By Vincent Chu
43 Large Frame
"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
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
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
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.