Page 7 - The Key to Practicing Taijiquan's Skill & Form
I have often seen people who already have practiced for many years but still cannot produce internal energy. They cannot respond appropriately. Their hand is confused; their feet do not know what to do; they are unable to sense. Their eyes show hesitation or hastiness and they just fight without preparation. These are further examples of the internal diseases. They are very difficult to cure.
Every movement should follow the breathing. Use breathing to facilitate opening and closing. This is the so-called "using the qi to move the body". Every movement should have "quan" (martial) intention. For example, when the fist comes out, carry the fist with intention. When pulling the fist back, use intention to take it back.
Practice with the saber, sword, or spear should also follow this advice. You cannot throw away your intention and simply allow your four limbs to move independently. Internal movement is a combination of mind controlling the body and the body controlling the hand. Every hand and leg movement starts with your mind. From first the internal the external is reached. This is the so-called "internal skill".
Once expertness is reached then a mere thought, i.e., the mind just thinking in one direction is able to cause just single movement that starts and instantaneously encompasses the whole body. With this, the whole body force will be permeated completely throughout the body. Yet, without a good teacher people cannot reach this level. External skill only heeds external gesture; it is external movement. Their gesture and frame often may be very big and often may look very quick. In reality, however, it may not be so quick.
Internal skill emphasizes awareness based upon understanding energy. Understanding energy internally makes awareness go inside. Although movement may appear slow, actually, it may not be slow. In addition, in combat we decide how big the energy is, the appropriate time, the movement--low and quick, and the target. Since everything, including direction, is calculated, this calculation is based on hearing energy. This hearing energy comes from relaxed, soft, sinking, stillness, and slow practice daily. Boxing skill is an individual, bare-handed strategy. The mind and head represent the headquarters. The waist and chest are main but smaller fighting groups. The hands and feet are the smallest and lowest level of the fighting groups. The skin may be comparable to guards. The nervous system may be considered the system of communications.
Once you have contact with the enemy, the nervous system will pass the news to the head and heart. The head and heart make a decision, according to the situation, to guide the waist and body; to guide the four limbs and head and legs. If the nervous system cannot transfer this information, it is impossible to know from which direction the enemy is coming from or his magnitude. An appropriate response will then be impossible. Even if you have great force, if you do not use it appropriately you will be defeated. Use your hands and feet to protect your heart and body. If you cannot use your gesture appropriately you will not be able to reach your goal. The waist and spine are the axis for the use of the hands and legs. If transitions are not done flexibly a good result is not possible. The head and heart are the headquarters of the whole body. Therefore, awareness must be very clear and flexible, otherwise, a good command cannot be made.
During combat, if you need to be quick, you must be quick; if you need to be slow, be slow. In this art not even a single mistake is allowed. Move forward, move backward, left, right, you can not have even one hesitation, otherwise, all may be lost. So we can see the importance of the nervous system being clear. Therefore, taiji skill mainly emphasizes making your mind quiet and your temper concentrated and focused. This keeps the nervous system clear. Some do not understand this and place strong emphasis on the exercise of their muscles. Actually, this also damages the most valuable nervous system. This is a tragedy.
Those who like large muscles and strength probably have only two chances in combat. First, during an attack, regardless whether moving back or forth, they must be very quick. They will want their muscles to respond very quickly. The question is whether or not their muscles are very sensitive; yet even if they are quick, they cannot attack at the correct time. This may only create confusion.