Friday, December 15, 2017

Relax, Teacher

"I have been practicing Tai-Chi Chuan for over fifty years. Only two years ago that I started to understand the word “relax”. I remember my Tai-Chi Chuan teacher Yang Cheng-Fu who did not like to talk much and he used to sit all day without saying a word if no one asked him questions. However, in our T’ai-chi class he would tell us to “relax” repeatedly. Sometimes it seemed like he would say the word hundreds of times during the practice so that the word could fill up my ears. Strangely enough he also said that if he did not tell me of this word that I would not be able to learn T’ai-chi in three life-times (meaning never). I doubted his words then. Now that I think back, I truly believe that if he did not keep reminding me of the word “relax”, I doubt if I could have learned T’ai-chi Chuan in six life-times.

What is the meaning of “relax” in T’ai-chi? Here is an example to help you understand the word. When we go visit a Buddhist temple we usually see a statue of Me-Lo Buddha. The one who has a big rounded stomach with a big smile on his face. He carries a large bag on his shoulder. On top of this statue we see a motto: “Sit with a bag. Walk with a bag. It would be such a relief to drop the bag.” What does all this mean? To me, a person himself or herself is a bag. Everything he or she owns is baggage, including one’s children, family, position and wealth. It is difficult to drop any of one’s baggage, especially the “self” bag.

T’ai-chi Chuan is difficult to learn. To relax in practicing T’ai-chi Chuan is the most difficult phase to go through. To relax a person’s mind is the most significant obstacle to overcome in practicing T’ai-Chi. It takes a great effort to train and exercise one’s mind to relax (or drop one’s “self” bag)."
- Cheng Man-Ch'ing, Taijiquan Master

Strike with shoulder and/or elbow.
Professor Cheng Man-Ch'ing, Whisker's Man

Come On, Whisker's Man!  

It took a multi-talented fellow like you 48 years before you started to understand the word "relax"???   A cryptic, intriguing, peculiar, perplexing remark.  A teacher's puzzler.  

Of course, the professor had high standards for productivity, being a master of five excellences and more.  Obviously, little time to relax.  Then, add the psychological quest of the dropping one's 'self" bag [by Daoist, Buddhist, or psychoanalytical methods and standards] ... 

Alternatives??  Yes, yes ....  let me lie down and have my Feldenkrais' teacher, Ms. Toscano, lead me into deeper relaxation and self-observation and self-exploration.  My ego (one's "self" bag) dissolves in the attention given to the minutia of internal bodily feelings while languidly lying on a soft cushion.  The self bag is gone; or, at least, my everyday busy, yang self, action man self is set aside for while.  Pleasures can induce self-forgetfulness.  One delicious,simple, effortless form of loosened and relaxed. 

But, maybe, Whisker's Man, wants us to reflect on more important matters.  Clever fellow.  

Yes, however, indeed, experiencing Sung while doing Taijiquan is essential to this body-mind performing art.   

Cheng Man-ch'ing (1902-1975): Tai Chi Chuan Master
Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Resources, Reflections, Notes.
A hypertext notebook by Michael P. Garofalo.

Relax (Sung) in Tai Chi Chuan
Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Notes, Instructions. By Mike Garofalo.

A good article in the recent Qi Magazine: Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness (Volume 27, Number 4, 2017, pp. 30-37.) by Master Wasentha Young titled "Professor Cheng Man-Ching's Design of the Yang Style Short Form."

The Tai Chi Book: Refining and Enjoying a Lifetime of Practice. By Robert Chuckrow, Ph.D.. Including the Teachings of Cheng Man-ch'ing, William C. C. Chen, and Harvey I. Sober. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, YMAA Publication Center, c 1998. Index, 209 pages. ISBN: 1886969647. Dr. Chuckrow was a student of Cheng Man-ch'ing and others. The Cheng 37 Posture form is described and illustrated with photographs on pages 177-204. VSCL.

Cheng Man-ch'ing T'ai-Chi Short Form. Instructional DVD. As taught by Robert Chuckrow, Ph.D.. NTSC DVD, color, 63 minutes. ASIN: B00BMAVIVC. "This DVD has three parts: (1) Demonstration of Cheng Man-ch'in's Short Form by Robert Chuckrow, (2) Form instruction, and (3) Rear view of form (student view). The instruction part is clear and detailed, and all the movements are taught in succession with different camera views and repetitions." VSCL. 

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