Internal strength (2)
Internal work/whole body strength

classes     qigong     tai chi     kung fu     about us     reviews     a-z

2. Whole-body movement using whole-body strength

Form is the main vehicle for this second level of skill.
The movements of form when practiced properly will enable the student to deftly apply tai chi in combat.
This entails going somewhat beyond the mere repetition of a pattern/sequence...
In a nutshell, form is how your body moves when fighting.

Wooden form?

If your form looks wooden or your stances are long, extended and martially impractical, you are not ready for this level of internal strength.
The way in which the form is being practiced needs to be addressed.
Form needs to conform to The Tai Chi Classics:

In motion the whole body should be light and agile,
with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.

The patterns of movement should be without defect,
without hollows or projections from the proper alignment;
in motion the form should not become disconnected.

The jing should be rooted in the feet, generated from the legs,
controlled by the waist, and manifested through the fingers.

If correct timing and position are not achieved, the body will become disordered
and will not move as an integrated whole; the correction for this defect
must be sought in the legs and waist.

The principle of adjusting the legs and waist applies for moving in all directions;
upward or downward, advancing or withdrawing, left or right.

All movements are motivated by mind, not external form.

Insubstantial and substantial should be clearly differentiated.
At any place where there is insubstantiality, there must be substantiality;
Every place has both insubstantiality and substantiality.

The whole body should be threaded together through every joint
without the slightest break.

Tai chi is like a great river rolling on unceasingly.

(Chang San-feng)

Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and move like a turning wheel.

Sinking to one side allows movement to flow; being double-weighted is sluggish.

(Wang Tsung-yueh)

Be still as a mountain, move like a great river.

The upright body must be stable and comfortable to be able to sustain an attack from any of the eight directions.

Walk like a cat.

Remember, when moving, there is no place that does not move.
When still, there is no place that is not still.

First seek extension, then contraction; then it can be fine and subtle.

In advancing and returning there must be folding.

Going forward and back there must be changes.

The form is like that of a falcon about to seize a rabbit, and the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat.

(Wu Yu-hsiang)


Form serves as a means of exploring and cultivating more complex neigong qualities.
More subtle skills begin to manifest in the practice.
Slowly, the emphasis is changing from how the body is being used to the actual movement itself.


Certain neigong skills must now occur naturally, without effort or intent.
The student must also discover the root of tai chi by exploring 13 methods.

Beginner's mind

Once you have studied all 50 neigong and can look back on them with perspective, it is possible to fully understand what neigong is really about.
Many students study earnestly for years, but continue to employ an absurd degree of muscular tension.
Whole-body movement eludes them.


Once the obstacle of a new challenge has been surmounted, your body adapts and whole-body movement feels to be easy.
It becomes familiar and the difficulty fades.
Care must be taken to maintain the quality of the movement.
Considerable ongoing refinement is still necessary - and always will be.
There are no plateaus.

Growth requires change

You must continue to challenge your mind and body.
The syllabus will present countless new obstacles.
Each one will cause you to falter, re-think how you are practicing the art, and then work around the problem.
This journey will require considerable tenacity. And humility.

You will begin to feel that your tai chi practice goes beyond simple form training, and you will be able to perceive things as energetic combinations, rather than as static physical objects. Your training partners will appear to your senses as dynamic patterns of energy, rather than as clumsy physical bodies. When this happens, you can skilfully switch strategy and tactics in any situation.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)


More experienced students usually recognise the level of commitment demanded by the art, and train harder.
Sometimes they continue to flounder; unwilling to come to terms with the situation.
Or the student simply finds an excuse and quits.

These things take time

The study and understanding of whole-body movement is measured in decades, rather than days and weeks.
Be patient, and practice every day.
Whole-body movement is not difficult, but it is sophisticated and unfamiliar.
Each quality has several layers of meaning.
Every patient, diligent student will come to know the joy and simplicity found at this level of tai chi practice.


school database

Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023