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The Taijiquan Classics In Li I Yu's Handwritten Manuals

The Taijiquan Classics are a collection of early writings on the art that are regarded by Taijiquan practitioners as containing the essence of the art. The majority of listings of these classical works contain the writings recorded in Li I Yu's handwritten manuals. The contents of these manuals are regarded as the core writings in the Classics and hold a special place in literary tradition of Taijiquan. They are also probably the oldest writings available on the art of Taijiquan.

In addition to the translation into English for these classic works, I will be adding my own commentaries to them to further expand upon the meanings contained in them and their context and historicity. Some of the translations are taken from earlier translations, I have felt that there was no need to redo their fine work, others which have never been translated before have been translated by myself. Where the translations are not my own, they have been credited to the original translators.

Translator's Note

Some might regard the the translations I have done as being overly literal. There is a reason for this literal translation, I have tried not to paraphrase or rephrase as far as possible so as to prevent an unintentional insertion of my own meaning into the text rather than let the text speak for itself. The result is not likely to be very idiomatic but it does bring out the original flavour of the text as well as its most probable meaning in the context of the art of Taijiquan.

There is a specific place for my own interpretations and they are to be found in the commentaries which I have written on the individual classic works. Some of these interpretations have been handed down to me by my teachers and seniors, others have come from my own experience and research into the art. They should be read on their own merit and not regarded as anything beyond one practitioner's interpretation. The definitive interpretation being possible only by the authors of the original works.

Wang Tsung Yueh's Taijiquan Classic

Translation taken from Robert W. Smith and Cheng Man Ching's book "T'ai Ch'i"

Taiji comes from infinity; from it spring yin and yang. In movement the two act independently; in stillness they fuse into one. There should be no excess and no insufficiency.

You yield at your opponent's slightest pressure and adhere to him at his slightest retreat. To conquer the strong by yielding is termed "withdraw" (tsou). To improve your position to the detriment of your opponent is called "adherence" (chan). You respond quickly to a fast action, slowly to a slow action. Although the changes are numerous, the principle remains the same. Dilligent practice brings the skill of "interpreting strength". Beyond this achievement lies the ultimate goal: complete mastery of an opponent without recourse to detecting his energy. This, however, requires ardous practice.

The spirit of vitality reaches to the top of the head and the qi sinks to the navel. The body is held erect without leaning in any direction. Your opponent should not be able to detect your change from substantial to insubstantial or vice versa, because of your speed in effecting this change. When your opponent brings pressure on your left side, that side should be empty. The same holds for the right side. When he pushes upward or downward against you, he feels as if there is no end to the emptiness he encounters. When he advances against you, he feels the distance incredibly long; when he retreats, he feels it exasperatingly short.

The entire body is so light that a feather will be felt and so pliable that a fly cannot alight on it without setting it in motion. Your opponent cannot detect your moves but you can anticipate his. If you can master all these techniques you will become a peerless boxer.

In boxing there are myriad schools. Although they differ in form and scale, they can never go beyond reliance on the strong defeating the weak or the swift conquering the slow. Yet these are the result of physical endowments and not practical application and experience. The strong and the quick, however, cannot explain and have no part in the deflection of a thousand pound momentum with a trigger force of four ounces or of an old man defeating a great number of men.

Stand like a balance and move actively like a cart wheel. Keep your weight sunk on one side. If it is spread on two feet you will be pushed over easily. Coordinating the substantial is the key here. If that is achieved, then you can interpret strength. After this, by practicing vigorously, studying and remembering, one can reach the stage of total reliance on the mind. Forget yourself and yield to others. Go gradually, according to the right method. Above all, learn these techniques correctly; the slightest divergence will take you far off the path.


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