The Power of the Principles of Tai Chi Chuan

Seven-part lecture series on the core foundation you need to do Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) properly and develop your practice to its full potential. Without these keys, you’re just using muscular strength to go through the motions. With these keys, you can learn to use internal energy and master Tai Chi Chuan.

 

A short talk by Stuart Alve Olson on the importance of the Twenty-Two Principles of Tai Chi Chuan. 

The twenty-two principles guide you to develop your internal and intrinsic energies of Qi and Jin for the purposes of …

Health and Longevity

Your internal energies are what heal you and give you your vitality. To gain the full health benefits of Tai Chi, you need to develop these energies in your practice through applying these key principles. 

Martial Arts Application

Many martial arts rely on yang energy (muscular strength and speed). Tai Chi sees your yin, your internal energies, as your ultimate strength. These principles are the pathway to mastering the internal art of Tai Chi. 

Spiritual Cultivation

These principles are about internalizing Tai Chi and becoming yin. In Taoism, yin is the gateway to the Tao. That's why Tai Chi is Taoism in motion. Tai Chi done according to these principles is Taoism embodied. 

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Why learn the Twenty-Two Principles of Tai Chi Chuan?

The majority of practitioners who seek to master Tai Chi Chuan usually have to backtrack in their studies, normally first learning the solo form postures and then later seeking out the fundamental exercises and principles.

It would do well to ask, “How many of us really understand, or can actually apply, the absolute and necessary fundamentals of Song (relaxed alertness and non-muscular exertion), the One Breath (Yi Qi), Mind-Intent (Yi), sinking the Qi into the Dan Tian, abiding by the Dan Tian, or adhering the Qi to the spine?” The answer would be very few—infinitesimally few.

Knowing what is required for true mastery of the art, and the sheer lack of actual masters, we must also ask, “How much of the Tai Chi Chuan currently being taught and practiced is really Tai Chi Chuan?”

Too often, Tai Chi is practiced and viewed as just some sort of external gymnastics for improving health, but Tai Chi Chuan is predominantly an internal art. Fundamentally, it is Internal Alchemy (Neidan) in motion. Ideally, in practice only 10 percent of the movement is expressed externally; 90 percent is unseen and sensed internally.

The great Tai Chi Master Yang Chengfu said, “Tai Chi Chuan is meditation in action, and activity within meditation.” Alertness of non-muscular exertion, the One Breath, Mind-Intent, sinking Qi into the Dan Tian, abiding by the Dan Tian, and adhering Qi to the spine are not external activities—they are purely internal. Therefore, a physically expanded and gracious appearing display of Tai Chi Chuan movement is not necessarily good, effective, or true internalized Tai Chi Chuan.

None of this is meant to imply that just learning Tai Chi Chuan without delving into the fundamentals and principles is useless. Most of us start out by learning just the Tai Chi solo form postures, and there’s no denying the many health benefits one acquires from that initial external practice.

But according to Stuart, it wasn’t until he underwent this backtracking into the fundamental aspects of Tai Chi Chuan that he began realizing real progress internally. To fully understand and master Tai Chi Chuan it must be internalized, and this only occurs through practice and adherence to its fundamental principles and energies.

 

What are the Twenty-Two Principles of Tai Chi Chuan?

 

1) Retain a light and sensitive energy on top of the head. 

一)虛領頂勁.

2) Express the spirit in the eyes to concentrate the gaze.

二)眼神注視.

3) Hollow the chest and raise the back.

三)含胸拔背.

4) Sink the shoulders and suspend the elbows.

四)沈肩垂肘.

5) Seat the wrist and straighten the fingers.

五)坐腕伸指.

6) Keep the entire body centered and upright.

六)身體中正.

7) Draw in the Tailbone Gateway.

七)尾闾收住.

8) Relax the waist and relax the coccyx.

八)鬆腰鬆胯.

9) The knees appear relaxed, but not too relaxed.

九)膝部如鬆無鬆.

10) Adhere the soles of the feet to the ground.

十)足掌貼地.

11) Clearly distinguish the insubstantial and substantial.

十一)分清虛實.

12) Upper and lower should mutually follow each other and the body should move as one unit.

十二)上下相隨. 週身一致.

13) The internal and external should be mutually joined together with natural breathing.

十三)內外相合. 呼吸自然.

14) Use the mind-intent, do not use muscular force.

十四)用意不用力.

15) The qi should circulate freely throughout the body, yet divide the upper and lower activity.

十五)氣遍週身. 分行上下.

16) Mutually connect the mind-intent and qi.

十六)意氣相連.

17) Move according to the gestures of the posture. Do not bend forward and do not expose your back.

十七)式式势順. 不拗不背. 週身舒適.

18) All the gestures are to be uniform, continuous, and unbroken.

十八)式式均勻. 綿綿不斷.

19) In performing the postures, be free of excess and deficiency and seek to be centered and upright.

十九)姿势無過或不及. 當求其中正.

20) Use the method of concealing by not outwardly exposing.

二十)用法含而不露.

21) Seek tranquility within movement; seek movement within tranquility.

二十一) 動中求靜. 靜中求動.

22) Lightness brings about nimbleness, nimbleness results in movement, and movement results in transformation.

二十二)輕則靈. 靈則動. 動則變.

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Join us for this essential lecture series on the core principles of Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan).

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