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Kung Hsin Chieh

(A Depth of Explanation for Practicing)

The following fourteen short chapters are the backbone of the T誕i Chi boxing art.  They are quoted often and seen in many published books but never clearly explained.  They have been translated many times yet their real value is so easy to overlook.  It is easy to read that the Ch段 moves the body but unless there is comprehension of what the word Ch段 means, how can one understand the meaning of this sentence?  In the introduction of The T'ai Chi Boxing Chronicle, I defined Ch段 as the circulating point of finesse. 

The problem with understanding this word is that it involves several factors simultaneously, that allows the body to move freely and easily.  Ch段 involves breathing but that is only one of the factors which causes the body to move smoothly.  Of course blood circulation and heart beat rate are also involved in the smooth circulation of Ch段. We read that Ch段 circulates, but where and how?  If we don稚 know, then how can we cultivate it?  If we don稚 know, how can we practice it? 

When we move and revolve using drawing of silk, the Ch段 circulates through the nine joints of the body from the feet to the hands and from the hands to the feet.  The Ch段 is the point of active energy circulating  through the perfectly aligned joints, aided with even breath control, and smooth regular blood circulation.  Allow me to offer this example from the basic posture of push hands: When pushing hands the two hands touch and the point of contact is the point of active energy.  As the opponent pushes, one uses Peng Ching to intercept the opponents strike.  The Peng energy is transferred downward to the arm, spine, waist, leg, and down to the solid foot.  This energy circulation occurs during the revolving motion of the waist and spine.  This is called Evading.  And this is the Ch段 moving downward in order to draw the three body bows at one time.  This is the creation of potential energy in the arms, waist and spine, and the legs.  Then when the opponent痴 force has reached its maximum, the body has reserved the potential energy to strike.  Then the Ch段 circulates upward through the perfectly aligned joints and during the revolving travels back up the spine and the energy ends up at the hands.  The active point of energy is at the hands yet it is still fully connected to the rest of the body.  This is called Adhering.  Evading is the defense and Adhering is the attack.  And this energy can manifest itself in one hand as defense and in the other as attack at the same time as in the strike Lieh.  This is why posture is of paramount importance.  If the joints are not connected properly according to the classics, the Ch段 will be impeded or blocked.   This is a very easy point to overlook because we may think our posture is correct but it may not be.  The classics are our guide.  Take seriously each sentence and contemplate the meaning of the word Ch'i and come to your own conclusions.  This way you wouldn稚 waste time.   Consider why Master  Kuo Lien Ying stressed using 適ung Hsin Chieh to navigate with.  The following is the ancient classic Kung Hsin Chieh with explanations from "The T'ai Chi Boxing Chronicle":

1.

It is the intention which moves the Ch'i and commands it to sink.  Then you can collect it into the bones.

[Explanation]  The intention is the vitality of an idea,  which is a general term for will power.  In all movements this idea is the prime factor.  It orders the Ch'i to move and circulate with every opening and closing.  In opening, you must will it to end up at the tips of the appendages.  In closing, the intention goes through the back and returns to the Tan T'ien (center of gravity).  In this opening and closing line, the whole body's tendons are stretched out straight (drawn long).  This is called relaxing, and then you will naturally contain Peng Ching.  This Ch'i is connected everywhere and is entered into the bones.  During movement, if the will power does not appear, the form will appear dull.  If the ideas are not exact, the form will not respond.  If  the movement is too light or floating, then how can the Ch'i penetrate into the bones?

2.

It is the Ch'i that moves the body and commands it to be smooth and easy. Then you will get full advantage from the intention.

[Explanation] The Ch'i follows the intention and moves because the intention moves the Ch'i and then the body moves.  the Ch'i must be coordinated.  In other words, the breathing must be moderate and coordinated.  All movements must be elastic whether you rise or fall.  You move as a gradual curved line and never allow the defect of being convex or concave.  This is called smooth and easy, so the body movements come from the Ch'i and the Ch'i comes from the intention.  During movement, if the breathing is not coordinated then it is the hand which moves the body, and the energy cannot be generated.  Then the body cannot be made smooth and easy, and this is contrary to the advice of the boxing chronicles.

3. 

The spirit of vitality is raised with no worry of being late.  It is called the head being suspended.

[Explanation]  The two eyes look out parallel to the ground and the top of the head is slightly drawn up; this is empty dexterity's top energy.  The vitality and intention are naturally aroused.  Also, the top of the head has Peng Ching and will lessen the body's weight.  Then the revolving motion is naturally light and you won't have to worry about being late or heavy.  During movement if the top of the head is not suspended this way, the highest point of the body will tend to lean or incline, pulling the entire body.  Then the spirit of vitality is not easy to arouse, and being late or heavy will be difficult to avoid.

4. 

The intention and the Ch'i must revolve with dexterity and have circular liveliness; so it is said, change from empty to solid.

[Explanation]  In all movements using two hands or two feet, or one hand or one foot, all of these parts must have one chief and one servant, or one empty and one solid.  When empty and solid are present and the Ch'i follows, it is called dexterity. If the intention or focus is on the left, then the left is solid and the right must be empty.  If the focus is on the right, then the right is solid and the left is empty.  This way the intention interchanges, and the intention and the Ch'i are not impeded at any given point.  This is called liveliness.  Inside the force is smooth and easy, and the curved line is gradual and moderate; this is called circular.  Being smooth and easy is being able to interchange the two hands and two feet or one hand and one foot into empty and solid.  This is called changing from empty to solid.

5.  

The body must be upright and comfortable and able to cope with impact from any direction.

[Explanation]  The top of the head is suspended and can adjust the balance of the entire body.  If the head is not suspended correctly the entire body will incline to the side or lean forward or backward.  If the body is centered, all surfaces of the body will have Peng Ching.  If you lean in any one direction, then impact can be handled from only seven instead of eight directions.  During movement the Ch'i must sink; then it will not rise up and the body is centered and fixed in one place.  The force when applied is a curved line and is gradual.  It can revolve easily and the form is comfortable.  T'ai Chi movements, regardless of their changes, must have the center of gravity between the thighs and centered through the tail.  This is the achievement of the centered upright body.  If during movement there is frequent leaning or inclining, then the idea of the upright body has been missed.  During movement, if the body cannot comfortably unfold during the circular movement, the problem is at the top of the head.  If impact cannot be handled from any direction, then the hard and soft cannot interact and the rule of the square and the circle will not be understood for its ingenious uses and subtle purposes.

6.

In emitting energy or striking you must sink, be relaxed, and beam the focus to one point at a time.

 [Explanation]  Whenever striking energy is intended, the hands and feet must have collecting energy.  During striking the body must sink, because sinking makes the opponent's base rise up.  When striking do not permit exertion.  If exertion is used it is called inactive.  If there is no exertion it is called relaxation, and the body is vast and empty and this is called pure.  When the tendons inside are straight, and there is the sinking and flexibility, then it is proper striking energy.

During striking energy the two hands are exchanging empty and solid; this way they guard the body's balance.  The two hands must have empty and solid clearly divided.  In other words, one hand is the chief and one hand is the servant, one hand is light and one is heavy, and this is called focusing on one direction.  When you practice T'ai Chi boxing's movement and there is no striking energy, there is one defect.  When there is striking energy but no sinking, this is a second defect.  When there jis sinking but empty and solid are not clearly divided, this is a third defect.  If these three defects are present, the important striking idea of T'ai Chi has been missed and the concept of martial arts misunderstood.

7.

Move the Ch'i like a curved thread with nine pearls without the slightest interruption.

[Explanation]  Man's body has nine curves to consider.  They are the fist joint, the wrist joint, the elbow joint, the shoulder joint, the spine, the waist, the hips, the knee joint, and the ankle joint.  Moving the Ch'i through these nine curved pearls means making all movements smooth and easy with circular liveliness like the pearls.  It takes advantage of the movement of the Ch'i and means that the body is threaded together everywhere.  If during movement the nine joints do not all move together, the meaning of "when one part of the body moves, the entire body moves" has been missed.  This is one defect.  If every joint moves but they are not strung together, then there are two defects.  If the movement is strung together and the Ch'i is moved but you can't take advantage from this movement, then there are three defects.  If these three defects are present, it is not possible to "collect into the bones".

8.

Moving energy is like tempering steel one hundred times.  What is firm and flexible will not break.

[Explanation]  Tempering steel one hundred times makes it pliable.  This hardness also has softness.  It is not like cotton's softness but is a softness that contains flexibility.  So, outside there is softness but inside there is hardness.  The inner hardness comes from Peng Ching.  Peng Ching is from the joints being pulled up long, and the inside is strung together with the Ch'i.  Like the rubber band the wheel strikes it's Ch'i.  Because the hardness is tempered one hundred times, the softness is pliable and the inside is firm and grounded.  If during movement the inside is inactive or stiff without flexibility, then there is one defect.  If the whole body is completely soft and the inside has not flexibility, then there are two defects.  So, to have flexibility is paramount, like the spring inside of a watch that can absorb shock and keep the machinery working together.  This is not soft like cotton; if so, the idea of tempering steel one hundred times has been missed.

9.

The form is like a hawk seizing a rabbit.  The spirit appears like a cat catching a mouse.

[Explanation]  Movement must appear like a hawk intending to seize a rabbit, hovering and circling and not fixed.  It means that the intention is lively and gathered like a cat ready to ambush a mouse.  This is about aiding or supporting and about the intention moving the Ch'i, and the Ch'i moving the body.  If the form is not like a hawk seizing a rabbit and appears dispirited, and not aroused like a cat following the motions of the mouse, and manifests in a disorganized way, then the practice of T'ai Chi boxing's clear intention has been missed.

10.

Quiet like a great mountain, movement like a vast river.

[Explanation]  Quiet like a mountain expresses the appearance of sinking and not rising.  When one part os quiet then all parts of the body are quiet, and this is called "the spirit properly gathered within".  Movement appearing like a river is expressed by movement resembling waves which don't stop, they undulate equally like a vast river flowing endlessly.  This is called "the Ch'i properly boiling".  If during movement the spirit is not gathered inside, then the inside parts are not quiet and the Ch'i cannot boil.  This is like the water of a pond and not a great river.

11.

Collecting energy is like drawing a bow.  Striking energy is like releasing an arrow.

[Explanation]  Collecting movement draws the bow full and gives the bow's back great flexibility.  Normal chest, draw up the back, sink the shoulders, drop the elbows, open the hips, and curve the knees.  All these postures move together and recur in a cycle.  Striking energy is like releasing an arrow and allows the arrow to enter inside with the idea of piercing the target.  Every movement of T'ai Chi has collecting and striking.  From this the body moves correctly.  Then the inside movement of the set is proper.  If the collecting and striking are not combined, then the strike cannot shoot out.  When moving, if the body collects but the bow does not open, then the strike or the arrow will not release from the spine.  This means that the inside of the set does not contain collecting and striking, and this cannot be called a proper set.  In the curved, ask for the straight.  Collect and afterwards strike.  Strength strikes from the spine.

12.

Within the curve ask for the straight, collect and afterwards release, strength releases from the spine, the steps follow the rotation of the body.

[Explanation] In the curved ask for the straight.  First is the collecting and afterwards the striking is born.  It is the collecting that causes the striking to be hard.  Every joint has curved collecting before the strike.  Collecting also comes from the sinking shoulders, and then the energy can strike out from the spine.  This is the energy of the upright body.  If the steps follow the turning of the body, then it is achievement.  If the body follows the steps, then it is a defect.  During movement, the body moves in a direction and then the steps follow and move.  It is the twisting step where the feet do not necessarily move.  Without this step, the movements will be out of place.  If striking is not originated from the spine, then the energy that emerges is not upright.  So, if the steps do not follow the turning of the body, and the body follows the steps, this is a great defect and everything is for naught.  This can not be called T'ai Chi boxing's striking energy.