Training Principles of Chen’s Taichi
In Chen’s Taichi, the basic training principles are: apply the theory not the strength; focus on foundation not the presentation; train the body not the techniques.
(I) Apply the Theory Not the Strength
“Theory” explains the very basic principles of Taichi. Practicing Taichi is to work on the ultimate general Dao – that is the basic theory of how yin emerges from yang and how yang emerges from yin in the process of change. During practice, it requires to have softness imbedded in hardness and hardness implied in softness with softness and hardness inter dependent and supportive to each other. When hollowness reduces to its extreme, solidness forms; and when solidness grows to its extreme, hollowness appears. This is how hollowness and solidness morph from one another. With high level of concentration, the mind guides the qi and the qi move the body. Practice while focusing on getting the qi and movements to follow the mind. When in motions, every part moves, the whole body follows and the internal and external coordinate. Control the postures and mover according to the requirements and follow the natural motions of the body. Progress patiently. “Strength” training refers to the training for physical strength. Such training will increase the power in certain specific body parts. However, in most cases, this type of training will lead to clumsy strength and stiff strength. It’s lack of flexibility and control. Therefore, it is not preferred my achieved Taichi practitioners.
(II) Focus on the Foundation Not the Presentation
“Foundation” refers to the root and base, i.e. the kidney qi and lower body kungfu. The kidneys hold the fundamental yin and yang. It is the prenatal base and the source for vital qi. When the kidney qi is strong, all organs are well nourished. The heart, liver, spleen, lung and the kidney will function properly. As a result, the person is good spirits, quick in response and coordinated in motion. Internal qi is one of the important aspects of good foundation. The other aspect of good foundation is the kungfu of the lower body. Under the condition when whole body is relaxed and, the qi settles in dantian and charges to yongquan, the body can be rooted solidly on the feet so as to achieve the state of livened upper section, flexible middle section and rooted lower section. “Presentation” refers to the shown intension, strength and hardness of certain specific parts of the body. Training methods focusing only on the presentation do not agree with Taichi principles. Taichi is an internal system. It training both the internal qi and external skills with the main focus on solidify the internal foundation. Hence there are sayings like: “Nourish the root and enrich the source”, “Nourish the roots and the branches and leaves will flourish; enrich the source and the stream will flow afar.”
(III) Train the Body Not the Techniques
Train the “body” means to train the capability of the body as a whole. Train the “techniques” means to work on special defensive and offensive techniques of an application. At the beginning stage, most people are interested in understanding the applications of each move. However, such training in focusing on explaining and understanding of the applications of Taichi defensive and offensive techniques will not lead one to the essence of Taichi. The correct process of learning Taichi must involve learning the forms and routines, correct postures and moves, reduce stiffness, achieve softness so as to reach the level when the whole body is coordinated, the internal and external are coordinated and the internal qi is full and solid. Let the skill be part of the body. Taichi training is for the complete ability of the body. According to specific situations in application, Taichi principle is to lose the self to follow the opponent and adapt when situation changes. It never resorts to the specific application of specific techniques. When the internal qi is full and solid, the body is like a well inflated balloon. It responds to any sensation of external impact. It enables the Taichi practitioner to strike with the part wherever is being attacked, such as described in On Boxing: “When achieved, one can counterattack according to the attack without thinking. The application will come naturally and automatically.”