Tai chi silk reeling and martial applications

Xu-Richard testing technique

About a year ago, my teacher, George Xu, came out with a name to his system of Chinese martial art as Ling Kong Shen Shi Men. This year he updated the name to Xin Tian Ling Kong Shen Shi Men. The system is the practical application of his so-called “predator theory,” through which he explains how the system works. His latest instructional video, which I produced, expands on the past couple of videos for the most complete understanding of his system yet.

Master Xu translates Xin Tian Ling Kong Shen Shi Men as “Organic Light Traveling Through Space Invisible, Indirect Space Power.” The title is a long one, but I think it says a lot. It lays out the components of the system, which Master Xu says is complex.

Get the latest video info here.

“It looks simple, but not so easy. Yeah, once you get it, it’s easy, but not until then,” he says.

Xin Tian translates as “pre-birth.” It’s means literally heart and heaven, relating to a state of newness and naturalness. It’s a term the Chinese use to refer to a newborn baby, whose skin and muscles don’t yet have the memory of living and responding to the pressures of its new world. It also refers to the word “organic,” and Master Xu uses the term in his explanations.

During the past year, Master Xu has traveled to Italy, Oregon, Colorado … developing a clearer description of his system. Many of his students are beginning to see the connection between his theory and his system.

I think he’s continually building on the theory for his own understanding, but the components of his system and the accompanying explanation for doing them is not only more understandable, but also more achievable.

In a big way, the system as he explains it in lecture and demonstration is simpler to understand intellectually, but while still being more of a challenge to implement in practice. I can see how much more possible it is to apply now with the current series of educational videos available.

Master Xu talks and demos such concepts as dead arm, body art, zhong ze ding (or vertical force, not just zhong ding), melting, using space and centrifugal force “scientifically.” How the muscles can be incorporated in the move, even be essential to certain kinds of movement.

Check out my youtube.com channel for a clip to get a little taste. You can read more about it here.

Advertisements

The “I know you, you don’t know me” saying in martial arts

GeoXu_w

Xu Guo Ming (George)

George Xu says, “I know you, you don’t know me,” to describe a key characteristic of his approach to martial awareness. Whether you’re practicing tai chi or qigong, or taking a walk in a park, his refrain applies to how you listen to yourself and to others, even to things. I don’t grasp this fully in practice, but I can tackle some of what he means. Obviously, for one thing, if you don’t know yourself, you are vulnerable if someone else knows your weaknesses. This is true in martial arts and in life.

Master Xu is referring to how you are configured energetically and what is the status of your “qi.”

What is the shape of your energy? Where are you empty, full, concave, convex? In taijiquan, with enough exposure, you hear about peng, liu, qi, an and the other “13 Postures” which refer to these concepts. However, Master Xu is not so formal and traditional, because it can make learners complacent and stiff. So, where are you stuck and stagnant? Where are you too light when you should be weighted and vice versa? What is meant by weighted in gravity? Are you double weighted? Are you clear on the difference between being connected and being stiff, or agile and locked? Are all the parts of your body contributing to the whole? Where are you stiff and sluggish when you should be quick and agile? On and on it goes…

How do you know these things? By listening to the energy, Master Xu would say. Chinese martial artists refer to “ting jing,” listening energy. It is more of feeling performed with the whole being, not just the ears. Perhaps “sensing” is more accurate.

Actually, I like to think that it’s really learning to learn, which is the foundation of taiji training and, I suspect, for training in any mind-energy-body work. You’re taking in information and interpreting it in ways that are tangible, applicable within the context. You’re making sense out of what you feel as a result of engaging all of your senses and maybe one or two you’re not sure you possess, or even exist. Ting jing is a special skill that can be developed through the practice of taijiquan.

For 16 years, I’ve had the fortune to train with Master Xu who has allowed me to videotape many of his lessons, which I’ve compiled in a series of videos for DVD and online streaming. What stands out for me about them as a group is the many ways Master Xu constantly offers learners to imagine the essence of what he is referring to, through, for the most part, metaphors and analogies. If you can relate the concept to something that you are familiar with then a bridge can be built from learning to knowing.

Often his descriptive metaphors have a dramatic quality to them, like “I know you, you don’t know me.”  He often refers to predatory animals, such as a tiger, or even a house cat, who “moves inside his skin as he stalks,” and who covers you with its energy body, which you feel powerfully, before the physical body strikes you down.

Master Xu’s many images from the natural world effectively trigger my imagination and makes learning a little more fun. Not easier, of course, because his terms are often mysterious and esoteric. His martial results are very real and effective, however, so there must a whole lot more to his specialized language than meets the ear at first. So I keep listening.

 

Knowing yourself in tai chi: Advice from a poet

Yes, know yourself, but what is knowing? I like the way e.e. cummings describes it as a feeling that is as unique as the person feeling. What he says in A Poet’s Advice applies well to the art of taijiquan. As George Xu says, “martial art, not martial work!” Cummings writes:

“A lot of people think or believe or know they feel – but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling – not knowing or believing or thinking.”

“Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

I also like this…

“And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world – unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.”

Continue reading

The concept of “Two Bodies” in Tai Chi Practice

Ever since my teacher, George Xu, first talked about the concept of two bodies, I’ve wondered what he meant exactly. Intellectually I thought I knew what he was referring to. But, since little in taiji is as obvious as it first appears, I had to ponder it over time to understand more clearly.

My “pondering” took place in my practice, in the movement of taiji itself, not in “thinking” about it, which is word chatter in the head. So I arrived at this articulation: Two bodies refers to the physical body and the energy body as two distinct units of our total beings. What I have since clarified, at least in my own mind for now, is that the quest of the tai chi practitioner is to distinguish between the physical and energy bodies, then learn to direct their activities separately. For example, while moving the body up, while moving energy down. Or the other way around. This touches on the concept of “opposing forces” in tai chi, which isn’t really accurate because “opposing” suggest going against and that is not what is intended. It means, as the yin-yang symbol shows, that there is an up on any down motion and vice versa.

With extended practice, you learn how to remerge them into a new, more powerful entity.

Recognizing the “internal” in Internal Martial Arts

Master Yun Yen Sin

Master Yun Yen Sin

Even though tai chi is an “internal” martial art many people don’t yet grasp the “internal.” The only way to truly know it is to experience it firsthand through practice. It’s a mind-body-energy synthesis that energizes you everywhere. Something to get excited about.

You can witness internal energy moving in someone even though you don’t do it yourself yet. I remember once being moved by energy from a distance when I first saw Yun Yen Sin perform his Liu He Ba Fa form in Shanghai during George Xu’s 2004 China Camp demonstration day. Many people performed that day and we all saw some impressive demonstrations of various styles and skills from several accomplished martial artists. But Master Yun did something that the others didn’t.

The many people who had crowded into the room for the performances were very chatty during the demos. Often, in China people talk loudly during various kinds of performances. Once I heard a Chinese opera singer drowned out by people in the audience. But when Master Yun did his form the room fell silent and all eyes were upon him. His internal quiet filled the air from floor to ceiling as he expanded his chi and yi intention outward to all corners. It was really impressive and memorable.

I was videotaping and both Susan Matthews and I have filmed him in workshops. You can see a clips of him on Sifu Matthews’ site. Happily, I believe our videos have helped Master Yun to become known around the world. Students from Europe and the US visit him in Shanghai to train with him for extended periods. He has come to the US twice that I know of, sponsored by Master Xu.

I saw true internal energy that day and have many times since. And I feel it in myself now as well. Although mysterious, the internal part of internal martial arts that attracts so many of us to practice is not so elusive as it may seem at first, because it is a natural part of us. Learning to recognize it and its flowing movement within us, and beyond, is definitely achievable rather quickly with focus and a good teacher, but directing it with purpose is where regular practice is necessary.

Taiji at the Mystery Temple

Taiji at the Mystery Temple

Early morning practice at the Mystery Temple in Suzhou City, a couple of hours SW of Shanghai China.