Tai Chi and muscle fibers


This morning I was browsing a rumsoakedfist post and saw a post entitled "Biomechanics of Motion and Quietness".

One paragraph mentioned :-

The active and passive movements can be explained in terms of biomechanics: concentric (shortening of muscle fibres), eccentric (lengthening of muscles fibres), static (no change in the length of muscle fibres), and muscle elasticity (the ability of returning to original length of muscles fibres after changes). Taijiquan is a conscious exercise of stretchy and springy activities. So stretching is active and the springy effect or recoil is passive in utilizing the stored elastic energy.

Now I have to say the writing looks impressive. So scientifically sounding and convincing.

Until later in the afternoon I read the following from the book "Live from Cupertino : How Apple Used Words, Music, and Performance to Build the World's Best Sales Machine" by Michael Hageloh :-

When AT&T became the first carrier to take the iPhone, their then-head of technology sent Steve a one hundred-page document about integrating software into the handset. Steve just sent it back with "WTF" handwritten on it.

Yeah, now when I think back to what I read this morning I have to say "WTF" too.

Seriously, what did I get out of that paragraph? Nice sounding words and sentences about a lot of stuff that seems to matter to the practice of Tai Chi except when I think more carefully and deeper about it I have to go "huh?".

It is my opinion that the writer missed some crucial information while getting one part correct. I seriously doubt that understanding what this paragraph is about or what the entire post is about will help you to master Tai Chi much less even understand the principles of The Tai Chi Classics.

I am not saying this to market myself. I don't have to do it. Grandmaster Wei Shuren's books and videos that are out there is good marketing for our style. People who know me know that I rarely talk about lineage except when referencing information.

To me the more interesting question is how does Tai Chi works, how should I practice it such that I am following a sure path to mastering it eventually (yeah, I don't agree with those people who say Tai Chi is difficult to learn and that they will never master it; this is a defeatist attitude).

For example, in this context if you can master X number of stretchy and springy exercises can you say for sure you can apply your Tai Chi and explain it in conformance to The Tai Chi Classics?

A more interesting and provoking question from me is why do you even need to master stretchy and springy exercises in the first place. Which part of The Tai Chi Classics say that you need to do so? For example, the Song of Ward-Off says :-

What is the meaning of Peng energy?

It is like the water supporting a moving boat.

First sink the ch'i to the tan-t'ien,

then hold the head as if suspended from above.

The entire body is filled with springlike energy,

opening and closing in a very quick moment.

Even if the opponent uses a thousand pounds of force,

he can be uprooted and made to float without difficulty.

Source -

Can you tell which part of the above sentences tell you to be stretchy and springy? Okay, maybe some readers will ask isn't "springlike energy" the same as being springy? I am tempted to say WTF but it does not help with our quest to learn better Tai Chi. I am going to offer a suggestion - look into how a bow works.

Why a bow? Here's a simple reason - in The Tai Chi Classics written by Wu Yuxiang there is mention of storing energy like drawing a bow and releasing energy (power) like releasing an arrow. This principle of store and release is practiced in the Single Whip technique of the 8-step Health Form as shown below :-

Below is an explanation that I presented in my eBook TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form (2013) :-

OK, I am kidding you. The concept is easy. What is missing is one simple question - how do you practice is such that you can actually do it. If you keep practicing the Single Whip in the 8-step Health Form with all the other attendant details you will be able to not just understand the model but actually use it.

Some readers like to be agreeable cause everybody likes everybody else who is agreeable. So do not ever agree with me. Not unless you know better.

If you want to master Tai Chi you need to ask hard questions, need to be rigorous in your examination and practice of what you deem to be correct.

Then maybe, just maybe, the fog of confusion will clear up and you can see the way forward clearly. From this point if you keep on the path you will master Tai Chi.