This section is dedicated to questions on Wu Style Tai Chi from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can ask it here: Contact Stephen
thankyou and take care,
Whole Body Moves
QUESTION from Greg: Thanks for the reminder that "the whole body moves as one." It's evident from watching you, but only if one is paying attention to this element. It seems that a great deal of the power in Wu comes from this rotating of the body or moving forward and back rather than moving the limbs independently. Again - thanks for the detailed presentations. Multiple angles make this easy to follow. Also this bit of the hand not moving but the body moving is a bit of an optical illusion, so thanks for pointing out.
ANSWER: Hi Greg, Yes, the whole body moving as one is very important, this is called ‘combining’, you can tell how developed some ones understanding of tai chi is by looking to see how ‘combined they are in their forms and movements. ‘Combining’ is essential for the development of your tai chi and in creating your foundation, the central control for this is in understanding how to engage the waist. It is important to work on the aspect of controlling the movements of your arms not by the shoulders but with the waist, a good line of enquiry is: “How can I move my arms in a controlled way, in all directions, without engaging my shoulders or arm strength?”
Beautiful day, I am going outside to train
Blocking in Tai Chi
QUESTION from Greg: Stephen - great help with the mechanics of Single Whip in your classroom. There were clearly some details (as a beginner) I was missing, including the rotation of the right foot.Thanks!
Note - the 13 Golden Postures I've been doing closely mirror the beginning of the 108, so you're really helping me take a deeper look and the forms and transitions I've already learned.
I can see I'll be spending quite a while on this one. 13 Golden Postures has a brush knee, but not these sequential brush knees.
Is the martial application of the left, left, right, left blocking a right kick 2x, followed by a left followed by a right - anticipating the combination from a right handed/footed opponent?
ANSWER: Hi Greg
To understand the application of these postures you need to think in an unconventional way, that means not thinking in terms of blocking and punching. There are no blocks in tai chi instead it uses the techniques of following, joining and dissolving of force and at higher levels redirecting the energy back to the opponent. We need to learn to never resist but to listen to and follow the incoming force. Slow Form is training for Pushing Hands and in turn Pushing Hands is training for Slow Form, they are both inseparable as each supports and gives understanding to the other. you can't understand Slow Form without Pushing Hands and in turn understanding in Pushing Hands changes and develops your Slow Form.
The Brush Knees are not block and punch even though they appear to be, there is no fixed response in tai chi application, instead they are teaching you to combine and follow. They are based on understanding the following rules:
Peng (warding), Lu (diverting), Ji (pressing), An (pushing), Tsai (plucking), Li (twisting), Zhou (elbowing), Kao (leaning) and the five steps, stepping forward, stepping backwards, turning left, turning right, and central balance. In Pushing Hands you use these techniques to develop: Ting (listening), Zou (leading by walking away), Nien (sticking), Hua (neutralising), Fa (attacking).
Everyones Form is Different
QUESTION from Annov: Stephen - I have watched many videos of different masters practicing the same form and they all look different, what is going on? Which way is the right way? Does the way we practice our forms change the way it is experessed?
ANSWER: Hi Annov
Yes you are right there are many factors that change the way a tai chi form is expressed. Even within the same lineages there are variations, this is due to a number of factors, many of which you have expressed. When I teach a class room full of students, even though they are all practicing the same postures their forms will be expressed differently. This is because of a number of factors:
Firstly each student comes into the classroom with their own body size and shape, this effects the way their body moves and their ability to perform each posture. Our physicality is something we cannot escape from, we may even have a physical impairment, visually these factors change how the form appears from the outside.
Secondly each student comes into the classroom with previous conditioning, some have studied other martial arts, others dancing, another might have been a labourer their whole life and yet another student might have done no physical exercise at all. Do they practice tai chi for health, martial arts (do pushing hands) or both? These previous conditioning effect the way each student will approach and express the form.
Thirdly other factors like depth of understanding, depth of breathing, thinking, emotions, will all effect the speed and feel of each posture. How internal their form is greatly effects the external expression.
Finally the teacher, the teacher is affected also by all the above things plus things like did the teacher fully understand what their teacher taught them? If not then they will pass on bad habits. The depth of their own practice will effect their form, our forms change as they develop moving from external to internal, at deeper levels the beauty of the external form is no longer relevant rather the unifying of body, breathing and mind with the flow of the Qi.
Also the teachers age will affect the size of their stances and the fluidity of their movements.
There are so many factors, what I tell my students is not to practice my form but their own form, make the form their own, listen inside and follow the flow. There are many teachers and videos out there so we all need to be careful, the important thing is to familiarize yourself with the tai chi principals in the tai chi classics. If your form and your teachers fit within the principals then you are on the right track. If they do then you will find that deeper understanding of these classics will reveal themselves to you as you study the forms. If they don't then I would be looking for a new teacher, basically if the form doesn't align with the classics and go internal then you are just doing a pretty physical exercise.
Postures Arn't Perfect
QUESTION from Nomida: If my body movements are not exactly right, will this still work for me. If i do my own imagination way movements i feel more powerful, than watching others do it. But i dont know is this the right way.?
ANSWER: Hi Nomida
A lot of thought has gone into the postures and their order in the original tai chi slow forms. These have been designed and handed down through many generations by very developed practitioners who had a deep understanding of the internal aspects of tai chi. Tai chi slow form starts off as an external form but develops internally at higher levels, so I would suggest that if you do not have a deep understanding of the internal aspects to trust that the forms are complete within themselves.
When we first start practicing everyone’s movements aren’t exactly right so don’t worry about being perfect, tai chi is a life long study of perfection, I suggest sitting back and enjoying the ride. Don’t get caught up in the feeling of or idea of power, your forms will develop at their own pace and reveal what you need at the right time. You could follow the movements from your imagination but unless you are following tai chi principals you risk developing nothing more then a physical exercise
Health Qi Gong Question
QUESTION from Tim: I feel the heat / chi up to my elbows, the back of my neck and head. Qi Gong never felt so good ! I have small problems with balance, my heel not touching the floor in a low stance, while the other does. This is my disability from a broken leg that stopped me from any MA practice. I should have not questioned myself "when will I ever stop practicing MA" this led to a severe break. what's next??
ANSWER: Hi Tim
For Qi Gong remove any thinking of punching or striking, this is the wrong direction, Qi Gong has no relationship to fighting but is focussed on health and longevity
No. 9 Walking by The Lake has two open palms, one facing upwards, one facing downwards
The palms move along a centre line directly in front of the body in line with the Dun Tien, just below the belly button
The palm facing down moves from close to the body and away from it, the palm facing up moves from away from the body, back to it
The palms pass each other in the middle and they ‘scan’ over each other
The movements are not large, at the end of each movement the palms turn over and reverse positions
The elbows stay facing the ground to connect the arms to the hips
The movement does not come from the arms but from the circling of the hips around the Dun Tien, below the belly button
The movement is driven by the internal thigh and abdominal muscles, the rest of the body is kept perfectly relaxed