Tai Chi Notes #3

"Quietness Like lake water reflects the moon, a calm spirit allows energy to move inside the body" - Principle of Yi Jing Ying

"Return is the movement, Yielding is the way" - Daodejing 40

"If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are." - Daodejing 23


Holding the breath is a common habit especially among beginning students.  By paying attention to when this occurs we can remind ourselves to focus on loosening and relaxation (i.e. "letting go"), so that the breath (and movements) become less forceful and more smooth.  

Mind (Xin) vs Intention (Yi)

It is said that the mind directs the chi, and the chi directs the body.  This is accomplished through yi or "intention" which follows through with guided action.  

Intention (Yi) vs Force (Li)

By using intent rather than force, the muscles, tendons and nerves become more relaxed and the mind free of tension.  In his Thirteen Treasties Cheng Man Ch'ing  mentions that where the chi goes, the blood follows.  When tension is let go of and the muscles are relaxed circulation becomes more optimal, and overtime the muscles become less habitually reflexive.


Ting means self-observation or "listening" inside the body.  Releasing (song) and ting go together, in that the more 'released' one is, the more one can 'listen to' and feel what is happening in the body.

The Chinese character for song (sung) denotes removing the pin which keeps the hair up (i.e. letting the hair down), a metaphor for letting go of unnecessary tension.  Other possible translations include 'loosened' and 'unbounded.'  

Zhong Ding

Zhong Ding refers to the idea of central equilibrium.  By being upright (keeping the spine straight and the back lifted) this balance is maintained whereas leaning forward or back makes the body tend in the direction of leaning.

Relaxing the lower back while keeping the tailbone in a comfortable alignment develops the sensation of equal balance when sinking into the kua and transferring the weight through the knees to the feet.


Dòngliàng relates to movement and swing, or the idea that centripetal momentum carries the practitioner from posture to posture.  

This concept represents the 'parts' in between fully arriving at each form as one posture moves into the next; Oftentimes there may be a tendency to place significance upon 'arriving' at the full expression of each posture.  The idea of seeking "stillness within movement" applies here as well.

Empty and Full

Empty and full refers to the differentiation between what Yang Chengfu calls the substantial and the insubstantial.  When stepping in Tai Chi, the stepping leg is empty and the weighted leg is full.  It is when the lifted foot touches the ground that the weight gradually becomes redistributed.  


Gong is a word which in the West is called 'kung' as in kung fu.  However the word gong itself means the cultivation of a skill.  Gong is spoken of as something which is an ongoing process, and overtime gong is something which is accumulated:

"Gong practice has long been considered the secret of the art.  "I will teach you quan (external movements or technique) but not gong" is another well-known saying within the Chinese martial arts community... Our attitude should be to nurture, nurture, nurture, slowly and patiently, step-by-step, accumulating gong.  Only by nurturing can we use softness to accumulate hardness."
(Taijiquan:  The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power 16-17)  

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