'Song' is the secret!


'Song' is the secret!


Practise Diligently and Intelligently

NB: - Any mistakes or misinterpretations of what was trying to be taught to me are due to me! Basically I have left the notes as I wrote them at the time, there is a lot of repetition but generally a progression (sometimes, mainly due to me, a regression!). No doubt I've missed a lot too. Please refer to the Download section for documents and video that are not riddled with my interpretations.

Song=Relaxed/Soft/Release (pronounced Soo-ng), GMH=Grandmaster Huang, Mr F=Master Foong, HYZZ=Hun Yuan Zhan Zhuang (Song up/down exercise), SSWF=Song Shen Wu Fa (GMH's 5 Song exercises), HCC=Ho Ching Chi (stretching/expanding), PH=Push Hands.

China November 2011

24th – 27th Nov: 9th International Huang Tai Chi Tournament and 4th Push-hands Tournament in Shenzhen.
As expected it was very well organized, and great to catch up with everyone. Nick kept his bronze streak going in the PH, while I failed yet again! The women had their 1st year of PH competition; I would be afraid to step into the ring with one of them!

Nick and I had a slight problem, well at least I thought it was slight. Neither of us have studied Tai Chi in Sydney for 4 years or so, during that time we have thought of ourselves as students in the Tenom Association. At these sort of events we are promoted as being from Australia and we ignored it as being something to help give the “Huang International Tournament” a bit more of an international flavour. One of the Malay Associations kept trying to hit us for some obscure payment for the “Australian Association”. Nick rightly pointed out we are not part of an association but individuals; we were happy to pay as individuals but not as an association which didn’t exist. This function they cornered us, so instead of being able to go back to our hotel to rest and change for the farewell dinner we were dragged into a meeting with about 40 representatives of all the associations. I understand the need for such a big organisation to have meetings but personally all I want to do is learn Tai Chi. If I was adverse to the politics of meetings and associations before, attending this meeting after a long day was in no way making it more appealing for me. Apparently it was a serious situation as far as the group was concerned, which was only resolved with the intervention of the China Association. I’m going to think twice about going to any tournaments or functions outside of Sabah!

28th Nov: fly to Fuzhou. The Huang set up there is fantastic, a fitting memorial to GMH.
29th Nov: visit Gu Shan Yongouan mountain and then some hot springs
30th Nov: we pay respects to the grave of GMH.
2nd Dec: a couple of ceremonies; Master Foong accepting Ge Ming (Max) as a god-son and Master Foong accepting students as disciples.
3rd Dec: a quick visit to old section of Fuzhou, which was very interesting and then afternoon flight back to Shenzhen and connecting flight home.

We were looked after very well in Shenzhen and Fuzhou, though 9 days in China and not one session of organized training; hmmmm.

Tenom February 2012

Work on internal Song, make movements fine

HYZZ down- open arms, Yi open, Chi open,
HYZZ up – close arms, Yi Closed, Chi Closed

SSWF1 (&2 & 3); don’t bend elbows too much when lifting arms. Song shoulders down, open armpits. At first you have to help arms come up but eventually it should be automatic – shoulders drop and arms come up; almost like natural swing. If more advanced can use shoulders dropping, then even more advanced chest and waist dropping to bring arms up, and even more advanced use legs etc/whole body. Arms come up 45° before dropping body when you are a beginner, but when more advanced arms only come up about 20° to 30° before you start to drop the body.

You must learn to find your centre. Even for an advanced student it is difficult to find. Eventually you must learn to separate the centres of physical, Yi and Chi. Then eventually it doesn’t matter what position you are in physically, as you always have centre in Yi and Chi, and because of Song your physical centre is okay.

With Song your body becomes articulated, much like a snake, everything connects and moves independently to achieve the goal. All the muscles, ligaments, joints and bones are Song. But don’t retreat , always follow opponents speed – fast and slow. Song ribs in at middle and in at the back where shoulder blades meet. Muscles at side and back must be Song to release arms. I explained to Mr F about pain in my heels, and how my weight seems more in heels. He said it was due to no Song in ankles. It is important to have Song in ankles and knees so that soles of feet don’t move around. But don’t make the mistake of rooting the feet, the feet should be light and ready to step. Yi goes into the ground and then bounces up through the body to make HYZZ up, not force or push from the legs. He was showing me a bit of PH, being stiff and being Song. When stiff it just becomes a strength exercise but with Song it doesn’t matter how big or strong someone is, Song always overcomes strength. Especially he was showing me the see-saw effect; I would push him and his shoulder would drop and retreat while his arm was coming forward. Even when I touched him as lightly as I thought possible, he would instantly have control of me – it was almost like he was implanting the thought in my brain that he was in control! He stressed there is no magic or supernatural ability, it is just due to physics and his ability to listen and follow my movements. When he was learning from GMH he learnt due to health, anything else that comes from learning TC such as Fa Jing etc is a bonus. He doesn’t know how he learnt it, in the sense that he was surprised that he could be Song and then start to find people’s centers. Mr F said it is due to the fact that he believed in what GMH taught about Song and trusted in the method GMH taught, so that eventually after 10 years of ‘losing’ in PH he started ‘winning’. He also explained that like anyone learning anything, GMH went through stages of learning TC and developing his skills. So that people learning from GMH at the early to middle stages of GMH’s teaching learnt a certain way. While what he taught towards the end of his life was more different. It was then difficult for earlier students to change and start learning the more Song method, as they would have to lose in PH to their students. It was even more difficult for people who relied on an income to survive. Mr F feels that in that sense Tenom was lucky in that it wasn’t until later on in GMH’s TC that they started learning from him, and therefore had no pre-conceived ideas about TC. Mr F said that he felt GMH had discovered everything possible about Song, but due to his death he had not developed a system to teach it. So Mr F, while nowhere near as high a level as GMH, had to try and develop a system to teach Song by going back to his extensive notes and by also improving himself. I asked Mr F if he had improved a lot since he started instructing HTC China and in developing a system for them to train. He replied “Every day I improve!” He said that for anyone to improve they always had to go back to basics; HYZZ, SSWF and SF and to keep refining Song in these areas. Find some Song and make it finer and finer in all parts of the body. Forget techniques, work on Song. Then breathing, movements etc will fall into place and become ‘natural’.

With PH there is no 1, 2; there is only 1! The 1 movement will have everything necessary to put your opponent off balance; yielding, attacking, listening and following (using song and Yi). When stepping and following someone (on their centre) your arm cannot be dead, it is still slightly moving and following (listening) the person even though your body is moving. The arm/hand must be alive with Song and Yi. In PH don’t move the contact point away, use it to follow and listen and move the rest of the body so they don’t get your centre. Keep arms round and move qua.

SSWF; raise arm and Song shoulders but Song waist first; if no Song in waist then Song is blocked, if back not Song then Song blocked – the same for elbows, wrists, knees, ankles etc, even soles of feet. It is no good if the whole body is Song but soles not Song, then Song is blocked. It is important to have whole body Song but first you must learn to find it in one part of the body and then another part and when you have learnt one-by-one then have to connect the whole body.

Mr F tried to explain more about using Song for bounce or spring. He said imagine body is like rubber, if you punch rubber it doesn’t move as a whole but absorbs the force and returns it. Do not anticipate but listen and react automatically to any force.

HYZZ; make sure posture and movements become natural. Head and spirit is suspended, everything (joints, muscles, ligaments and bones) Song. Make sure centre is in bubbling well point of soles at all times. If there is movement in soles then it is because no Song in waist, knee and/or ankles. It is important that eyes are level, open and unfocused. Make sure elbows/arms do not turn or they move back/forward (in relation to body). When Song down your body must stop a moment before coming up. But Yi is still running. What is the right amount of time to wait? It depends on the person, their level of ability and what is happening. At an advanced level it becomes automatic. At a beginner level you won’t feel the right time to come up but eventually you will feel the Yi bounce and bring the body up (not force/push the body up). Yi travels down the front of the body into the soles of the feet and up the back and over the top of the head. Even GMH wasn’t at a level where the Yi was running all the time and in all directions. Yi feels different for different people.

HTC China arrive. In group HYZZ Kuku corrected me as my shoulders were hunched forward and right shoulder was high. Mr F then did individual HYZZ corrections. I predicted to Suman that I would be picked up for broken movement coming up. Usually I can do a few times unbroken but then I get tired and it falls apart. Mr F said I had to work on making the movement fine to stop this. This meant slowing the HYZZ down, as I obviously still do it too fast in my own practice. Though he did say I had improved (though I guess this still may not mean I am good at it!). The problem is that I train alone and only get corrected every 9 months or so, which means that I just don’t wander off the path but end up floundering around in the undergrowth. Though I do feel I have improved slightly, but of course not as much as I had hoped. Mr F stresses that if you believe in Song, follow the method and with diligence and good training improvement will come. I suppose some of us have to wait longer than others, but never mind!

Open & Close Legs; HYZZ then Song into right leg and shift weight into right leg with no or minimum movement in posture (ie no leaning or shifting to the right), continue to Song down so left leg is as empty as possible to slide left foot out and pointing forward. Song into right leg, Song to turn waist and body right (don’t move knees- detach upper body from lower – hip not move?) Turn about 30° shifting weight to centre and then turn back to middle by Song into left leg, completing shift of weight to centre. For the Closing movements; Song into right leg, turn left foot out without moving hip, waist or body, and body stays at same level (not dropping). Turn left and shift weight into left leg, keep moving slightly forward (in relation to direction of left toes) until right leg is empty. Turn right back to the middle, still with centre in left foot, Song down shifting centre into middle and bringing right heel towards left heel. Song down then HYZZ up back to start position.

With any movements (eg SF) a beginner will do one move at a time, an intermediate’s movements will be more connected and continuous, while at an advanced level movements will be more continuous with swing ( a rudimentary explanation of swing is the waist start turning one way while arms still going the other way). You must learn to separate parts of the body.

SSWF1; don’t lift arms too much, start to drop the body when arms are 20°-30°. Body drops but fingers still rising. I really have to drop the body a lot earlier than I thought. Also make my arms eagle wings not chicken wings! Get more Song internally (shoulders, back, waist) to help drop shoulders and therefore lift arms. I still do it too fast – I have to slow it right down and make movements finer (the same problem with HYZZ). Mr F got me to slowly just turn the body and waist and not use arms so I can concentrate to help make movements finer. With finer movements it will be difficult for someone to catch your centre. Don’t shift weight grossly to centre or into leg. When I slow it right down I can feel the broken movements, especially coming up; look to be like a lift/elevator going up.

SSWF2; Song down, muscles down. Song up, muscles up. Important that the movement at the change between up and down that you stop and wait. When going down Yi expands like a balloon. Going up Yi contracts. At an advanced level when going up, the Chi expands. The same as for SSWF1, have HYZZ in all movements and at bottom wait for Yi to bounce. Shoulder movement is same as SSWF1. You must concentrate on doing correctly or you will waste your time. The only way to achieve success is to follow the method and practice. Don’t be lazy!!. My individual correction; make eagle wing, cannot leave arms too close to body, leave room in armpit at all times (imagine an egg in each armpit – cannot drop or crack). Can make shoulder movement big. He showed me an exercise to practice without body moving and one arm at a time. Raise eagle arm up 20-30° (use a big up movement in shoulder) and drop shoulder extremely, almost violently and really stretch the shoulder. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the body is not exactly correct. He said after a couple of days practice the shoulder will be painful but should help free it up! Back to SSWF2. Make sure arm/shoulder not forward and hand goes in line with side of body. Look for snake movement. Every muscle, ligament and joint has space; all are separate but working together. He mentioned that going up or down is like a pearl necklace dropping and hitting the floor; ki kok, ki kok, ki kok.Even when following someone you need to find this sensation. To me (at a rough level) it seems like almost forcing the joint to get extra movement so can then Song and separate. When dropping arm (shoulder, then elbow, then wrist) free up the joints so they move freely.

To Song the arm, the shoulder must be Song and the elbow and the wrists and the fingers and the finger tips. For true Song, the whole body must be Song – from the top of the head to the soles of the feet. Mr F said he is on standby all the time, the whole body Song with Yi constantly running. Difficult at first but then it becomes natural.

SSWF3; individual correction – the opposite arm must come up earlier, almost as the waist is straight, to stop disconnection. Arm rounded (not too straight) and leave room in armpit. Forearm does not turn. Arm lifts, and Song shoulders and drop body to bring hand to shoulder height. Hip turns finely, knees not too close, as turn back it is like a force is pulling your Qua back at a small angle down; this makes you stable. Don’t throw body with arm, disconnect arm. Hip first but slight lag with arm connecting onto hip. The big upgrade is not to Yi up to head but Yi runs from leg to leg via hip, so as Yi is in leg that was forward and now coming back, when hip is in mid position Yi changes from that leg into the leg that will now come forward. A X (cross) with Yi – the opposite side leg and arm has Yi. Song and flatten chest

As a beginner you are taught a certain way, then you have to improve, going up levels. If you are stuck at one level your Tai Chi doesn’t improve, so you must always work on getting better. As a beginner you are shown certain ways to do something, then to improve you are shown something else. Even though the external movements change, the internal movements that are required are the same. People get confused when the external movements change but you must use the method being shown to find the required internal movements.

Always move in a circle motion; arms, hands, body etc. Do see-saw in all movements, use Song in all movements to achieve this. When someone pushes on your arm, disconnect it and move the whole body; Song down and Song all joints to move , and touch in with the other hand. The secret is to fold the body.

SSWF4: Arm rotates like a shaft from the shoulder, not hand or foreman moving. Make movements fine. I still Song down too fast and end up too low, but when he got me to slow down and make Song down fine, it felt very good. Again the upgrade as with the other SSWF; arms up 20° and Song shoulders and body down as hand/arm still slightly up to achieve the effect that hands come up to shoulder. Remember to flatten chest. In 3rd repetition when hands open – again arms turn from shoulders. Also remember see-saw as hands go up; i.e. hands/arms up and body drops. When hands come forward wrist bends (from bottom of hands going forward and finger tips staying in same spot). Have Yi in arms (Yi is like a rod welded between wrist and shoulder so arm does not bend if pushed). When hands come back towards body, not because pull hands in but Song soles, legs, knees, waist etc and then Song shoulders so hands automatically come in (do the same for PH). When arm swinging between legs, movement because waist is folding. Use waist to swing arms to sides but don’t move or twist knees. Head and torso follows, no extra movements. Song stomach to fold waist more.

SSWF5: make HYZZ fine, don’t go down too far. HYZZ down into back foot, Yi down and bounces up leg from back foot into front foot. Release the handbrake and body automatically moves forward to centre of legs (weight 50/50, front knee not past toes). HYZZ up and then Song down. Make sure hip is straight and level. Back knee goes forward when moving forward and back. Make Qua soft so not leaning (a problem everyone had). If getting stuck, it usually due to calves not Song. Make sure head is suspended. Imagine body light and soles are on cotton or eggs. This means you have no intention of pressing and also makes stepping easier. This is a big problem with most people and stops them from doing the right way. Of course gravity makes your soles press but work on thinking light! Another reason people don’t achieve the purpose of the exercise is they are thinking of things like Fa Jing. You cannot think this. Think only of Song forward and Song back, and eventually Fa Jing will happen automatically. Make sure back knee is always over the foot and moving in the direction of the toes (this is true for everywhere in Tai Chi). Always keep centre in bubbling well point of soles, if centre shifts to heel it is because you are pushing back with front foot and not initiating movement by Song with knee, and knee not moving forward. This is generally why people are off balance. Always initiate movements with whole body HYZZ down.

SF; at this level it is important to do continuous movement. Make sure arms are round and not too close (otherwise shoulders jam). With the first turn; Song chest and upper body down so right leg is full, turn left foot 10°, then left leg full turn right foot 90° - all the time HYZZ and turning waist. As weight comes forward with HYZZ into right leg, left hand comes up. HCC as turn further to right but centre must be in right sole (arms and hands not too close). Continuous turn back (some lag in arms) with HYZZ. All weight still in right leg and step with left foot. Weight to centre between feet, arms rounded and left hand not too high (or close). Turn of waist and right foot should be done early (before weight is middle) and HCC starts as still turning.

Must concentrate on getting HYZZ to initiate every movement. Must train correctly and diligently. Cannot expect success if you don’t put the effort in; to get reward you must pay with your time.

SF- The Beginning Posture; not necessary to do many forms if you want to achieve what is being taught (even then only need to do first few moves of the form). I have to really slow down and make moves finer and not drop down too much, also my arms are too close to body. After the opening legs, make sure body on standby –arms rounded in both planes and fingers fully extended (to promote Chi). Song down and body contracts slightly (finger, chest etc close slightly). Wait for Yi to rebound (Song soles, then ankles then knees before Yi moves body up). HCC up about 70% before arms start to rise, when arms about 20° Song body down and drop shoulders, chest etc. Very important that the upper body is moving down faster than the legs (via Song in all the muscles). Hands are still moving up slowly. Make sure hands not too close to body and have space in armpits but arms still slightly rounded. As hands reach about chest height hands are still hanging loose, Song shoulders (trapezius, lateral etc muscles), elbows so wrist straightens but finger tips remain in same spot (ie don’t push wrist down so fingers come up – a problem that I do!). When wrists level, open chest slightly so elbows slide back horizontally but at a slight angle away from body. When elbows about level with back, Song elbow to drop forearm (shoulder and upper arm don’t move), wrist bends (ie fingers tip lag). When near sides, Song wrists to drop hands – the arms should be back at the starting position; nicely rounded in both planes and on standby (fingers stretched and slightly apart). All the time while doing these movements you must be doing HYZZ down very slowly and finely. Remember to stretch upper body and therefore hang head. Mr F spent 10 minutes correcting on these movements, he considers them very important to learn correctly, I have a predilection to be too fast and too big. My own observation is that my wei-li (tailbone) is still dropping out and I’ve found my quads, but particularly my calf muscles are too tight; when I release these a bit my wei-li is a little better but I am also then able to release more in the back and shoulders. After the morning session, Mr F showed me again and said that if I stay for 1 or 2 months he will teach me this every day- and he wasn’t joking!

SF – Ward Off Right from Ward off left; make sure left hand is not too close to body and not too high, arm rounded and stretched, thumb upwards and on centre-line. Right arm rounded and with Yi at side with hand parallel to left leg. Weight in centre. Song down and release to move forward into left leg. Both arms rotating from shoulder and right hand swings up (palms now facing, like hold a ball). Keep weight moving into left bubbling-well point as turning to left (feels like you have to go much further forward than you think). Song to turn to right , at 45° right hand starts to swing up (see-saw). Step with right foot (heel where toes were). As weight shifts forward, begin to turn left foot. This is very important, as although left leg still has weight it can be turned if have Song (wow, I had believed this was not possible and had even stated it rather fervently on a TC forum years ago – goes to prove the proverb 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'!). Do HCC as shift forward (to 50/50) and turning waist to ward-off.

HYZZ down is expansion, HYZZ up is contraction (Mr F later explained HYZZ expansion/contraction when I queried about it: “When issuing 'jing' it is expansion and when neutralizing it is contraction. It is important to follow the sequence ardently when practising HYZZ. Upon achieving a high degree of internal 'song', one will be able to execute simultaneously the issuing of 'jing' and neutralization of opponent's force and the process can be repeated manifold in a spilt second. “). HCC is Yang (expansion); make sure weight is 50/50. When doing the SF alternate between Yin and Yang. Mr F showed some throwing, basically application of what we have been learning the last few days, especially HCC. With Fa-jing weight is in the centre (50/50), not coming forward. While I understand this application little, for me to apply it is impossible at this stage. Arvo practice is about swing and separation in Roll-back, Press and Push. At Ward-off feet, knees and legs still (Ting- calmness), weight in centre Song down. As turning right doing Ward-off-right, only hip turn (hands/arms connected to hip). When turn back to left, arm disconnects and slightly swings right as waist turns left. Arms/hand rotate from shoulders. As left arm swings back and up, waist starts to turn right while left arm continues the swing up to left ear, with Song down in shoulder. A further big Song sown shoulder move brings the left wrist onto the right wrist (edge of wrists- left hand at small finger side, right hand at thumb side). Song down then HCC ( see later reference) slightly up, body doesn’t move forward but folded arms swing up. Basically the moves for Press and Push are to deceive the opponent; arms going one way while waist other way. There is more movement in arm than I previously thought. Also big movements in shoulder blades forward and back, and chest opening and closing; I’m not sure if this is exaggerated to show the movement but suspect it is to help get movement and eventually space in joints to make internal. Of course while doing this, follow the basics – Song in body, HYZZ, HCC, back knee forward, continuous movement, arms rounded etc. Especially make the Qua soft so torso doesn’t lean back/forward when moving. Watch that knees don’t wobble about as stance needs to be stable. Mr F got me to stand in stance at start of Ward-off, adjusted me and used my camera to take photos so that I could remember it! Don’t make stance too high or it won’t be stable, weight in centre, knee forward (level with toe tips) and right Qua in and soft – all with Song …. of course! Try to get a slight stretch.

More detail for start of Ward-off-right; turn from left to centre, turn slowly (with Song), body stops turning at centre position but HYZZ down (front knee slightly forward, rear knee bows). Then HCC. Then turning right (Song) and when turning back to left arms/hands have swing/lag.

HCC is rebound after Song down but body cannot move forward or back, and upper body or front leg doesn’t move (for beginners front knee can go forward slightly). The rear leg comes up slightly and the body stretches (almost feels like no movement in leg). Seems rear leg Qua comes down and front leg Qua goes in. This is the same for all HCC, though the movement of rear leg seems greater in some applications (like SSWF5), I suppose it depends on persons level and what is trying to be achieved. Practise HCC like this a lot!!

Individual correction of SF; I must get more movement in shoulders Song down (work on big movement exercise but don’t move head or body), have to also fold hips a bit more, and movement broken on turns. I also feel that I am sinking down to low in stances, which means making the HYZZ finer.

Continuous movement does not mean big continuous turning, it can be up, down, left or right, as long as it is not broken and very fine with continuous connection.

Just before the afternoon session Mr F did the usual 5 minutes with me on the Beginning Posture, getting me to be very Song in the shoulders by him guiding my right arm through the motions. It certainly felt very nice, now I just have to find the same feeling without Mr Foong’s machinations! There must be no muscle help at all. Song the various muscle groups to achieve the movement so it becomes automatic. He then concentrated the arvo session on this, explaining that you lose Song in the shoulders because movements aren’t circular. Usually people go in straight lines, which is a mistake. He showed a big circular movement in the shoulders, resulting in the shoulder rolling up and back then down and forward as the arm lifted.

Was supposed to be a day off but as some people had just come from K.L., K.K. and Beaufort Mr F kept classes going and gave us the option not to join in. And he started at 7am not the usual 8 am, so what could one do but join in! Working on SF, the first move of the Beginning Posture; hands at side with Yi, and then contract body down slightly (Song/HYZZ) with fingers and wrists releasing, then expand slightly so body stretches and also moves slightly up and fingers straight again (Yi and Song). Then he sped it up but we couldn’t keep up. It is important to achieve this, as when you do it fast you can Fa-Jing, but it must still have all the principles of when doing it slow; muscles, ligaments, joints, bones, blood all Song and able to flow/move freely with movement fine and separate.

Had birthday party for Mr F’s upcoming 70th.

Always proceed HCC with down HYZZ – “Down, Up”. Make sure weight 50/50, that stance is long enough (doing it at Ward-off-right) and back knee in direction of toes. HYZZ down, get stretch and head suspended. Remember that in HCC the rear leg slightly stretches up but body not up or forward. Mr F said practise HCC as you will eventually achieve Fa-jing, but I cannot separate the movements and end up stiff or just pushing up from rear leg. Be very careful weight doesn’t shift forward (which is why he always emphases in being able to step lightly, so you don’t get the tendency to lean forward in PH). Basically you have to get the stretch happening, and as I can’t even do that properly in HYZZ then I am in big trouble! So back to basics. Suman recommended that at first just concentrate on the stretch in HYZZ, because as soon as you think about moving up then you end up pushing or stiff. So get the HYZZ down with torso stretch going first; weight 50/50, don’t press knees (remember to HYZZ down first so both knees come slightly forward), then torso stretch up (wait for Yi to rebound) which seems that you don’t even have to think about moving the rear leg. I got a “Good!” from Mr F doing this. He confirmed what Suman said, that you first must get this working in HYZZ, otherwise no chance to get it in HCC. When I don’t concentrate on the back leg, but think more about stretching the torso or suspending the head, it seems to happen naturally; the back leg comes up and the front leg is still quite soft.

Mainly fixed PH. As I don’t have a training partner and haven’t done any PH for several years (beside occasionally in workshops) I have a lot to learn. Particularly the correct external movements but obviously can try to apply the HYZZ and SSWF training into it. I know Fixed PH is important and hopefully will learn more from further workshops, but the reality is I don’t even have enough Song and Yi in stationary HYZZ let alone starting to move around and do more dynamic moves. It is necessary to know as it becomes a circle of learning and therefore improvement, as can apply the training in one of the individual elements (HYZZ, SSWF, SF and PH) to the others.

Up at 3.30am for the long trip back. The others still have 5 days of training. From my own experience with workshops, 5 to 6 days is too short but anything over 10 days is too long and training starts to be counter-productive. This time, by day 9, I was feeling rather tired and run-down. The first 8 days I could keep reminding myself to check my posture and try to initiate some Song but after that I hit a wall. Even so, this was the first time I felt I was actually getting some of what Mr F has been trying to tell and train over the last 6 years. I am a slow learner but it does show that persistence and belief in the training method will eventually get some results. Though I am not foolish enough to believe I am yet beyond the basic learning stage, at least I hope to be able to keep some of what I learnt on this workshop in my private practise to continue forward, or at the very least not to slip back!

Thanks as always to Mr Foong, Bernard, Mr Lim, Suman and the other Tenom, Keningau and Beaufort members. Also a big thanks to the China mob for their companionship and great cooking. As well as thanks to the members from KL, particularly to Alvina for all her hard work in doing some translation for the Tenom website between training sessions.

Tenom April 2012

After a long day of travel met up with Nick at Kota Kinabalu airport and shared a long distance taxi, arriving in Tenom at 11.30pm.

Open and Close; make movement fine. When HYZZ down Qua softens and goes in all the time. After sliding left foot out, body turns right a little before continuing right turn and shifting weight to centre. Very important – make sure always coming forward slightly to keep centre in Bubbling-well point. Make sure ankles and knees Song. Even when turning right foot in, I have a tendency to shift weight back as well – so always be aware of centre.

SSWF1; make sure empty leg is truly empty, Qua is soft and hip not tilting. Think of one legged HYZZ. Continuous turning, make movements finer, move weight forward in foot (ie should not go into heel).

HYZZ; Song shoulders, chest, back muscles, stomach Qua to get better Song movements down. Mr F’s movements are so fine when he does it slow you cannot feel them. Even touching back of his knee I cannot feel any movement as he comes up. Also as he comes up his arms keep coming into his body in the smallest smoothest movementsthat eventually my fingers touching his inner arm are gradually pressed against the side of his body. Release and expand the Dan-Tien to get more Song in the thighs, knees and waist. Wait at bottom but Yi still dropping and bounces up bring the body up. When coming up my arms aren’t coming into sides fast enough, but when going down the arms seem to open fairly naturally.

SSWF1; I’ve got the continuous movement going better. Make sure body comes up 90% before arms start to come up. When arms come up 20 to 30° and Song shoulders, Chest, Stomach, back etc and body dropping but wrists still come up. Don’t flap hands. HYZZ down into one leg, other leg is empty but waist level. Make sure open armpits when coming up. Shoulders come up but chest muscles dropping.

SSWF2; it seems a simple exercise but needs some attention. Common mistake seems to be from lifting hands with elbows, should do exactly the same as SSWF1 – eagle wings (not chicken wings), space in armpits etc. Let arms be free but still with Yi. Let arm swing up and swing but control. Do not drag elbow in front (or behind) body but when elbows near body let forearm swing up from elbow (ie upper arm and shoulder not moving). Let hand drop down and the arm swings up. A lot of stretching in chest, back and particularly shoulder, using see-saw effect to move arm (ie side/chest muscles stretching and dropping to lift shoulder, then shoulder dropping and and stretching to raise arm). While there is swing, do not let it control movement. Drop shoulders first, then elbow and then wrist.

SSWF3; One legged HYZZ (but don’t shift weight centre from leg to leg, it stays in middle between feet), make sure waist turns to bring arm back (swing/lag).

SSWF5; only move forward and back using Song. Song lower body and automatic forward (upper body stretches). HCC also Song but back leg stretches slightly – this is upgrade. So: 1. Song down to move forward and 2. Song to HCC. Very advanced it is just one movement.

Mr F demonstrated some throwing on Arket and Nick. Always HYZZ – Yin and Yang at the same time. Timing and distance important. Need to move in to get the right distance. Timing is automatic, if you have to think, it is too late. Whole body Song and yield and attack at same time. Even when stepping HYZZ is running. When your chest is touched, empty it with HYZZ, when your arm is touched, empty it. Don’t be afraid, give your body to the opponent, as soon as you are touched then HYZZ. Which is why learning HYZZ is important.

SSWF4; My start posture and opening arms to bring hands to front are okay. My movement to bring fists in and drop hands is external only, I have to Song shoulders and elbows down slightly to bring fists into chest (wrists rolling hands in towards body slightly to start with). Song shoulders etc more to drop hands down chest and as hands open (while dropping), rotate internally from shoulder to turn hands to face (left hand in palm of right hand), just don’t turn hands. Hands drop to waist level (palms facing up) and finger tips slightly apart. Internally rotate arms from shoulder again, so that palms are facing either side of groin. Remember arms rounded in all planes and all the time with Song and Yi.

SSWF3; aim for half body HYZZ when doing this exercise – this helps train separation, and will help upgrade your Tai Chi. Remember that centre stays in middle and do not wobble backwards, forwards or side-to-side. Yi goes from leg to leg; one leg full, other leg empty. Turn the waist, not the torso and make sure not pressing in feet. Don’t strain or push, but be light and Song. HYZZ down in one leg and as turn back to middle HYZZ up in both legs and repeat for other side. Muscles when coming up ‘ki-kok, ki-kok’ (don’t know how to describe this: it is the sound the muscles/joints make when they move, and the movement of the muscles is like a worm – contracting and expanding. I think!!!) to bring Song up; as the Yi comes up that part of the body is Song up.

SSWF5; move forward by only Song down. As you Song down your knees, Qua and ankle Song and you automatically move forward – don’t push. When centre/weight is 50/50 (ie between feet) then Song again for HCC, a very slight stretch up of the back leg. Then Song down to move back, back knee moves forward as body goes back. Of course, make sure alignments are right and have Yi all the time.

Suman and Nick pointed out I was leaning back when Mr F was showing me the Beginning Posture, due to a combination of the weight back in the heels and tailbone popping out slightly. Nick also mentioned I do this in SSWF4 as well.

Mr F talked about trying to teach Tai Chi; if you give too much info then people get confused or distracted to what the target is. Even in your own personal training, just concentrate on 1 or 2 movements and get that right before moving onto the next thing. Mr F also said that it is difficult to learn Tai Chi but even more difficult to teach it! Why are people not successful? It is because they are too greedy. Why are some people successful? While they have greedy tendenancies like everyone else, they have learn to control their greed. Many times Mr F mentions not to measure yourself against others, just as long as you are improving when compared to yourself.

Always go back to the basics, you cannot learn step 2 if step 1 is not mastered. Get Song up and down continuously before trying to learn more advanced techniques. Things like Fa-Jing will come naturally if you can do the basics, so don’t look for them as that will only distract you as there is no short-cut.

During training Mr F expanded on Song movement advancing through the muscle like a worm. GMH described it as like a wave, very fine waves going through the muscles and body. Mr F said that when GMH was in Tenom he would sit in a chair and do push hands with him, they would PH and listen to each other’s waves or pulses of Song through the muscle. The waves are contraction and expansion on a more internal level than say, the contraction of an arm retreating or the expansion of the body going up. He got me to actually listen (hear) to his shoulder muscles moving; ki-kok, ki-kok which is the wave of Song through the muscles/ligaments. If you are stiff and someone applies a force then you are easy to control. If you are Song you can change the direction of the force on the contact point by yielding and the force is diverted away from your centre.

SSWF1; opening armpit helps to lift arm and shoulder, don’t just lift shoulder. Drop shoulder to bring hand up rest of the way.

Working on my tailbone, Mr F got me to put one hand on his Qua and other hand on his lower back. His Qua stretches open and goes in slightly as he goes up but lower back still holds it position. Make sure going up is from legs not using waist etc. He also said need to release stomach, it’s not good for health to hold tension in it. But, concentrate on Qua first.

6.30pm the instructors from KL arrived.

After the Preparation posture and after turning feet and waist to right, for ward-off make sure HYZZ down to move forward (hands start to form ball) and then HCC .

All moves are vertical HYZZ; to move forward HYZZ down and both knees come forward which will bring your weight 50/50. Don’t move horizontally or push with legs to move forward (or backward).

Most of time spent working on basics and getting some moves of the form right for the KL instructors.

Important to get posture correct and have standardized moves in the form, otherwise the form will change from person to person and place to place. Get the postures and moves correct and then it becomes automatic and can then move onto finding release and then Song and HYZZ in body.

KL instructors left. Mr F took Suman, Niock and me back to basics. Since we don’t speak Chinese and don’t know the posture commands for the SF, he got us to count and separate each posture. Especially for me it is a good way to remember where I should be and what I should be doing in the posture. Once you have that down pat can then make continuous and get a bit of swing. I have to slow it down and work on finding and releasing the tension, particularly in my arms and calves. I also have to get better with the swing in arms, especially when turning and letting shoulder stretch. Make sure Qua stays folded and doesn’t flatten, which indicates you are leaning back. Body must be centered in all directions.

More of the same, which I am quite happy to do! Luckily the sessions aren’t as intensive, as starting to feel a bit shagged. Saturday Bo Yen and Louis turned up from Beaufort, and a class was held also with some of the instructors from Tenom. Mr F ran through the counting technique for the SF. Sunday morning was some PH. I was asked to attack hard and fast in free PH (stepping), so the others could try and practice trying to be Song. Not so good for me, but since I haven’t done any PH for years, someone had to do it! If it was free PH (no stepping) then I’d be a push-over! As Mr F reminded us afterwards, don’t take any satisfaction or pride if you beat someone, especially if you are stronger or your weight is heavier.

After 7 to 9am training session Nick and I got ready to leave, while the Tenom guys organized the training hall with seats and podium for the inauguration of the 2012/12 committee. People were coming from all over the place.

It was good to see that the regular training nights had a lot of new and young faces; almost 25 people training now! Hopefully a few will stick and continue.

As usual we were looked after very, very well with Mr F , Mr Lim, Bernard and Suman giving a lot of their time to train and look after us. As Nick said to me, sometimes he feels bad that they give us so much and we cannot give much back in return. I certainly feel this way too.

Following is the Counting method. As usual there are different levels to approach it. First get all the movements correct, then make it unbroken/continuous etc.

Beginning Posture (Open Legs)
1. HYZZ down
2. Yi goes into right leg, Song into right leg but don’t shift hip (ie no leaning or shifting to the right), left leg as empty as possible, left heel off ground, make sure weight stays in right bubbling well point
3. Left foot slides on toes shoulder width, toes pointing forward

1. Song into right leg, Song to turn waist and body right (don’t move knees- detach upper body from lower) about 30°, at first centre stays in right foot
2. Centre shifts to between legs
3. Song down to turn waist left, right foot pivoting on heel to bring feet parallel, hands rotating from elbows so palms face back and thumbs pivoting lightly on thighs. Weight is in centre, body with Yi.

Preparation Posture (have described this in detail before but here is a summary)
Standby: Feet apart parallel, balanced in all directions, Yi in body (and in fingers), arms bowed
1. Song down (make sure fingers release and hand drops from wrist slightly)
2. Wait, Song up with Yi (70-90% before hands move), hands come up (not too close to body) 20-30°
3. Song down, shoulders down but hands still coming up til wrist level with shoulder (wrist bent)
4. Song shoulders and back muscles to drop elbows til wrist not bent (finger tips stay iat same spot)
5. Continue to Song shoulder/back muscles so elbows glide back (slightly down and away from body) until elbows about level with line of back
6. Drop hands from elbow (no movement in upper arms), finger tips lag so wrist bends
6a. Concentrate on swing of forearms from elbow (no movement anywhere else) so arms come into correct position at side, wrists still bent
7. Song wrists to drop hands and body should be back exactly into standby position

Wardoff Left Side (turning right)
1. Song into right leg
2. Release to turn left foot in 10°
3. Song down into left leg to turn waist to face right. Hands don’t move – they stay in same postion

Wardoff Left Side (continued)
1. Song down, weight goes 50/50
2. Song down, as right hand comes up and left arm swings in to form ball (palms facing) not too close to body
3. HCC

1. Song into right (front) leg and turn waist right, continue to Song down right leg to then turn left, turn to corner (45° position), left arm see-saw to bring left hand up to chest height (left palm mostly facing body, left thumb pointing up), right palm still facing mostly down so left finger tips on line between right thumb and right forefinger
2. Song down right leg further, left foot steps forward (heel 3” in front where toes were)
3. Song down to 50/50, chest still facing corner and hands moving with centre. Make sure weight is in bubbling well point (eg not in heels), body balanced etc

1. Song down and turn waist to front, right foot turns in (pivot on heel, toes pointing 30°), hands still moving and staying on centre, weight 50/50
2. Song down to drop right hand to right side (hand parallel to left leg thigh), left hand thumb pointing up, arms nicely bowed and not too close to body
3. HCC, Yi through body and into fingers so everything stretches

Wardoff Right Side (turning left)
1. Song down into left (front) leg, turning to left, as left hand turns palm down from elbow, right hand swings up from elbow so palms are facing holding ball, hands not too close to body
2. Song down left leg to turn right, facing front right corner, right foot pivots on toes to point to right side, right hand swings up so left hand (still palm down) fingers pointing to centre of right palm (about 3” away)
3. Song down left leg so right foot steps – heel where toes were, shift weight 50/50, still facing corner

Wardoff Right Side (turning and step to right)
1. Song down to turn left foot in (pivot on heel), hand connected and move with centre, chest/waist now facing right side
2. Song down
3. HCC

Roll Back, Press
1. Song down to turn waist right, hands following centre
2. Song down to turn left, shoulders and elbows dropping, hands disconnect to lag and continue slight swing to right, then left hand starts to drop and turn from elbow so palm faces body, right hand rotates very slightly from elbow to face slightly down. Left elbow is dropping and sliding back
3. Continuing with previous, left hand drops to be palm up near left hip, right palm pointing diagonally down level with solar plexus, waist is continuing to turn left to corner, and weight starting to shift into left leg
4. Song down left leg, left hand quickly swings back and up to be near left ear. Upper arm sorta parallel to ground, elbow is Song so forearm 30-45° to upper arm with wrist slightly forward of forearm, elbow pointing to left front corner while body is still facing right front corner, wrist Song and very loose and bent so palm facing down, fingers Song (as well as whole body of course!). Left hand drops to near ear (Song elbow and shoulder) waist/chest facing right side, weight still mostly in left leg. Right hand stays in same position throughout
5. Song to turn and face right side
6. Song down, weight shifting to 50/50, left hand dropping so that left outer wrist drops onto right inner wrist (palms sorta facing body), right hand gently holding under left forearm, left hand gently holding top of right forearm, continue Song down, arms slightly dropping while forearms rotating out and down. Forearms not too close to body or too low
7. HCC, see-saw - shoulders drop to lift elbows and hands (to about lower sternum), forearms rotating up with wrists moving slightly forward

1. Song down and shift weight mostly into left (back) leg away from hands (left knee comes forward), as hands brush past each other to open (forearms turning and elbows dropping so palms facing body), fingertips about a fist apart
2. Song down left leg to move forward (both knees coming forward), elbows slide back slightly but most of the movement is the body going towards the hands, forearms turning and elbows dropping so palms facing down and in – like resting on a large beach ball, hands not too close to body (elbows about level with front of body)
3. HCC, Yi through body into fingertips, arms then swing up slightly from shoulders like hands are airplanes taking off

Single Whip
1. Song into left (back) leg (left knee forward), away from hands til most of weight is in left leg
2. elbows and hands slide back til elbows level with back
3. Song down into left leg to turn left, hands following centre (though slight lag/swing), right foot pivoting on heel, til right toes point to front, waist/hands pointing to front left corner

1. Song into right leg away from hands, left foot pivoting on toes, release wrists so hands droop
2. Song down right leg, waist turning right, left foot pivoting on heel, left hand dropping in front of groin
3. Song down right leg to turn waist left, left foot pivoting on toes, left hand lifting from elbow so palm facing body, left finger tips pointing up (through these 3 steps and the next 4, right hand stays were it is)

1. Song down right leg, left foot slides on toes to be next to right heel
2. Song down right leg (right knee goes forward in direction of toes), left foot U-steps (left toes first slides left to shoulder width , then steps forward) into Bow Stance
3. Song so centre is 50/50, body still facing left front corner
4. Song down to turn waist left to face left side, right foot pivoting on heel, shoulders Song down slightly, left hand rotates from elbow so palm down (palm is at a slight angle to ground and slightly pointing to centre making web between left thumb and finger doing the actual pointing)
5. HCC, left hand slide forward and up slightly, while right hand forms ‘hook’ and expands out slightly (right wrist turning slightly back so right finger tips move slightly back and out) into ‘Single Whip’ stance with top of right wrist level with right shoulder (elbow a palm width below this line)

Next Tai Chi Notes

Paul, Nick and Kuku - Tenom, Borneo. 27th May 2007