The Wisdom of Beautiful Whiskers
by Bataan Faigao
24 THE NATURE OF T'AI-CHI CH'UAN
S and K are both strong, like bulls or a pair of oxen. When they Push Hands, they lock horns: neither one will budge or give in. Lao Shr always paired them off and made them push in front of class. Finally, T asked Lao Shr why he insists on pairing S and K.
Lao Shr said, "What's the matter with you? Don't you understand? Have you forgotten? Because I want to show you all how ridiculous it is."
Someone asked, "What stance should one adopt when forced into a fight?"
Lao Shr said, " Like this." He was in it! He did not have to do a thing: one foot weighted, right hand over groin. "The person with the most discipline waits for the first move. With the first move, retreat. For multiple attacks, retreat in this manner." Lao Shr moved from here to there without apparent movement. First he was in one spot and then in another. He was so quick that the movement was finished before you even saw it. It was then I learned to "see" movement. You can perceive a quick movement slowly, as if replaying the movement in slow motion. I remember we had a videotape of Lao Shr pushing hands. There was one instance where you couldn't see the push - but this guy just took off. Even when you replayed the tape in slow motion you still couldn't see . "Don't be anxious to get the other person. The person who moves first gives his direction away. The ideal way to fight is close fighting, using only the body. That is the highest form of boxing. Using the body, sticking together. Body boxing, it's called. The lowest form is kicking with the feet. The highest form is body, knee, hips, shoulder, elbows, hands, and feet (in descending order)." He demonstrated a kick (Separate Foot ) directed at W. The kick never physically touched W but W said he felt it in his bones.(*9)
Someone asked, " What is the nature of t'ai-chi ch'uan movement?"
Lao Shr said, "Movement without thought and intention, yet, feeling sensitive to the air which is filled with ch'i . Once you actually feel the air then you have developed power in your hands."
Lao Shr told a story about when he was a boy. He saw a fisherman fishing in the river with a net and a pole. The man was poking his pole in the water, feeling with the pole the fish caught in the net.
Lao Shr was puzzled. He asked, "Why are you doing that? You have already caught the fish." The fisherman said, "You should always watch out for the fish that is a foot to a foot and a half long. They jump out and flip their tails around. That size fish gives you perfect whips with its tail. It's the size of a hand and an arm."
This is similar to the movement without thought and intention which Lao Shr talked about. The snake has the same kind of vital strength- soft and alive.
*9 The highest manifestation of t'ai-chi ch'uan practice is the ability to throw one's ch'i outside one's physical body. The objective of t'ai-chi sword practice is to develop this ability to transmit one's ch'i into an external object. This is called "throwing the will". Yang Cheng-fu once laid his hands on Professor Cheng's face without touching it. Professor Cheng said he felt the pressure of his ch'i growing and he got sick.