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No Fa-Jing in Yang Tai Chi Form Practicing

Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong in INSIDE KUNG-FU MAGAZINE July 2004
(Reprinted here from Inside Kung-fu Magazine)

In the March 2004 issue (of Inside Kung-Fu), I talked about choy li fut's jing or ging. I mentioned that I learned my fa-jing from choy li fut kung-fu, not from tai chi. Some people think that I put fa-jing into choy li fut, because most other choy li fut practitioners don't show jing when they do their forms. When they see me using jing, they believe my tai chi training might have become mixed with choy li fut and that now I am doing a chop suey kung-fu!

They wonder if my choy li fut style is still pure. I pointed out that Yang tai chi players don't do fa-jing. I wrote: "As most tai chi practitioners know, Yang tai chi does not practice fa-jing." Right away a couple of readers fired off emails, insisting that Yang tai chi does indeed use fa-jing. They mentioned a tai chi instructor from Australia (Erle Montaigue ... added to this article as Erle is obviously who he is speaking about), who wrote that fa-jing is part of Yang tai chi. They were concerned that I had misled my readers: Therefore I want to clarify the issue here.

Yes, the YAng family has fa-jing training. When I wrote my last column (entitled "Jing in Choy Li Fut") i was focused on Choy LI Fut kung-fu. I didn't want to get side tracked into a complete discussion on tai chi. What I wanted to communicate is that most people who practice Yang tai chi are not supposed to show any fa-jing in the form practice. This is because very few practitioners practice the small circle form. This holds true also for other styles of tai chi (with notable exception fo the Chen tai chi).

Let me explain. Fa-jing is for martial arts training. However, 95% of those learning Yang taic chi do it for health and relaxation, not for fighting. Today a vast majority of Yang tai chi instructors are not trained for fa-jing. The fa-jing training of the Yang family is not taught using the regular forms most people practice. The Yang family has another form, the fast form, also called the small circle form -- that is specifically for fa-jing training. I teach that form to my students once they have mastered the regular forms. But aside from the instructors I teach in teh Plumb Blossom International Federation, few tai chi instructors learn the fast form today.

In ancient times, fa-jing was not taught to outsiders of the Yang Family. Therefore, the teachers of today's instructors had never learned fa-jing and could not have taught it. If a modern-day instructor knows fa-jing, he probably got it from other martial arts training. Beside the lineage of my teacher Dr. Hu Yuen Chou, other great teachers of tai chi such as Fu Zhongwen, Dong Ying Jie, Yang Zhen-duo and Cheng Man-ching didn't show fa-jing in their forms. Has anyone seen the Chinese contemporary Yang 24 form, the 40 form and the 88 form with fa-jing?  Please let me know, of course not counting the videos from the Australian instructor.

And it's not only the Yang tai chi style that doesn't show fa-jing in the form. The Guang Ping Yang Style, Wu and Sun styles of tai chi do't show fa-jing. The Chen style is the exception. That doesn't mean those tai chi styles have no fa-jing teaching for their closed door students. When tai chi is taught for fighting then fa-jing training is essential. I am sure that all advanced tai chi levels have fa-jing training.

Forty five years ago when I was a tai chi student, I saw no-one from Chen or Yang style that could show me fa-jing. That was what I meant to say in my previous column. I wish that this Australian Yang tai chi instructor was around when I was learning to show me his Yang fa-jing. I could have learned it from him. I wish I had met him 45 years ago. Where was he at that time? 

The point is, regular Yang forms when practiced should not be done with fa-jing. That's not the same as saying that the Yang family didn't teach fa-jing. In the old days, no family names divided tai chi into different styles. From Yang Lu-ch'an to Yang Cheng-fu, only one name was used: tai chi ch'uan (ADDED: Actually, that name was invented relatively recently by the WU family, prior to that in Yang Lu-ch'an's day it was called H'ao ch'uan or "Loose Boxing").

When Yang cheng-fu promoted tai chi and it became popular, Wu Jian Quan started to call his style Wu tai chi. Now, when we talk about Yang tai chi, we are talking about Yang Cheng-fu's teaching. The teaching style of Yang style in Australia might well have come from the Yang Family, but it is not what most people practice in China. However, I am happy that in Australia there is an instructor who is able to promote the real essence of tai chi chuan (that is to say, the fighting martial art). I also want my readers to understand I was not misleading them, because regular Yang tai chi forms should be practiced without fa-jing.

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This part is added my Erle Montaigue: 05/16/2011

Obviously Doc is talking about me in his article. Where was I 45 years ago when that article was written? I would have been around 11! Well, Yang Family tai chi does of course have fa-jing, in fact without it, it is just a superficial shell with no more benefits than going for a swim or a long walk which is great if that is all you want from your martial art.

Fa-jing is the motor of tai chi, it is what makes it go and is the reason that tai chi's translation hold the lofty name of "Supreme Ultimate Fighting or Fist". The Yang tai chi form that Doc mentions not having fa-jing is only the very beginner's form where one learns about balance and timing and begins to get his or her internal workings in harmony with the external movement. This is of course essential to any healing or self defence art. As one progresses, slowly, the fa-jing is introduced teaching the student that they have great power locked within their body that can be accessed with this fa-jing or "explosive energy". If a student were to practice fa-jing too early, they might cause damage to their skeletal structure unless they have been doing some other martial system where their body is used to rigorous movement.

Fa-jing training develops certain muscle groups in the body. These muscle groups are perfectly balanced for delivering great power over short distances. These muscle groups are mainly down the centre line of the body. However, only Fa-Jing training can develop exactly the right muscle groups for fighting or self defence! No amount of weigh training will develop; these correct muscle groups. And this is the reason that we in the Internal martial systems tend to stress the training methods so much. With special mention to the real way of push hands (and not the stupid, "you push me, I push you" routine), this method of training will develop exactly the correct muscle groups for power from only one inch away from the target.

The Yang family has this method and always has had it. It's jut that in modern times, when Yang Cheng-fu changed his father's system to something that older and sick people could practice, we lost the original way of real tai chi preferring to take on the easier method of Yang cheng-fu. So we lost the fa-jing and if you take the engine out of a Porsche what are you left with? A shell! It still looks pretty and looks powerful but doesn't go!