“Never live in the shadow of your teacher. Learn well what you are taught, thoroughly understand it, then use it as a foundation to further refine the 'Art'”. But things should only be modified for improvement, not just to be different. “Slow is fast and fast is slow”, to students eager to learn the Form in as short a time as possible.
Those who paid no attention to this and rushed on to Pushing-hands classes often found the need to return to the beginners and start again, as they in their haste they had forgone accuracies. “Seek the quality not the quantity” is another frequent saying, encouraging the students to get one movement right before moving on to the next. Not many people like to spend alot of time just learning one movement, and few teachers are prepared to teach the details of one movement. The basics might seem dull and monotonous, but future progress will depend on a sound foundation. “If you have a foundation deep enough for three stories, you can only build a three story building. For a twenty story building you need to have laid a foundation to support twenty stories.”
The practise of Taiji is not performing posture 'A' and posture ‘B', it is whether you understand the transition from posture 'A' to posture 'B'. Attention needs to be paid to the sequence of synchronising, the timing and body alignment within every movement of the Taiji Form. If all of these can be achieved than the relaxed force will naturally be cultivated - from the Form.
In learning the Taiji Form we must first emphasise the accuracies of the external postures and movements. Then we work on the internal 'relaxation', ‘sinking', and 'grounding' before the releasing of the rebounding force is possible. In the later stages the external and internal needs to be synchronised together.
Relaxation in the Form is produced by mind 'awareness'. We all begin with 'regional' awareness where you move your mind to different parts of the body and visualise them to relax. After a while then when you think of relaxing the whole body will relax as one unit. But if you only work on relaxing the body, you are not likely to develop grounding without which there can not be any rebounding force. So we next need to work on 'sinking', which is a mental process where-by you guide the melting sensations of relaxing, into the ground. The rebounding force is a product of the sinking
Pushing-hands is an extension of the Form where you work towards remaining synchronised, balanced and grounded even with an external forces affecting you. It works on the principle of yielding to an oncoming force, and redirecting back to its source.
In Pushing-hands the practitioner learns to listen to the oncoming force of their opponent, stick and adhere to him or her, follow them back until they loose their centre, then issuing the relaxed force.
"The way that you do the form will result in the way that you push hands". "By understanding yourself and understanding your opponent, you will excel in pushing-hands." Therefore the way you move your body and sychronise your movements in the pushing hands must be the same way as in the Taiji Form.
Listening begins in the Form, where-by you cultivate the 'understanding of yourself' and how your body moves and synchronises. From this you can extend your listening cultivation into the Pushing-hands to 'understand your opponent'.
Training Pushing-hands begins with fixed pattern routines in which the body learns to respond to an external force that has a controlled direction and velocity. As per the Form, every movement must contain sticking, adhering, listening, neutralising and issuing. We must be careful not to lapse into a mechanical movement of just 'going through the motions'. The listening should develop to include not only listening to the incoming force but also listening also to your reaction to the force, your movement in relation to your relaxation, how you push your opponent and their reaction to your push.
Quotes from HUANG SHENG-SHYAN (1910 - 1992)