force is linked from the foot center to the palm center.
When the five elements are combined in one place boldness makes success possible. Gradually you can sense and understand the energy of Rising and Falling, False and True.
Three years to develop and the one qi links everything. Circulating energy is like spinning silk thread, and the movements are a spiral pattern. Regulate the breath for two years and the interior will naturally be clear. Boxing is like imprisoning (Jiān, means “prison” but also “oversee” or “supervise” and implies an active watchfulness like a prison warden) the enemy. When you touch his hand it seems as if no one is there. Seize the moment and gain the momentum.
Keep refining the skill. Train the form and you are able to be firm, train the essence (Jīng) and you are able to be solid, train the qi and you are able be robust (Zhuàng, also “strong”, “magnificent”) train spirit and you can fly.
Begin with the head upright and the shoulders level and smooth. The chest is combined and closed. The back is flat and upright. The foot is firm and stable and the knee is flexed (bent) as well as extended. The groin is deep and hidden. The ribs are open and stretching. The Qi is regular and even. The energy (Jìn) is loose (Sōng) and taught.
If you miss leading him into “falling into emptiness” leave it and hit him. Do not punch what is unknown. Seeing empty do not enter (don’t fall into a trap). Be lower in advancing and higher in retreating. Strike 30% hand 70% leg. Intention (Yì) hand and body reach out together. Be fast but not chaotic, slow but not dispersing (scattered). Quick a lightning, slow as spinning thread. Light but not floating, deep but not rigid. Like cotton wrapping iron, supple on the outside, firm on the inside.
Learn by following the stipulated rules, use without stipulated methods. It is essential to train Qigong for both Tai Chi and Xingyi.
Tile gathering palm, spiral wrapping, stagnate in double weighting, nimble in single weighting. If the outside is disordered the inside will not be united. If the step is not stable the fist will be chaotic. If the step is not fast the fist will be slow.
What is elastic energy (Dàn jìn, also“spring like energy” a sudden spring like force)? It is sudden like lightning and energy is conveyed invisibly and you throw them out without them sensing how it happened.
While training pay attention to the aching, sore and numb sensations. In pain loosen (sōng) if aching stretch, if sore extend. If there is pain there is a blockage and pain disappears if there is no blockage.
Excessive joy injures the heart. Anger injures the liver. Over thinking injures the spleen. Melancholy injures the lung. Fear injures the kidney.
VI. THIRTEEN-WORD FUNCTION POEM (although not included in the booklet itself the thirteen words are: “掤、捋、擠、按、采、挒、肘、靠、進、退、顧、盼、定。” peng, lǚ, jǐ, àn, cǎi, liè, zhǒu, kào, jìn, tuì, gù, pàn, dìng. ward off, stroke, squeeze, press, pick, flick, elbow, lean, advance, retreat, attend, expect, fixed)
Ward off (Peng) hold the hand and arms round and supported, dynamic, tranquil, in the actual situation attack willfully .
Once the hand touches, stroke (Lǚ, often called “roll back”) and squeeze (Jǐ, often called “press”) if the enemy still has the desire he will certainly not succeed. Press (Àn, “press down” often called “push”) the hand to make him lean and fall, three (most of the time the number is two and this may just be a publishing error) picking (Cǎi, also “gathering” “plucking”) live, without hesitation. When the coming force is ferocious, twist (Liè, also “flick”) the hand and lean (Kào) on with the elbow (Zhǒu), move willfully at any time. Advance (jìn) and retreat (tuì) to the opposite side, walk away when opportune. No need to fear the enemies proficient skill. In encountering the enemy get close for the imminent fight. Attend (gù, “look around”) and expect (pàn) the seven stars. When the enemy gets close to hit me, dodge away from the center and be fixed (ding, also “set” “definite” “stable” ) on the transverse.
In the methods of the Tai Chi thirteen words, trying to figure out the Jing Qi (in this case can be interpreted to mean “the essence of the thirteen words”) leads to wonderful restoration (Gēngshēng, also “regeneration”).
VII. SIX HARMONY JIN
twisting-wrapping (Níng-guo ning also “wring” “screw”),
drilling-turning over (zuān-fān),
bursting-cracking (bēng-zhǎ zhǎ, tiny fragments of stone),
shocking-springing (jīng-dàn, jīng, also “frighten” “surprise” dàn, also “bomb” “bullet” “shoot” also refers to the bamboo of an ancient stringed bow)
trembling-shaking (dǒu-sǒu, dǒu, also “shiver’ “shudder” “rouse” “quiver”)
VIII. EIGHT ESSENTIALS
ward-off (peng) needs to be supported (chēng)
stroking (Lǚ) needs to be light (qīng also “gentle”)
squeezing (Jǐ) needs to be transverse (héng)
press (Àn) needs to attack (gōng)
picking (Cǎi) needs to be solid (shí)
twisting (Liè) needs to be shocking (jīng)
the elbow (Zhǒu) needs to rush (Chōng) forward
bursting (bēng) needs to lean (Kào) on