The Inner Meaning of Large Frame

By Vincent Chu

43 Large Frame Forms
"My postures in the photographs taken when I was older were better than those when I was younger." A quotation attributed to Yang Cheng Fu by Wu Ta Yeh.

After four generations, Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan is the most popular Tai Chi Chuan Style among practitioners today. There are naturally many variations of the style as a result of different teachers and approaches in practice.

But the Tai Chi Chuan Classics says that the essence of Tai Chi Chuan is not in the physical movement but in the way the individual practitioners utilize the mind and guide chi circulation.

So it is that even among the Yang Family Members, there were differences in the approach. The founder Yang Lo Sim, for instance, focused his teaching on the Old Frame. Yang Ban Hou focused on the Small Frame, Yang Chieh Hou focused on the Medium, Yang Sao Hou focused his teaching on the Small Frame, Yang Cheng Fu focused his teaching on the Large Frame and Yeung Sau Chung focused his teaching on the Medium Frame. In four generations, there were six people teaching four variations of the Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.

However, inner door students say that a beginner generally learned the Large Frame first. Therefore, the Large Frame is known as "Enter the Door Frame" to Yang Style practitioners. It is so called also because it is physically more demanding. It involves twisting the waist, hands and legs, thus rejuvenating the body and making it more limber.

From this twisting and spiraling movement, every part of the body from the tendons in the small finger to the ligaments and tendons in the hip is stretched. It is a whole body exercise. It fine-tunes a person to a better condition and transforms an ordinary person into a warrior.

We can see why a gentle and kind man as Yang Cheng Fu liked to teach this Large Frame to people. It was necessary at the time to improve the health and well being of the Chinese people.

When Yang Cheng Fu talked about Solo Form practice, he suggested that one should first be open and stretched to improve one's health and then later to practice the compact movements for self defense.

For those practicing the Yang Style Large Frame who did not receive the correction transmission, the following information may be interesting. The instruction about the Large Frame was hidden in the classic for years. Instructors and practitioners had been referring to it yet nobody did it. Here are the statements from the classic:
* suspend the head from above and sink the chi to the dan tien
* loosen the shoulders and sink the elbows
* hollow the chest and raise the back
* open the hip and bend the knees

Because of the twisting and stretching of the tendons and ligaments in the Large Frame, the body will become more loose, relaxed and limber. Ultimately, one can execute the movements quicker. As it is often said, one centimeter of tendon and ligament is better than one inch of muscle.

When a martial artist executes a powerful strike, the power does not come from the muscles but from the tendons and ligaments.

A body builder looks strong physically with all the bulky muscles. Actually he has a hard time trying to move in a combat situation. A flamingo is thin and stands on one leg seemingly forever, but on closer examination, the legs have no muscles at all but tendons and ligaments.

To encourage me in my practice, my father Gin Soon Chu told me that once, after a long practice, he complained about his painful knees to his teacher Yang(Yeung) Sau Chung. The latter replied that my father had young tendons and ligaments on the knees. Rolling up his pants, Yeung Sau Chung showed his bare right knee, my father saw nothing but second later, he noticed the tendons and ligaments supporting the kneecap looked like the surface roots from a ten thousand year old oak tree. This was the result of the Large Frame stretching the tendons and ligaments among the joints in the body making the practitioner better prepared to execute the movement and combat.

The high physical demand from the Large Frame, which stretches the tendons and ligaments as well as all the muscle groups, creates and improves the Spring Energy. From this spring energy comes the power used in Tai Chi Chuan called Warding Off Energy. In other words, the Warding Off Energy comes from the Spring Energy and Spring Energy is created from body stretching.

How do you stretch the body? According to the Tai Chi Chuan Classic:
1. Suspend the head from above and sink the chi to the dan tien. This implies that one should send the energy to lift the head and neck upward. The Chi sinks to the dan tien and gives the practitioner better balance. These two different forces go in opposite directions so that the contrapuntal movement gives a sense of stretching the body.
2. Loosen the shoulders and sink the elbow. By doing this, there is a connection and unity between the shoulders and the elbows. By sinking the elbows and the wrists bent, one is stretching the whole arm all the way to the shoulders from the wrists. Therefore, by loosening the shoulders, sinking the elbow and bending the wrists, one is stretching the arms.
3. Hollow the chest and raise the back. To hollow does not mean to extend the chest outward or sink inward. It is just to find its natural center so that it is supporting the stretching of the muscles at the back. There is a structural connection between the chest, sternum, clavicle, and the scapula and the muscles that wrap and link them.
4. Loosen the hips and bend the knees. Most of the time, when one practices Tai chi Chuan, one is standing on either the left or right foot. This posture has the effect of stretching the legs through the motion of rotating the hip as an initial step.

These four simple tenets from the Tai Chi Chuan Classics that I have interpreted suggest that all parts of the body stretch, and from this stretching, Spring Energy develops and matures into Tai Chi Chuan's Warding Off Energy. It is the development of Warding Off Energy coming from the Spring Energy coming in turn from total body stretching that gave Yang Cheng Fu so much power.

When one holds a rubber band with two hands from both ends, it will stretch to its maximum length and then break apart. When one lets it go before it breaks, it will return to its normal size. This is the nature of rubber. The same thing is true with muscle. When you apply force, the muscle will stretch to a certain degree and then there will be a tear with further stretching. When one releases the muscle before it tears, it will return to normal. This is the natural characteristic of muscle function. Most of the conventional sports and exercises work to improve this natural elasticity.

Muscle contraction and extension can serve the following biological functions:
1. It exercises the muscles' own nature of contraction and extension and at the same time, it fine-tunes the function of capillarity.
2. It improves the cells' life cycle regeneration.
3. It improves the interaction among various organs.
4. It improves the oxygen intake and utilization by various organs. Internally, Tai Chi Chuan lets the mind guide the chi and the chi circulates so that the body moves according to chi circulation. When the chi controls the turning and twisting of the physical body movement, the contraction and extension of the muscles improves. This improves the muscles function. At the same time blood is circulated better and more efficiently, ultimately healing diseases relating to poor blood circulation.

Today, many people practice Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Cheng Fu taught many people in his lifetime. There are people who claim that they studied with him. However, Yeung Sau Chung told my father that Yang Cheng Fu had only five disciples who obtained the complete transmission. Yeung Sau Chung said that he began assisting his father when he was 14 years old, that many people who claimed to have learned from his father actually learned from him.

Many Yang Style practitioners today are following the instruction of these teachers who studied, not with Yang Cheng Fu but with Yeung Sau Chung when he was a teenager. That is why many practitioners have no understanding of the inner meaning of Large frame or even heard of it.

Yang Cheng Fu said that his postures were better in the photographs taken when he was older than in those photographs taken when he was younger. Mr. Wu Ta Yeh has quotes this statement often in his articles.

Why were the postures of the older Yang Cheng Fu better than the younger Yang Cheng Fu? Now you know.

Copyright © V. Chu. All rights reserved.