Ti-fang (Lift and Place) is a critical component in Tai Chi Chuan. The video and text below is an interview with Stephen and he and I discuss and give some samples of ti-Fang usage in Form, Push hands, Da Lu and San Shou.
Q: Moving step push hands is in the Yang, Chen, and Wu styles, but not practiced in the Cheng Man Ching branch, have you explored Ti-feng with moving step?
Stephen: I think Dalu is our moving step. Push Hands is fixed feet, that is why you have to do Rollback and Ward Off neutralization. If you could step away no pattern would exist. There is no moving step pattern in the form. It makes it seem like it was ‘made up’ to add material, a fun thing for beginners to see if they knew the choreography before they learned what it was about. Professor goal was to simplify, reduce in number and complexity, Tai Chi training (not just shorten the form). He trimmed lots of fat.
SONG OF HITTING HANDS
“Wardoff, Rollback, Press, and Push must be known
Upper and lower follow one another; the other has difficulty advancing
Let him come and hit with great strength
Draw-in and touch, 4 ounces deflects 1,000 pounds
Attract into emptiness, join and discharge
Adhere, connect, stick, follow, no resistance nor letting go”
Q: T.T. Liang talks about 25 lines of attack, I believe that CMC taught 10 of them from push hands and da lu, however there are more in the two man san shou set. Have you explored these? I think TT is referring to Ti-feng.
Stephen: Again, we are not trying to add more. We are trying to simplify.
“CMC taught 10” lines of attack? Where? Not in any of his writings.
Not in the method he taught Mr. Smith or in NYC or to Ben Lo.
That is sooo missing the point of Professor’s teachings. There is a
single thread that runs through it all. Ti Fang—soft overcoming hard.
Matt, reread that first paragraph in that article. It does not know Ti Fang/Tai Chi.
We only care about a “hollows or projection” from four ounces. We only care about
that point of contact an if a “feather is added” or if a “fly drops off”. Lines, are useless.
Lines mean ‘I am trying to do something to my opponent’. We do not strive to DO
something to them, rather we evoke a response from them. A tiny falling response.
“12. ‘Use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds.’ People do not believe that four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds. It means that you can use four ounces to offset a thousand pounds, after which you apply Push. So [offseting] and pushing are two different things. You are not really using four ounces to push a thousand pounds. We must separate ‘offset’ and ‘push.’ Then you can explain their marvelous functions.” (13T, Lo/Inn, p93) Do you see how Offset and Push are Ti and Fang?
Q: How would you train someone who would want to fight using ti-feng in a full contact fighting event?
Stephen: Have the contest take place in the stands not in the ring. Then when you toss the other
out he hits the chairs, falls down the steps, etc. “Fighting events” are artificial environments
that are designed for speed, strength and endurance testing. Artificial.
Remember the mental exercise I presented to you in the beginning of our visit: watch how
the rules of that environment fall apart, how its facade of “realness” melts away, if one of the
“fighters” has a bladed weapon.
The point is… well the TCClassics said it best:
There are many boxing arts.
Although they use different forms,
for the most part they don’t go beyond
the strong dominating the weak,
and the slow resigning to the swift.
Q: How would you have them shadow box with it?
Stephen: Tai Chi has always been 13 Postures. There are three two man exercises. We learn them.
Q: heavy bag?
Stephen: Four ounces on a heavy bag?? That would be like trying to feel pulse diagnosis by using a heavy bag?!
It’s not about US DOING SOMETHING, it’s about EVOKING SOMETHING FROM THEM.
Q: What drills have you created for fighting or self-defense, ti-feng under pressure? As they say, 10,000 times to ingrain in the body memory to execute as a reflex.
Stephen: All of these questions are of the External. “How do I make this action a (conditioned) reflex based on a specific stimulus so it comes out at the appropriate time.” All good external questions. But, remember my opening question: “What happens to your boxing style if you suddenly have a superior technique”? We concluded that it would change, both tactically (how we box in the moment) and strategically (how we train in the future).
What you see in Tai Chi’s 13 Postures, its three two-man exercises, is a new way of training based on a superior, counter-intuitive technique where the soft really does overcome the hard. It is complete, it needs nothing else.