I regularly receive links to articles and You Tube videos from Damo Mitchell’s Lotus Nei Gong School in the UK and recently received one to a video labeled “Yang Family Taijiquan.”
I clicked on it immediately, as in “Oh, my, goodness, here’s Damo doing the same type of taiji I do,” and I liked it so much that I’ve shown it to everyone I can get to watch it, whether on my cellphone or on a computer—and now I’m putting the link up here.
The video is a sampler of Damo doing a variety of Yang-style taiji practices in the woods in Sweden. He does a bit of “song” practice, where his arms look more liquid than solid, followed by movements from the form. When he does Snake Creeps Down, you see the snake—and I practically weep at how beautifully he performs a movement I can only sort of do. Then there’s “Yang Style Fa Li,” a twitchy sort of upper body practice which I’ve never before encountered, followed by segments of a sword form where Damo is wielding the longest sword I’ve ever seen.
In the course of an online search for the meanings of “song” and “fa li,” I found two excellent articles which I’d like to share as well.
According to Robert Chuckrow, “song,” pronounced “sung,” is a Chinese word that “refers to releasing all contractive muscular tension while maintain optimal structural alignment.” Chuckrow’s article “Taiji and Qigong,” http://ymaa.com/articles/taichi-and-qigong, makes a strong case for practicing qigong as an adjunct to taiji, with more quickly learning to reach a deeper state of song being one.
“Fa li” is explained in “The Concept of Qi, Jing, Li, and Gong-Li,” by Tu-Ky Lam, http://tukylam.freeoda.com/qi_concept.html. The word “fa” has to do with releasing or issuing energy; “li” refers to the inborn strength we all have, or to partial force. Li practice involves only the hands and arms, as you’ll see in the Damo video.
However, I especially appreciated Lam’s discussion of what “qi” is—and whether feeling something to which you apply that label matters to your taiji training. Lam concludes that it doesn’t matter—but he points out that just because you may not feel anything doesn’t mean there’s nothing there.