The best learning process for the fighting arts is the unhurried, slow motion of Yang Style T’ai Chi Ch’uan. It is like a beginning typist who practices slowly and properly. This promotes our physical relaxation and mindfulness which directs the human motion qi for action. The natural internal action comes from the qi energy flow that is stimulated by the brain and expressed through the physical body.
Qi energy is an expandable outgoing energy that creates a shape. The muscle acts as a contracting force that secures the shape against any resistance. The slow T’ai Chi Ch’uan movements trigger the qi flow into the fingers and moves the palm out to float into the air. In rapid action, the qi explodes like ammunition and discharges through the fingers to deliver the knuckles for the punch while keeping the arm muscles relaxed, which enhances speed for a powerful punch.
When I apply ‘Tai Chi Ch’uan as a fighting art I work on a few moves at one time. The simpler the moves that I train, the easier it is for me to perfect them. The slow motion with relaxation helps to prevent the muscle contraction and is essential to my learning process.
After my daily T’ai Chi Ch’uan practice, I break the down into individual parts of movements to practice as a fighting art. I repeat them training 200 to 500 times in slow motion and with full awareness. It helps me customize the internal motion for action.
Practicing in this manner, it took me nearly a year to complete Prof. Cheng’s 37 posture of the short form. Then I chose a few of the most practical fighting techniques or movements. I practiced in slow motion and sped them up afterwards.
Once I had repeated each technique 5,000 times or more, I could execute these techniques at a satisfactory level in slow motion as well as at full speed. This was done until they matured then I move on to the next movement.
In 1950 I was assigned to assist in Prof. Cheng’s internal training. This is training the body to absorb punches and kicks. During the second year, I followed his formula to train myself in my leisure time. After training an hour a day, in less than a year I found my body could take punches and kicks. This was of enormous help to my free-fighting practice, which benefits me in sparring without fear of getting hurt. I could concentrate on good techniques as well as better coordination. This added to my enjoyment in the art of free fighting.
Living in Prof. Cheng’s house was a priceless opportunity to obtain the right information for correct training. Even the few of us who were close disciples of Prof. Cheng had little chance to see him practice the entire T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. However, we often saw him work on a few movements here and there. He never directly instructed me to train in this manner. But having gathered such valuable information this way, it appears to me that concentrating on a few functional and realistic fighting techniques in slow motion is the best way to develop my fighting abilities.
There are many martial artists who have studied either soft styles or hard styles for many years without achieving real self-defense capability. Perhaps due to their impatient nature, or they wanted to practice too many techniques and to have quick results. A famous phrase is “Jack of all trades, master of none”. To focus exclusively on a few fighting techniques at a time is the best way to learn the fighting art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
The fewer techniques that I try to learn, the more I can accomplish and the easier it is to perfect them. Practicing a few movements at a time in slow motion and keeping my muscles relaxed, was essential to my learning process.