One complaint about the Solo Form is that it is too long and too difficult to
remember, that it is not the right routine for today's busy and stressful
society. And so, practitioners have come up with shorter and easier versions of
the form. These new versions, while easier to learn and more accessible to the
public, have lost many of the original meanings.
The movements of the Solo Form created by Zheng San Feng is a combination of
old and new, simple and complex, easy and difficult, movements. One can see this
in a movement that involves stretching and relaxing, up and down, fast and slow,
repetition and new, which follow the principle of Yin and Yang. However,
movements do not just simply repeat themselves. The movements are repeated but
there are many new and different movements in between so that they act as a
service breaker and provide a sense of spiral repetition. This spiral imply of
moving ahead. For example, take the movement of "Brush Knee and Twist Step." It
appears first in the first section of the Solo Form. It is done five times: (1)
After "White Crane Spreads its Wing; (2) after the first "Play the Lute", it is
done three times; (3) after the second "Play the Lute," it is done one time. In
the second section, "Brush Knee and Twisted Step" is done four more times: (1)
after "Turn Around and Kick;" it is done two times; (2) after the two "White
Crane Spreads its Wing," it is also done two times. From this sequence of
repetitions, we see that the step of repetition reviewed the old movement of
"Brush Knee and Twisted Step" as well as connected into other movements. This
process of repetition and new movements following the same movement throughout
the Solo Form alert practitioners that attention and concentration must be
observed all the time.
"Ward Off," "Roll Back," "Press," and "Push" are the four directions while
"Split," "Pull Down," "Elbow Strike" and "Shoulder Strike" are the four corners
of the hand techniques. The Solo Form highlights the most essential movements
first by beginning with the four directions as in "Grasp the Bird's Tail" and
repeating this sequence several times in the second and third sections. It is
common knowledge among practitioners that if there is no "Grasp the Bird's Tail"
in the Solo Form, it is not Tai Chi Chuan.
Although there are over hundreds of movements, there are actually only 37
sets of completely different movements. The Solo Form repeats some of these 37
movements several times. The number of repetitions is based on the importance of
the movements. For example, "Grasp the Bird's Tail" appears seven times, "Step
Forward and Punch" and "Repulse Monkey" appear six times. "Brush Knee and
Twisted Step" appears nine times. "Single Whip" appears ten times. These
movements have a lot of functional value. They are choreographed to repeat many
times in the Solo Form so that the practitioner can understand them thoroughly.
Tai Chi Chaun is also known as Cheung Chuan or Long Form. It is symbolized as
the ocean waves. A process of infinite phenomenon. One can see the Solo Form as
being to an ocean wave in three ways. (1) Each single movement flows into the
next movement like one tide flowing into the next. (2) A group of movements
together to form a short segment that has repetitions, new, complex, simple,
difficult and easy movements. This is like several tides connecting together so
that one comes after another. (3) The Solo Form is divided into three sections.
The second section is longer and more complex than the first section and the
third section is much more complex than the second section. This is like one
wave is bigger and higher than the last one. In the first section, there is
simplicity but important movements are highlighted. In the second section, the
movements utilize the body more, from the palm strikes to the feet kicking. In
the third section, in addition to more movements than the second section, the
movements incorporate many complicated body maneuvers. The first section is like
a low tide, the second section is higher and the third section is highest.
The three sections composing the Solo Form are like a good novel. There is an
introduction, a climax and conclusion. Each section has its important movements-
"Brush Knee and Twisted Step" and "Grasp the Bird's Tail" in the first section;
the kicking in the second section; and the difficult movements in the third
section. In a novel, a good conclusion is very important. It generally
summarizes what the author wanted to present. We see the movements of "Step
Forward to Form The Seven Star," "Retreat to Ride the Tiger," "Turn Around
Lotus' Kick," and "Pull Bow to Shoot the Tiger," which are a series of difficult
movements, and then concluded with the familiar movements of "Step Forward and
Punch," "Seal Tightly," and "Cross Hands." This is the same sequence of
movements at the end of each section and completes the whole circle with
"Closing Tai Chi Chuan."
Tai Chi Chuan is the physical interpretation of the philosophy of Tai Chi. We
see the composition and structure of Tai Chi Chuan's Solo Form aims to achieve
the following objectives: 1. The Solo Form points out the philosophy of Tai Chi
Chuan by demonstrating the movements according to the following: a. The
beginning and ending movements are the same. The Solo Form is a complete circle.
b. It is not always the same movement that follows a repetition and all the
movements do not move in one direction. In one set, the movements go backward
and forward three times. it provides a sense of spiral motion and moving ahead.
c. All the wave motions described above symbolize continuity. d. There are
repetitions and new, fast and slow, easy and difficult movements. This is the
interpretation of Yin and Yang. 2. The Solo Form points out the essence of the
art of Tai Chi Chuan by demonstrating the movements according to the following:
a. Begin with the movement "Grasp the Bird's Tail" to highlight the importance
of Ward off, Roll back, Press and Push. b. Repeat the important movements
several times in one practice so that a practitioner will better understand and
become familiar with these movements and comprehend their usages. c. All the
movements following the repetitions are not the same so that a practitioner will
pay close attention to practice. d. The routine is not done strictly in one
direction that is common among External Styles, rather it goes back and forth
three times. This provides a sense of "folding" for leverage and flexibility.
Thus, we can see why it is so difficult to learn the Solo Form. It is
designed to answer the question- What is it? How do we practice it? It exists
for the practitioner to explore, to experience and to adapt. Throughout history,
many practitioners have attempted to improve it but the essential framework has
remained the same.
Article By Vincent Chu