A Brief Introduction of Taiji Master Wang Zhuanghong, by xiāo yáo shān rén.
信堅園地從今起，增闢一欄: 逍遙太極，可見於 “太極拳” 標題下。此欄將專貼信堅的太極師父，逍遙山人，所寫的有關太極拳、劍、刀法、及其他武功創作。也將包括他以YouTube video 教導 和他學生的表演賽。 (去年奪得南加州太極表演賽冠軍)。這是他的第一篇文章。
王壯弘宗師 (1931-2008) 堪稱近代太極拳泰斗級的巨人.其所創之水性太極拳可謂風華絕代、獨具一格。在太極拳演義的長河中, 水性太極實乃一顆新生的閃亮的金星。可以斷言, 他必將為太極拳的發展指明方向。幫助太極拳愛好者, 攀登绝頂高峰。逍遙山人雖然沒有見過王壯弘宗師,但是有幸跟隨其海外弟子張希榮及張雲義两位老師作過短期學習。對王氏水性太極稍知一二。日前吾友信堅大師在其《信堅園地》網站, 增闢太極拳一欄, 囑愚投稿。愚擬轉載王壯弘宗師為《陳式太極拳圖說》重印版所寫的序文, 與大家分享。愚亦將該文譯為英文, 以幫助只看英文的讀者。
“Chen-style Taichichuan with Graphic Illustration” Preface for the reprinting edition By Wang Drong-Hung Shanghai, China, March 1985
Among the numerous martial art systems in China, Taichichuan is a unique branch based on non-ordinary concepts. Over one hundred years ago, Chen Chang-Shin’s disciple, Yang Lu-Chan, made use of Taichichuan’s eight-gate and five-step kung fu in engaging other masters, which earned him “Champion Yang” in the martial art community. This has demonstrated to us that Taichichuan offers strong martial capability, not just something with sophisticated theories.
The fundamental principles of Taichichuan have been discussed in details in many writings by grandmasters, including Chen Shin, Wang Chung-Yueh, Wu Yu-Shiang, Li Yi-Hseh, and others. However, these classics have not received enough attention from most people. Furthermore, some practitioners even follow an opposite direction.
Let us consider Push Hand as an example. Push Hand should be executed on the basis of “neither separate nor against.” But today, most people do use “blunt force,” hoping to strengthen his roots. They behave like bull fight. This is against the call of Taichichuan for using softness to deal with hardness. It’s a natural principle to realize that the more I strengthen my roots, the harder he would push me.
Fundamental principles in Push Hand can be highlighted in terms of four key elements: touch up, stick to, connect with, and follow through. The first two are meant for hand maneuvers while the latter two are meant for step functions of feet. If one does not de-root, he won’t be able to step around swiftly and freely. He could not perform “connect with” and “follow through,” thereby presenting himself as a target for attack, which leads to the possibility of falling down. Therefore, in order to avoid falling down in Push Hand, one must at first de-root him. Actually, de-root means “without fixed root,” much like an object floating on water or a sphere rolling on ground. It is also analogous to a toy with light top and heavy bottom with a never falling stability.
The concept of “Taichi” is circle. But it is not a planner concept; rather, it is a spherical concept. It is envisioned as a circle viewed from all directions. This concept is referred to the so-called eight gates, which includes four normal and four oblique orientations, and is a subset of the 13 postures. Manifested in terms of specific execution, this calls for requirements in loosening the shoulders and sinking the elbows; opening the qua and expanding the knees; and contending the chest and stretching the back. One would behave like an elastic sphere. This sphere would then rotate under any external force action. Think about a sphere resting on the ground. Would it be difficult for you to get on top of it? The degree of freedom is similar to a balance measure, or to a rotating wheel. The discussion here has been introduced in the classics as “stillness leads to close; motion leads to open; standing is like a balance measure; move around is like a rotating wheel.”
But a sphere is an inorganic object while a man is an organic entity. There are major differences between the two. In addition to similar capability of the sphere, a man is able to make further adjustments of his center of gravity. With proper use of the sticking kung fu (touch up, stick to, connect with, follow through, never allow separation, and never go against anything) one would neither offer a point of contact for the approaching attacker to exert his force, nor allow the attacker to toss him away. This capability is the so-called five steps, i.e., advance, retreat, leftward, rightward, and centralization. This is the other subset of the 13 postures.
Man’s conceptual sphere could be made large or small according to his intent in opening or closing. Major joints in the human body behave like many small spheres, able to rotate, able to vary in size, and able to open or close. When they open, they become many small spheres. When they close, they combine into a large sphere.
Taichichuan’s Jin follows the characteristics of water. Therefore, the process of generating Jin should exhibit the propagation of water waves. This idea has been introduced in the classics by saying “like continuous water waves in the great river of Yangtze.” The propagation process of Jin calls for the connectivity of body joints linking palm, arm, torso, leg, and foot. Each wave segment covers a section of the body, which consists of three or more joints.
As soon as an external force is exerted upon your body, you just initiate a chain reaction of water waves, which moves around in a divergent or convergent manner. You can also add silk-reeling Jin on the waves. The overall result is much like tornado or big ocean waves. In this case, it is not possible to know how high you rise up to if you go up; or, how deep you are if you sink down. Similarly, you can always follow closely with the attacker’s pace in advancement or retreat. The essence can be called “wave carries flower,” and has been described clearly in classics.
Within the greater Taichi systems arena, Push Hand is but a form of training, a transitioning process and milestone. Eventually, it leads to Sanshou (free sparing). But, Taichichuan’s Sanshou is still different from that of other martial arts. One must first establish a solid Push-Hand foundation before he can do Sanshou. It involves both sticking and non-sticking techniques with a large degrees of freedom; sometimes sticking intent continues even though physical contact has ended in separation.
Taichichuan’s Sanshou technique calls for tossing out the opponent with using leverage and spiraling principles; together with using expansion power along with wave-like impact. Its basic nature is soft; but it generates immense power. The classics have described this property as saying, “First achieving extreme softness; then extreme hardness follows.”
Obviously, the softest substances on earth are water, wind, and air. And the most powerful strength also comes from water, wind, and the expansion power of air. This type of Sanshou, performed in a soft manner, can cause painless, amusing, and enjoyable effect. However, if performed in an aggressive manner, it can induce severe damage to inner organs. Without achieving this kung-fu level, one would still be considered a mediocre.
In terms of solo training, Taichichuan requires emptiness, stillness, and total relaxation. During a routine practice, one needs to incorporate a number of features, namely, relax the blood vessels, open the skin pores, align the bone structures, and still the mind. It is an exercise with large internal energy cultivation while with little physical power consumption. It is very suitable for enhancing health and promoting longevity. In addition, it is a good means for chronic-disease prevention and recovery. So, it is fare to say that Taichichuan is a unique exercise, serving both needs in health enhancement as well as in self-defense for martial interest.
Let us now discuss a bit more on the defense side. Taichichuan does not encourage one to initiate an attack. Rather, according to the quotation, “If you don’t move, I don’t move. Since you move first, I simply follow. If you don’t attack me, I’d never attack you. Since you initiated an attack on me, I just respond with a reactive measure based solely on the strength and speed of your attack.” A good analogy for my counter measure is the mechanism of seesaw, revolving door, or sphere. Reaction is directly proportional to action. Otherwise, I need to maintain my central equilibrium and center of gravity. However, there is an active measure imbedded within the passiveness. Whenever necessary, I could deliberately increase the reactive measure, causing a chain of waves to engulf the attacker. But this kind of activeness is originated from the basis of passiveness, qualifying it as a quasi activeness. The bottom line is passiveness.
What kind of attitude should one take in learning Taichichuan? The answer is: one should learn from enlightenment. Having learnt a routine is not the ultimate goal, regardless of the styles. One must continue to seek understanding of some deep and profound meanings and quality. Then one should try to make improvement, to raise its level, and to contribute to the advancement of the art. This is a learning method called by the ancestors as “when you have acquired Yi (intent), you can forget the external form.” Form is meant for providing assistance in understanding the theory. If you know the theory, you should create better form based on the theory. This is the basis for all things to make progress. I hope all martial artists embark on this aspiration. [Translator’s Remark: a third part of the original article has not been translated here because it covers history and lineage of the Chen style Taichichuan; information should be widely available elsewhere.]