Joshim from the UK asks:
“Are there any videos on the hidden skills of Cheng Man-Ch’ing, or on Tai Chi hidden skills in general?”
Joshim, Cheng Man-Ch’ing was known for saying, “There are no secrets,” and he meant it quite sincerely. There are no hidden skills. Just ideas that aren’t easily accepted as being able to lead you to the skills they do with dedicated practice. So the skills themselves are not common, even though the ideas, the concepts, which lead to high-level skill, are readily available.
I have to tell you that if you study your Tai Chi to learn to relax, you will have developed a rare skill which will lead to your being able to apply Tai Chi to self-defense and a develop a high level of push hands skill. You will get so much more out of your Tai Chi daily practice, and also you will be able to make your other arts more efficient. But if you don’t learn to relax, understanding how Tai Chi can be used martially won’t help much. It will be impossible to use it effectively in a real situation if one has not truly relaxed.
There really are no secrets, but no one believes that just by relaxing, amazing things can happen, so I guess it is a “hidden in plain sight” secret. Another hidden in plain sight secret is: invest in loss. People think it means to just go where you partner wants you to, and therefore lose all the time. It is not that to me. To me it means give up your strength, to invest in giving up your muscles, but not to “lose”, except to see how you can “win” the next time. These are not being kept as secrets, but they are not well accepted truths of Professor Cheng’s Tai Chi. So the useful truth of these ideas might be considered to be secrets.
Another teacher of mine, Zhang Lu-Ping, explained to me just before a seminar what he was about to teach and the techniques he was planning to show. I thought it was not a good idea to give out so many good techniques because it was possible that the wrong person could be in the group, someone who might abuse the knowledge. Zhang disagreed, and said, it is like casting pearls before swine, a person with ill intent might hear it and see it, but will not value it. So he told me not to worry. In fact, almost everyone in attendance was too enamored of their muscles or maybe just afraid of what might happen if they did not use them, to accept what was being taught.
And so I say to you, these are the secrets. They are out in the open secrets. Open your heart and mind to the idea of relax and the truth of invest in loss. But do not give up the idea of winning. That is not investing in loss, that is losing. There is another way, and while it is not an easy one, in my humble opinion it is a better one.
In T’ai Chi,