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.
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.
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.
2) Express the spirit in the eyes to concentrate the gaze.
3) Hollow the chest and raise the back.
4) Sink the shoulders and suspend the elbows.
5) Seat the wrist and straighten the fingers.
6) Keep the entire body centered and upright.
7) Draw in the Tailbone Gateway.
8) Relax the waist and relax the coccyx.
9) The knees appear relaxed, but not too relaxed.
10) Adhere the soles of the feet to the ground.
11) Clearly distinguish the insubstantial and substantial.
12) Upper and lower should mutually follow each other and the body should move as one unit.
13) The internal and external should be mutually joined together with natural breathing.
14) Use the mind-intent, do not use muscular force.
15) The qi should circulate freely throughout the body, yet divide the upper and lower activity.
16) Mutually connect the mind-intent and qi.
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.
19) In performing the postures, be free of excess and deficiency and seek to be centered and upright.
20) Use the method of concealing by not outwardly exposing.
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.