Taiji with Jing

training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
May 2001 Issue

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So often nowadays, we see Yang taiji quan stylists launching into forms that are partly slow, precise taiji movements and partly fast, powerful fighting movements. It's as if without the small circle forms and fast forms we don't have the real thing. Everyone wants to add jing (power) to his forms without understanding the practical applications and intentions of the Yang family when it designed the forms it taught.

What we now call the Yang long form (108 movements) was originally referred to as the large frame form, named after the large, circular movements that characterize it. The Yang family masters taught the long form first to students because they noticed that most people, including other martial artists were tense and stiff with their movements. The applications of most taiji movements are pressure-point strikes and require loose, relaxed power that starts relaxed, becomes tense at impact, and then relaxes again. The tense power they observed with many other martial arts was almost a push power that hit the opponent and knocked him away. Pressure-point strikes require power that extends into the opponent and jars him internally, rather than damaging him on the outside and pushing him away.

By teaching the slow, soft, circular, large-frame taiji form first, Yang masters were able to both teach relaxed movements and instill permanent habits within their taiji students. These were habits, such as correct body posture and footwork - all things that are difficult to learn when you move too fast.

When students mastered the correct balance and movement principles and had learned to be relaxed, they were taught the use of various kinds of jing, the most popular being fa jing (explosive energy).

Obviously, no one fights at the speed the long form is practiced. Fighting is fast and sudden, making the use of fa jing essential.

It is a common misunderstanding that the small circle form or Yang fast form always follows the large frame form. While certain members of the Yang family used one or both of these forms to teach fa jing, others had a different way to instruct students. Yang, Cheng Fu (grandson of Yang, Lu Chan, the founder of Yang taiji) often taught his students fa jing on a movement-by-movement basis. For example, they might work on just one technique, such as brush knee, until they had mastered it, rather than work on it within a form.

Other Yang masters made their reputations by teaching the small circle form, which contains fast and slow movements, the fast containing fa jing, and the slow movements, the same as the large frame form. These were often masters who had little patience with the slow-moving large frame form and wanted to get into the fighting aspect sooner with their students.

I agree with teachers such as Yang, Cheng Fu, who maintained that students cannot learn to use fa jing properly without first learning and understanding the benefits of the large frame taiji form. If you start using fa jing too soon, before you are relaxed and know how to emit fa jing, your power will still be tense and inefficient.  

Doc Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.


Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

May 2001 Inside Kung-Fu