Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Eight Trigrams And Five Elements Of Jou Tsung Hwa

Lately at our little Dojo we've been reading and pondering the teachings of the late Master Jou Tsung Hwa.
Master Jou was a Chinese mathematician, and after an illness at 47 years of age, he turned his brilliant mind to the study of Tai Chi Chuan and found a return to health.
Jou's book "The Tao Of Tai Chi Chuan - Way To Rejuvenation" is a modern classic and is considered by many to be the premier book on Tai Chi.
-What caught our attention is Jou's interest in what he considered "the master key" to not only Tai Chi, but all martial arts.
Jou suggests a theory:
"Around 1970, Chi Chang Tao, an advanced student of the great modern master Cheng Man-Ch'ing, told me his teacher had said there were "eight trigrams in his hand". Chi did not understand this saying, and asked me about it because he thought my background in mathematics would enable me to explain the dynamics of hand movements in terms of the eight trigrams. I didn't understand then, but now, fifteen years later, I do."
"In the earliest classic on Tai Chi, Chang Sang-Feng says that Tai Chi is learned from the movement or orbit of the sun and the moon. Clearly, he watched their movements and related them to his own life."

-Jou did not understand until:

"-One night, as I practiced Tai Chi Chuan, I saw the crescent moon rise. Suddenly, I understood the connection Chang San-Feng made: the back of the hand is yang, the palm is yin. As the hand turns, a crescent of yang appears. We have two hands, so they must match one another like the relationship between the sun and the moon.
-- From this I was able to recognise that the pa kua, representing eight phases of cyclical change, is the key to the torso method in Tai Chi Chuan."
"The master key to the art of Pa Kua is the circular arrangement of the eight trigrams. Practitioners may imitate circular walking, but they must understand the eight trigrams for their art to truely be "Pa Kua". The master key to Hsing-I is the relation of the five elements in each movement. -
- The Tai Chi player must learn both the eight trigrams and the five elements. Lacking the master key, even after twenty years of study with the best teacher, you may have "Chuan", but it will not be Tai Chi Chuan.-
- Some practitioners of monkey fist, Pa Kua, Hsing-I and Tai Chi would exclaim loudly against this, saying it is too theoretical and useless for fighting. They would be right if the goal were form, but it is formlessness."

Now, that's a lot of meat to chew on.
In a simplistic explanation, one would reason that the spiraling, evasive palms of Pa Kua (Bagua) and the powerful angle-stepping and follow-step of Hsing-I (Xingyi) are the contributing factors to successful Tai Chi Chuan.
But Jou goes on, as a mathematician would, to link the movements to the I-Ching, the points of the compass and the orbit of the sun and moon. He details the trigrams and the relationship of the five elements to the ebb and flow of Tai Chi Chuan in a very readable and comprehensive way.
Master Jou was a brilliant man, with a huge following of students. As a middle-aged martial artist, I can relate to Jou beginning Tai Chi Chuan at age 47 and finding health and success.
Master Jou set the standard as "a thinking man's martial artist".


Zacky Chan said...

Oh man, I gotta get my mind on that when I return from budoland. I don't quite understand but am greatly interested in what he says about the importance of the trigrams.

Michele said...

My instructor recommended this book to me. He trained with Master Jou at the Farm. He tells the class stories about being thrown across the room when pushing hands with Master Jou.

I have a copy of the book but I struggle understanding it. I am currently on a three month tai chi break because I am working a temporary part-time job.

I miss class.

Charles James said...

Hi,DR: Eight Gua in the Palm. See:

Dojo Rat said...

The info in Jou's book is a philosophical struggle, but I love that stuff. Hope you can get back to your class soon!

thanks, I saved a copy of that (the palm) for further thoughts

Charles James said...

DR: Your welcome. The story goes that a blind sage used this method to provide divination of the I ching, etc.

He apparently did it all using the palm of his hand although he studied many, many years to get to that place.

daniele.perkele said...
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