June Theme: Open and Close 开合

In Chen Xin's classical text 陳氏太極拳圖說 (The Illustrated Lectures on Chen Family Taijiquan) (1933), he starts with a list of commandments and recommendations for tai chi students including respect, humility, reading/learning the principles, etc. It's an often overlooked page, but each time I read it, I'm struck by this bullet point:

學太極拳,學陰陽開合而已。吾身中自有本然之陰陽開合,非教者所能加損也。復其本然,教者即止。
To study Taijiquan is essentially to study yin-yang and open-close. My body already has yin-yang and open-close by nature -- it is not something the teacher can increase or decrease. When I have recovered my natural yin-yang and open-close, the teacher may stop (teaching).

What is yin-yang and open-close in Taijiquan? How is it all embodied in movement and stillness? How does one re(dis)cover it? How does a teacher help students re(dis)cover it?

This month, June, we explore yin-yang open-close (focusing on the latter pair) in both level 1 and level 2 classes. I discuss some of the interpretations by various masters I've come across, and most importantly, we practice towards felt sensations and embodiment through a number of exercises.

In Level 1, we will primarily use the following tools to practice open-close of the 3 energy centers (三丹田), torso and arm movements:

  • Hunyuan Qigong (混元氣功) postures
  • selected Eight Energies drills and Silk Reeling Exercises

In Level 2, we will go over postures from Laojia Yilu (and may include Xinjia Yilu) to practice and refine our awareness in open-close in the following areas:

  • torso (horizontal; vertical)
  • arms; legs; arms and legs
  • how open-close relate to yin-yang, substantial-insubstantial (虛實), and intention/extension

I don't claim I have open-close figured out, but I'd love to share my glimpse into it and marvel in each of your re(dis)covery processes. Join me!