Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tai Chi and Relaxation

Relaxation in Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, and Notes. By Mike Garofalo. 

Song or Sung or Fangsong: Loose, Relaxed, Open, Yielding, Free, Responsive. A Defining Characteristic of Taijiquan.

"First, last, and always the student must relax. Various calisthenics aid him in
achieving this. All rigidity and strength must be emptied from the upper torso and must sink to the very soles of the feet, one of which is always firmly rooted to the ground. Without proper relaxation the student can never hope to achieve the trueness of the T'ai-chi postures. The student relaxes completely and breathes as a child - naturally through the nose, the diaphragm being aided by the abdominal rather than the intercostal muscles. Man's intrinsic energy, the ch'i, should be stored just below the navel. The mind directs this energy throughout the body according to need. But the ch'i cannot circulated in an unrelaxed body."
- Robert W. Smith, Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, 1974, p. 26.

"The Chen Old Frame First Routine helps to instill the three characteristics of song (looseness), yuan (roundness, centerness), and rou (pliancy).  Song means not using stiff force.  Many practitioners of Taijiquan will probably have been exhorted repeatedly to look for the quality of fangsong, or to let loose.  Western texts often translate the term simply as "to relax," which fails to capture the energetic state that is actually required.  the renowned Taijiquan historian Gu Luixin describes this state as one of the essential features of Chen style Taijiquan.  He explained, "... you reuire looseness (song) to get pliancy (rou) and then softness to get hardness (gang).  From hardness you need to be able to revert to softness.  So the goal is to simultaneously have softness as well as hardness and to be able to alternate hardness and softness."
-  David Gaffney and Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim, The Essence of Taijiquan, 2012, p.185

"Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above."
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Section 41 (76)
Translated by Victor H. Mair, 1990

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