A Return to the Beginning :: Our First Post

 This entry was the very first on my first blog I created.  I’ve reposted it here so that it may be at arms length to the wordpress.com public (and to my many students out there).  The entry was titled, Posture and Technique.  Enjoy!


My teacher Yang Yang wrote in his wonderful book, “Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power” and I’m paraphrasing…

Posture, by itself is not technique and it shouldn’t be relied upon to serve as a means of self defense. The internal force of Taiji, known as ‘peng jin‘ is not a ‘postural trick’. He says that peng jin is ‘pure gong’… whose foundation “is built in wuji practice”

Michael Joyce:  As a teacher and avid researcher of all martial sciences, I read this passage with some trepidation.  I’ve experienced some amazing people with great skill (gong), Yang Yang definitely soars to the top of that list,… however, many of these master do not regard taijiquan as magical (and, personally, I know that it shouldn’t be considered as such).  On the other hand, passages such as this direct the student away from thinking of the physical structure of the body and, in my opinion, the deep importance of posture in martial arts (and also in self defense).  Take San Ti stance for example (popular in Taiji, Xingyi & Baqua)… the correct posturing is essential in guarding the upper-middle-lower, it keeps the body properly rooted with energy transferable from the rear foot upward through the body and the lead hand remains poised in both defense and offense simultaneously.  

I would love to hear your input on this!


~ by chencenter on January 24, 2008.

8 Responses to “A Return to the Beginning :: Our First Post”

  1. Posture is important in daily life just as it is in the Martial Arts. If you pick up a heavy box the wrong way, without proper posture with the back straight, you can hurt yourself or tire more easily. In Martial Arts it is particularly important because you must always draw your power from your legs and if they are not set properly you can be off balance or too stiff. An example of why this is important is that if you have too much weight on one leg, I’m kicking that leg and you’re going to hit the floor whether it hurt or not. Though posture is not something that will alone win a fight, it is important for any proper movement of the body. Good topic, sorry if I ranted a little.

  2. This is a deep subject and one that can depend on the school of thought you have.
    I can see Yang Yangs point …….in that Taiji is a total body expression. (unless someone wants to correct me on that point)
    Also if I think of technique and power…. then Fajin is a total body movement so how can the stances not move, even if its just a little?

    On the other side of this discussion

    If you ask me however about being grounded and power or having power in a punch or kick……well a weak foundation will loss power…..

    So I would have to ask Yang Yang, wht his meaning was behind this…..
    Then I may be able to understand more….
    At least I would hope I could!

  3. Thanks for your input guys. I see both of your point, but to go deeper… it is a question of “what is gong.” We know it as “time-skill.” Now can gong ONLY be acquired through wuji practice or can we gain gong and fighting ability through each and every posture of our form? From Yang Yang’s writings, I believe he’s intent on it being gained “only through standing exercise.” I think there is much more to it. THANKS AGAIN, GUYS!

  4. This is a very interesting subject to investigate. And while I agree that one wouldn’t want readers to infer that posture is not important, I don’t think that is Yang’s intention here. This passage is from Yang’s chapter on Wuji. The way I read it his intent here is to emphasize the fundamental importance of Wuji as a methodology for acquiring gong. Yang says that Wuji is the starting point of Taiji, therefore preceding posture. I would translate this in simpler terms as ‘posture without peng jin, which is pure gong, which is built on Wuji, is incomplete’. So, yes of course posture is important, but it should be (in Yang’s opinion) built on Wuji practice and not just learning technique.
    Unfortunately, Wuji, which is void or emptiness, is much like Samadhi, or Dzogchen, and is better understood when experienced. Words and logic just don’t do it justice. I understand the “good feeling” I get from Qi Gong, or form practice, but I have a hard time relating it to someone who hasn’t also experienced it.


  5. Has anyone heard of “Return to the Beginning” or Fan Huan Gong Qigong? I learned it many years ago but have lost touch with my teacher and classmates. I continue to practice with excellent results, building “wuji practice” inseparable from my Tai Chi Chuan practice. I use the Return to the Beginning to distinguish between yin and yang as the wuji practice creates the sensation of “full” energy which can be gathered and issued as yang energy, in coordination with the steps of long form. Not a postural trick, a undeniable outward expression of inward work. Without the Fan Huan Gong my Tai Chi would be stagnant and years wasted.

  6. @ Rodney – Yes, he may have meant it that way but I believe it could have been said in a different way and (perhaps) had a richer message. Wuji is intrumental and a wonderful method for developing gong, however different styles practice their “wuji” in a variety of stances (some modified to enhance a sense of martial structure to their form). I still think that posture can (alone) have tremendous benefit in self defense. You are right that (speaking of Wuji) words don’t do it justice. Qigong must be experienced to be understood, that is why one can take a look at form and structure and look at it mechanically,… scientifically. Qigong unites the spiritual with the mental (and vice versa), but posture unites the physical with the mental. The act of self defense should (in my opinion) come from mental rehearsal of scientific and researched methods without the dependance on “other senses.” … I’m sure the discussion won’t end here. 🙂

    @ Jack – No sir. Haven’t heard of Fan Huan Gong. At least not yet. I’ll have to google it or youtube it and see what it’s all about. With all styles (A NOTE TO MY STUDENTS) the important thing to find –is the difference in YIN and YANG…. from the empty becomes the full. Understanding and FEELING this distinction greatly enriches your practice, your art-form and spirit. Jack, I’m glad you found Fan Huan and that you are benefiting from it. Thanks for the mention and we’ll definately check it out for ourselves. Welcome to the CCB and I hope you return to offer us more of your insights. Peace

  7. Michael, thank you for the hospitable welcome. It is testament to your skill as a taiji player you respond yourself insightfully to my comment. I believe we should expand our language to vary the current explanations we need to use to convey the necessary images to play good tai chi. “Yin” and “empty” and “insubstantial” never described where a person’s energy is at, or should be, but we use these words because the literature of our art is in ancient Chinese, for the most part, and modern Chinese language may also have shortcomings to communicate the right idea. The idea that English could easily explain Tai Chi energy is absurd.

    I understand Wuji practice to be where the endless depth within reach in each of us during the profound experiences in our lives has a correspondence with the naturally coalescing energies which renews us with each day upon awakening. To diligently reproduce the original breathing of a baby each day within our own breath is to have returned to a state closer to our remaining pre-natal chi, where everything is naturally light, but also solid, undeniable and attached. Do not take my word, compare what I am saying to the Tai Chi Classics, where it says “seek the straight from the curved” “cultivate lightness around the head”. What baby exists that cannot reach out with full energy toward its desires, naturally and without self-consciousness, or which fails to instantaneously respond to changes to sound or light in its environment?

  8. Hi,

    i will travel to Austria a week to have lessons with Josef Lechner, one of four main students in europe of Fan Huan Gong from the master Prof. Cong Yong Chun. I am doing Fanhuan Gong since 8 years. It is really a natural way of the development of feeling of qi.

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