An important element of Chen Taijiquan’s training theory is the need to let go of physical or mental tension (fang song). Only by achieving the correct state can you be composed and stable. By eliminating physical tension, the body’s internal sensations can be better enhanced whilst training. At the same time by reducing mental tension clear, instantaneous, and correct decisions can be taken. Zhang Zong Jun, chief instructor of the Shandong branch of the Chenjiagou Taijiquan School stressed the importance not overlooking this aspect during training: “To be clear, you need to fang song before, during and after your quan. Preparation is important. Many people come to do Taiji in a hurry and, without mental preparation, go straight into form practice. The mind is not given time to quieten and calm now. Practice with a calm mind and the quality of Taijiquan will improve.”
Accepting the need to fang song you must be able to distinguish between the correct state of looseness from simply being collapsed and weak with no strength to speak of. The creation of a state of song requires the cooperation of the emotion, intention, and the body. This is not a passive process. Many people make the mistake of becoming limp and collapsed when what is required is an active and alive type of relaxation. You must mentally lead the process of relaxing the mind and quietening the emotions. Following this process, the body inevitably begins to loosen. One key advantage of song energy over stiff energy is the ability to redirect a larger force - looseness enabling the body to turn and deflect in the face of a strong incoming force.
Achieving this optimum condition follows a long-term cultivation of an acute sensitivity to the sensation of what it means to truly loosen the body. Within Taijiquan’s oral tradition several sayings are really admonitions to give up the use of hard strength. At the same time, they point to the method through which the loosening process can be approached. For example,
• “The muscles go down and the bones go up.”
• “Hang the meat from the bones.”
The underpinning philosophy and methodology of Taijiquan recognises the need for an individual to be continuously aware of the opportunity or potential for either movement or stillness. This is only possible if they can discard all preconceived ideas or plans for how to respond within any given situation. Instead, any response must arise spontaneously based on their sense at that precise moment. Matching philosophy and theory we can take the example of the push hands process where an experienced practitioner is able to manifest the condition of wuji by remaining in this unplanned yet ready state. In contact with an opponent, responses arising only based on the feedback provided by heightened sense awareness – in practice expressing either movement by attacking, or stillness by defending. Either option only possible if the body and mind are in a state of song.
|Zhang Zong Jun "...you need to fang song before, during and after your quan."|