As part of the TTM – “Teacher Training Method” Course” offered by Yang Laoshi, he covers Five Modules; Breathing, Post standing, Stepping & stances, Waist method, and Body connection. The objective is to use the Hand Form as the center of practice, and study as a means to gather more knowledge to bring to this practice.
Before we take on the challenge of learning more technique, it is advisable to obtain a higher level of Kung; Skill. This is the meaning behind, “Don’t practice Form, practice Skill”. Tai Chi (an absolute / wholeness) consists of yinyang (relativity / parts harmonized as one). Think of Tai Chi as a Gestalt. In making an assessment of the level of our practice we use the Five Directives; Feet, Body, Hands, Gaze, Method. Practicing the 5 Modules is an approach to address the 5 Directives.
I would like to focus our attention on breathing for the next few weeks. We must use our mind’s ability to conceptualize to study how to practice. I prefer my students do not follow my “how to do” instructions blindly, but consider the value of my explanations, as means to go deeper into practice by understanding “why we do”. It has three steps; gather bulk information, comprehension, and critical thinking. As Yang Zhen Duo stated; “A little effort yields a small benefit. A big effort yields a large benefit”. I do not suggest as stated early, learning a lot of bulk material at a low Skill level. As we learn more material, our Skill level should go upward. Beware of knowing a lot more cerebrally, than you can really do physically. Don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk.
Note: Before we explore breathing, we need to reexamine “Prepare” as the first posture in Post Standing Practice. Physically our main concern is removing restrictions to our natural breathing process caused by misalignments, instability, and lack of Song; relaxation. The challenge of “making less into more” is we need to address multiple aspects (the Gestalt) so they function properly simultaneously. To do this, we address everything one thing at a time. We take a technique or exercise and deconstruct it, putting it back together, so it functions at a higher level. All we need to do is clearly identify a technique’s yinyang parts, improve their operation individually, and resemble to create refined Tai Chi.
太極拳經 – The Tai Chi Chuan Classics: External Qigong and Internal Qigong cannot be separated*. External is what we commonly perceive as calisthenics; exercise for aerobic endurance and weight resistance training.
Internal is the application of Chinese medicine; especially Meridian Theory. These are medical terms; Jing, Qi, Shen. Keep in mind, Chen Wangting used the earlier teachings of General Qi Jiguang’s northern Changquan (Long Fist style) and added Meridian Theory and Dao Yin exercises (an early precursor to modern Qigong) both from TCM; Traditional Chinese Medicine to create Tai Chi Chuan. So, our understanding of breathing comes from medical knowledge.
Post Standing is a compulsory exercise to the study of Internal Qigong. This static exercise is brought into the dynamics of Tai Chi Chuan’s movement. “Stillness generates motion. Motion generates stillness”. “Stand like a mighty mountain. Move like a great river.”
*Like a vase. If there is yin, there must be yang. If there is Yang, there must be yin. Going for a brisk walk or lifting light weight can be studied and understood as external / internal Qigong. Beware of mystical mumbo jumbo.