DIFFERENT CHI FLOW OF VARIOUS TAIJIQUAN STYLES
At last year's Festival of Taijiquan in Florida we learned the signature set of the three main styles of Taijiquan. My experiences of practicing the three sets were remarkably different.
The 108-Pattern Yang Style felt soft and smooth. It was deeply meditative, light and uplifting. It nourished my scholar mind.
The Flowing Water Floating Clouds was very forceful. It was extremely powerful and full of deeply invigorating chi which set my meridians on fire like nothing before. It nourished my warrior mind.
The Wudang Taijiquan set was spiritual bliss and absolute beauty in motion. It nourished my eternal mind.
Is there any relationship between the nature of these three sets and the five levels at which chi flows in the body i.e. the skin, the flesh, the meridians, the organs and the bone marrow. Does the chi generated from practicing these three sets cleanse and nourish the five levels in different ways leading to different experiences and benefits for practitioners?
Congratulations for your very perceptive realization. Your feeling and observation excellently fulfilled the aspirations of these three signature sets.
Yes, you are perfectly right. The 108-Pattern Yang Style Set is meant to cultivate gentle, graceful chi. It is mainly because of Yang Style Taijiquan, manifested in this set, that many people regard Taijiquan as a scholar’s martial art.
The Flowing Water Floating Clouds Set, which typical represents the Chen Style Taijiquan, is meant to cultivate fast and forceful chi. It is the most martial of the various Taijiquan styles.
Wudang Taijiquan was the style practiced by Zhang San Feng on the Wudang Mountain. This kungfu genius was already healthy and extremely combat efficient. The main aim of his cultivation was to attain the Tao. Hence, Wudang Taijiquan is the most spiritual of the Taijiquan styles.
The five levels of chi flow in the body are natural and spontaneous. In other words, if all other things were equal, irrespective of which Taijiquan style a person practices, or what kungfu or chi kung exercise he practices, his chi will flow first at his skin level, then at his flesh level, at his meridian level, at his internal organ level, and finally at his bone-marrow level.
This means that practitioners of Yang Style, Chen Style and Wudang Taijiquan will experience chi flow at all these five levels progressively. Of course, what they practice must be genuine, and that they practice correctly. As most people today practice any style of Taijiquan as gentle physical exercise and not as an internal martial art, there will not be any chi flow no matter which style they practice.
Once a while, when they practice perfectly, they may unknowingly enter into a chi kung state of mind, and experience some chi flow as a novelty. As this happens haphazardly, their chi flow remains only at the skin level, and is not powerful enough to progress to the flesh level.
Amongst the small minority who practice genuine Taijiquan, other things are not equal. Hence, the chi flow generated from practicing these three sets cleanses and nourishes the five levels in different ways leading to different experience and benefits.
As the 10-Pattern Yang Style Set was constructed for health, the chi flow generated flows mainly at the skin level and the meridian level. This is because the skin level is the first level of flow, and being relatively the least powerful of the three styles, practitioners of this style experience chi flow at the skin level.
Further, the meridian level is the level that is most suitable for overcoming illness and promoting good health. The big, circular movements of the 108-Pattern Yang Style Set are conducive for this purpose. Advanced practitioners may experience their chi from their meridians flowing into their internal organs.
Some Yang Style classics describe practitioners using their mind to direct chi to flow along various meridians according to their movements. When they move their arms out in “Immortal Waves Sleeves”, for example, they direct their chi to flow along the three hand ying meridians from their body to their palms. When they bring back their arms in “Double Dragons Play with Pearl”, they direct their chi to flow along the three hand yang meridians from their palms to their body.
When they lower their stance in “Black Bear Sinks Hips”, they direct their chi to flow down their legs along the three leg yang meridians. When they push out their palms in “Open Window to Look at Moon”, they direct their chi to flow along the three leg yin meridians from their feet back to their body.
Some practitioners follow this advice from the classics. But because they lack the skills to be in a chi kung state of mind, their visualization becomes a liability instead of an advantage, making them stressful instead of facilitating their chi flow along their meridians. This is an example of shallow understanding bringing harm.
As the Flowing Water Floating Clouds Set was constructed with combat in mind, the chi flow of its practitioners tends to be at the skin level and the flesh level. It is at the skin level as this is the first level of chi flow. It is at the flesh level so that chi will “soak” them up with internal force for effective combat. This attainment brings the result of “silk wounding iron”. The silk effect is due to chi flowing at the skin level making their skin soft and smooth. The iron effect is due to chi flowing at the flesh level making them “hard’ and powerful.
The chi flow of advanced practitioners “soaks” into their bones and chi flows at the bone-marrow level. This results in tremendous internal force.
Wudang Taijiquan was constructed with spiritual cultivation in mind. It is also the most powerful of all styles of Taijiquan. Hence, the tremendous chi generated flows at all levels, but is focused at the bone-marrow level. This gives its practitioners a lot of internal force, not only for combat but also to break through the illusionary body to merge with the Tao.
Relatively, because the chi of advanced Flowing Water Floating Clouds practitioners is transformed into essence and flows at the bone-marrow instead of “soaking” the flesh as in the case of less advanced practitioners of the same set, the more advanced practitioners are less bulky than the less advanced, but more powerful. Practitioners of Wudang Taijiquan, being the most advanced, are the least bulky and the most powerful.
Practitioners in our Happy Shaolin Wahnam Family progress a step further. Because of our understanding of Taijiquan philosophy and the benefit of breadth and depth, we can employ the appropriate skills to direct chi flow at the appropriate level for our intended purpose irrespective of the set or style we perform.
For example, when we perform the 108-Pattern Yang Style Set we may direct chi to flow at the flesh level for combat efficiency or at the bone-marrow level for spiritual expansion. When we perform the Wudang Taijiquan Set we may direct chi to flow at the meridian level for health, or at the skin level to look glowing when we go on a date. It is incredible, to the point of being ridiculous, that we can be very cost-effective in fulfilling our needs and aspirations.
This amazing facility is possible for typical Shaolin Wahnam practitioners who have breadth and depth. They should have learnt at least the 108-Pattern Yang Style Set and Bone Marrow Cleansing. An atypical Shaolin Wahnam student who only follows the standard Taijiquan syllabus but has not taken extra courses for breadth and depth, would not have this amazing facility. He would practice Taijiquan as an internal martial art, like what past masters did, and let his chi flow naturally and spontaneously to progress from one level to another.
Practitioners who have the most amazing facility will be those who have attended my recent Wudnag Taijiquan course in Penang. They can perform not only any Taijiquan set, but any kungfu set or chi kung exercise at any level, and attain better results in shorter time. Why is this so? It is because they have learned the philosophy, techniques and skills of the climax of Shaolin Kungfu, which means the best methods of all martial arts.
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
13th December 2013
The question and answer are taken from the thread Yang 108-Pattern Set: 10 Questions for the Grandmaster in the Shaolin Wahnam Institute Discussion Forum.