Further Musings

In my last blog, I told a bit of a porky. Just a little porky mind you, but I thought I'd better own up and explain it here. In my last blog I said that "Grasp the Birds Tail" was the most important posture in the Traditional Yang Family T'ai Chi form. Well it is and it isn't. Arguably the most important posture is "Preparation for T'ai Chi", followed closely by "Grasp the Birds Tail".  "Preparatory Posture" gets us ready both mentally and physically to perform the form. In actual fact we prepare by ensuring that we have the first five essences in place. If we don't, then we are not "prepared" to use the form. 

Now here is an interesting aside. In none of Yang Cheng Fu's  writings (or at least those attributed to Yang Cheng Fu but written by Chen Wei Ming, Dong Ying Jie and Cheng Manching) does he advocate raising and lowering the arms! There are no photographs of him doing this movement and all the drawings and photographs show him standing with arms at his side, wrists sunk and fingers pointing forward. The first reference I can find to raising and lowering the arms, is in Fu Zhongwen's "Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan". Now, as Fu was not only related to Cheng Fu by marriage, but  was one of Cheng Fu's senior students, we can assume that the movement was not invented by Fu, but that he had been taught it by the Master. 

However, as I said, that is a bit of an aside, if a somewhat interesting one. Preparatory Posture, Beginning Form and Grasp the Birds Tail, contain almost 85% of the principles of Yang Shi Taijiquan. (You will have noticed I've slipped "Beginning Form" in there). In preparatory posture we are told how to incorporate the first 5 of Cheng Fu's 10 Essentials. In Beginning Form we learn to move from Wu Ji to T'ai Chi and in Grasp the Birds Tail we are introduced to the 4 main Jins (or energies) of T'ai Chi. These energies are Peng, Lu, Ji and An. So it is not surprising if your Instructor spends a lot of time on these 3 postures and repeats, repeats and repeats them. As a beginner, my attitude used to be "Yes, I know that but what's next". Of course age and experience tells me over and over, that I didn't know that! I now only practice Section 1 of the form and have been trying to get that right for almost 25 years and I'm still trying to get it right. 

So if you become frustrated when your Instructor asks you to repeat something, don't despair. You will come to realise eventually the valuable lessons of the first three postures.

That's all for now. More to come.

Alistair Sutherland
Principal Instructor. 

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