…… I understand the utility of redirecting incoming force, but when blocking, how is it that the arm remains soft and subtle (in order that we may listen), and not rigid as in external martial arts?
"Follow the opponent's motion until it dissolves into my own. Only when I can unite with the opponent to become "ONE", then I may prevail.". From an older article which may shed some additional light on what Master Hwa speaks about and demonstrates in this very recent video. I would encourage everyone to read J.T's quandary, try the "experiment" Master Hwa speaks about at the end of this article.
Master Stephen Hwa's response: In short, the rigidity in an external martial art is indiscriminate with every muscle in the arm stiffened up to the maximum. In tai chi, only the necessary energizing is employed. In addition, your blocking of the opponent’s arm should use a force just enough to ward off his arm. If you use too much force then it's no longer redirect, but push back, and you lost the advantage of redirect. Therefore your ward-off move is very fluid and delicate. This can only be achieved when you are not stiff or rigid. I have an experiment I want you to try: Try to press the back of your hand against say a door frame, just like you are blocking an opponent's incoming arm. Do you find that one side of your forearm muscle is energized while the other side, the muscle is relaxed? Let me know your results.
A student asks: "Is the Qi generated from Yin or from Yang"? Maybe this is putting the "cart before the horse" before one has a chance to learn "internal discipline" of movement and establish what is called "energy channels" in the body first as you see in the video above. Above all one has to adopt the attitude of training to achieve this and then Qi flow will come naturally. After all, as Master Stephen Hwa says: "Learning Internal Discipline leads to Qi improvement without specifically training Qi"
I also recommend you view the entire video if you have the chance: Qi and Internal Energy in Classical Tai Chi Master Stephen Hwa: "At the beginning of the learning process, you are instructed to relax or forget about the shoulder and the arm, just concentrate on the abdomen and the back for the internal movements. This is to eliminate the common habit of moving from the arm or shoulder. The shoulder and arm just follow the movements from the internal core. (My student Ernie said that trying to relax the shoulder did not work for him, because of the act of “trying to relax” placed too much attention on the shoulder which kept the shoulder in play.) For most people, the difficulty here is to find the neural pathways in the core which can make the internal move you intended. After you practice the form in this way for a while you will develop some knack for moving from the core. Now comes the second stage of learning that is to integrate your arm with the internal movements and to expanding the circulating internal energy and qi from the torso to the arm, the palm and the fingertips.
I previously talked about the incorporation of “yi”, or martial art intent, in the movement. With practice, one will achieve the state where the arm and the internal core move as “One” and, that the internal energy and qi flow with the “yi” of the movements to the palm and the fingertips. By examining my own movements I found that, in this state, my arm constantly exerts a slight stretch or pull on the shoulder. This stretch firmly engages the arm to the shoulder. Since the elbow is always lower than the shoulder, there is a downward stretching force on the shoulder causing the shoulder to sink which in turn connects it to the core enabling the arm and the core moving as “One”. The stretching force involved here is quite subtle and small, just sufficient to achieve the engagement. Those of you who have already achieved such engagement in your practice probably feel this already. "
Stephen Hwa's one inch punch is similar to Bruce Lee's in terms of "time delay" (no time to step back from punch) it is different in terms of Bruce's "momentum force" and Stephen Hwa's "internal energy". Also different in terms of "explosion" vs. implosion", stance of persons giving the punch and stance of persons receiving punch. Although Bruce Lee's "1-inch" punch was an "explosion" on the outside of a body, the person had a "time delay" so there was no time to react, to step back to relieve the power from the strike (he hit the person on the solid chest, a large stance, back foot heel leaves the ground, seems "momentum" based). Stephen Hwa's is an "implosion" on the inside of a body, the person had a "time delay", no time to react, to step back to relieve the power of the strike (hit the person on the belly, an extremely small stance, both feet stay on ground, "used a quarter body move, no "momentum") What seems like "sci-fi" is the "implosion" involves a "time delay" and a "time constant". In visiting him in Florida I had a discussion with Master Hwa who is a Ph.D. chemical engineer. This got really interesting for me about terms like "time delay" that he refers to in the video. My layman's understanding is that all materials including human bellies also have a "time constant" in their elasticity. Well, in this case, the force is coming at Tom as Master Hwa later says with so much force, so much speed it creates a "time delay" (irrespective of the "time constant") in Tom's body going backward. Measuring how far the punch penetrates during and after the pad is really only about 2 or 3 inches of compact movement. Regardless of that it still penetrates into Tom's body and one might say completely. I call it an "implosion", on the inside of Tom's body as opposed to an "explosion" on the outside. He receives the whole force before his body begins to move back, so much for "pulling the punch", don't you think? It is aptly called a "spike" of power because like a spike, the opponent's body has no chance to get away from the full force.
D.F.'s opinion: "It's the same for all martial arts; Jujutsu, karate, aikido... Start with big moves and gradually make them smaller."
J.R. replied: Thanks for the opinion, please note 1:40 of the link "Internal Discipline is Necessary" and similar reference to the abdomen, back, core in the video. Master Stephen Hwa is referring to the presence or absence of "internal discipline in Classical Tai Chi as a necessary and sufficient condition for "compact frame". Big moves of the arms and legs can indeed and sometimes of necessity be made smaller in Karate, Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu. BTW Master Stephen Hwa taught Classical Tai Chi for years at a Karate studio, Faust's USA Karate, in Rochester, NY and one of my students owns an Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu Dojo and learned the Wu's Style Large Frame from me. I taught the Wu's Style Large Frame (learned from Wu Kwong Yu, Eddie) to the owner of a local Karate Studio, Universal Martial Arts who first saw me doing the Wu's Style Sword Form. Eddie Wu never once mentioned "make them smaller" to me about the movements and I was a disciple. The Karate teacher was featured in Black Belt Magazine for the sheer number of martial arts that he practiced, but I don't recall him mentioning "gradually making his martial art movements smaller". Master Hwa's own teacher's daughter has a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and teaches the Classical Tai Chi at the Jiu-Jitsu Dojo in Chito, California. To continue, however, the bigness of limb movement being made into the smallness of limb movement even of necessity is not a sufficient condition when it comes to the presence of "internal discipline" where movement originates in the core In one of the Tai Chi classical writings it says: "First seek to stretch and extend (large frame); later seek to be compact (small frame). Then it will be refined and impenetrable". So extend (large) form is first, then compact (small form) is advanced.
Master Hwa said: There is saying in China 内传小架,外传大架, “small Frame reserved For family insider; large frame for everyone else” Small Frame does not mean just have smaller movements. There is a fundamental difference between the small and large frame. It is the internal discipline in movements (all movements are carried out from the torso, not from the limbs) resulted in a small frame.
Thanks, Tom for your understanding of the critique offered by Master Hwa in this video who said: "...when you go back the arm does not bend so much...". This could also result in being hit in the face by the opponent's elbow. This video is indicative of how push hands "illustrates" the Tai Chi Form. We spoke in yesterday's post about results of incorrect timing and the subsequent lack of engagement with the body core that comes with bending the arm this way. DON'T MOVE THE FOREARM AS YOU MOVE THE WHOLE ARM. Moving the forearm as the upper arm moves makes the forearm the weakest link in the movement and drains off the power, there is no engagement with the core to turn the body, and it is what we call an extraneous movement