Compliance vs. Aliveness in Tai Chi & Martial Arts

I recently got in a discussion with someone who had a strong emotional reaction related to considering degrees of “compliance” in a martial arts video.

Compliance, and its opposing concept of Aliveness are two critical factors in any martial art training. Indeed, both are required to earn progress when it comes to preparedness for real self defense and fighting. To understand each, obviously a good start is to define them.

[Compliance] vs Aliveness in Martial ArtsCompliance vs [Aliveness] in Martial Arts

Compliance in Martial Arts Training.

Compliance’s dictionary definition has to do with “complying” or doing “what you have been asked or ordered to do.”[1] In other words, someone in a state of compliance will …

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Tai Chi Movements - Cheng Man-Ch'ing (Zheng Manqing) Tai Chi 37 Form

Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-Ch’ing or 郑曼青) was a renowned & controversial taijiquan master. His multifaceted skills were widely acclaimed both in China and the West. Few disputed his abilities & character; Cheng Man Ching was master of the “Five Excellences”: Chinese medicine, tai chi chuan, calligraphy, painting, and poetry (not to mention flower arranging and a host of other impressive feats).

Cheng Man Ch'ing SmileCheng Manqing - Deep Thinking

However, as stated, Cheng’s legacy is also quite controversial. From being one of the primary exponents of openly teaching taijiquan to Westerners (a feat which gained him plenty of ill will in certain traditionalist Chinese tai chi circles), to drastically modifying the tai chi …

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Tensegrity and Taijiquan (Tai Chi Ch'uan)

No matter what school, style, or lineage of taijiquan you may encounter, it is likely that over the course of studying this internal martial art … you will at some point be forced to totally reconsider the way you think your body works.

Tensegrity Structure AnimatedTensegrity Structure :: Human Body

The above spinning image (left) is an example of a structure being held together by the force of tensegrity or tensional integrity. In other words, the rigid green “beams” are never touching, but are suspended in their shape by the interconnected flexible red “strings.” The structure in the black and white image (right) is a symbolically simplified model of our skeleton & muscles to display that the …

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The Zen of Taijiquan

When people think of taijiquan — as a martial art or as a spiritual discipline — the first association is with the principles of the Tao. The classics of Taoism are tai chi chuan’s philosophical foundation, and without them, any consideration of our beloved art is missing its most essential cornerstone.

Zen and Taijiquan

The history of Taoism and Zen (Cha’an in China) are intertwined in too many ways to count, but for the sake of the Zen of this article … we’ll save the history lesson for another time.

As I have heard from one of my teachers:

“All explanations are wrong. Correct taijiquan is a feeling.”

It is here, at this intersection of feeling & explanation, that I would like to examine the “Zen” of Taijiquan.

As I understand it, Zen, too, is a feeling.

I have heard it referred …

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Intention and Attention: The Alchemical Formula in Taijiquan - Pt. 1

Since our birth as a species, mankind has actively pursued a peculiar form of conscious evolution … different from the animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms … in that we uniquely aspire to become Something Greater.

Intention & Attention: The Alchemy of the Human Brain in TaijiquanIntention & Attention: The Alchemy of the Human Brain in Taijiquan

Whether it be approaching the Divine, a Creator, Mother Nature, the Tao, or simply Greater Knowledge, Wealth, Fame, or Status … human beings are a group of unusually aspirant & ambitious creatures. It is our every intention to be Greater than we are … and one way or another our attention tends to settle on the path we …

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Tai Chi Movements: Fu Zhongwen's Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan

Fu Zhongwen (1903-1994) is one of the most renowned, accomplished, and important figures for today’s Yang style taijiquan (and for the world tai chi community in general).

Fu ZhongwenFu Zhongwen Yang Style Taijiquan

Zhongwen was born in the village of Guanfu in Yong Nian County, Hebei Province … the birthplace of Yang Lu Chan & the cradle of Yang style taijiquan. Grandmaster Fu was apprenticed to Yang Lu Chan’s most famous grandson, Yang Chengfu, at the tender age of 9 (in 1913). It was with Great Grandmaster Yang Chengfu that Zhongwen travelled around china, to Hong Kong, Tianjing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Beijing, and more. During these travels, Yang Chengfu would teach & Fu Zhongwen would demonstrate. Fu Zhongwen would also …

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Study Guide to Taijiquan Fajin (Fa Chin ... or 'Fa Jing') - Part Two

The most popular topic of reading & discussion on this website is tai chi “fajing” (a technically incorrect spelling / concept). As such, I am going to build & refine this extensive online fajin study guide, for my fellow taijiquan enthusiasts to consider and comment.

Before I provide some of my own analysis on several fajin demos of accomplished taijiquan masters … we need to review the basics.

Cheng Man Ching's Fajin (or "Fajing")

The Basics of Taiji Fajin

First of all, the “correct” translation would be taiji fajin (pinyin) … tai chi fa chin (Wade-Giles) … or 太極發勁 (Mandarin).

I get the impression — quite often — that many western taiji practitioners feel that “fa jin” is …

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