Fa Jin

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28th, 2013 by Walls-Kaufman

By Dr. David Walls-Kaufman

Today, on Mario Napoli’s very fine Tai Chi Chuan Study Group Facebook page, one of the members, Barry Strugatz, whom I don’t know, posted an interesting Youtube piece from Harvard on the distinctly human mechanics of throwing. And Barry made the analogy of the storing of elastic tension in throwing to Tai Chi, and I’m assuming he means Fa Jin.

But I have to strongly disagree. Fa Jin, or the push, in Tai Chi is not like throwing at all. Throwing necessitates a big “wind up” to generate the elastic tension to throw the object.

You see that in Judo and Aikido, but not in good Tai Chi. And this is one of the reasons why Tai Chi is so completely unique to other arts, aside from the “internal” component. So, I posted this suggestion of difference, and underneath is the link to the Youtube:

Hmmm. Yes, but I would suggest that in Tai Chi the elastic energy you are storing and releasing is in your opponent’s body. That energy in your body is powerful and massive, and so it can be contained and concealed in a small area – and then moved or swiveled around like a canon directed just on your opponent’s center. So – they’re similar, but still miles apart. Tai chi is much more like compressing a balloon against your fingertips to blast it off.


Professor Cheng’s breakdown of the four component parts of a Fa Jin help us understand the difference. He said a Fa Jin needed four things: 1) strong root, 2) strong internal energy, 3) the wave of resistance from the opponent, and 4) aiming your Jin like an arrow straight through the opponent’s center, and slightly upward.

[I may have this wrong! He may have made one of the four points “the right touch”, i.e. don’t be too heavy, so that you are sensitive to what they are doing.]

Without the first two components, that both come from powerful internal energy cultivation, it won’t work. Your powerful sung energy makes you like a wall, or a tree, a massive immovable object completely disproportionate to your physical stature. (So, big people can imitate this advantage over lightly built skinny people; hence, there’s a lot of big “Tai Chi Masters”.)

Your unusual magnet-like connection to the ground, the root, makes the opponent’s attack against you like a balloon compressing itself on a blunt stick. Once you have weathered the storm of their attack, i.e. neutralized their mass and energy, the huge compressed energy of the “balloon” rests squarely lined up on your person. You have the opportunity at this point, to unleash all of the balloon’s tension against itself, as if the balloon was massively compressed on the stylus of your fingertips. Your “push” is the release of that massive tension build up, that only happens if your root is powerful enough that you are immoveable to them.

If you move, or slip, or shift, the tension pops into release. If you have insufficient root, then the tension never builds up to the amounts required to send them flying away, because you have taken advantage of that law in physics that states, “If you control the center of the object, you control the object.”

[Most of the success in push hands and Tai Chi as a martial art is derived from your ability to manipulate the “movement discussion” between you and your opponent because of your internal power. Your internal power is so strong that they cannot reach to, or find, or manipulate you to give them, your center. And likewise your internal power is so strong that they cannot stop you from touching their center, or do so without producing a situation that makes them tense, without using tension, and thus giving you the wave of resistance that you then dilate with the precisely-timed and exquisitely-aimed pulse of your push.]

All of that compression power is built up by you directly on their center. It takes great internal power or external strength (strength works too, as in the example of the fat master who has no internal cultivation, but the physical mass to partly imitate the physics) to direct the pressure and the direction of force precisely where it needs to be directed, or changed slightly, in accordance with any shift your opponent might make in the moments before the Fa Jin.

That precise, subtle steering and control around the opponent’s center is also something that comes from the internal power. The touch, the great sensitivity, to manage the triggering and aiming of the great power comes from long practice in push hands. Feeling people defend, move, attack, shift, protect. The lighter you work, the more you progress. So, Professors Yang and Cheng, and Ben Lo, both said work light, aka with four ounces.

As light as you can. You will always be too heavy!

And “hearing” the subtle energy of their bodymind react to how you are influencing them and trying to force them to use force against you.

To repeat, the best analogy I have so far is that of compressing a balloon against your fingertips so that the elastic tension of the balloon itself blasts it away from you. You actually do so little!—just create the tension and keep it aimed as you want it. The analogy is easy to grasp when your mass is so much greater than a balloon. What seems too fantastic is to think that the analogy stays exactly the same for you when you confront someone that outweighs you by double or so!

But that is what it is!

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A Letter of Appreciation

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28th, 2012 by Walls-Kaufman

Dear David,

I would like to share some of my observations about your Push Hands skill with the readers of your blog, if you don’t mind. This is a small token of my appreciation of your mastery.

So this is addressed to someone who would like to know you better.

I’ve met Dr. David Walls-Kaufman at one of the Push Hands gatherings hosted by sifu Paul Ramos. I immediately noticed David’s distinctive individual style of Pushing Hands, and obviously wanted to have some practice with him. I was lucky enough to have numerous exercises with him at the Tuesday gatherings during almost two months. I also went to one of his Saturday morning open classes and practiced with him a Tai Chi Form. I have learned some very useful thing from David, and would like to thank him for sharing his experience and knowledge.
Here are some of my observations on David’s style and skills.

First, I (I believe, as many others) experienced David’s enormous power of Push. This is not just a physical power but a power of his Chi. It is extremely difficult to keep your balance under such a Push. Almost impossible.

Second, I noticed his very advanced yielding skill. He could meet any Pushes, even very quick and hard ones, with a gallant yielding and absorbing. After that, of course, the attacker will face an unstoppable Push. David’s Yin and Yang work together and harmoniously.

Third, David has a brilliant skill of redirecting the opponents Pushes. It doesn’t matter, from which sides Pushes come – David will somehow redirects them from his center and then goes to the center of the opponent.

Fourth, I always observed David’s sensitivity, full concentration, or mindfulness, if you will. “Your hands are your antennas,” once he said to me. His antennas are extremely sensitive and work very well indeed.

Fourth, he has stressed the importance of standing meditations, by using different elements of a Form. I believe, his strength is partly based on this practice.

Fifth, David pays a great attention to breathing, circulation of Qi and Qigong as a whole. Once he said during a practice: “Tai Chi is Qigong”. So his approach is clearly internally oriented one.

I also noticed and respect his willingness to teach others and practice with less advanced individuals. So it is not a coincidence that all novices love to learn from him. He is indeed very well-respected Master among all levels of Tai Chi practitioners.

Finally, David is a good storyteller, he can tell many fascinating stories about his teacher and other great Masters. These are inspirational stories, and they can describe not only a beauty of Tai Chi, spirits of Push Hands and skills of great teachers, but David’s dedication to this Art. David, despite of his mastery and 25 years of experience, is a devoted student of Tai Chi. His love of Tai Chi, perhaps, is even bigger than his powerful Push. It is nice to see his determination to continue learning Tai Chi. This quality characterized any real Master.

I guess there might be some critics or skeptics of some aspects of David’s Push Hands style. That is quite normal since every Master has his or her own way of doing things. One thing is clear for me: David has developed a powerful technique of Push Hands and his skill deserves recognition and a huge respect.

Alisher Faizullaev, D.Sc., Ph.D.
PS. Here is the link to Alisher Faizullaev’s article titled “Tai Chi Lessons for Negotiators”: http://isd.georgetown.edu/files/Alisher_Tai_Chi.pdf

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On Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5th, 2011 by Walls-Kaufman

Hi David,

I have been practicing t’ai chi for a long time. When I began I gave it a lot of time every day, but in recent years much less time. As I grow older, I am more aware of the need for the benefit of a regular commitment. Also, through the practice with Julian Chu’s group, I have become aware of the reality of root and of chi in a way that was not apparent to me previously. It is clear that I have no root and no reliable experience of what it means to cultivate chi. I believe that you have both. So I appeal to you — can you explain anything? What will help me to develop these two aspects?

I see that you have a blog. I can easily imagine that other people would also be interested in what you have to say so please feel free to post this question, including my first name, if you wish, on the blog.

All the best,


Dear Maureen,

Thanks for the note: Okay, so, yes, Tai Chi takes a regular commitment. I think the best way to think about your Tai Chi commitment and practice is to think of it as your daily ritual of meditation, which medical research tells us is essential for optimum wellbeing. Also, research tells us that physical exercise is also essential—how convenient that with Tai Chi we can kill two birds with one stone! This makes Tai Chi the neatest thing on earth . . .

So, with Tai Chi taking care of the meditation and exercise component of the Holistic Lifestyle—how long should you do it each day to earn better wellbeing? Anything is better than nothing. You know as well as I do that it’s probably longer than you now do it, so get busier.

With this daily commitment, the longer you do it for (your kung fu, i.e. time) you are growing a green plant of energetic internal connection and power that integrates you within yourself physically in a way that nothing else on earth can duplicate, and that connects you to the ground physically also in a way that nothing else can duplicate. Together, these spiritual components are the power of internal martial arts.

You say you can’t feel them—they are growing in you whether you know it or not. Their growing can’t be helped; it’s the Tao. It’s the dividend the universe gives us proportionately for setting aside all else and paying attention so conscientiously that we don’t even move. If you dabble in this practice, then they grow so gradually that it’s hard to notice a difference in yourself week to week, month to month. So, if you want more wellbeing and connectivity, then practice more: Tai chi teaches us that the universe is a perfect Meritocracy on this score. (Actually, on any score, if we look at life through the lens of the Holistic Lifestyle.) You will never cheat yourself if you practice hard—on the other hand there is no free ride if you do not practice, i.e. strip away all the concerns of life down to nothing mentally so that your mind and being are absorbed only with your internal space and energy connecting through your core and your Tan T’ien to the magnificent majesty of everything. It seems meditation is an appreciation of the majesty of what is. It could not be simpler or less adorned.

It is to revere the creation that you are, of all that is—to take it all in at once, and not even move.

So, make Tai Chi shapes your daily meditation, and gradually but steadily your awareness of root and chi will bloom because you are growing more chi. It plays upon itself and grows more substantial. All of this can’t help but pour into your push hands, and you will feel changes and improvements. It has no top end. It has no glass ceiling.

In the beginning, as a beginner (and you will know who you are!), “being there” in that meditative space of chi and relaxation is too fine a point to maintain in the workaday world. Not that you shouldn’t try! But don’t spend years fooling yourself. You need to set aside serious time to be alone with your interiors and the effort and focus of being there. In time, with more chi, it plays naturally upon itself in your interior playground—and just by relaxing your shoulders or thinking of your insides, effortlessly you are authentically “on line” and streaming.

The end of all of this chi cultivation and push hands is that it makes your being a more stable column connecting heaven and earth, standing upright, that turns or absorbs un-troubled the influences of life. The more chi you have, the more genuinely spiritual you become; the more un-troubled you are. It’s all meant to be a wonderful, unique affirmation of the spiritual, and of the unmatched magnificence of the space we live in.

Again, it is so simple. I hope this helps you to practice more.

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