Tai Chi Chuan: Levels

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Levels

Level One in Temple Style is geared toward creating a strong, yet fluid foundation. In the beginning of the system, during the first year, your Tai Chi must be carefully and patiently practiced. You must allow enough time between learning new forms for your body to change, structurally. Many new Tai Chi students have no idea how frozen and immobile their hips, knees, ankles and other joints actually are. The Foundation Fundamentals appear simple and easy while watching, but take much practice to perform correctly. Beginning Tai Chi students should spend enough time on each form and not be concerned with getting to the next form. Your body will make the necessary adjustments and you will successfully move through the system by concentrating on The Foundation Fundamentals.

Level One is not restricted to only Foundation Fundamentals. After creating a foundation to build upon, you will soon begin to learn new material at a faster, yet appropriate rate. Level One contains all the forms up to and including the construction of The First Section, right and left sides. The Two Person Practices are also taught from the very beginning and will be emphasized throughout your Tai Chi training.

Temple Style encourages learning all the forms on both sides. This feature is and will become even more important in your Tai Chi future. By the time you complete Level One in Temple Style, your body should have changed considerably. Your joints will function more smoothly and securely. Your posture will be corrected considerably. You will be breathing more fully in a coordinated fashion, and you will develop a new way to move using your whole body and become firmly rooted to the ground.

This first part of Temple Style training should not be skimmed over. You must realize that your Tai Chi future is based largely on your first year. Be patient and careful not to skip a single detail during your first year. The first year is also your hardest. If you neglect anything in your first year, it will reappear to haunt you until you have successfully repaired it.

Level Two begins with a new method of practicing Pushing Hands called “Two Hand Pushing Hands” incorporating Ward Off and Push as a two person practice. Your hips must move fluidity in order to perform Two Hand Pushing Hands correctly. This takes a lot more work than is apparent. You will then begin learning the Individual Forms that are included in Second Section. Again, being thorough and patient cannot be over emphasized.

Second Section builds on your Temple Style foundation and introduces more variations to your movements. Diagonal and more difficult movements will be introduced and incorporated thus making it obvious how hard you worked while learning First Section. These new kinds of movements will stress your joints differently than the more basic moves in First Section.

The Breathing Training taught at the end of Second Section is important in giving you more endurance, control, and extension of your breathing. This is the only time in Temple Style that this kind of breathing training is taught, so you must successfully and competently be able to perform this breathing training. The breathing training in not related to meditation or some sort of internal power development. It is clearly practiced for endurance purposes only and should not be skimmed over. You will never see this again, so don’t skip over this.

It will be clear that you are unable to learn and practice Second Section without first absorbing First Section. Level Two includes everything up to and including the completion of Second Section.

  

Level Three contains, completes, and connects the remainder of The Long Form. The primary components of Level Three is Third Section. However, in this level, a large percentage of the material is dealing directly with the aspect of Tai Chi martial art applications for those students who have an interest. Fair Lady Works At Shuttles form is the main Third Section addition and introduces Upward and Downward movements combined with diagonal movements. Roll Hands, 6 Kinds, is an extremely important subset and must be practiced totally as a unit. Do not pick and choose which ones you like more. All 6 must be practiced equally to insure equal proficiency. These Roll Hands Parts are in preparation for Methods of Roll Hands in Level Four. 5 Style Steps and all its variations is of great importance in the big picture since 5 Style Steps can be combined with nearly every other form. In a fighting situation or while practicing your Two Person Practice, smooth 5 Style Steps will prove to be invaluable.

 

Well, now that the form is done, that means that your Tai Chi is done also? Right? No way! In Level Four, you will learn some of the most potent Two Person Practices. We start with 4 Forms Pushing Hands which gives you applications for using Ward Off, Roll Back, Press, and Push forms. Temple Style has a very specific order and structure for learning and practicing all the Two Person Practices. It is important not to skip any of these specific practices.

Next in Level Four we come to what is named Temple Style Martial Art Foundation Forms. This subset is important because it helps create the physical structure and connections you will need for utilizing your internal power in a martial art situation. Again, this subset should be practiced in its entirety to assure even progress.

Now we come to one of the two most important subsets in Level Four. This is called Methods of Roll Hands. These 5 Roll Hands Parts will be responsible for you developing great instinct and ability when performing any Two Person Practice. This subset is in The Top 5 important Subsets in the whole system.

Next we come to the Making Chance subset which teaches you how to apply the various Tai Chi forms to your roll hands practice. This subset will be valuable to your Tai Chi fluidity latter when you start performing Free Style Roll Hands. Condensing Breathing traditionally is introduced at this place in the system approximately 2 and a half years into your Tai Chi practice. Practicing Condensing Breathing will give you an internal vacuum that is responsible for packing 18 inches of movement and power into one inch of space.

After Condensing Breathing has been practiced sufficiently, another extremely important subset is introduced called Basic Path Training which contains the mind training in Preparation, Beginning, Upward and Downward, Inward and Outward, Raised Hands Stance, Tai Chi Stance, and Slanted Flying forms.

Next we come to First Section Low Stance Training. This is an extremely difficult part of the system but has enormous benefits when practiced sufficiently. First Section Low Stance will give you great strength in the lower half of your body. After practicing First Section Low Stance over a period of time, all other practice will seem much easier in comparison. This is practiced to raise your endurance. You will practice First Section Low Stance forever. It will never become easy. Make sure you keep it that way.

 

Level 5 - By the time a student has completed the first four levels, more attention is paid to developing a higher ability to develop and utilize Jing or Internal Power. Soong, Hwa, and Bii Jing are specific explanations of the 3 different ways to express Jing or cultivated internal power. It is important to understand that Soong, Hwa, and Bii Jing are recognized by the user and are extremely difficult to distinguish and quantify without expert level Tai Chi skill.

“Soong” Jing translates from the Chinese as “loose.” By this, I mean Loose in its truest sense of the word. Loose should be interpreted as Zero, or nothingness. In applying Soong Jing, Tai Chi students should practice being insubstantial or as “not there” as possible.

“Hwa” Jing translates from the Chinese “to make heavy or thick.” Use the image of moving your hand in a bathtub full of Jello. Hwa Jing is used to make your opponent increase his effort, while you can control him by using your mind, not strength. A Tai Chi practitioner of greater ability can easily confuse his opponent into increasing his use of strength while he has the ability to decrease his own. In applying Hwa Jing, Tai Chi students should increase their resistance without relying on force. The difference between Hwa Jing and force can be detected by an expert’s eye.

“Bii” Jing translates from the Chinese as “quick acceleration.” This quick acceleration applies to your Tai Chi Two Person Practice. Your ability to increase your velocity, without relying on strength, is the true use for Bii Jing. It is important to note and understand that Bii Jing exists only before the actual contact with the other person. Once you make contact with your opponent or practice partner, Bii Jing turns into Fah Jing.

Next in Level Five, we come to the Change Door Forms. These forms are important in helping you to develop mobility in general. These Change Door forms are related to your martial art forms practice. This gives you the ability to completely change your position thus giving you all new targets and protecting yours.

Ta Lu is the introduction of your diagonal Two Person Practices. When learning Ta Lu, you will be taught how to use the forms of Roll Back, Lean Forward, Split, and Roll Pull. Learning and practicing Ta Lu will give your Tai Chi the ability to move your whole body as a single unit while doing your Two Person Practices. This also will have direct reflections on your martial art ability.

Meditations in Methods of Rolling Hands Forms cannot be over practiced. These meditations will add life and substance to your Two Person Practice as well as to your martial art ability. These new meditations are a direct extension of Methods of Rolling Hands that you learned in Level Four. There is a prerequisite to learn these meditations. Each Tai Chi student must be extremely proficient in the Methods of Rolling Hands subset. Practicing this meditation subset will significantly improve your Two Person Practices and your martial art ability. Spend as much time as you can designate to perfecting this subset. It will be some of the most productive Tai Chi time you can invest.

Non-Arms Training is a subset where you learn to use your body as though you have no arms. It consists of evasive whole body movements as well as trapping practices. After satisfactorily performing and practicing Non-Arms Training, your arms will be reinserted back into your Two Person Practice. This is the only place you will spend time practicing Non-Arms Training, so be careful not to skim over it.

Now we come to Fah Jing Training. Fah Jing Training is the releasing part of all your Condensing Breathing and Tai Chi Connective Meditations. Fah Jing Training is how you will learn to convert many of your Tai Chi forms into your martial art applications. Each specific form has its own Fah Jing practice.

At this point in The Temple Style Tai Chi System you will be taught the difference between Long, Short, and Cold Power Fah Jing. Each one of these different powers have different vibrational frequencies. Long Power Fah Jing resembles the movement of what happens to an empty garden hose when you give it a solid single shake. Short Power Fah Jing resembles the movement of a jig saw when you are cutting a piece of plywood. Cold Power Fah Jing resembles a firecracker explosion. In this I mean it seems to come from nowhere and cannot be detected until it appears. No telegraphing. I will now explain each individual power in a general sense. Please remember that each Fah Jing can be expressed in nearly any Tai Chi form, but some are easier than others.

Long Power is the practice of releasing one single vibration and sending a person flying across the room. Long Power Fah Jing is usually performed with a wall or backstop behind the person being propelled.

Short Power Fah Jing is the practice of releasing a huge amount of energy and vibrations in a very small space. There are very little space requirements in order to perform Short Power effectively.

You can utilize the space inside your practice partners own body. This is different than the practice of Long Power Fah Jing. In Long Power Fah Jing your practice partner must have room to fly backwards. In Short Power Fah Jing your practice partner requires very little space.

Cold Power Fah Jing again is a very specific way of releasing energy and vibrations. However, when performing Cold Power Fah Jing, your practice partner or the person you are demonstrating on, must be prepared for an intense and surprising shock. Again, Cold Power Fah Jing requires absolutely no space to perform. Cold Power Fah Jing may also be performed in almost any Tai Chi form.

Practicing Long, Short, or Cold Power Fah Jing in the beginning will appear somewhat crude or rough. You must have patience and faith that you will soon begin to see results.

Now we come to some specific directional meditation practices called Sink Jing and Uproot Jing . These two Jings train you in sending your mind in single directions, namely, straight up and straight down. The practice of Sink and Uproot Jing does not require the use of any specific Tai Chi forms. Rather these are done in your basic Beginning Stance. Sink and Uproot Jing practice will give all your Two Person Practices more thickness and the ability to control your opponent.

 

Level Six starts out with the various applications of internal power (Jing). There is only one simple way to describe the concept of En-Jing and that is to slam a door. You close the gap on your opponent and leave no space for any additional movement. This is not only a physical technique but also a psychological technique.

Next is Control Power which is exactly what is sounds like, controlling your opponent. Jie-Jing is to borrow the other persons energy and hold them in place.

Next we come to the precursors for Gold Bell Training which is developing the ability to take and repulse a punch from an opponent. Gold Bell Training is also sometimes known as Iron Shirt, only the translation is different.

In our next practice we come to is San-So and all the various applications. San So is directly related to your martial art practice. There are literally thousands of variations in techniques. This will help your free fighting.

The next section we come to is Low Stance Training. Here you will get a chance to practice some of your favorite Tai Chi forms, but not in your favorite way. You will use Low Stance. Hang in there, you will eventually get good at this.

In Temple Tai Chi Chuan, Chi In Voice And Action is very important. Here is where you learn to coordinate your voice with your ability to repulse hits from a practice partner. This adds coordination ability to your Gold Bell Training.

The next section we come to is related to advanced pushing hands which I have named Intercepting Hands Attaching, In & Out. This is using what you learned years before in your pushing hands practice.

Mother Meditation is the precursor to Nei Kung. Mother Meditation teaches you how to suck energy into your palms and other areas or doorways in your body. Mother Meditation uses many of the basic forms you have already been practicing for years.

Arms Connected Rolling Hands takes your Free Style Roll Hands a step further. In this I mean, you learn to roll hands with yourself which will give you added sensitivity and fluidity for your Free Style Rolling Hands. To take this principle a step farther, we come to Arms Separated Rolling Hands which will compound your fluidity, which is so important in Tai Chi martial art applications. Here is where I have added Blind Folded Pushing and Rolling Hands with a partner. You can imagine what this will do for your sensitivity training practice.

 

Level Seven contains some of the most important material in the whole system. Some of the subsets are complete in and of themselves.

Level Seven starts with Free Style Mother Meditation. This is a formless practice using whatever you wish to use.

Close Encounters Training is designed to teach Tai Chi martial art practices without requiring many years of traditional practicing. Close Encounters Training is divided into three basic segments. The first is segment is called Ten Tai Chi Fighting Principles which describe and illustrate the underlying ideas and general ideas to use Tai Chi as an effective martial art.

The next segment in named The Ten In-Fighting Applications which teach you how to use isolated moves not necessarily derived directly from The Long Form.

The next and final segment is called Ten In-Fighting Sequences. This segment is fairly difficult and requires absorption of the first two segments to be done effectively.

The Linkage Exercises are not exactly Tai Chi but they contribute to connect your body mechanics. The Extension/Expansion Exercises are the flip side to the Linkage Exercises.

Tao meditation, Standing using two Fingers is a practice that helps you develop the ability to release your internal power at will. It is done in a Preparation Stance. The energy comes from Tan Tien and projects out from your first and second finger on your right hand.

Tao Meditation using Four Directions is performed in a sitting position, preferably cross legged and on a cushion. Tien is for Heaven, Tee is for Earth, Soon is for Man, and Tao is for the explosion into the Universe in all directions at the same time.

Pulse Coordination Meditation is extremely relaxing and is used to help become sensitive to your own internal clock.

Omei Mountain is a fighting meditation that is used to help bring out your fighting spirit. It is done as a circulation from Tan Tien and is very similar to Standing Tao Meditation.

Tiger Chi is also a fighting meditation that is used also to bring up your fighting spirit.

Chi Kung is an ancient Chinese system of energy cultivation which enables one to develop internal power. It is the same source of power behind the Chinese internal martial arts, and without which, the movements in these arts are only calisthenics. For centuries, Chi Kung has been used for health, vitality, increasing longevity, transforming martial art and athletic ability and accelerating the mind. Tidal Wave Chi Kung, the type of Chi Kung practiced in Temple Style Tai Chi, is a complete system of Chi Kung practice based upon all four of the essential elements of internal power work, namely, Condensing, Macro Cosmic circulations, the Micro-Cosmic circulation and Projecting techniques. Visit the Chi Kung link for more information.

Free Style Chi Kung is a formless method of practicing Sitting Forms with The Mind Training. This practice connects your chi circulations with your sitting movements.

Tao Kung is closely related to the practice of The Micro Cosmic Orbit except you circulate your internal energy at the speed of 1,000 circulations per breath or at the speed of light.

Nei Kung is the grand finale of The Temple Style Tai Chi Chuan System. The practice of Nei Kung is also called “The Inside Form.” The important thing to pay attention to is how you circulate Chi. While practicing Nei Kung, you will purposely drop many of the physical details that you have been practicing for many years. Remember, the circulations are important, not the forms.