Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fang Song or Relax

I extracted this passage from a Chenshi Taijiquan website in Europe. The footnotes are inserted in by me from my own understanding. What is written in this article is applicable to zhineng qigong practice as well. Fang song in zhineng qigong can realised only if the practitioner diligently practices pengqi guanding fa and xingshen zhuang to achieve the final result of mind and body integration.

The peng jing (expansion force) developed in taijiquan to give practitioner the strong internal (of iron wrapped inside cotton) is really the zhengti (whole body) we are talking about in zhineng qigong. Read on and hopefully you will gain deeper insight into your own journey.
 Fang Song
Many people spend years studying taijiquan but for most of them their progress is slow in gaining the skills of taijiquan. Part of this is probably insufficient practice, but a significant element is not understanding the basic skills[1] that beginners are required to develop. It is not possible to start taijiquan training and learning at a high level. Using conventional learning as an analogy, it would be like trying to start at Phd. research Level. In reality, first there is primary education, then secondary education, then undergraduate study etc. This is equally true in taijiquan. Without a good mental and physical understanding of the basic skills that are at the foundation of taiji, high level taiji skills will not be developed. It is not magic, but the result of consistent and sufficient training in the correct manner[2].
When asked what I consider the five most important skills for a beginner student in taijiquan, I listed them as:
1.    Fang Song – Loosen the body by relaxing the joints
2.    Peng Jing – an outward supportive strength, the basic skill of taiji
3.    Ding Jing – upright and straight
4.    Chen – rooted
5.    Chan Si Jing – Reeling Silk Skill
These five basic skills should be considered the early steps in taijiquan training. Without these basic skills being embedded in the body[3] and the accompanying changes that occur during the process, a student is stuck outside of taijiquan. They are learnt through exercises and in the process of learning and training the foundation form of taijiquan.
All of these ideas are very difficult to describe in words. In a recent article in the Spring 2010 edition of this magazine I wrote about the traditional Six Stages of Learning in Chen style taijiquan. At the request of my students, in this three part article I have provided some understanding of what to concentrate on as a beginner to make progress in Taijiquan. This article introduces these ideas and examines more closely the first of them. The second article covers the second and third skills and the final article covers the fourth and fifth skills and summarises.
These beginners’ skills are complimentary to each other and are acquired slowly with persistence of practice. Understanding what they are does not come all at once. With the aid of a teacher, the mind grasps a bit of the idea first[4]. Then, with considerable practice, the body gets the idea[5]. Then with lots more practice it becomes a part of a person. It is not like a light switch, being either on or off, although some part of learning these skills can seem that way. Only when the body understands at a certain level can the mind grasp what is beyond that level. As many teachers have commented, it is not possible to jump to a full understanding. It is not a mental trick, or something to do with intellect or high intelligence. It is a process that has many possible detours and no short cuts. (This process has been described by several high level teachers such as Chen Zheng Lei and Chen Xiao Wang, in print.)
These five basic skills are not learned one after the other. The student does not completely understand fang song before starting to understand peng jing. Rather they are collective, with progress in each skill acting as an aid to progress in the others. A little bit more skill gained here and a little bit more there. Persistence in practice provides the opportunity for progress. The more practice done utilising these skills the more progress is made.
I thought at first to put Peng Jing as the first skill as it is the central taijiquan skill. However, without fang song,peng jing will not develop, so I will start by talking about fang song.

[1] Ability (gong neng)
[2] Integration of mind into the movements
[3] Internalised (mind being aware of these forces – a knowing)
[4] Intellectual knowing
[5] Mind and body integration (practice and theory become one)

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