Sunday, March 25, 2012

The concept of Tai-chi chi-circles

The interesting thing about tai-chi is that the practice is built on a solid foundation of concepts - concepts built over the years by tai-chi practitioners, some written down by various masters as guidelines (for example, Yang Cheng Fu (楊澄甫)'s ten essentials), while some have been handed down through oral tradition and only recently being discussed or written by contemporary (old) masters, for the public to consume, with the good heart of not letting sound teachings being lost. "Tai-chi chi circles 太极气圈" is such a concept.

The concept has been talked about among some tai-chi masters, but it was best explained by Yang-style master Wei ShuRen (魏书人) in his "little books" as mentioned in my previous post: authentic tai-chi. Master Wei, learned from Master YongQuan (汪永泉), has been practicing the old-Yang-style as practiced in Beijing, quite different from the more popular Yang-style as created by Yang Cheng Fu (楊澄甫) later in Shanghai.

The gist of the concept is that the power source of circular movements in tai-chi is conceptualized into three circles: the shoulder circle (activated by the shoulder's ball-and-socket joints, the pelvic circle (activated by the pelvis' ball-and-socket joints), and the waist's circle (activated by Dantian 丹田, lower abdomen - a powerhouse of force generated primarily by the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm, which essentially meaning the breathing muscles).

The learning sequence is firstly separate training of each circle then secondly combining the actions of the three circles using the waist circle as the leading entity.

From a practice point of view, or operationally speaking, that means:

1. Use chi to condition (strengthen and loosen) one's shoulder (ball-and-socket) joints; and to make them work together as a whole unit.

2. Use chi to condition (strengthen and loosen) one's pelvic (ball-and-socket) joints; and to make them work together as a whole unit.

3. Use meditation to facilitate the transformation of the action of breathing to generate chi, i.e. synchronize the breathing activity with chi-generation activity.

4. Put the above into action when doing the form.

Of course, the above need some training to perfect; and that lies an interesting aspect of tai-chi!

tai-chi chi-circles


  1. A few days ago, in your post about Karma and Meditation, you wrote how "...during disastrous or stressful situation, one can be “bumped” out of one’s body psychologically, i.e. to a moment of Emptiness..."

    So I found myself in an unusual situation today, not really extreme but potentially stressful, and could easily have cranked out opinions about it, anxiety, nervousness, cynicism ... if I had wanted to. However, as it turned out, I remembered your post, and that I could "choose Emptiness," as it were.

    And so I did.

    And so I did not "do" any of the aforementioned automatic reactions which, as you no doubt have noticed in your own affairs, is very liberating. This is a long-winded way of saying "Thanks!" for all your ideas here.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience here and I can certainly appreciate it. My own experience is that the act of "Emptying" can improve in speed and quality with practice! A good side-benefit for any internal martial artist, assuming he or she chooses to be more "spiritual".

  3. As our powers of concentration increase we learn to control the multitudes of thoughts that flood our minds and halt the growth of awakening our higher levels of consciousness. It is these very thoughts, which separate us from the lower life forms that will keep us from realizing our true potential. Shim Sung


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