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THE FOUR SKILLS OF TAI CHI CHUAN By Howard Choy Having trouble with your tai chi? Are you frustrated over the lack of improvement? Then this article may be the perfect medicine for your internal ailments. "How can I improve my Tai Chi Chuan?" - a question often asked by my students. It is also a question I have grappled with as long as I can remember. I remember I posed the same question to my teacher once, the late grandmaster Yang Sau-Chung, and he tersely replied, "By practicing the form correctly!" "But how ?", you may ask. A good teacher helps, but he can't be there correcting you all the time. Wu tu-Nan, a well-known tai chi master from China, proposed that there are four kinds of Tai Chi skills (kung). If one practices the form (or push hands or weapons, for that matter) with these skills in mind, then the form will be correctly performed and you will gradually improve your understanding of Tai Chi Chuan. The skill of function Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art. Each movement has a practical function. For example, when one executes the movement "step up, deflect downward, parry and punch", do we understand how these moves could be used in a self-defense situation? How to step forward, how to deflect downward, how to parry, how to punch? Not only do we need to visualize our movement, but also the distance and the posture of the opponent when performing the form. Understanding the practical use of a move will help you correctly execute that move. The direction of the body, the coordination of the limbs, the breathing and the chi flow are related to the use. The more you practice visualizing the actual use and imaging yourself boxing with an invisible opponent, the better you will be in executing the form. The function corrects the move because it has a job to do; you will gradually remove all superfluous and useless "bad habits" and reach the stage of proper Tai Chi. In the series of photos below I have demonstrated the movement "step up, deflect down, parry and punch" as a san sou set with a partner to help you visualize the form. The skill of relaxation A distinction must be made here between being relaxed and being floppy and sluggish. A relaxed body is one without friction in the joints or tension in the muscles. The mind is alert and the body sunk (with a low center of gravity). A floppy body is in negative tension. It is equally as detrimental to your progress as a tensed body. Being floppy or being tense makes you sluggish. It blocks the flow of the vital energy (Chi or Qi) and we lose the resilient, springy, sensitive quality associated with soft and relaxed muscles. Correct posture also helps relaxation. The body is held vertical at all times while performing the form. The muscles designed to keep our body upright are functioning properly. Practicing the standing posture before the form often will help you relax your body and let go of the tension in your mind. You can also practice holding various postures of the form as a mean to achieve a truly relaxed and correct posture. When you are doing the posture incorrectly, the pain in your body will tell you where your chi is blocked and where your posture is out of alignment. The photos below showed the standing posture and the brush knee and palm posture. The skill of Jin What is jin? Although the source of jin lies in strength, it is not the same as strength. Strength is a static force, jin is dynamic. When the body is relaxed and sunk, the jin is gathered and concentrated

The Four Skills Of Tai Chi Chuan

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