An Interview with Grandmaster Ip Tai Tak
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by Tai Chi & Alternative Health Magazine*
TCAH: Where there differences in the Yang style Tai Chi form when you began to train under Master Yang?
Master Ip: Previous to learning under master Yang it was very obvious that there were differences in my Yang style Tai Chi form. As a result of this, I had to relearn the whole form. Master Yang's movements were more simple to the eye, yet had focused precision to match. Even though the movements seemed simplistic, the tarditional from was more difficult to master as it involved many intricate subtleties needing only very small movements, which can hardly be noticeable by eye. When he was correcting me, Master Yang often told me that he was srcrewing my structure down. In other wiords he was reinforcing the structure so that it could enable thi Chi power to be more concentrated & thus more projected. Procticing the corrected form brings quicker results
Master Yang also expressed that if the form's postures & movements were not correct, whatever time & energy is put into the practice, the effort is wasted. It can be likened to pouring water into a bucket full of holes. Water cannot be retained in the bucket, so therefore time & energy put into filling the bucket can never yield the desired results. Practicing the correct form ensures that the time & effort put into the practice is not wasted. Each practice helps to concentrate & harness the power a little more, i.e., the bucket without holes can retain water without loss each time it is filled a little.
TCAH: What other differences are there?
MI: The traditional Yang form has more meaning & enables me to cultivate more power quicker. The Chi energy is more focused & direct, hence more effective for self-defense application. The form uses numerous circular movements within various postures through the use of hip movements. The previous form that I learnt had no depth or menaing. Correct weighting is also very important. Practitioners should ensure that the weighting within forward postures should always be 70/30 (70% of the weigthing on the front leg & 30% on the rear leg) & should never be doubledweighted, i.e., 50/50.
I have also observed that a number of Yang style forms are often too relaxed & flowery. Traditional yang style postures are simple & contain various subtleties incorporated within them. Practitioners should always seek out masters who can demonstrate & show such levels of teachings. Without it, people often get stuck at their levels & are unable to progress any further in Tai Chi Chuan training. It is common to find these people ginving up Tai Chi Chuan or using external martial arts to explain the principles of Tai Chi Chuan. The latter approach leads the practitioner further & further away from gaining insight & understanding of the true meaning of INTERNAL MARTIAL ARTS.
TCAH: What was the training like under Master Yang?
MI: Master Yang was a traditionalist. He taught on an individual basis & expected high standards from all his students. The training was very tough indeed! I often remember having to change T-shirts during my training sessions for they were always waterlogged with sweat. Master Yang would sometimes tell me that people nowdays generally do not train very hard when compared with his own or previous generations' training. For instance, Master Yang's father, Yang Ching PO (Cheng Fu) often woke him early in the mornings, even in the very cold winter, insistent that he should train in the courtyard. Without training Master Yang was not allowed back into the house. During bitter cold winters in China, to survive, young Master Yang had to train in the courtyard in fear of freezing to death. He would practice his form over & over again just to keep himself warm. Only after diligent practice was he allowed back into the house to have breakfast. Master Yang often said that his father would practice intensively in a cycle until he was completely exhausted. After an intensive session his father slept only by lying on a thin board rested at an angle on the wall. By doing this, should he sleep too comfortably, and roll over, he would fall off the board (thereby waking himself), wash his face with cold water & resume training again. This cycle was continuous so that he trained intensively 24 hours a day.
TCAH: What are the essential points when practicing Tai Chi Chuan?
MI: There are three important aspects of training that one has to take into consideration to improve one's TCC.
a) correct practice of the form - this will enable one to circulate the energy & also gain better understanding of its practicability.
b) Chum Choong or Chi Kung training. This form of training not only helps practitioners to focus & harness Chi but also strengthens one's stability & balance.
c) Pushing hands. This enables one to develop ones sensitivity & "listening" skill for self-defense applications.
If individuals carry out all these three approaches in training, their Tai Chi Chuan will progress much more quickly to a higher level.
*This interview was originally published in Tai Chi & Alternative Health Magazine, Volume I, Issue 4, Autumn 1994. Copyright © British Tai Chi Chuan Centre
TO BE CONTINUED