Tai Chi is like a circle, and Tai Chi Quan (Tai Chi ) is a type of boxing formed by countless interconnected circles. Every movement, whether raising a hand or taking a step, should not depart from this circle. Deviating from the circle would contradict the principles of Tai Chi. When the limbs and body are still, they are in alignment, but once they move, they must remain within the circle.
In Tai Chi Quan, defense is also an attack, and an attack is also a defense. One cannot apply Tai Chi Quan’s methods to attack without being able to use those same methods to defend. Since every movement involves circles, the more profound the skill, the smaller the circles become. Sometimes the movements are imperceptibly circular, encompassing both defense and attack. Therefore, in push hands exercises, one must be attentive to “listening to energy,” which means practicing sensitivity and touch to feel the opponent’s force. By sensing the direction of the incoming force, one can use half a circle to defend and the other half to attack. This is what is meant by “stickiness” in Tai Chi, which is the same as “adherence” or “following.”
To master Tai Chi Quan, one must have practical experience in combat. Otherwise, it is difficult to be confident. Practitioners must not neglect the experiential aspect of Tai Chi Quan. Although other martial arts emphasize speed during combat, Tai Chi Quan is practiced slowly. This is because the forms of Tai Chi Quan are fundamental to developing the skills. First, one must clearly distinguish between emptiness and fullness. If there is an imbalance in this regard, the movements will become sluggish. Practicing the forms involves a continuous interplay of emptiness and fullness, with each hand continuously transforming between the two states. The movements should be seamless and circular throughout, harmoniously following the principles of emptiness and fullness.
Tai Chi Quan aims to increase internal energy (“qi”). Although the forms are practiced without exerting force, developing internal energy requires slow and continuous movements. The body must be relaxed, with every part devoid of tension, allowing for continuous and uninterrupted motion. The slow and smooth movements generate internal energy, also known as “internal strength” or “jin.” This internal energy is different from conventional force and can have a profound impact on the opponent, as if being hit by an electric shock.
Stability in the lower body depends on the ability to sink the energy to the dantian. If the dantian is full and centered, the lower body will be stable. However, during combat, the difficulty in maintaining stability is often not due to instability in the lower body but rather stiffness in the waist and legs. If the waist and legs are agile, one can freely move and avoid direct confrontations with the opponent. Tai Chi Quan does not rely on brute strength. The key is to achieve extreme softness and suppleness, avoiding collisions with the opponent’s force.
Whether practicing forms or push hands, one must pay attention to the tailbone and the upright spine. All movements originate from this central axis. The tailbone provides circular energy, enabling all parts of the body to adhere and follow. If the tailbone is not engaged, the circular energy of the other parts will lose its effectiveness. After practicing for a considerable time, one will have a sudden realization. Therefore, seeking guidance from an experienced teacher is crucial for progress in martial arts.
Tai Chi Quan should be continuous and uninterrupted, with the internal and external aspects integrated into a seamless flow. By adhering to this principle, the body will become rounded and agile. It applies to all styles of martial arts, where suppleness and agility are essential. To achieve this, one must learn how to use one hand as the primary and the other as the secondary, with each hand dividing into virtual and real parts. This ensures that the energy circulates smoothly, creating a perfect and unbroken circle. Both hands should work together, avoiding any imbalances to the left or right. The principle of “tailbone and upright center” is crucial in this regard.
One must keep the chest hollow and the back straight, as this is the fundamental posture for preventing the opponent from attacking the chest. The purpose of Tai Chi Quan is to prevent the opponent from entering one’s chest area. Once the opponent’s hand is within this area, it becomes an opportunity for Tai Chi to launch an attack. “Fa” (launching an attack) and “Hua” (neutralizing) are two sides of the same coin. Without launching, there is nothing to neutralize, and without neutralizing, there is no launching. Thus, “sticking” is also “adhering” and “adhering” is also “sticking.”
Tai Chi Quan movements should flow smoothly from beginning to end, with no pauses in between. The whole body should be light and agile, and the energy should be sunk to the dantian. By maintaining a constant awareness of the changes between yin and yang, one can avoid the drawbacks of being “double weighted.” With sufficient practice, one can achieve a breakthrough even without direct guidance from a master. In Tai Chi Quan, the fundamental skill is in following the principle of “roundness and agility” and applying this concept consistently.