Sung, Without it You've Got Nothing
By Erle Montaigue

So many people all over the world waving their arms around thinking that they are doing Sung Tai Chi. However, the truth is that without the most important part of any internal martial art, 'sung', you really do not gain the great health or martial benefits that you should from these great arts. In fact, you would probably be better off going for a daily ten laps of the pool.

Sung is a Chinese word that is in translatable other than a phrase like; "to move without feeling". This may sound strange but it is true that when doing our form practice, the wrists in particular must be moving so perfectly circular and spiralular (a new word made up by Erle Montaigue to represent circles that are moving forwards thus making spirals like the smoke from a candle etc.) that you do not actually feel them changing from yin to yang.

The wrists and hands are your first step into sung tai chi. If you can get the hands moving in sung, then the rest of the body will soon follow with practice. The danger period (when we will fell the movement) comes when we are changing from a yang shaped hand to a yin shaped hand and visa-versa. The epitome of this is when we perform the group of postures known as wave hands like clouds where at each end of each side, the upper hand will change from a yin shaped hand (full of Yang Qi) into a yang shaped hand (full of yin qi) as it moves down from upper position to lower position and makes an arc at each end.

The trick is not to DO the movement. If you DO the movement, then you are thinking about it and this is what causes the tension in the wrists so that you will feel them moving. When you place your mind upon your breathing (one step short of doing things correctly), this then allows you to let your wrists move freely without stops and starts or any jerky movement. If you can join your tantien area up with your wrists internally by sinking into the tantien, then you will experience sung tai chi for the first time and what a joy it is!

Sung will not come from the beginning however, as it takes some diligent practice in order for all of the physical stuff to be ready for sung tai chi. Like powerful legs to hold you up and a powerful waist to turn you and to direct the Qi. During the posture of Wave hands Like Clouds, most people do it incorrectly picking up the heel of the right leg first when they lift that leg after having taken a double shoulder width step to the left. It becomes much more difficult when you have to lift the heel and toe at precisely the same time using your stomach muscles. This is why this posture works upon the 'stomach'! So you will find that your legs are not powerful enough to do this relatively easily.

Wave hands Like Clouds is an excellent way to learn about sung as it is easy to do and does nto take up much time and you can do it almost anywhere. And this group of postures is the only one in the form that can be changed with reference to the number of times you do it. I often go around in a circle when I get to this group of postures, then carry again with the form.

The next training method also involves a set of movements called single whip. Here you have to get your right hand closing into the particular 'bird's beak' posture using sung as well as the left palm lifting in an arc into a yin shaped hand as you step around to the West, and then releasing that built up Yang Qi into the Yang shaped hand as you come forward onto the left leg. If your wrists aren't totally relaxed, you cannot do these movements without feeling your wrists moving. So I always advise the student to practice over and over again this posture in order to get into sung. This is also an excellent posture for teaching where your weight is and how to control your stepping. Most people will find this posture difficult (provided they are doing it correctly and one of the easy ways!) so they will, as they bring their left heel around to the West, place some weight onto it before they have turned fully around. In other words they plonk down onto the left leg. You should practice placing the heel ever so slowly and as soon as the heel lightly touches the ground, lift it back up again insuring that you have not had to push weight back onto the right leg first.

Sung is pure Qigong. Taijiquan is pure Qigong of the highest level, far surpassing all other static and moving Qigong methods for healing benefits and martial. If you can get to a sung level in your training, you will really know what Taijiquan is all about.