Done with all slow movements externally with some small faster movements and forever changing internally, the small frame waving form was the precursor to Yang Cheng-fu's now famous all slow form. what Cheng-fu saw his father doing was the most advanced waving form and looked like it was all slow moving. However, to the trained eye, if we could see Ban-hou or Chien-hou performing their forms, we would notice that there would be very small waving movements towards the end of each posture. It was a relatively simple matter for Cheng-fu to then take that form and modify it slightly so that the movements reverted back to large frame form and hence the form that we know today.
The Hands Fly
This is one of those Chinese sayings that requires elucidation as your hands do not fly doing any of the major forms other than the waving forms especially the small frame waving form. When practice begins, we start out performing the normal waving form. However, if the time is right, the Qi is right and the place is right, this will quickly develop into small fame waving form where there seems to be a greater divide between yin and yang of the upper and lower body, like a physical barrier between upper and lower where the hands are held up by this barrier and seem to fly as you perform the movements. 'Perform'? Well not exactly because small frame waving form is done by the body alone not the mind. The body takes over in automatic mode and causes the hands to move into the spaces that they should occupy until the normal form is only recognizable because of the footwork and certain of the well known postures such as 'single whip' etc.
The Breath Has Stopped.
This does not of course refer to that we stop breathing, it refers to the fact that when performing small frame waving form., we are in automatic mode and we are unaware of the breathing, it just takes care of itself. And this is where the Chinese saying of 'to concentrate upon the breathing is to bring defeat' comes from. In the beginning we must of course know when to breathe in and when to exhale as this is part of one's basic training. (Many teachers do not even tell students about this). And this is the way we 'light the fire' in the beginning. We must have a basic energy source for Taijiquan and that source is heat, hence the bent legs causing heat and then 'fire' fanned by the breath, which causes the Qi to rise and evaporate, then distill down into the marrow as it cools. However, if we continue to fan the fire and to put more 'wood' onto the fire, we will put it out! So it is important to know when it is time to forget about the breathing and allow that area to become a motor action again as in the waving forms.
The Hands In Harmony With the Breath.
In automatic mode during small frame waving form, the hands move by themselves in a space that is allocated for them to move in. The reason that the hands move in such a compact manner, is so that the breath will be in perfect harmony with what the hands are doing and visa-versa. Doing form in this way, causes the hands in particular to feel like they are 'dampened' with some kind of controlling force placed around them, causing them to be in perfect 'Sung' mode. After some time doing form this way, you will notice that the whole body in fact is working in this compact and controlled manner. Not controlled by your mind physically, but rather being controlled by something external which is attached to your internal being, like performing the whole form in warm treacle!
Waving form and Small Frame Waving form are no different other than the waving movements to the end of each posture become smaller thus causing the whole hand movements to be compact and seem to move faster in accordance with the Qi flow which in turn is causing the body to move 'like the great river', sometimes slow then sometimes a little faster. Someone watching would probably not notice the waving movements if they were not aware of waving form. They would however, notice that the form itself looked different and might even dismiss it as not being Taijiquan even! But then, that's the difference between doing Taijiquan to show others that you know Taijiquan, and doing it for yourself, not caring what others think or say.
Teaching Small Frame Waving Form
Well, there is no way to teach this form other than doing it as others watch, hoping that one day your students will eventually see internally what they should be doing. By 'seeing' the form with the inner eye, it will work on you over time causing your body to come in line and move correctly in harmony with your Qi flow. It grown internally like a small seed growing into something huge. Qi Flow! Yes, that is an entirely different story. It's one thing to simply tell students that we must move in harmony with our Qi flow but what does that mean? How does one teach Qi flow! You cannot see it, you cannot tell someone to move like this or that because as soon as you tell someone to move like this or that, their conscious brain takes over and all is lost. So the only way to teach Qi flow, is to allow Taijiquan to teach you over time. Then when your body is ready, it will begin to move in harmony with your Qi flow and you will eventually discover what Qi flow is like by the action of your body moving in small frame waving form! And you will then know that Qi flow is nothing like what you expected it to be nor what you were told that it was like. You cannot place conscious thought processes upon Qi flow as we only have physical things to compare it with, so we are told that Qi flow is like a river, or that it is like the clouds rolling in the sky, or that we must move like the wind and any other of the hundreds of things that we are told. Qi flow cannot be put into physical terms, you simply must experience it. But when you do experience it, it will change the way you move and you will never wish to perform your form in any other way. Complete harmony is a wonderful thing.
I will be attempting to have one of my sons film me doing small frame waving form during my early morning practice in the hope that I can translate some of that feeling onto video tape so that others will be able to see what the Qi looks like and eventually have it also grow on them.