Yang Chen-Fu In Taiji Single Whip
I've been trying to put my thoughts together on the level of intensity I am experiancing in the Chinese Internal Arts recently.
- Let me begin by saying that while Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo of my early training gave me a sound foundation to build on, there was no way near the level of inner body knowledge that the internal arts offer. You could plow through a hard-style form and it felt about the same as if you had just done a bunch of push-ups or something. A sort of external vibrant stimulation, but superficial.
For the purpose of this post, I will focus on Taiji and Xingyi, the two arts I have been deeply studying. At this time, Xingyi is still a fairly new art for me, so I'm investing a lot of training time in it currently.
Tai Chi Chuan:
I started learning Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan around 1996, so I've logged a few hours in on that system. After years of Karate, I initially looked at Taiji with Karate "eyes". It took quite some time to let go and just feel the shapes of the postures and the rythym of the movement. At the time, my form instructors were superb, but there was no application work. None-the-less, my Karate benefited from the aspect of Taiji that resembles the movement of water. The long slow Taiji form changed my timing and rythym, and allowed me to see gaps and fill voids. My sparring got a lot better.
As I moved away from external Karate arts, I sought out higher level training and found our Tai Chi Chuan instructor, Michael Gilman. Under Gilman's supervision, the form came alive with applications, push hands and Chi development. What I feel now is that of the three internal arts, Tai Chi Chuan provides the best tune-up for balencing Yin and Yang. That includes the internal feeling as well as the movement evident in the postures. My Bagua training is temporarily taking a back-seat while I'm learning Xingyi, so the remaining thoughts will center on Xingyi.
Several years ago, I was ready to dial it up a notch. I had been in touch with Jake Burroughs of "Three Harmonies Martial Arts Center" in Seattle. Jake has hosted seminars with Master instructors Tim Cartmell and the late Mike Martello, among others. Through these training seminars, the science behind the movement in internal martial arts was explained. All these instructors had a no-nonsense approach to fighting with these arts, and there was a lot, A LOT of throwing. Angles were disected, strategy explained, and obscure form movement revealed.
By this time, I decided that if I was going to understand the totality of the Chinese internal arts, I needed to learn Xingyi to complete the Trinity. Jake patiently walked myself and another training partner through the five elements, strategy and later the linking forms and two of the animal forms. At this time I have a pretty good foundation but have a lot of training ahead of me.
What I feel in Xingyi is somewhat different than Taiji. As I said earlier, Taiji provides the greatest Yin-Yang balence (as I currently feel it). Xingyi however, brings out a far more aggressive feeling. As I have been instructed, we mostly practice Xingyi at a slow moderate speed like Taiji. But the feeling is completely different. Xingyi produces more rising, Yang energy in me. There is something that is associated with the aspect of hitting and crashing through imaginary opponents that brings out the warrior spirit. With that said, the level of focus is at least as powerful as Taiji, if not more. It is not haphazard flailing. One of the unique features that has changed a lot of my training is using the "Phoenix-eye fist", with the index knuckle extended.
Something about this fist, used for pressure point attacks, has completely changed the focus in hitting. Try it if you haven't, and see what you think. I have no doubt it activates something different in the meridian system of the body.
With all that has been said, I think Tai Chi Chuan and Xingyi complement each other perfectly. Taiji puts a little more emphisis on yielding, Xingyi on bold attacks.
But these arts offer a far deeper level of inner contemplation than any hard-style martial art I have ever practiced.