T’ai Chi Ch’uan – Body and Mind In Harmony (1961)
Title: “T’ai Chi Ch’uan – Body and Mind In Harmony”
Author: Sophia Delza
Publisher: THE GOOD NEWS PUBLISHING COMPANY, NORTH CANTON, OHIO
Year of Publication: 1961
LOC Catalog Entry: http://lccn.loc.gov/60014596
Copyright Status: Public Domain in the United States and countries following the rule of the shorter term
“An Ancient Chinese Way of Exercise to Achieve Health and Tranquility…
Is there anyone in the world whose idea of being truly healthy would not include, along with a healthy body, a fine mind combined with an ease of disposition? Fleeting glimpses of this feeling of harmony are experienced by everyone at some time in his life. In our colloquialisms we see revealed the inner clear relationship of mind and body. ”I feel as if I were floating” is a common expression to describe a peak of contentment of physical comfort. Well-being produces a sensation of lightness where the body is sensed but not felt. “I’m simply walking on air” is an image that almost obliterates the body and makes the spirit seem all powerful.
What an agony of indecision and what physical immobility are exposed in “I’m all tied up in knots.” “My heart stood still” expresses an anxiety that almost strangles the circulation. Composure and mental equilibrium can hardly be sustained in a weak and unhealthy system where discomfort dominates the consciousness.
The effect of body on mind and mind on body is in evidence at every turn of our lives every day. The realization of this fact is a step toward making an effort to find a technique that can “nourish the body and calm the spirit”—a technique that, as an exercise, can give action to thought, and, as a philosophy, can give thought to action, and which as a composite art is so synthesized as to make the whole greater than the sum of its intriguing parts.
Such is Tai Chi Ch’üan (pronounced Tye Gee Chwan), the unique Chinese System of Soft-Intrinsic Exercise, which, dating back to a.d. 1000, is extremely popular today. In the present century four Tai Chi Ch’üan styles (P’ai) are being practiced: Yang, Wu, Ho, Sun. Illustrated in this book is Wu, a style that concentrates on har¬monious self-development with the philosophical as well as the psychological aspects emphasized. It has as its goal the achievement of health and tranquility by means of a “way of movement,” charac¬terized by a technique of moving slowly and continuously, without strain, through a varied sequence of contrasting forms that create stable vitality with calmness, balanced strength with flexibility, con¬trolled energy with awareness.
There is a significant difference in concept between the dance-art that is used as an exercise and the exercise that is an art in itself. As a modern dancer I appreciate this, having created dance forms for the purpose of art and for exercise. Designed movements, patterns, and excerpts of dance techniques, which are extracted from the dance-art for use as general exercise, though inevitably stimulating and enlivening, must be considered inadequate for the more profound, permanent aspect of the development of mind and body.
Tai Chi Ch’üan is not a by-product, as it were, of any other art-dance form; it is not derived from ancient Chinese commemorative dance, folk, or classical Chinese theater dance, and does not resemble them in dynamics, rhythm, or structure. Tai Chi Ch’üan is a com¬plete entity, composed to answer the needs to which it is directed. Total in concept, it is a synthesis of form and function. With the elements of structure and movement so consummately composed, it is an art in the deepest sense of the word. Aesthetically, it can be compared to a composition by Bach or a Shakespearean sonnet. However, Tai Chi Ch’üan is not art directed outward to an audience. It is an art-in-action for the doer; the observer, moved by its beauty, can only surmise its content. The experience of the form in process of change makes it an art for the self.
My intention in writing this book is to bring to the attention of Western people this ancient masterpiece of health exercise, which, ancient though it is, is supremely suitable for us all in these modern times. I wish to create an informed understanding of what is neces-sary, theoretically, for a vital life, and also to arouse the interest of the reader and his willingness to apply this exercise for his own use. As an exercise that demands no physical strength to begin with, it therefore is as good for the weak as for the well, for young and old, men and women. Since the techniques are adjusted to, and develop with, individual capacities, it is practical for any disposition.
Movement by movement, step by step, with its organic and in-trinsic harmony, it trains both body and mind—to longer life with heightened interest and deeper understanding. The calmness that comes from harmonious physical activity and mental perception, and the composure that comes from deep feeling and comprehension are the very heart of this exercise.
The wonderful thing about writing a book on this subject is that its always-to-be applied principles are constantly with one, under one’s very fingers, for immediate use. When one is blooming and content, to practice it gives greater growth and awareness. When, working restlessly, impatiently, one has come to an impasse, then to do the exercise is revivifying; it settles the mind, quiets the spirit, smoothes out the emotions; and with refreshened mind and unagitated heart, one can take on problems again (as has been the ex¬perience of many students in diverse fields of work).
The deep interest and enthusiasm that Tai Chi Ch’üan has aroused in those who practice it and those who have seen it have also contributed to my desire to make it available for those who have no teacher. It is a preparation for those who will study with someone eventually, because it is best “that beginners be guided by oral teaching, but nevertheless, if you direct yourself with dili-gence, skill will take care of itself (as stated in Tai Chi Chuan Ching, Classic of the Ming Dynasty). For those who are studying or have studied, it can be a permanent record* for more profound self-study. ”. .. in teaching others everything depends on consistency, for it is only through repetition that the pupil makes the material his own” (I-Ching, Book of Changes).
Needless to say, there are a great many books on Tai Chi Ch’üan by Chinese writers that deal with its philosophical, practical, historical, and physiological aspects in a most thorough and masterful way. Then you may well ask what is my contribution, if it is a contribution.
In the light of what Chinese literature contains, this book must indeed be considered modest. Let me mention at this point that I have omitted certain features not imperative for the Western student as a beginner. Those are the techniques and skills that the study of this exercise can lead to, such as the Art of Self-Defense and Joint Hand Operations.
I do not touch upon a very important subject, that Ch’i vari-ously interpreted as breath, spirit, or air and as the nervous system in the latest books. The doctrine of the use of Ch’i is an important element that enters into the philosophy of art, aesthetics, science, and philosophy. Ch’i is a vital force differentiated from life force; it is the rhythm of nature, the creative principle that makes life. It is circulation and the circular movement of breath within one, an aspect that Tai Chi Ch’üan is greatly concerned with, at an ad-vanced stage of development. Ch’i, as “an urge or energy, com-pounded of spirit and in a mysterious way the physical breath” (E. Herbert in Taoist Notebook), I leave as a subject to be studied with the masters of Tai Chi Ch’üan.
In rendering the entire exercise precisely, I have included innumerable details that are not noted in Chinese versions, because there they are taken for granted for reasons that are obvious. We, in the West, with no background for these techniques, cultural or actual, require more specific, minute, exacting explanations with a more simplified analysis. I have, so to speak, put the microscope on the action, without reinterpreting or changing it. Certain repetitions are unavoidable and perhaps are necessary, to open up new per-spectives and perceptions.
The Chinese people are prepared philosophically and psycho-logically for the theory and practice of Tai Chi Ch’üan. An accepted method of movement, it is available everywhere; they have only to reach out for it, to walk to the park (literally),and it can be learned. The degree to which we in the West are not prepared for it has governed the choice of the material in this book. In doing so I have kept in mind that an old Chinese idea of proven values is being presented in a new western environment.
The principles, qualities, and features inherent in the nature of this exercise are faithfully given as taught to me by my teacher Mr. Ma Yüeh-Liang. However, I have expatiated upon them in order to clarify and emphasize their content. I have consciously included personal aesthetic and psychological interpretations, which have in-evitably come from my increasing experience with this exercise, and which are the result of my inquiring into related fields of study and of discussion with Tai Chi Ch’üan experts.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
PART I: The Tai Chi Chan Way
What Tai Chi Ch’üan Is 7
Characteristics of the Way of Movement 10
Structure (Yin-Yang) 12
Harmony of Body and Mind 13
Two Intrinsic Principles: Softness and Circular Movement 14
Five Essential Qualities 16
PART II: Fundamentals
General Remarks 23
Principles to Be Observed 24
Basic Positions 26
PART III: Preliminaries
Suggestions for Study 38
Explanatory Notes 40
PART IV: The Practice of Tai Chi Ch’üan
APPENDIX: Historical Background: A Consistent Heritage 179
Excerpts from Ming Dynasty Documents 183
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