In writing this article on advanced tai chi, I almost simply put nothing onto the page. Because that's what real small frame or the most advanced method of Tai Chi is. Everything that we have ever read from the old masters, the "classics", was meant with reference to the most advanced way of doing Tai Chi as they wrote what they knew from their own experience at at that level of their own training. They never meant for stark beginners to read those classics and try to put that advice into their big open block type of beginner's form.
One of the most pertinent things that my main teacher told me which meant nothing to me back then but which means everything now, is that we must do Tai Chi, asleep/awake! Sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact that is exactly how the most advanced Tai Chi is. That wonderful feeling when you are just falling off to sleep, that instant that feels so good. What if you could extend that feeling and actually move around while in that state? That's what I feel when I perform my Tai Chi. In fact, as I explain to my students when TRYING to teach them this level, I find it very difficult to actually Do my own advanced Tai Chi in class as I just want to keep going and not do any work.
In moving while in the sleep/awake state, we enhance the healing process that we would normally get while actually asleep when the body heals itself, muscles, sinews bones mind etc., are all healed while asleep. But doing the movements that enhance the Qi flow and activation through each of the 12 main meridians and also through the 8 extra meridians, we enhance that healing process greatly. And this is where all of the stories of great healing come from with reference to the internal arts especially Tai Chi ch'uan. At a beginner's level and intermediate level we do get some healing happening, but this is purely physical, like stretching or just good exercise. We do not for instance produce Human Growth Hormone while simply doing the movements of Tai Chi. This happens only when we are able to get into the advanced state of "asleep/awake".
Just like everyone, I would read and read then read some more when I was younger, thinking that I understood what I was reading. Intellectually, I did understand, but experience wise, I knew nothing. Luckily, I was taught the real thing and therefore was able to have an organic growth in my advanced Tai Chi so that when I was ready, it taught me and then I KNEW! SO nowadays, I hear young "masters" sprouting quotes from books and them thinking that they know what they are talking about, but it is only words. What is real, shows in how they are moving, or more importantly how they are NOT moving! Nothing to do, nothing to say, I just walk away as, just like stuff my Father told me when I was young, that which I would dismiss because HE had experienced what he was saying and I hadn't, so too I know that it is impossible for me to even talk to such people about the internal. All I can do is to show by physical or non physical movement and hope that as they progress, (if they are given the type of Tai Chi they are doing) they too will come across what I have come across in advanced tai chi. Not many do though. Which is why I have been almost maniacal in making videos in order to help those who have the potential to "get it". Most will never understand even given the nature of what I put onto those videos and sadly a lot of the time it is pearls before swine so to speak, but occasionally one or two students will get it and that makes it all worthwhile. There are those in their little silk suits calling themselves "sifu" or "Master" or "Laushur", or Si Hing or whatever, who criticise my videos saying that I am not bending down enough or that I simply stand up when doing push hands. (It doesn't dawn upon them that someone is taking very heavy attacks while in a normal position rather than taking a strong low stance, that maybe there is something here).
The Hands in Advanced Tai Chi
The hands tell the story of what is inside. The hands are the manifestation of everything we do in Tai Chi, some call it the "beautiful hand" or the "woman's hand" but it all comes down to the minute movements or non movements that the hands make and how they interact with each other, crossing at exactly the correct places in order to activate the Qi and "pull the silk tie". The fingers will vibrate internally so that an onlooker cannot see it. Once you get the hands right, the rest of the body will simply fall into place. The hands are so important in Tai Chi and Qi Development, that one can even just do the hand movements for instance from Brush Knee & Twist Step, and still get that feeling, that Qi activation that heals the heart. The hands seem to be not moving at all to an untrained eye, but they are. We cannot actually SEE the Qi so the hands are the closest we will ever get to seeing Qi in action. However, as the Qi is minute in its movement, so too are the hands. This gives rise to the fact that we are able to strike a heavy bag for instance from a distance where the fingers are actually touching the bag and without pulling back, we can make the bag explode. This is "small frame Fa-jing" and comes from doing Tai Chi at the most advanced level of Small Frame. We can also, on the other side of the coin, use that same action only internally for healing. We can use small frame fa-jing to put healing Qi into a point on someone's body to activate their own healing mechanism. And this is what TCM is all about.
Qi Development in Advanced Tai Chi
The 12 Qi Development Tools contain the very essence of Tai Chi and every time I perform them (every day), I learn something more about myself and my training. In fact, nowadays, I am convinced that these 12 brief hand movements should be learnt before one begins to learn advanced Tai Chi. Perhaps this is one of the great "secrets" of advanced Tai Chi? It has been my goal to try and find better ways to teach people what I know so that they can come to a higher level quicker than the 40 or so years that I have taken. And in many ways, this has worked as I now have a number of advanced tai chi students who are finally getting it. Even at a younger age, a student is able to gain the inner knowledge necessary for advancement in their Tai Chi and in their daily lives using these methods.
Using The Qi/Mind in Advanced Tai Chi
Changing your circumstances through Tai Chi is possible. at an advanced level, we are able to access the inner workings of the very cells that go to make up the body/spirit. Each cell in our body joins in harmony causing a huge amount of energy to be available to the total body/mind for changing things. What we ARE is a bunch of cells joining together for the good of the whole. As I write this article I am aware of the fact that it is not my mind that writes this nor it is actually me as others see me, but rather a bunch of cells causing my physical body to move in the appropriate manner to get things done. Cells are able to make thing happen for your body, they are able to cause things to happen in your life in order for you to learn whatever it is that you have to learn. And the study and practice of advanced Tai Chi will help the cells to harmonize together so that you as an individual and as part of the "whole" will have power over your circumstances. We are all different and that which I would like for my own children for instance is not necessarily what they want for themselves. We can only ever cause circumstances to change for ourselves. However, when we find someone or someones with whom we can join with at an energy level, we are indeed able to change things for others and eventually the Earth. Why is it that if one person in one of my classes is feeling a little off or down, or if I myself aren't feeling the best on that particular day, the whole class is also feeling that way, whereas if I am feeling "up", the whole class is also feeling that energy and our cells join to lift the total energy of a class. I have noticed at band practice, (those who know me, will know that I am an old rock musician and work in a band with my children), if I am feeling a little not right, the practice will be mediocre. But if I am really up and wanting to rehearse, that energy will float over everyone and the whole practice will be huge and full of energy.
Often just being there is enough to teach a student/friend about the internal stuff. We of course have to have a reason for holding a class and charging money in order to make a living, although for my own classes in my village I do not charge, but the physical stuff is not the main thing and reason that people come along. They THINK that they are coming along to learn a form or how to punch or how to fight or how to heal etc., but the real reason is to simply be in closeness to the advanced teacher/healer. This is why although my videos are the best that can be obtained anywhere in the World (even if my cells do say so themselves), and it is important to have had some experience in the forms from those videos, it is very important for those same students to be in close proximity with the teacher at some time. I have had many hundreds who have learnt so much from my video titles, but then they come along to a class where I am only teaching something perhaps small like a short form or Qi development tools etc., and they all say, that for some reason, they have learnt that "something else", something that they cannot perhaps put a handle to. And here is where it all comes to life. I mentioned many years ago about something called "Internal Learning Keys" which are only ever given at a sub-conscious level by the teacher. Many of my students when they come to a workshop or class go away with those "keys", that which will then grow inside like a minute oak tree seed, which grows into something huge.
This is what advanced Tai Chi is all about. It is not about becoming the world's greatest fighter, not about becoming the World's greatest healer, not about being able to pull girls or boys or how to get a bigger penis (yes I get those questions!!)! It is simply about the immense power that is inside of you and how to access it. "Something" causes us to move and not one scientist in the world past present or future has been able to explain why that happens! Sure they can tell us that this muscle uses energy made from glucose etc., but HOW, they cannot tell us. Something that can cause a human body to be able to move around freely, something that we all take for granted is something that is huge! Think about it. We MOVE! WHY? Because our cells are alive and full of "God". If we can access that power, the world is open to us. And advanced Tai Chi is that way.
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