Taiji Qiu (Sphere, Ball)
The Taiji Sphere of Chen style Taijiquan Internal Training
Chen Qingzhou, 19th Generation
Most people who practice Taijiquan know about the Taiji Sphere.
When you reach a certain level in your barehanded practice, it is good to train with the Taiji Sphere. Many people who trains, for which purpose it is useful for and what form its practice takes, is frequently neglected by
those seeking "gongfu." In the investigative spirit of the present, I present my experience and developed skills to all Taijiquan players, in order to "toss a few bricks to entice some jade."
In 1944, when I was ten years old, in the yard of my house was a roughly finished stone (qing shi) sphere with some white veins in it. It was about the same size as a soccer ball, which everyone called the "stone egg."
I thought I could lift it up into my arms, but I couldn't do it. At times, my father would take an interest and approach the stone. He'd take a horse stance, pick the "stone egg" up with both hands, and proceed to roll
it around his abdomen. At times, he would fling it off (with his abdomen) and at the end of his training, the ball remained on the ground. My father said, "this is to play with after you have gotten a grasp of the barehanded postures." Many years later, it occurred to me that the
"stone (qing shi) sphere" must have been the ancient "Taiji Qiu" (Taiji sphere).
Nineteen years later, when I was studying Chen style Taijiquan with Master Chen Zhaopei, I observed a basketball game being played on a basketball court. It reminded me of the teachings of the Taiji sphere. When they caught a pass, the better basketball players really looked as if
they were working out with a Taiji sphere. Just as in the peng (ward off),lu (roll back), chan si jin (silk reeling force) of the posture Jin Gang Dao Dui(Vajra Pounds the Mortar) - first they would rotate toward the rear to neutralize the incoming force of the
pass and then they were able to turn at will with the ball.
In the past, the previous generations of masters placed great emphasis on special power training techniques (xing gong), training with a Taiji sphere of over fifty pounds, hitting three sandbags (da san dai), and training with a stick or ruler (xing gong bang) in order to develop the foundation gongfu of Chen style Taijiquan.
From the Qing dynasty, after the introduction of Western rifles and cannon into China, people became indifferent to traditional martial arts training. The more difficult postures were eliminated from the old Taijiquan training
routine, which then developed into [more of] a health oriented practice. A few of the methods that were of benefit to developing "gongfu" were no longer practiced and basically ceased to be transmitted. At the same time, the set was being changed to express the following sentiment: "Do you want to know the entire purpose of Taijiquan? It lies in enhancing longevity and extending radiant good health into old age."
When I was learning the Taiji sphere, there was no Taiji sphere to practice with. My teacher only explained a few movements, described the movements with his empty hands, and performed the techniques pretending to hold a Taiji sphere. Later, I found an old leather ball, filled it with sand, and practiced revolving it continuously. Luckily,
in 1973, I had a chance to see three steel Taiji spheres in Zhengzhou. I happily purchased one as if it was a precious object. I practiced with it up until the present day, causing the surface of the sphere to turn into
a shiny black color.
Song of the Taiji Sphere
Training in the 18 methods with the Taiji sphere,
the method never strays from circles of silk twining.
Changing in infinite permutations of Yin and Yang energy,
a perfectly round shape is formed internally.
The steel Taiji sphere is 26 cm. in diameter and weights 14 kg. When I first trained with it, I felt it was a little heavy. By training in Taijiquan according to the "Eighteen Methods" - until the [internal] "qi" drives the [external] form, then training in revolving of the Taiji sphere means that the dantian will move the revolving
of the Taiji sphere. Eventually it seems as if there is an invisible sphere inside the abdomen. When pushing hands with another person, the sensations are transmitted to the sphere inside the abdomen which can naturally respond in moving the whole body, thereby responding to circumstances
and reacting accordingly. Some people feel there is something quite strange happening after pushing against my abdomen with their hands. They say there is a rotating sphere inside my abdomen, but they cannot find where it rests and their hands will feel painful upon contact with its reactive force.
The years have passed like flowing water and practicing with the Taiji sphere has accompanied me these twenty-one years. The Taiji sphere draws those who truly love gongfu into practicing with it. In practicing it, I have worn out many pieces of clothing and hurt my hands and feet - really sweating and bleeding. Yet, throughout the years, I persist
in practicing it, without letting up.
One time, five years ago, I was lying on the bed and felt my dantian area involuntarily snap upward several times. I thought this was interesting. This made me try an experiment - putting an object on my dantian and finding if
I could cause it to spring upward [of my abdomen]. After practicing it many times, I can now send a fifty gram piece up into the air over twenty centimeters.
From January to April l999, Jin Tai-Yang (an American sent by an international martial arts magazine), Jin Jian-pu from Korea, and a writer from another publication from Hong Kong all came to investigate and research the special gongfu training of Chen style Taiji and the Taiji
sphere. When I gave a demonstration of the Taiji sphere, they took some photographs and let me give a talk about my personal experience. I said: "Thirty years ago, I really didn't understand the Taiji sphere. I didn't really press my teacher to teach it to me nor ask him a lot of
questions about it. The little which I can say about it today is based on what I learned from my teacher and then practiced and then learned on my own. Now, in light of the effort to uncover and restore a cultural heritage, I "throw a brick to entice some jade," respectfully inviting
Taijiquan enthusiasts from whereever to put forward their views. By this, we can mutually encourage each other's practice." [July, 1994.
The Journal of the Chen Style Taijiquan Research Association, Vol. 3, No.
1, pp. 10-11. Translated by Greg Bissell.]
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