An Article in 1,501 words by Erle Montaigue
March 29, 1989

There can be no T'ai chi without there being an energy release system. This is the basic principle of yin and yang, we build up yang energy by performing a yin movement and release it using a yang movement thus building up yin energy.

The classics tell us that one of the most important things to remember is the distinction between yin and yang and the changes in between. When asked what was the most important thing in all of T'ai chi, Fu Zhongwen (Yang Cheng Fu's nephew and oldest member of the Yang family) told me that it was this distinction.

So what do we do when the Chinese translation doesn't give us much to go on. Anyone can know when they are weighted on one foot and empty on the other but it's much more than that mere physical difference. We must distinguish between yin and yang in the mind and this is the most important part. These changes are so subtle that the physical changes that come with these differences are so minute that someone watching is unable to see the changes. Only we as the practitioner are able to know that this change has occurred.

If we are able to know these minute changes in the mind, then the whole form will change so that these same changes also happen physically, a small shake here, a slight twist there, things that no-one else can detect bar the fact that the form looks somewhat different, as if we're floating etc. But we know they have happened.

Although forms such as the Chen style and the Yang Lu-Ch'an style have these subtle changes, they also have the most obvious energy release points of fa-jing (explosive energy). These energy release points are important because of the sometimes greater Ch'i build up that these forms cause and so the greater reciprocal release points. But the Yang Cheng Fu form does not have these fa-jing release points but rather relies upon even more subtle internal fa-jing movements which manifest physically as minute movements of the wrist or the waist springing from the feet.

Once one has been able to get through the beginning postures of the Yang Cheng Fu form and to know them so well that the mind is not continually thinking about what to do next, one is able to concentrate on no mind. Or rather to be absolutely correct 'not concentrate upon no mind'. This is the point when T'ai chi becomes your own and not the property of your teacher, it becomes your own creation with minuscule movements that only your own body shape will be able to perform. Movements that will be different to anyone else's form but still keeping to the original basic stances etc which you were taught.


The Movement Must be Continuous

This classic saying also goes deeper than just external movement. The mind must be still with no external thought, only then will there be continuous movement in the mind. This continuance of movement will then begin to show physically with every part of your body in a state of unending action right down to the smallest part of your body.

Many mistakes are made when a person who is naturally talented with movement tries to cause their body to be continuous from outside. This flow must happen from inside, this is true internal movement.

For instance, someone who is bodily aware will be able to have a total bodily movement for the posture of 'brush knee twist step'. Or rather is looks flowing, but look at the wrist, perhaps it was flexed all the way to the striking position? This would indicate a non internal energy release or change from yin to yang. The body has changed physically and a push has occurred but there has not been a potential difference in the wrist. More correctly when the internal manifest, the wrist will firstly build up with potential energy by becoming relaxed, alive. 'Relaxed, alive' means that the wrist is not totally dropped down but rather is still alive with a small portion of yang energy as dictated to us by the yin/yang symbol. Now, as the wrist attacks, keeping in the centre of your body and coming forward because you body is turning to the front, it slowly flexes slightly until it has released it's built up potential energy upon impact. The wrist is not, however fully flexed as this indicates no presence of yin energy and this is wrong.

Every movement you make must have this energy release be it so small. The posture of Chee (sometimes mistakenly called press) which translates as 'squeeze' must have the elbows squeezing in slightly to allow for the internal fa-jing. When P'eng is performed, the wrist is not in posture right from the beginning but rather slowly bends with the total movement until it is at it's finishing point fully in posture. The posture of 'lift hands' should not have the palms coming in too close together as this indicates a fully discharged state, the palms should be kept apart as if you are squeezing something that will not squeeze. 'Shoulder stroke' is always a difficult posture to understand this slight fa-jing. Although there is only a slight turning of the waist and the power all seems to come from the rear leg, you should notice the right wrist. As you come forward for the attack, the wrist will also slowly bend under so that at it's last point it is almost fully flexed. When performed at full power and speed of course this wrist movement is explosive, thus sending the energy to the shoulder.

'Stork spreads wings' is another that seems to only have physical movement but look at any person who has been practicing form many years and you will see that there is a slight 'shake' upon execution of this posture. 'Brush knee twist step' also has this slight shake at the end with the waist turning slightly in the opposite direction to the push. This seems contradictory to the flow but when performed at full power and speed the reason for the twist becomes evident in providing the counter movement to gain torque and fa-jing.



We in the West may look at T'ai chi as a continual building up and releasing if potential energy. i.e.; the potential energy changes state into a useable form. When we relax the wrist, lifting it slightly, this indicates a build up of potential energy. When we flex the wrist slightly this indicates the change of state into a useable form of energy. Combine this with the correct breath and centred movement and we have the perfect energy transference mechanism. After all, what are we doing in either the healing or the fighting art but simply causing energy changes to happen in our own and other's bodies, even if it is as unsubtle as a slap in the mouth. Even this crude instance we have built up energy with the movement just before the attack and we have changed that potential energy into attacking energy in the slap in the mouth. In healing, we are using an extremely subtle energy change in placing our palms on to someone's body and with minute physical and internal changes in yin and yang energy, we are able to send a constant energy flow into that part of the body.

Set aside one hour in the day when you perform your daily tasks keeping the T'ai chi principles in mind or not in mind. You should begin by just standing for a few moments allowing your whole body to sort of collapse into the back bone bending slightly at the knees. Be rid of all physical thought and allow your body to be dictated to by your inner mind. Think about what is under your feet, place your mind onto this area. Change your weight and try to feel that slight changes that occur. Slowly pick up one foot and maintain perfect balance as you begin to walk, placing your foot down with perfect balance so that no weight is plonked onto it but rather slowly transfer the weight to it. Allow your arms to do what the movement dictates as you perform your daily 'things'. You will at first only be able to do this at a slow pace and you will prefer to do it indoors out of the gaze of onlookers because you will feel silly. After some time you will be able to move quicker still keeping this balance of movement and transference of energy until you are able to perform all of your daily tasks keeping this balance. Before too long you will be able to keep the whole day in balance and your whole life will be enhanced through your T'ai chi.