title_red_signMaster Ren Gang –Understanding the Essence of Taiji
标签: 太极拳,武术,名家指点,名家感悟分类:[太极]作者:[Rose]日期:2013-12-08 23:38:06
Many people have already tried to explain what Taiji is, and what makes this art so special or different from other Chinese martial arts.
Some translate it as “The Supreme Ultimate Fist” – giving students an idea that it is a great fighting art, based on strength, speed or martial skills.
But to Ren Gang, who is a long time student of Master Dong Bin of Shanghai China; its origins and explanation must be traced back to the concept of “Wu Ji” or “a state of being in completeness or at one with the self and all that is around one”, and its inseperable relationship with Taiji’s philosophy.
Ren Gang says that in push hands or sparring etc, one must first look upon the opponent not as a separate entity that you must defeat – The Enemy – but as a part of you, a part of your energy circle. In fact this energy circle actually constitutes “ Wu Ji”.
Taiji’s fundamentals are to not resist the opponent or his force. It’s to become one with him and make his force disappear and become zero, so that then we can utilize the minimum of effort to defeat him.
If we go back to the Taiji symbol, Ren explains that we can understand the relationships between ourselves and the opponent and how Taiji works.
At the first moment of our making contact, i.e. crossing hands or engaging our energy and intention with his, we seek to be at one with the opponent, we become wu ji; this is represented by the outer circle of the Taiji symbol.
To realize Taiji and understand our relationship with the opponent through movement, which obviously breaks wu ji, our own body is represented by the black part of the symbol; this is “Yin”.
The black symbolizes our “you de di fang” or “the place where we are or what we have”, that is the place where our physical body is, but the white or clear dot is to remind us that although we have a physical presence, the body should be empty, having no hard, rigid tension existing within the body. So the white or clear colour symbolizes “Mei You” or “not have”, so our intention or mind should be focused on keeping the body empty and relaxed and not having strength.
If we were “Yang” or strong, then we would not be able to maintain an empty state, and we would offer the opponent rigidity or some place of tension that he could control or affect and which would also limit our own maneuverability and sensitivity.
The white or clear half of the symbol is “Yang” or “Mei You” and represents the places where my body is not; including the opponent’s space.
However, in Taiji we seek to harmonize ourselves with the opponent and with our surroundings, to be yin and yang in unity; therefore the black dot in the white or clear half, corresponds to my mind or intention and potential energy entering the empty spaces where my physical body is not, which could be the opponent’s space or the space around my body, and joining with it or him. This way, where my physical presence is not, I am still connected by my mind and intention.
If my intention or “Xin or heart/mind” does not enter the opponent’s space or the empty space around me, then I cannot utilize it to diffuse or absorb the opponent’s attack. If I am still separate from the attacker, then I am unable to either control him or be able to sense what he’s doing nor be able to react to what he does.
Ren says that this concept can be hard for people to understand, and is best demonstrated by touching a high level master and feeling what it is like to become one with the
teacher, then you can really know what Taiji means in terms of what it can do to you, as opposed to just imagining it.
The state of“Wu Ji” is sometimes translated as “a feeling of complete emptiness in harmony with all that surounds one”; that is before Yin and Yang separate.
So, to understand Wu Ji and Tai Ji, we have to have some background understanding of these words and ideas in Chinese. In English we use one word to mean “emptiness”, but in Chinese, the idea of “empty” has many different meanings, which can differ according to the context in which they’re used:
“KONG” – empty or free, as in free time or containing nothing.
“DIU” – empty or without any firm structure or spirit or lost; like when you lose a personal possession.
“MEI YOU” – having nothing, as in I don’t have any money.
So, the problem for foreign students learning Wushu or Chinese language itself is how to understand what these words or concepts mean; what is real emptiness, as in the state of “Wu Ji”?
We must realize that emptiness in this notion of “Wu Ji”, is not just “nothing”, but is emptiness and fullness combined. It is nothing and everything in complete harmony.
Before one moves, thinks, talks etc, one is first empty; but in harmony with oneself and what’s around you, i.e. the universe, the sky, the earth, other people, etc that is wu ji: an integrated whole, which is in complete unity with its surroundings.
Rather like the roots of a mangrove tree in the water, or the ivy growing on a house - together yet apart.
So, Wu Ji is in fact a quiet, balanced state, where one thing exists peacefully and in harmony with another, everything becomes one.
Chinese philosophy looks upon a person’s body as being as one with the earth and sky. If you can fully realize this concept and have a sensation of this state, than you can cultivate the feeling that the opponent is also one with you.
However, it’s not just his physical body that is one with you, his spirit and “shen qi” or vital energy, is part of your energy sphere too.
To explain more about the different types of energy connected to the body, in Chinese they say: “Gu rou de neng liang shi li liang, jing shen de neng liang shi shen qi”.
“Neng liang”, means the manifestation of energy. “Gu rou” means the bones and the muscles, i.e. the physical structure of the body, and “li liang” is physical strength.
“Jing shen” means vital energy or spirit, and “shen qi” is the manifestation of the spirit’s energy force.
Basically translated, it just means that physical strength is the expression or manifestation of energy from the physical body; and an invisible, but yet tangible feeling of energy within and surrounding a person, is the manifestation of the spirit’s energy.
So what is Taiji?
Before we move we are in the state of Wu Ji, but after we move or the opponent moves, the peace and calm are broken and “emptiness or stillness” changes into yin and yang, (separateness in harmony); we become Taiji, or in Chinese they call this transformation:
“Wu ji er sheng dong fen yin yang”.
In Chinese, they usually learn skills, imagine things and use language in a more three dimensional way, (their calligraphy is a good example); so teachers will try to allow students to foster a sensation, so they can start to “feel” what is right.
Taiji’s foundation is therefore from the principle of wu ji, and in preserving this state in movement; not from the actual physical moves of “beng, liu, ji, an.” (Expansion or ward off, dissipate or roll back, press and push).
When the opponent moves, he destroys the state of wu ji and yin and yang develop.
In this change, generally an attacker’s neng liang (energy) and his “shi” potential force and energy are strong and solid; so for example, if he uses his right fist to strike you, then his right side is usually full and strong, but his left side is weak and empty.
What the practitioner should do is, at the point where the opponent is striking towards, he must “hua” or dissipate/digest his potential force, where the opponent is full, you must be relaxed and empty and without tension. But this apparent yielding or dissipating does not mean becoming “diu” or lost and lacking in substance; or “ruan”, soft like tofu; it is accepting and welcoming the opponent’s force, like letting the wind blew through and out. Then your strike can fill the opponent’s weak place, now that his strength and force have been digested. The adversary’s energy is now completely spent, because you have emptied out his strong part by dissipating it; he becomes weak and unstable and vulnerable. This concept of emptying out his force is called “yin jing luo kong” in Chinese.
At this time, when he is completely empty and weak, you can issue power or “fa jing”.
One can only successfully issue power when the opponent is truly empty; otherwise if he is still strong and stable it becomes force against force.
Ren went onto say that when you issue, you must be able to release all your neng liang (energy) to the opponent. Your body must be “tong tou” which means your body is fully open and relaxed and able to allow the adversary’s force to pass through you without becoming resistant and taking his force into your body, whilst also being able to allow your body to be like an empty vessel that lets your own potential force and the energy and momentum gathered by your movement to pass through you and into him.
This means that there should be no tense places in your body, so no power from the opponent can be applied against you or make you feel that you have some places that are resisting his force.
To be “tong tou” we must first be “Song” or relaxed, says Ren, but people often have a mistaken view of what is “Song”.
They know that being hard or tense is wrong but they then go to the other extreme and become “ruan” or soft and collapsed in structure. This he says is an even bigger mistake; like this one is still not truly relaxed and one loses one’s own ability to utilize the body’s integrated and unified power and energy.
If one is just soft, one cannot use Taiji as a martial art, it just suffices as an exercise system. This is why many other martial disciplines scorn Taiji as a fighting art, because of this misunderstanding of “song” or relaxed.
In fact, the characters of “Tai” and “Ji” themselves, translate as “too much or too big or enormous” (as in Tai Yang or the Sun) and “Ji - too far or very far away or the utmost point” (as in the Poles or the Universe).
So Taiji’s roots are based in a supreme fighting system.
Ren Gang says to use Taiji the body must be turned into a flowing, moving entity where one can move in an even, uniform, nimble and alive state (“Jun Yun”), whilst still maintaining an open, relaxed and empty condition (“Kong Ling”). Many people imagine their bodies move like water, as this conjures up a flowing feeling, but he says to feel like one is air is an even better concept.
This is “song”; one maintains all the body’s natural strength, energy and potential and is free and alive. When one is genuinely relaxed, physically, mentally and emotionally one can not only move smoothly, quickly and naturally to deal with the opponent, but one can face life’s challenges easily too; which is why Taiji is considered as a system of both exercise and meditation which can improve the health and calm the mind.
So what is the waist?
Ren says that the concept of the waist is extremely difficult for practitioners to understand and is often misunderstood.
The waist is actually a centre of control for the entire body and it directs the body’s movements and the energy. It should “feel and understand” what the opponent is doing and what kind of pressure or intention the opponent means to put on you. It actively senses what is happening to you, and is a vital, moving force not a rigid axis, like in the axle of a car or a pole, with the conscious mind dictating the physical rotations.
Many practitioners feel that their body is unified and the waist dictates the movements of the rest of the body, by using the waist as an axle; that is the waist turns and rotates and the arms and legs follow. At first, when one begins Taiji practice, this preliminary stage is one that you have to pass through. However, it is just a stage, not the real definition of the “waist” in Taiji.
When one first learns the Taiji form, one needs to have the correct body alignment and posture, particularly in relation to the waist and kua (hips).
This helps to develop the waist’s ability to be an energeic, living cenre, with the power to control all the body’s movements.
If the upper body inclines too far forwards, so one is leaning, then the body is not correctly balanced and the waist is unable to sense what is happening or be able to control the whole body. It’s like a tower block that is not properly centred on its foundations or a tree that’s about to fall off its roots.
Later, when one has reached a high level, the physical postures and body’s centre are not dependent on remaining in ths upright position, as one has developed an energetic central equilibrium. Rather like the late Master Wang Hao Da could lean over backwards etc, and still be centred and in balance with his waist in control. He no longer relied on the physical body to keep his centre.
Sometimes, new practitioners will feel that their body or hips etc, are not in the right position, and thus they will feel that their own bones are holding them back; at this juncture it’s very hard to use one’s shen qi. But, once your body postures are correct you can start to move freely and you will start to discover your shen qi.
The waist mustn’t feel that it is held stuck by the feet gripping the ground; if the waist or “yao” is just slumped on top of the hips, then the waist cannot move freely. The waist should not be a “dead” instrument that controls the body, as in the axle scenario, rather it should be a “living, thinking” vessel that experiences and reacts to what is happening.
If the waist is supporting and carrying the hips and legs, then when the waist moves, the legs and feet also follow the waist; this is what the principle of the waist being the commander means or in Chinese, “Yao shi zhu zai.” The waist directs all the body’s movements.
When one has a feeling that the legs are “dangling” from the waist, rather like a large stork or crane when it’s flying, allowing its legs to trail downward and be carried by the waist’s movements; then we are getting the correct sensation.
For example, in “Brush Knee”; many people take up the physical stance first and then just stretch their hand out in front of them, the movement has no real connection to the waist at all, it is just the hand moving seperately by itself.
What we should strive to feel is that the waist, as an energetic and living centre carries the arm down, up and around before releasing the arm in a forwards motion.
In Brush Knee, first the intention and the waist enters the opponent’s space, which in turn brings the legs forward to step into his space and then the arm’s strike is released into him.
Your waist unifies the integrated strength of the entire body, plus the power of the spirit and energy and can therefore deliver this united energy to the opponent.
When we deflect or dissipate the opponent’s attack, it is the waist again that controls and unites the whole body force and energy to deal with his strike.
Many people, especially in the external arts, just use the power of the arm or upper body to knock aside or block a strike.
If th waist is purely in control, then the body reacts in unison to antcicipate and dissipate his attack. This way the arm doesn’t appear to move at all, although of course it does make contact with the opponent, but he will not feel the arm’s inherent strength.
Rather he will have a feeling that a strong gust of wind or the turbualace of an ocean wave breaks his strike and attacks him. This is more the sensation one feels when the waist is in command.
When we play the form, we should imagine that we are stepping on a wet floor, taking extreme care not to slip; we should strive to feel that the waist controls the legs and raises and places the feet down, this way we step very carefully, we don’t just plod along with the entire weight of the body slumped on the feet.
This concept is the origin of the cat walk, which is also to train the waist and intention and lightness of step.
“Zhu zai” in Chinese means “commander”, which is to stress that the waist has a discernible intuition or “thought” that controls the rest of the body.
The waist doesn’t control the hand through a visible route; that is through the shoulder to the elbow to the wrist etc, as this is again turning you into a solid entity trying to take advantage of your body’s integrated strength to overcome others.
The waist as controller in Taiji is different from the concept contained in external styles; in the external forms the waist turns and the legs and hips simultaneously move to express the power to the hand, this is more just the physical structure working in unison.
In internal styles, the waist as commander means that it must be able to control the whole body’s structure and the shen qi together, and be able to release your entire energy and power (fa jing) in a fraction of a second. Becaue the body eventually becomes part of the energy surrounding it, the waist doesn’t need this physical route of one part of the body moving the next, the waist just reacts and the energy is sent directly to the hand to strike or the leg to kick.
Your waist must control every action of the body, at the same time remaining a nimble and lively force; it should not become dead or stagnant.
So, how do we make the waist the commander?
Firstly, the waist must not be sunk down on the feet or the root like a dead force, neither must the waist protrude outwards or backwards so far that the “Ming Men” or lumbar region sticks out too much, leading the practitioners “Zhong Ding” or central equilibrium to be compromised.
Ren says the waist eventually becomes an energetic centre of the body, not a physical, muscular or skeletal centre.
At first, of course when one begins learning, students will treat the waist as just that, a physical entity which they will turn and move using bone and muscle, but this should be a preliminary stage. The heart or mind, “Xin”, first decides what to do and tells the waist, (the second energetic centre or heart) and the waist then controls the energetic field or shen qi and the rest of the body.
He drew the parallel of the army general deciding to advance his troops; in the old days before telecommunications etc, he would order his soldiers forward, by sending a captain or other soldier carrying a banner to sweep forward and lead the ground troops onwards.
The heart and mind correlate to the general and the banner carrier correlates to the waist leading the shen qi and the rest of the body (the foot soldiers).
He said that this concept of the waist is not easy for beginners to grasp, but over years of careful practice one will obtain a feeling of it being a non-physical centre.
The first step towards developing the waist is to work hard to change all one’s old habits of moving individual parts of the body separately, one mustn’t allow the arms or legs etc to move independently of each other, without any controlling organism.
The practitioner must try to foster the sense of a centre controlling the whole body.
To do this, when we test postures or push hands, we must first take all the pressure from the opponent’s push to the waist. At whichever point of the body he is touching or pushing against, one must not resist his pressure with that part of your body, but try to let his force pass through you and be borne by the waist only.
This method allows you to discover and engage the waist and let it take over from the arms and shoulders etc.
When you want to move, let the waist move first, don’t just wipe aside his arm with your own, when you want to move backwards, let the waist move first, this will move the rest of the body. When you strike, your waist should push the arms and the rest of the body out forwards to push the opponent away, not the arms themselves using their own strength, unsupported by the rest of the body.
This will feel rather tense and unnatural at first, but you have to start somewhere to realize and use the waist; later with practice and familiarity, when you want to move the waist will move first and the rest of the body will follow.
Later, you will develop a sensation that when somebody comes to make contact with you, you will feel that your waist and body no longer seems to tense up and become smaller, rather it will expand and your body will feel like it becomes one with the air and energy around you. You cease to be a physical presence, but more an energetic one. You can therefore allow his force to dissipate into the space around you, instead of taking his force into your body and when you want to move the waist will control the rest of the body’s movements. The opponent won’t feel a hard, rigid point in your body he can control, but meet a fluid, empty, living entity.
Without this sensation, he says he would not be able to smoothly and effortlessly remove an attacker’s grab to his throat or body. If he treated his waist as a hard or physical structure only, then an attack on his throat in particular would cause him to tense up and try to resist, thus allowing the attacker to gain an even stronger hold.
The waist feels like it supports and carries the rest of the body, they say in Chinese, “ling yao”. However, this is not the feet pushing up the waist through the legs, as this is again using strength.
To get a picture of this state, you can imagine a cat about to pounce, in a state of energetic or spiritual readiness, with its body suspended from the spine, ready to release its power; or an eagle flying in the sky ready to swoop and drop down on its prey.
To begin to train the waist one must use the heart and mind or we can say imagination, to pay attention to this aspect of your movements; we should try to avoid using rational thought, although when the practitioner first starts they will have to think about it until the concept becomes natural and familiar.
At first, Ren mentioned your body won’t listen to your waist, but over time of continually concentrating on this facet you will start to get a feeling.
Ren says that he personally doesn’t think that a person’s form postures are so important, i.e. How high your hand is, or if your hand is higher, lower etc than somebody else’s; although of course, a student’s basic postures and structural position must be correct and they should fully understand the accurate meaning and application of the movements.
It’s like eating, he said, it doesn’t matter if you use chopsticks or a knife and fork or how you hold them that matters, but that you get the food in your mouth and not your nose that’s important!
When the waist controls the body, when you move, whatever you want to do or decide to do, the body will just follow precisely what you want. In push hands, when you see the opportunity to dissipate or strike the opponent, your body immediately obeys this “thought” or feeling with action.
He said, if you have to wrestle and grapple to try and overcome the opponent or “grab” the earth with the feet and “root for dear life” and be unable to move the feet for fear of being pushed off balance, then it’s wrong; this is not the meaning of the waist as commander.
In many push hands competitions we see just this type of reaction and unfortunately many competition rules even disallow the competitor from moving the feet, which accentuates this mistake, as people have to steadfastly grip the floor and try not to move in order to win the point, thereby compromising one of Taiji’s cardinal rules of not resisting the opponent’s force and of becoming one with him.
In that case, the waist ceases to be a centre of control of the body and it comes back down again to who is quickest, strongest etc, which is in contradiction to Taiji’s principles.
Ren Gang began studying martial arts when he was a young boy of about 12 years old.
He was born in the mid sixties, and during the Cultural Revolution he and his family lived next door to a very famous Shaolin master, Wang Zi Ping and his daughter Madame Wang Ju Rong, for about seven years. (Madame Wang recently passed away in the USA, as featured in Tai Chi magazine).
Ren Gang was quite a sickly child and his family deemed themselves lucky if they went two weeks without having to take him to the doctors! So they encouraged him to begin studying under the tutelage of Miss Wang, who was then about 50 years old.
After his family moved home, he still carried on studying form from her.
Just before starting University he met Master Dong Bin. (Featured in Tai Chi Magazine’s October issue). Dong Bin learnt from Dong Shi Zuo and Ye Huan Zi, who in turn were both students of Master Dong Ying Jie.
Ren Gang was instantly attracted to Dong’s movements and style and began to go to the park regularly just to observe him. Unfortunately, at this time Ren began his university studies, and for over six months lost contact with Master Dong.
After graduation whilst working as an apprentice, he bumped into Dong on the street. Ren, who was so excited to finally meet up with Dong again, immediately asked if he could study with him, but Master Dong said he was too old to teach and wasn’t taking on any students. Ren was too embarrassed to ask again, but enquired if they could meet sometimes just to chat or spend time together. He felt merely being with Master Dong made him happy and he really enjoyed his company. Dong agreed, and after a long time of meeting like this he finally started to teach Ren Yang Style Taiji.
Ren believes very strongly that practitioners should follow the classic texts and principles carefully and try to find the meanings within their own bodies and feelings; we should practice correctly and spend time researching to try to understand what Taiji really is.
He said if you want to know if your practice is on track, you should check yourself. If you’ve been practicing for a short period of time and have made lots of progress then you know you’re correct. But, if after practicing several years, you still cannot “play” push hands with or do well against an opponent who has practiced the same amount of time in other arts, or is a relative beginner, then something must be wrong.
You need to know where you’re wrong and be able to address the problem.
He said many people say that Taiji takes years to learn and so they say don’t expect quick results. However he feels this is misleading.
The honing and refining of Taiji skills has no end, it is a lifelong study and not something that one can perfect in a few years, but one should be able to see definite progress inside three to five years.
Ren explained that in meeting and training with Master Dong, he felt that he had found a teacher that “knew” and understood the real meaning of Taiji.
His tui shou (push hands) was also very special. In China, as in every other country where they practice Taiji, the principle of 4 ounces defeats 1000 pounds (si liang bo qian jing) is little in evidence, as can be witnessed by the wrestling and grabbing that often takes place in parks and competitions etc, but Master Dong could utilize it, and one felt that he used no physical effort in deflecting an attacker, only qi (energy) or kong (emptiness).
Ren also studies with Mr. Guo Da Dong, who like Master Dong was also a student of Grandmaster Ye Huan Zi and whom he feels has also helped him tremendously.
Ren feels an important aspect in his own training, is that he has spent a lot of time visiting other parks and “playing” with many other practitioners, testing his own skill and seeing where he is right or wrong and trying to understand and correct his faults. Additionally, when he encountered another practitioner that he couldn’t defeat or was unable to understand why he couldn’t overcome them, he would go back to his teachers to find out what his mistake was.
In training it’s also important to know why you are studying your chosen art, what is your purpose in your own practice?
You also need to have a good teacher; somebody who knows the correct direction for your training and can guide you along this path.
The teacher does not necessarily have to be the fiercest or best fighter, but rather be somebody who is generous and open in spirit and in their instruction; somebody who truly wants you to succeed and learn the “secrets” of your art.
Good friends and training partners are also important; people that can practice and play with you and help you slowly cultivate natural reactions. With them you can have meaningful dialogue, explain and discuss your understanding of certain principles, as well as share your own feelings and experiences, etc.
Cross practice is also essential; one should try playing with people who train in other arts, so that you can test yourself. For many, this can be difficult, as they are afraid of losing face, but he says that one must let go of one’s ego and not worry about winning or losing, just enjoy the art and treat it as research not a contest.
Most important, he said is that you must be open and generous in spirit. Your “shen qi” (an invisible feeling of energy or energy field that surrounds you and is interconnected with your spirit) and your “Qi Liang” (generosity of spirit) are connected, so if you’re a mean person your shen qi will also be small, and you’ll be able to utilize very little of this force.
He says this kind of invisible energy force and spirit is what drives the body’s movements, not your physical structure that carries out the movements. In Taiji we should constantly try to practice, develop and enhance this shen qi. In doing so, one will also change not just one’s physical movements, but one’s character as well. The more relaxed one becomes, the greater one’s shen qi will be and the more generous, calm and open one will become.
He said this sense of calmness is a fundamental part of tui shou (push hands), fighting, or indeed life in general.
So, what is “shen qi”?
When somebody practices Taiji form, they will slowly get a feeling that as they move, the air and energy around them is moving with them. (Taiji is often equated to “swimming” in air.) Later, one will feel that one is a part of and moving within an energy field and are connected to the surrounding environment, plus they can control and move this energy around them. This energy is shen qi.
You can also get an image of this energy by imagining when you meet somebody who is usually quite strong and energetic, but who at that time is ill; you will feel that they have no vital force that is they have no shen qi.
In Taiji, we want to first become aware of and later be able to harness this shen qi.
Often people play the form and have a feeling of energy moving the body’s structure, but as soon as they push hands with someone, they go back to using physical strength or their structure, and are more concerned about winning or not losing, thus they lose control of their shen qi.
In “Nei Jia Quan” internal arts, like Taiji we want to forget about the body’s structure and strength and utilize the shen qi to move our own body and deal with the opponent.
Master Ren teaches a series of standing postures, as passed down by Master Dong to train students to gain an awareness of their shen qi and “find” their waist.
The first posture is a horse stance with the arms outstretched to the sides. One tries to feel that there is a spherical connection of energy surrounding the whole body, which is supported and carried by the waist. However, one just wants to be aware of this feeling of energy and of the waist, one should not try to expand or enlarge it, or try too hard. One should simply have an awareness of the space around one and feel the body and the energy become one; neither should one “push” up the body with the feet or use the chest to “lift” the body upwards.
Also, the practitioner should feel that their feet are “standing” in the air, not rooted into the earth; you are more like floating on the surface of the earth or “Teng Kong”, this means that the waist is carrying the legs and one can develop a feeling that you and your body and the air around you are one.
It’s similar to the sensation of standing in a swimming pool, one cannot use the legs and feet to root into the bottom, as the water makes you float and lose balance; you have more of a sensation that it is your waist that supports and controls your movement in the water, and that you and the water become one entity. When you move, you can actually feel the water around your body moving; this corresponds to the feeling of the shen qi moving your body when you play Taiji.
In Chinese they say the “Xin” or “the heart or unconscious thought” controls your waist, your waist controls the shen qi and your shen qi moves the physical body.
If you want to do something, you feel what it is you want to do, then your body’s actions simply follow suit.
Ren says that you must train yourself to use your heart (Xin) to control your shen qi and thus change your old habits of the physical body or your rational thought moving the energy.
He explained that when the physical body controls the energy, the body is tense and hard and cannot be “kong ling” (which means empty inside, open, relaxed, alive and free).
To understand “kong ling”, you can imagine a dandelion seed floating in the air, it’s light and buoyant, and has no rigid structure, although it has a physical presence.
If you try to use force to grab it, your own power and velocity wafts it away, even though it doesn’t move by itself, and you upset your own central equilibrium in trying to grasp it.
So a person who is “kong ling” has a physical body, but an opponent feels that they cannot manifest any physical strength against them, as this causes them to lose their own balance.
Chinese says, “Yi qi jun lai gu rou chen”, which means that the intention and energy are the emperor, the bones and muscles or physical structure merely obey the emperor’s instructions.
He said if you always follow this principle then you will gradually get a feeling that the body is “Hua kai” and “kong ling”. (Free and alive and unencumbered by tension).
To really “Hua” or dissipate the opponent’s attack, involves the practitioner being able to absorb their force, but without any apparent physical movement. It is the ability to remain relaxed and calm under the attack and to be able to reduce his potential energy to zero.
When one can attain this feeling then one can really understand the sensation of “A feather can’t touch and a fly can’t land”.
In push hands or san shou (sparring) one must be calm and still inside, this allows the practitioner to be able to maintain a connection with and be able to use their shen qi. You must allow the opponent to fully take up his position or stance; let him show you what he intends to do, this way you can clearly see where his faults and weaknesses are, thereby allowing you to be able to take advantage of them and overcome him.
If you act as most people do and immediately try to go against him or react out of anxiety or impatience the moment he opposes you, then you and he become locked in a battle, the outcome of which rests on the big overcoming the small, the strong overcoming the weak, or the fast defeating the slow; none of which are part of Taiji’s internal principles.
Resisting him also allows the opponent to espy your weaknesses and utilize them to defeat you.
In Chinese they say, “Xin yao jing” or the heart and spirit must be tranquil and quiet. This is not only in terms of Taiji practice or push hands and sparring, but in everything we do, in this state we are always in control of our surroundings and circumstances and not at the mercy of them.
Master Ren hopes that all practitioners of Taiji can learn the genuine art, and not have a false impression that Taiji is either based on physical strength or some mystical, magical system that is so complex that a student can never master or comprehend it.
He wishes that he personally can gain a fuller understanding of Taiji and be able to help others, so all can share in the splendour of this wonderful art.
His belief in Buddhism has certainly been instrumental in his understanding of many of Taiji’s principles, as Buddhism teaches one to forget the self and be at one with everything around you.
In addition, his generosity in sharing with all who meet him, is a testament to the fact that having an open mind and generous spirit, really does raise and benefit one’s Taiji practice.
Ren Gang hopes that in the future, students of all styles of Taiji can completely understand the essence of the art and be able to use it; rather than Taiji becoming a set of flowing albeit beautiful movements or just another external art.
Taiji was always seen as the ultimate fighting system, which due to its inherent qualities, was of great benefit to the health and spirit; and Ren Gang hopes that Taiji can keep this tradition and live on as an excellent form of exercise for promoting good health and inner calm, as well as a tremendous and devastating system of self defence.