Five Key Words
First Word: QUIETNESS (of Mind)
Unless the mind is quiet, it cannot give it’s full attention. The hands, which move to the front, back, left and right, would have no control; so the mind must be quiet. In the very beginning you cannot direct your movement, therefore let your mind be quiet and learn to feel by following the bending and stretching without a break, without resistance, and without preconceptions about bending and stretching.
He has power, I have power also. My power leads, he has no power. I have no power either, yet my Will leads.
Pay complete attention all the time, for where he touches you, there your mind must go. You must neither run away from his force nor go against it. By practicing this for six months or a year, you will be able to apply it your movement. All this concerns the Will, not strength. Practice this long enough and you will control others, they will not control you.
Second Word: FLEXIBILITY (of the Body)
If the body is clumsy, advancing and retreating cannot be freely directed; so the body must be flexible. Movement must not be sluggish. By the time his power touches your skin, your Will is already penetrated his bones. The movement of your two hands is coordinated by one Energy (chi).
If your weight is on the left side, empty it and the right side will have already moved out. If your weight is on the right side, empty it and the left side will have already moved out.
Energy (chi) moves like a wheel; the whole body must be coordinated. If any movement of the body is not coordinated, the body will be unstable and movement will not be affected. Most defects (errors) originate in the waist and legs.
Use the mind to move the body. If you follow others (your opponents), not yourself, then the body will follow the mind. Though you direct your own movement, still follow the others person’s movement. Preconceived movement will make you clumsy, following other’s movement will make you flexible. In following the other person your hand will be able to measure, to weigh the strength of his movement without the slightest efforts; you will be able to measure the length of his attack without so much as the fraction of a hair’s breadth in error.
Advancing and retreating, your every move will be perfect. Then the longer you practice, the more you will refine your skill.
Third Word: GATHERING (of the Energy- Chi)
If Energy is not integrated, it has no substance and the body will tend to be unstable. Therefore you must gather your Energy and cause it to penetrate your spine. Uninterruptedly your breathing must be matched with your movement throughout the whole body.
Inhaling is closing and storing; exhaling is opening and releasing. Upon inhaling, you will naturally be able to sink your Energy down and thus throw out your opponent. This means using your Will to move the Energy, not using the power to move the Energy.
Fourth Word: INTEGRITY (of Strength)
Through practice, make your Strength be as one family. You must be able to differentiate the negative from the positive. To put forth Strength, you must base it upon your root-source (the focal point or center of gravity). Strength comes from the foot’s root (the heel), is given direction at the waist, passes through the spine, and takes form at the fingers.
You must also lift your whole Spirit. At the precise moment when your opponent’s Strength is almost ready to emerge, your Strength has already joined his (your timing is perfect) neither too early or too late, like a spark igniting paper, or water gushing out from a spring. As you advance and retreat smoothy, there should not be the slightest disturbance.
Seek the straight through the curve. Store, then release, thus your hands will move effectively. This is what is meant by, “Attack the opponent with borrowed power; direct a thousand pounds with the force of four ounces.”
Fifth Word: Unity (of Strength)
The four previous points comprise what is caled the “Unity of Shen.” With the unity of Shen (Spirit) the Energies will be invigorated and full of vigor. Refined energy nourishes the Spirit. When the Energy is invigorated, the Spirit is calm and fully attentive. Opening and closing, therefore, are properly ordered, the negative and positive are clearly distinguished.
When the left side is empty (negative), the right side is solid (positive); when the right side is empty, the left side is solid. Emptiness does not mean completely without Strength, your Energy must be integrated and full of vigor. Solidity does not mean completely occupied, the Spirit is calm and fully attentive.
Most importantly: changes of movement come from within the chest and from the waist, not from the outside.
Power is borrowed from your opponent. Energy is issued from the spine. How can energy be issued from the spine? The Energy sinks down, passing through your arms and shoulders, penetrating your spine, and gathering at the waist. This is the descending of Energy, which means closing. From the waist, the energy passes through the spine, spreading to the arms and reaching the fingers. This is the ascending of Energy, which means opening. To close is to retreat; to open is to release. To know opening and closing is to know Yin and Yang. When you reach this level, a single day’s practice ensures progress in your skill. Gradually you will be able to follow the desires of your mind; then nothing will go against your will.
It is not known who started to teach Tai Chi Chuan. All the refined and profound points are mentioned in the writings of Wang Zongyue. Later the Chen family of Chenjiagou began to practice Tai Chi Chuan. In each generation there were only a few who could master the art. Mr. Yang, of my home town, loved the art and went there [to Chenjiagou] to learn. Yang spent more than ten years studying Tai Chi Chuan, and finally mastered the art. He came back to our town to teach those who loved Wushu.
My uncle, Wu Xixiang, learned Tai Chi and loved it very much, but he did not really learn that much from Yang, possibly because Yang was not willing to teach all he knew.
It became known that there was one Chen Qingping at Chaobaozhong (also known as Huikingful), Henan, who was a master of Tai Chi Chuan. Later, when my uncle went on a business to Henan, he made a side trip in order to visit Chen Qingping. He stayed, studying with Chen Qingping for little over a month, and in that time he was able to grasp the essence of Tai Chi Chuan and almost mastered the art.
In 1853, when I was in my early twenties, I began to study Tai Chi Chuan with my uncle [Wu Xixiang]. He was a good teacher, but I was not a bright student. More than twenty years have passed since then and I understand so little. I am sure there is much more to learn. Just to be sure I do not forget what I have learned, I have written what I can understand, namely: Five Key Words.