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A few writings from Master Yang Zhenduo:

Description of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan, an exercise for the whole body

Some important points concerning the Yang school of Tai Chi Chuan


Master Yang Zhenduo has described the characteristics of Traditional Yang Family Style Tai Chi Chuan as marked by: (quote)

  • extended and natural movements;
  • distinct transformation between and combination of hardness and softness
  • beautiful postures, and bold grace.

    These features are derived from the ten requirements set by his father, Master Yang Chengfu.

    The ten requirements are: 1) emptying the neck and straightening the head; 2) withdrawing the chest and extending the back; 3) relaxing the waist and hips joints; 4) distinguishing between emptiness and solidity; 5) sinking the shoulders and dropping the elbows; 6) using the mind instead of force to direct the movements; 7) coordinating upper-body and lower-limbs movements; 8) integrating the external with the internal; 9) moving continuously ; 10)seeking tranquility in movement (sinking chi down to the lower abdomen).

    "When these requirements are fulfilled, the features of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan become manifest"”. (end of quote)


From the book "Yang Style Taijiquan", by Master Yang Zhenduo. Morning Glory Publishers. Beijing.

Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise for the whole body, and it trains both the mind and the body.

The waist is of primary importance, for it leads the movement of the four limbs. In practicing Tai Chi Chuan, when one part moves, all the other parts also move, with the upper and lower limbs following accordingly. All this points to the totality of its movements.

However, many learners often tend to divide the body into three parts consciously or unconsciously: the arms, the trunk and the legs. The result is that each part moves on its own, without any connection whatsoever with the other parts. While the legs and the arms move independently, the movements of the trunk, including the buttocks, the back, the abdomen and the internal organs, are neglected. If this should happen, the desired effects cannot be achieved. In this regard, I would like to stress a few points which I hope learners will keep in mind.

(1) Because of its position, the waist performs the special function of linking up all parts of the body - the hips and the legs below and the back, the arms and the head above. So in doing the exercises, we must make sure that the waist, which is the central link, coordinates the movements of the upper part and the lower part of the body, and that we have a kind of feeling all over the body, which is actually the feeling of force at work.

While all the parts coordinate, they interact on each other. Without the relaxation of the waist and the hips, it is not possible to keep the chest in a natural position and exercise the muscles on the back. Only in this way can the vital energy reach the back and force emit from the spine. It is impossible for the upper limbs to emit force without the relaxation of the waist and the hips, the coordination of the lower limbs and the exertion of force by the legs which serve as the base. That is why we must understand the essential points thoroughly and strive for the harmony of the movements. Our ancestors told us to "take the waist as the axis and use it to lead the movements of the four limbs." But we should here include the trunk, for when the main axis moves, all the other parts of the body will follow suit.

(2) One more point must be made clear. "The root or the base is in the feet." The meaning of "feet" here includes the legs. We must feel the force of the straightening and kicking movements of the feet. The base will not be firm without the straightening or propping movements of the legs, and the result will not be difficult to imagine. How are we then to do the stepping, straightening or propping and kicking movements correctly? When you stretch out the leg on which you put your weight, the leg must be propped up in the shape of a bow; then you feel the force moving from this leg to the other leg on which you have not put your weight. You must not stretch out your leg without feeling the force, otherwise the movements of the whole body will fall into disarray. You will understand this after careful observation through practice. Failing to do so, it will be difficult to achieve the continuity and totality of Tai Chi Chuan movements.

With regard to the coordination between the upper and lower limbs,especially coordination between the two arms, we must see to it that the waist brings along the back and the arms, which in turn bring along the wrists. We should also pay attention to the natural lowering of the shoulders and elbows, the poise of the wrist and the palms, the slight bending of the fingers and the right spacing between the fingers, which are all important in Tai Chi Chuan.


From the book "Yang Style Taijiquan", by Master Yang Zhenduo. Morning Glory Publishers. Beijing.

1. Relaxation It is easy to understand the literal meaning of "relaxation". The word here has two implications:
(1) The relaxation of the mind, that -is, the elimination of all other thoughts and the concentration of the mind on practicing Tai Chi Chuan
(2) The relaxation of the whole body and the elimination of the
stiff strength inside it. The second implication has indeed caused some misunderstanding among many learners. They take it for granted that relaxation means not using any strength and that they should display physical softness. The fact that the "Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan " emphasizes the employment of the mind instead of the use of strength gives rise to another misunderstanding that Tai Chi Chuan should be all softness. Some people, of course, have doubts on this point, since there is the saying that "the needle is hidden in the cotton" or "vigor is concealed in gentleness." Where exactly does vigor lie? Some people have probed into this question with experiments and they have discovered that the conscious employment of even a little strength results in a stiff feeling, while relaxation indeed brings a feeling of softness. It is therefore natural that the beginner finds himself in a dilemma.

II. What is Real Relaxation?
I would like to give some of my personal views on this question. Though relaxation means the conscious relaxation of the mind, more importantly, it means the relaxation of the whole body.
Relaxation of the whole body means the conscious relaxation of all the joints, and this organically links up all parts of the body in a better way. This does not mean softness. It requires a lot of practice in order to understand this point thoroughly. Relaxation also means the "stretching" of the limbs, which gives you a feeling of heaviness. (This feeling of heaviness or stiffness is a concrete reflection of strength.) This feeling is neither a feeling of softness nor of stiffness, but somewhere in between. It should not be confined to a specific part, but involves the whole body. It is like molten iron under high temperature. So relaxation "dissolves" stiff strength in very
much the same way. Stiff strength, also called "clumsy strength", undergoes a qualitative change after thousands of times of "dissolution" exercises.
Just like iron which can be turned steel, so "clumsy strength" can be turned into force, and relaxation is a means of gradually
converting it into force. Our ancestors put it well: "Conscious relaxation will unconsciously produce force." There is truth in this statement.

III. The Difference Between Strength and Force
Strength can be compared to unheated and unmelted pig iron. It is inborn and is distributed over all parts of the body. When a baby is born, it cries and moves its limbs with its natural strength. When we say we should not use strength. in Tai Chi Chuan, we refer to this natural strength (clumsy strength). We should instead use force, which is also called "internal force", or Tai Chi Chuan force. Though force is not natural strength, it is difficult to separate the two. In other words, despite their difference, there is no clear-cut demarcation line between them. Force derives from strength, which serves as its basis. Iron becomes steel through heating and tempering, so steel derives from iron. If we do not have a proper understanding of this fact, we will counterpoise one against the other and fail to have a correct understanding of the relationship between the two. Consequently, we will not be able to achieve what has been described as "The needle is hidden in the cotton" or "vigor is concealed in gentleness." Gentleness here suggests a degree of tenacity. Only when we have acquired such an understanding can we achieve what is summarized as "Relaxation gives rise to gentleness, which in turn gives rise to vigor, and gentleness and vigor supplement each other."

IV. How Should We Understand "Employment of the Mind Instead of the Use of Strength".
This is easy to understand when we know the difference between strength and force.

Now let us return to the topic of strength which, as has been said, is inborn and is distributed over all parts of the body. When we start doing exercises every day, we should first of all 'relax' in the conscious search of strength. Then, we gather the strength, organize it under our command before we put it into exercise. Gradually the scattered strength becomes a totality in itself. This is like a well-trained army which moves in unison according to the order issued by its commander. In this way, the army can achieve its goal. Our forerunners said: "Whither the mind goes, force follows." That is to say, when the learner has attained a certain level after persistent training and is able to combine force with skill, then force will emerge of itself and follow the mind. This is a point I wish to drive home.

A strong man who has never learnt wushu may be able to defeat his opponent. This of course depends on who his opponent is. However, given the same physical conditions, a wushu expert is sure to defeat an opponent who has not practiced wushu. A man of strong build will of course become stronger if he takes up wushu and persists in training.