Saturday, December 31, 2016

S-curve is really the circle

In taijiquan, we often hear people refer to a circle, drawing a circle, or being rounded. The essence of a circle is rotation. It is by rotation that a dot on the surface of any object can draw a circle. A sphere or ball is the 3D extension of a circle. A circle also has the characteristic of a loop, where there is no beginning or end, in the other words, anywhere can be the beginning which can then be the end. To complete a rotation, there is a one-way path from beginning to end, and there is no going backwards on the same path, otherwise, it is equivalent to nothing happens at all.

Due to the way a human is built, we cannot perform a true rotation. What can be achieved is an approximation of it, and we can perform a portion of a rotation at a time. In order to perform a full rotation, switching is required. Switching can refer to switching of pivots (non-moving parts) or switching of moving parts.

In Figure 1, line AB rotates around point B to become line CB. Line CB moves laterally to become line YC. Y becomes the new fixed point. Line CY rotates around Y to become ZY. This represents a full rotation by having two action halves.  This is the S-curve often referred by Master Chen Zhonghua. It marks the way in which the human body performs a circle. Note that this is also the taiji symbol.

Figure 2 is similar to Figure 1 except no lateral move, and there is a direct switching from point B to point Y as the non-moving point.

Figure 3 also represents a full rotation, although it may not look like one at first glance.  There are two halves.  In this case, the circle is smaller, and in fact, it is more like an ellipse.

Figure 4 represents a full rotation that is further broken down. Switching of pivots is depicted here (points B,C,D,E,V,W,X,Y). For simplicity of the drawing, 8 equal pieces are used, however in reality, they do not need to be equal in size. The overall shape is also asymmetric. This is a 2D representation. Imagine how crooked it will look if the pivots are not located on the same plane.

In order for each portion of a rotation to continue from the last one, what is gained in each portion must be maintained/kept, so that position becomes the starting point of the next one. Let’s take the right-side positive circle in Practical Method as an example.  In the most basic version, we do a 3-count circle:
  1. In with elbow
  2. Turn with waist
  3. Out with hand
After the first count, the elbow must touch the side-ribs. In the 2nd count, while the elbow is touching the ribs, pushing the right foot to the ground and rotating the right kua with the left kua being the pivot cause the waist to turn to the left. This is the first half of the circle. For the 3rd count, using the right kua as the pivot, pushing the left foot to the ground and rotating the left kua causes the right hand to go out as part of the geared action. This completes the 2nd half of the circle. Note that the waist turn is only going to the left in one direction throughout the entire circle. There is no reset.

Let’s look at only the relationship between the elbow and the hand. The in-with-elbow-no-hand is the first half of a circle, and the out-with-hand-no-elbow is the 2nd half of a circle. This is an example of switching of moving parts.  After the in-with-elbow-no-hand, the elbow continues to go inwards (no loss of compression towards the dantien) while the out-with-hand-no-elbow takes place maintaining the tension between hand and elbow.

The four figures above show different representations of the S-curve that involve physical actions. Master Chen has also shown before that having a particular physical shape in the body with various stretches can allow energy to travel in a rotating fashion without any obvious external movements. That is another topic for the future. At the mean time, keep practicing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What's the difference between Practical Method and other taijiquan or martial art? 实用拳法和其它拳的差别


  1. Master Chen when answering the question focused on Practical Method itself, and left it to the audience to do the comparison, as he couldn't represent the other art.
  2. Practical Method's core is rotation. Spiral and silk reeling is rotation plus distance.
  3. We can never do true rotation. It's impossible for us to do 360 degree rotation. We can perform a lever action. A lever action is a part of a rotation.
  4. Form training is to create levers in our bodies.
  5. Grandmaster Hong Junsheng has the 10-word saying "Out with hand no elbow, in with elbow no hand". Lin Ketong calls it 10-word mantra.
  6. This mantra actually describes the lever action.

  1. 陈中华老师解释了实用拳法的特点,跟其它拳种的比较留待观众自己作出。陈中华老师不能代表其它拳种说话。
  2. 实用拳法的核心东西是旋转。螺旋缠丝是旋转加距离。
  3. 我们不可能做真正的旋转,360度是不可能的。能做的是杠杆。杠杆是旋转的一部分。
  4. 套路练的是杠杆。
  5. 洪均生老师的十字诀是出手不出肘,收肘不收手。林克彤叫它十字真言。
  6. 十字诀就是形容杠杆的。

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's not the same

Today, in my Angus Glen taiji class, I received a comment from the student indicating that what I taught was the same as what I was just demonstrating the way I practiced.  The comment was primarily based on the look of the form.  I was doing a much lower stance compared to theirs. I went on to explain that as one progressed one would need to keep challenging one's limit.  Going low in the stance was one of the methods. It trained the leg strength, it allowed one to discover structure alignment, it locked up the body so one can train moving the parts one can't move before.
This incident reminded me of a story told by Master Chen Zhonghua that one of his students, now disciple, asked to learn the form he first saw meeting Master Chen.  Master Chen's response was that he had been teaching the student that form, which was yilu all along, but in the student's mind, he was not the same.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Notes for Practical Method Ottawa Workshop Nov. 12-13, 2016

This is the first time I attended the Ottawa Workshop. Great group! Thanks Rachelle, James, and Daniel for organizing the workshop, and Rachelle for my stay at her place. Here are my notes:
  1. Move the feet. When we train, we fix the feet. When you push hands, we move the feet. Our feet are often not mobile enough, we must force ourselves to move them, e.g. getting in changes the pivot.
  2. The only way to connect is not to connect.  Connection means moving and non-moving parts have a relationship.
  3. We need to resolve change without change. When A moves to B or B moves to C due to a rotation of the circle, there is really no change from taiji's perspective.
  4. Twisting the towel, both hands are on the same line, palm faces down close to the body, palm faces up when the arm is extended. Line up the two dots (front hand and rear elbow). My eyes were not right, I couldn't line up the two dots. 
  5. Learning must be direct, progress must be indirect.
  6. In with elbow, turn with waist. I am not starting the waist turn with the kua.
  7. Instructions must be obeyed.
  8. Every person has restrictions put on him by himself.
  9. Push hands: don't let you opponent test you. When the opponent charges, you must charge as well, never back off.
  10. Exercises:
    1) You grab the opponent by the wrist, the opponent tries to shake it off by going up and down. In order to not getting shaken off and not let the shoulder take all the force, you need to resolve the shaking by stretching the rear kua.
    2) You grab the opponent by the wrist, the opponent tries to move the hand back and forth. You must stay with the opponent.
    3) You grab the opponent by the wrist, the opponent walks back and forth. You must stay with the opponent.
  11. Saying: Stick to your opponent and die together, who does not want to die will get out.
  12. As you create space, you must fill it immediately.
  13. Don't push your opponent, pushing is a release and creates space.
  14. Rear foot to front kua is a stick that keeps poking into the opponent.
  15. Don't let your opponent fight the battle on your turf. Invade your opponent's homeland - Go over.
  16. Relate two dots with a non-moving third dot.
  17. 挨着哪儿哪儿打 - Wherever that is touched, that's where is used to hit
    全身不处不是拳 - Any body part can be used as the fist (Literal translation: No body part is not the fist)
  18. Switching - Use your hand to make your opponent feel strong, once engaged, switch to use power somewhere else.
    Exercise: You had an arm bar on the opponent, your front foot is in front of the opponent's front foot. Once engaged, switch to a different pivot, and stretch your front foot back under the opponent's leg. At the end, step on the heel. Before stepping on the heel, all space must be taken out.
  19. Tension and compression are the same, but the difference is in the perspective. Tension is going away from the non-moving point, while the compression is going towards the non-moving point on the same line.
  20. Fetch water - lock front knee or front hand, front shoulder down to find the front kua coming up.
  21. Converting the vertical to horizontal: Compress the front shoulder to front kua, and then rotate the waist from front kua to rear kua (this elongates the horizontal)
  22. Converting horizontal to vertical: Opponent comes in and pushes into the abdomen, compressing the opponent's elbow into his hand (which touches your abdomen), the stretch vertically to the head.
  23. 50,000 yilus is the new goal given to me. Go make the actions automatic for me.
  24. Gong vs Fa: Gong is the principle expressed in the action. Fa is the ability to do a technique. An old master has gong but not necessarily fa anymore. It is like a short blade knife. If you are stabbed with it, you will feel hurt, but you won't die. An old master can let the student feel the principle, and that's why he can still teach.
  25. Go voluntarily to where your opponent want you to go, and at the end add something to it.
  26. Shifu adjusted my fetch water, the rear shoulder needed to be much higher than I expected to line up with my front hand. He made me realize that once the front hand and the rear shoulder line up, there was power. Of course, the rear cannot be floating.
  27. Shifu asked me to train flexibility, move anything else except the dantian by stretching, especially move the feet. When someone pushes me, move some body part (do something) away from the contact point to buffer it. Keep the power constant like I am in the elbow in position.
  28. Keep the elbow in, and yet stretch the hand towards the opponent's centre.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reaching 20,000 yilus

On Oct. 23 , 2016, I reach 20,000 yilus. From 19,000 yilus to 20,000 yilus, I have noticed the following:

  1. I am moving less of my hands, and using the rotation on the joints to propel the movements. This allows me to engage my waist more.
  2. The triangle formed by the two kuas and dantien is becoming more prominent during the form. I think that this helps the engagement of the core in all actions.
  3. I am able to locate my students' centres faster during demos, but not fast enough during push hands.
  4. During push hands, I need to get my opponent to commit to his actions, then I find the lines more solid and maintainable.
  5. My stance when doing the form is now lower than before. This seems to allow me to stretch out the kuas more. However, I also notice I sweat a lot more than before doing just a couple of yilus, and I need to take a break.  I am only doing 5 yilus a day right now, and I already feel very tired at night.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Today, when I felt that I wanted to throw up near the end of the 7th yilu. I didn't know why, but I wanted to record the incident. I didn't eat breakfast, and slept for about 6 hours the previous night. The stomach was not doing so well after that.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Practical Method Characteristics
  1. Rotation (Spin like a wheel, Be like a gyroscope)
  2. Withdraw is to issue
  3. Eye on the opponent
  4. Revolution and rotation combined
  5. 45 degree angles

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reaching 19,000 yilus

On Jun. 14, 2016, I reach 19,000 yilus. From 18,000, to 19,000 yilus, I have noticed the following:

  1. I am able to more clearly see a dot that can be used for rotation. That can be in the opponent's body, my body or in the space. See this article for more detail. When I watch Master Chen Zhonghua push hands videos, I can see this dot in his actions.
  2. I am able to engage my waist more. During push hands, the setup I previously talked about must include the engagement of the waist.  Unless the setup is there, don't do the actual move. However, the process of learning this does require repeated attempts to locate the moment when the setup is done, since I don't know what it means to be "the setup is there" previously.
  3. During push hands, I need to remind myself about maintaining a fixed dot in my body during the setup process. Recently, I notice that I am not doing that as much as I focus on point 1 above.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dot in space

Master Chen Zhonghua has demonstrated numerous times of having a fixed point (dot) for rotation in his action. Recently, I start to understand the pair of contacting points which can be used to create a stick/lever. I have been able to rotate an opponent using a dot in the middle of the stick. Today, I realize this dot can, in fact, be in space, and not necessarily in the opponent's body. It depends on how I contact the opponent, e.g. which body parts I use to create the stick. This kind of rotation is vertical, and can take the bottom support out from the opponent.

Update on June 18, 2016:
Today, related to this idea, I found myself using a stick created by my opponent on my body trying to do a move on me. The move he was trying was with his right arm across my chest and his right leg behind my left leg to flip me backwards. Between the contact point on my chest and the contact point behind my left thigh, a stick was formed. If I considered this stick with a third point on his body where he powered up, a triangle (a plane) was formed. I was able to rotate the dot in the middle of the stick between the two contact points, and flipped him forward.

Update on June 20, 2016:
I discovered there was yet another triangle. With the stick being one side of the triangle, I can have a point of another triangle at my waist/dantian. When I rotate my waist, I rotate the stick. This should be the concept of a fork as documented in my notes back in 2010:
What's the dot?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Experience in Pushing Hands

I was pushing hands with my taiji brother today. I always felt that this taiji brother was strong, he normally did not use it, but when he did, I had a lot of trouble dealing with it. Today, he was trying to put his front leg between my legs to do a throw. I felt a strong sweep from his leg to my front leg. I held my structure fairly upright, then he fell forward two metres away. He tried a second time with the same move, this time he fell forward since I twisted him but in the opposite direction.  I didn't know what I really did, it happened fairly quickly. Both times I was able to remain standing in the same place.  I realized for things like this to happen, he needed to be committed for his move, and used a lot of power while I spent a lot of effort maintaining my structure. Because of that, a lot of potential energy was created like pulling a bow back, and the fall was triggered by the release.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reaching 18,000 yilus

On Apr. 22, 2016, I reach 18,000 yilus.  From 17,000 to 18,000 yilus, I have noticed the following:

  1. During push hands, I am starting to experience that opponent's power either stays in front of me or I can let go past me from either side by keep a dot in me not moving. It is as if they are touching the surface and not the centre.
  2. I am also able to explain things based on separation of yin and yang or rotation. It is like I can see that pattern in various ways.
  3. During push hands, I am focusing on the the setup. When I can get that setup, both the opponent and I will know that moment and the opponent suddenly collapses and falls straight down. That fall will need no power, just a poke. However, before that moment, a lot of effort is put into maintaining my structure and sneaking myself into the target position.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How to use the waist - Push Hands Live Broadcast at Daqingshan

Tonight, I was able to see how Master Chen Zhonghua used his waist to apply indirect power. It was very clear to me for the first time. It was as exciting as seeing the "line" for the first time back in 2011. The action was like that of a nutcracker. He also showed how to handle when the opponents always held on to both of his wrists. Don't fight at the wrists (contact point), don't try to get your wrist off the hold.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Notes for Empty (Jakarta 2015) Online Video


  1. When you go low, the vertical rod will come out. How low? Go until you can't move anymore. A small poke will cause you to fall.
  2. Go for size.
  3. We need to make the body evenly stretched out. When you are even, you are empty.
  4. We will only feel the protrusion and indentation, e.g. we will feel a bump or hole on the ground, but not really the ground normally.
  5. Wuji means nothing, but it also means everything is there.
  6. Become ONE.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What's the dot?

Master Chen Zhonghua often mentions the Dot, so what's the dot?  In my current understanding, there are three kinds of dots:
1) One in my body
2) One in the opponent's body
3) One in outside of my and opponent's bodies (somewhere in space)

Any one of these dots is a fixed point.  It is a point that does not move. If it is in my body, this dot is not moved by my actions.  If it is in the opponent's body, it is a point that does not want to be moved, it is also the source of power. If that point is moved, the opponent has no power.  If it is in space, it is created by my interactions with the opponent to go around this fixed point.  This third kind is very difficult to have, and Master Chen can demonstrate it.

How to put my leg behind the opponent's leg on the same side to execute a throw?

Previously,  one of the problems I have had when attempting this particular kind of throw is not being able to put the leg at the right position fast enough before the opponent detects it and counter-throws instead.  Today, I realize that key is not about how fast I can put my leg at the right place, it is about locking the opponent's front foot such that he cannot move it at all.  When he can't move that foot, I can all the time I want to put it in the right place, which also requires my leg to be very deep behind and under his leg.  In order to lock his front foot, I need to create a line between his front hand and his rear foot, and then rotate his top towards his front foot. In order to put my leg deep enough behind the opponent's leg, my other foot, which is my supporting foot, need to be very close to opponent's front foot too. As I move my free leg, that support leg and my structure need to be solid and fixed, so the opponent can't stop my free leg at all. When my free leg is placed at the target position, it needs to be bent and touching the opponent leg. When that leg is straighten, the opponent's front foot support will be taken out by the leg lever, and he will be rotated and fall.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In order to move down, I have to stretch down and equally up

The other day I was pushing hands with Laipeng, I was focusing on a point not to move (let's say the middle of my chest). In order to get him to fall backwards, I figured that I had to go lower than him. Since I couldn't move a point, I realized that I had to stretch down, and equally up in order to get to the new position. This is the way to maintain the non-moving dot.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Idea of a move during push hands

Today, when I was practicing push hands with Patrick Kuo. We started just doing free push hands, and later we focused on a particular move he wanted to do.  He couldn't successfully execute the move cleanly because he couldn't keep one of the shoulder-kua axis fixed.  As I was driving to show him how I would do, I realized something. I was able to execute ok as a demo, but often when I try to do it in free push hands I struggle. For that move to be successful, my arm needed to be under the opponent's armpit and not above the shoulder, so that I could have a proper catch.  In order to have that proper catch, even before I engage with the opponent, I need to think about the kind of position I want to put myself in, and where my body parts need to be.  That was so important if I want to have a successful move. I need to follow a procedure to put myself in the right place, and then complete the move whether I think it is going to successful or not. With repeated practice, the move will become more natural and less detectable.

Friday, February 26, 2016

On Feb. 26, 2016, I reached 17,000 yilus.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Notes for Fixed Point and Focus of Power Online Video


  1. Pull in inwards one dot on my back, i.e. in with elbow as well as the legs are pulled inwards that same dot.
  2. Align to pull the opponent's centre. It depends on the situation where that centre is located, e.g. it can be the chest, it can be the rear kua.