Cheng Man-ch’ing’s advice for beginning Tai Chi students

Some wise words from Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing for those starting out on their tai chi journey. He warns that this practise may cause some discomfort, but that one must be fearless in the face of such pain, the taking of which is ‘beneficial to one’s heart organ and the development of the brain’.

“The fundamental method for a person who has just begun to do tai chi is to take three to five minutes in the morning and the evening, alternating standing first on one leg then on the other. Gradually the time is lengthened, gradually the person sits lower. The mind should be put into the tan tien, and without forcing, even a little bit,  the heart of the foot should adhere to the ground. When one is rooting, he should extend his middle and index fingers to hold onto the back of a chair or the edge of a table in order to be stable. After a while when that is familiar he can take away the middle finger using just the index finger assistance. Eventually this will become very stable and the person will not needs to be assisted by his fingers any more. Then one can utilise the ‘Lifting Hands’ and ‘Playing Guitar’ as two positions for this standing (or rooting) discipline.”

The quote is from Wolfe Lowenthal’s ‘There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing and his Tai Chi Chuan‘.  Where he talks about ‘rooting’ he is referring to the feeling of the weight of the  body dropping into the ground through the ‘Bubbling Well’ point, just behind the ball of the foot. ‘Lifting Hands’ and ‘Playing Guitar’ are positions from the Yang Style Short Form. These positions are demonstrated in the images below, reproduced from Cheng Man’ch’ing’s book ‘T’ai Chi Ch’uan: A Simplified Method of Calisthenics for Health & Self Defence‘.

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