This interview is quite an amazing read. In several parts, Yao Chengguang coments on yiquan and taijiquan. In one section, Yao says:

Yiquan develops hunyuanli via zhanzhuang (standing post) practice, while Taijiquan seeks hunyuanli via the form practice.

I think that is probably true for most serious students of taijiquan who are mainly absorbed with form including myself at one time or another. Yet my most intensive and greatest experience with learning taijiquan basically involved doing zhan zhuang all day long (which I couldn’t “stand” at the time). Then, maybe it’s just me but if you go through a move slowly, it feels just like the shi li the yiquan descriptions give (on a good day if I’m feeling “on”). In fact it can’t just be me being naive about it because that seems to be exactly what Yao says in the preceding paragraph:

In fact however, isn’t the Taijiquan principle of “movement like reeling silk” in doing their form also the key idea of Yiquan’s shili practice? But their attempts to seek hunyuanli (omnidimensional power) from their large scope of movement is not nearly as effective as Yiquan’s use of short concentrated movement. The long set made up of many large-scope movements makes it hard for the practitioner to sense and develop hunyuanli. Whereas from the very small movements and concentrated mental workof Yiquan’s zhanzhuang practice, the practitioner quickly comes to understand real martial arts power.

The only error he really cites is that the movements are too large in scope. I’d have to totally agree despite being the typical enthusiast with many years of struggle to learn and get some sense of what he’s saying here. Large movements in any style are mainly for beginners. Every expert has a “tight game” with small movements that have seemingly amplified effects. The concentrated power he mentions several times probably refers mainly to striking yet it seems to be the exact same thing in throws. Less so on the ground but I think it still applies in that case, too. As an aside I wonder if I’m the only person who is trying to do a sort of zhan zhuang for groundwork.

I think “internal” is so difficult because either one of: 1) martial arts and 2) qigong is so hard in and of itself. To have some optimal combination of the two seems exponentially more difficult. Still, the above seems like the main “formula” to the combination and various drills and sparring seem like the formula to #1, which to me necessarily come before you can have the combination. Have to have a and b before (a + b)n. If I could start over and learn like so, I’d learn some applications in parallel with zhan zhuang, then some single forms to practice those and link it to the development of hunyuanli. Probably pi quan and san ti shi for, say, 3 years, really makes incredible sense. That is probably what my kids will learn from me for the next 3 years… I’ll check back to this post later… Any kind of linked form would be way off in the future, if ever, absolutely not at the beginning. In hindsight that seems incredibly wrong. That seems like a “Western” desire for quick progress and also a good example of that old story where the student says he’ll work extra hard and the master says that will result in him taking even longer to gain mastery. My kids would never have patience for a long form. They do have patience for some zhan zhuang and learning one thing at a time (albeit with variations on that one thing). Paradoxically adults (who don’t need Zen beginner’s mind but really Zen child-beginner’s mind) want to muddle through a long form that is totally useless and feel a stupid glee they did it, but don’t have patience for zhan zhuang and learning one thing at a time. Consequently they (me) thought they learned something but learned absolutely nothing. Some famous taijiquan teachers have said that’s how they were taught. They learned one move at a time before ever being allowed to move to another. I’ve read all of this before countless times but ignored it.

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