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History

The 10 Important Points of Practice are credited to Yang Chengfu (1883 – 1936), Yang Lu Chan’s (the founder of Yang Style Taijiquan) grandson. He was considered to be the best known teacher of Yang Taijiquan and at the Beijing Physical Culture Research Institute, together with his brother (Yang Shao Hou), Wu Jianquan (creator of Wu Style Taijiquan) and Sun Lu Tang (creator of Sun Style Taijiquan), were among the first teachers to teach Taijiquan to the general public.

Yang, as with many people in that era, was illiterate. So, his 10 Important Points were orally transmitted to one of his students, Chen WeiMing. Chen was a scholar who had passed his civil service exams so was in the perfect position to document the points as Yang explained them.

They were meant to be a guide for practice. It is believed that the original points were supposed to be memorized and chanted or recited in class to help focus the practice. There’s been some commentary that if students couldn’t remember the points they’d be sent out of the training hall.

Why are they “Important”?

There simply aren’t a lot of historical writings on Taijiquan. It was an orally transmitted art handed down from master to disciple and with the majority of them being illiterate, writings up until relatively recently were precious. They offered students outside of the lineages the opportunity to learn what was at the root of what they were seeing in the movements.

There is some discussion that Yang’s points were derived and added to from, some would say, the founder of Taijiquan, Chen Wangting (the creator of Chen Taijiquan) that had been transmitted down the lineage. Irrespective of their historical origin, Yang did allow Chen WeiMing to put pen to paper and provide all of us with a foundation for our practice even today.

The Points are now considered to be the cornerstone of Yang Style Taijiquan principles, as well as a strong guiding influence for other styles.

How do we use them?

Firstly, the points can be divided into two sets of five. The first five deal with your body. The second five deal more with your relationship to the external world and and/or an opponent.

The points can and have been translated in numerous ways. There is an enormous amount of depth to the original writings with a lot of allusion to Chinese thought and philosophy. Initially, you may want to take them at face value, but they are worth revisiting every couple of years as you will find more and more in them as your skills and knowledge develop. What appears to be simple becomes complex and what appears to be complex becomes simple. The idea behind one thing becomes many, and the idea behind many things becomes one. In many ways it is the embodiment of Yin-Yang and will take each of us a lifetime to work through.

It can be useful to select one point to re-visit; read different people’s interpretations and then work through them in your practice over months and months, thinking about how the different interpretations influence the movements. Alternately you may want to “play” with them at random but they should always be in your mind whenever you move.

Yáng Tàijíquán 10 Important Points (narrated by Yáng Chengfu)

1 太極拳十要 (楊澄甫口述) Translated and interpreted by Sam Masich (馬希奇)

1. Empty Neck, Raise Spirit xū lǐng dǐng jìn 虛領頂勁

2. Contain Chest, Raise Back hán xiōng bá bèi 含胸胸背

3. Loosen Waist sōng yāo 鬆腰

4. Differentiate Empty Full fēn xū shí 分虛實

5. Sink Shoulders, Drop Elbows chén jiān zhuì zhǒu 沉肩墜肘

6. Use Intention not Exertion yòng yì bù yòng lì 用意不用力

7. Upper Lower Mutually Follow shàng xià xiāng suí 上下相隨

8. Inner Outer Mutually Harmonize nèi wài xiāng hé 內外相合

9. Continue without Interruption xiāng lián bù duàn 相連不斷

10. Move from Centre, Seek Calm dòng zhōng qiú jìng 動中求靜

Taijiquan 10 Important Points with original commentary

1. Empty Neck, Raise Spirit xū lǐng dǐng jìn 虛領頂勁 Ding jin means: the head is held upright so the jin might pass though to the top. One must not exert: exertion will stiffen the nape of the neck and the qi2 and blood will not circulate. One must be possessed of an open, spirited and natural intent. Without this open, spirited and natural intent, the jingshen3 cannot be raised.

2. Contain Chest, Raise Back hán xiōng bá bèi 含胸胸背 Han xiong means: the chest is slightly restrained, enabling the qi to sink to the dantian. Avoid sticking the chest out: a protruding chest compels the qi surge into the torso. If one is top-heavy but light underneath, one’s footing is prone to instability4. Ba bei means: qi adheres to the back. If one is able to contain the chest then one can raise the back. If one can raise the back, one can emit power from the spine and become unassailable.

3. Loosen Waist sōng yāo 鬆腰 The yao governs the entire body. If one can loosen the waist, the feet will be powerful and the base stable. That empty and full transform, is entirely due to waist-turning; thus it is said, “Direct the will to the source at the waist-rift.” If one cannot achieve power, one must seek the defect in the waist and legs.

4. Differentiate Empty Full fēn xū shí 分虛實 The art of taijiquan gives fen xu shi5 primary significance. If the body’s entire weight sits on the right leg, then the right leg is ‘full’ and the left leg is ‘empty’.6 Whole body weight sitting on the left leg means, the left leg is ‘full’ and the right leg is ‘empty’. If empty and full can be differentiated, turning can be light and quick and without wasted effort. Unable to differentiate, one’s footwork is heavy and stagnant, one’s stance is unstable and furthermore, one’s movement is easily influenced.

5. Sink Shoulders, Drop Elbows chén jiān zhuì zhǒu 沉肩墜肘 Chen jian means: the shoulders are loose, open and allowed to hang down. If one cannot allow the two shoulders to let go, they will rise up; the qi will also follow upward and the whole body will be deprived of power. Zhui zhou means: the elbows drop loosely downward. If the elbows are strained upward, the shoulders cannot sink and an opponent cannot be sent very far. This is like the short, broken power of the external schools.

6. Use Intention not Exertion yòng yì bù yòng lì 用意不用力 In the ‘Taijiquan Treatise’7 it says, “All movements are motivated by yi 8, not external form.” In training taijiquan the whole body must remain loose, avoiding even the slightest expression of crude force and the resulting stagnation which causes constriction of the sinews, bones and blood vessels. Consequently, one is capable of light, spirited transformations and can turn the circle smoothly. Some question: “Without exerting power, how can one extend power?” The human body possesses the jingluo9 which can be likened to irrigation channels: if the irrigation channels are unblocked, water can flow through; likewise, if the jingluo are unobstructed, qi penetrates. If, from head-to-toe, the energy is stiff and the jingluo are blocked up, the qi and blood stagnate and body turning will not be nimble—when one place is tugged the whole body is pulled with it. If one does not exert, but rather uses intention, then when the yi arrives, the qi appears simultaneously. If the qi and blood flow fully—pervading and circulating daily throughout the entire body—there will be no stagnation. A long period of training this way will result in genuine internal power. Another quote from the ‘Taijiquan Treatise’: “From extreme softness, comes extreme hardness.” Practitioners skilled in taijiquan gongfu possess arms that are like iron wrapped in silk—extremely substantial. Those training in external schools of martial arts exert themselves and the strength is obvious; but as a rule, when not straining, they float superficially. It is obvious strength, merely superficial and external in its expression. Not using yi but rather only li10, it is easy to become agitated emotionally—this is not worthy of respect.

7. Upper Lower Mutually Follow shàng xià xiāng suí 上下相隨 Shang xia xiang sui means: The ‘Taijiquan Treatise’ says, “The jin should be rooted in the feet, generated from the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed through the fingers. From the feet through to the legs and waist, the qi must always be integrated without any gaps.” Hand, waist and foot actions, and the expression in the eyes, likewise follow this movement. Following this principle can be described as: ‘Upper lower mutually follow.’ If one part does not move, instantly all is scattered and chaotic.

8. Inner Outer Mutually Harmonize nèi wài xiāng hé 內外相合 Taijiquan trains the shen. Therefore it is said, “the shen is the commander and the body serves as a messenger.” If the shen can be raised, one’s actions will naturally be light and agile. The outer frame is nothing more than: ‘empty, full; open, close’. What is called ‘opening’ refers not only to the opening of hands and feet: the xin yi11 simultaneously opens. What is called ‘closing’ means, not only the hands and feet close: the xin yi simultaneously closes. To be able to harmonize inner and outer, thus unifying the qi, this must happen perfectly without gaps.

9. Linked without Interruption xiāng lián bù duàn 相連不斷 In the external schools of martial arts, the power is houtian—crude strength.12 Therefore, in starting there is stopping; in flow there is interruption. When the old strength is already exhausted and new strength has not yet been born—in this moment it is most easy to be taken advantage of. Taijiquan uses yi not li; from start to finish, without end, it circles continuously without exhaustion. The original theory states: “Just as the Chang Jiang flows to the sea, it flows on and on without cease.”

10. Move from Centre, Seek Calm dòng zhōng qiú jìng 動中求靜 In the external schools of martial arts, jumping and flailing use up all the energy and power, inevitably leaving one gasping for breath after training. Taijiquan uses stillness to counteract movement and, while in motion, remains calm; therefore in training the form, the slower, the better. Slow, deep, steady breathing—qi sinking to dantian; one remains free of blood pressure diseases and hypertension. Students should ponder this teaching deeply to grasp its importance.

Glossary

1 Dictated by Yáng Chengfu. Recorded by Chen Weiming (陳微明).

2 qì (氣) ʻvital forceʼ.

3 jīngshén (精神) ʻspiritʼ; ʻconsciousnessʼ.

4 fúqǐ (浮起) ʻfloatingʼ.

5 xū-shí (虛實) also means ʻthe actual situationʼ; ʻtheoretical versus practicalʼ; ʻfalse versus trueʼ.

6 This is a reference to the commonly used Chinese martial arts stance term xūbù (虛步) which means ʻempty stepʼ.

7 Note: the names ʻTaijiquan Classicʼ (Taijiquan Jing 太極拳經) and ʻTaijiquan Treatiseʼ (Taijiquan Lun 太極拳論) have been used interchangeably to describe two different writings. What is referred to here as the ʻTaijiquan Treatiseʼ is more often named the ʻTaijiquan Classicʼ.

8 yì (意) ʻwillʼ; ʻintentionʼ.

9 jīngluò (經絡) The meridian circulatory system in Chinese medicine.

10 lì (力) ʻforceʼ; ʻstrengthʼ. Refers to muscular power.

11 xīn (心) heart; mind. yì (意) will; intent. Xīn here refers to the complex of heart and mind together: the melding of desires, wishes, goals and aspirations. Yì refers to the intention needed to bring about the wants of the xīn.

12 hòutiān (後天) post-heaven. Referring to the energetic conditions of the individual once born; and in contrast to xiāntiān (先天) pre-heaven, the energetic conditions of life in the womb.


[1]https://www.jinli.com.au/blog/yang-s-10-important-points-of-practice-for-taijiquan-an-interpretation-

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5abf34fd372b96dd30538cc7/t/5b04890aaa4a99f8bb82fdad/1527023883193/Ten+Important+Points+v.1.pdf

  1. [1] JinLi.com Yang's 10 Important Points of Taijiquan
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