First I would like to point out that according to the strictist standards of Tai Chi Chuan, EVERYONE is doing something wrong. As an art, the ultimate goal is to become one with the universe. This means that unless you see the master burst into energy and dissapear, it is safe to assume that there is a flaw in his/her technique/meditation.
Now that the above is out of the way, we shall get down to business. Tai Chi Chuan translate as, depending on who you talk to, The Grand Ultimate Fist, Great Nothing/Void Fist, Grasping The Ultimate with your Fist, and a few others that I didn't bother to remember. Obviously the ones I remember are the names that support my own ego. Others will say that they know the "true" name and unless they were old enough to know the guy invented the art, I would bet that they also remembered the name they liked.(I could be wrong). Anyway the important things to remember is that Tai Chi (all styles) uses the eight directions and the five elements. When a book speaks of the thirteen postures they mean the eight and the five. Being the eight and five, which are internal energy definitions, means that no two stylists of Tai Chi will agree on what a posture looks like, what energy a posture "is", or what the name should really be. This is okay. All you have to do is remember a few things. 1. You are not your instructor, his teacher or anyone else but you. Which means 2. Your body is YOUR body, not anyone elses. Hence 3. Your energy will be felt, defined, and used differently. Which brings us to 4. All definitions are based on use and experience with that use. This means that, for example, Ward off -one of the eight directions- uses uprising energy. How do we know this? Because if you "use" ward off the attacker will "rise". If Ward off is a strike the target will go up and back to fall on his/her back/head. If ward off is a block then the strike will go up and miss. If Ward off is used as a joint lock then the target will go up on his/her toes and scream. This is why the application, push hands, and fighting are considered important. Without them you would never have any "direct" experience to define the energies of Tai Chi Chuan. If this is all there was then Tai Chi would be a pitiful, tiny art. The Kicker is that all five elements in the stance work and all eight directions in the upper body have to be used simultaneosly (oooh looks like a misspell). The five elements are contained in the stance, weight shifts, and the stepping, in addition to being felt in the application. The eight directions have to be all going out in all eight directions. This means that if you are using ward off then all five elements will be felt in ward off and ward off will be felt in any direction (your back, elbows, head, butt, everywhere). This takes years of practice and is only the attack, or yang aspect, of the energies. The defense, or yin aspect, takes longer and requires more subtlety. To move on to the level of healing yourself and healing others is years beyond the simple attack and defense.
The above is the reason that the philosophy of Tai Chi is important. It is easy to win by attacking first and many people fall into that trap. The goal is to win by leading and being in harmony. This is why some push hands allows the feet to move and others keep the feet planted. The stepping allows you to use/practice the five elements where the not stepping causes you to use all five elements at the same time. If you fall then your eight directions were unbalanced, and if your foot slides or shifts then your five elements were out of balance.
If you want to train in Tai Chi then feel free. Just remember, The form is only a way to force you to use all thirteen energies since as a beginer you might forget a couple. As a rule of thumb about styles and their use, Chen uses extreme pain and joint destruction with all other application secondary, Yang primarily focuses on energy development and pressure point strikes, Wu primarily uses subtle energy imbalances to make you want to fall over,I have no experience with the other Wu, and Sun (apparently) wants to throw and hit really hard - I havent trained it but I have watched it. All other styles will be somewhere between these extremes.
As a disclaimer I should add that all these pages are limited by my experience. Thank you for your time.
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This page was last updated Friday April 30, 1999