Parting The Wild Horses Mane – Part One

A number of weeks ago during Saturday class it transpired that the lead into Part The Wild Horses Mane may have changed. This happens occasionally, things do change. The form has been tweaked a number of times since I started learning it and the changes have always made sense and been for the better ( adding a second Golden Cockerel or changing the stepping on Swing Fist ) but this “new change” made no sense. It might be because it wasn’t explained in person and we were kind of guessing what was meant. Fundamentally the change had come about because Dan had corrected somebody when they were transitioning from Single Whip into the Seven Stars before Part The Wild Horses Mane. He’d said there wasn’t enough torque in the movement and demonstrated the move. Now I know for a fact the square form doesn’t have a whole lot of torque but that really doesn’t matter too much. The round form *can* have a lot of torque depending upon how it’s performed but in this particular instance what was lacking were the feet. Nobody had seen how the feet moved… and that’s bad.

Assuming the feet didn’t move meant that Seven Stars changed direction by about 45˚ and so did Part The Wild Horses Mane. That’s not too much of a problem. The next Seven Stars and Part The Wild Horses Mane kept the same direction as the first, again not a problem but as soon as the step came everything went wrong. I was taught to turn my foot out 90˚ but I can’t do it from the new angle ( the not moving my feet angle ), it just didn’t work. Assuming that the feet did move ( so the left foot comes in as the right hand pulls down into Seven Stars ) then everything was ok and worked as it had done previously. I was fine with this…

…and then I started to wonder. Bad things happen when I start to wonder. I get confused. I question. I seek answers. In the first instance I started with YouTube, always a good starting place. Starting with Wu Ying Hwa Wu taichi long form ( ), then George Lieu ( Dan’s tai chi elder brother ) ( ), the to some random internet chap who seemed to know what he was doing ( ), and another ( ) and another ( ).

I noticed a couple of things, firstly we’ve changed Part Wild Horses Mane to look at the palm-up hand ( more on that another time ) and the torque. The torque that sent me off down this rabbit hole simply didn’t exist in any of these videos. Footwork was similar, hands were similar, stepping was similar, I mean it’s reasonably easy to see the root. Yes there are differences and things have probably been lost in the myriad of forms but it’s easy to see the root.

What started out as a “small”, “possible” change led to an awful lot of research and I still need to talk my ideas through with my peers. I still don’t know if I’m doing it “right” though…

Something Special

So following a rather interesting mail conversation with Somerset County Council it would transpire that they actually teach Tai Chi classes themselves and have proper teachers on-staff. That is amazing. Most people are aware that the chi kung and form sides of Tai Chi have amazing effects when it comes to things like balance and falls prevention, Tai Chi helps with Type 2 Diabetes and it great for relaxing a loosening the body.
I myself had the misfortune to be involved in a car crash back in March 2013 when somebody who wasn’t paying attention crossed the dividing lines had hit me. I received massive bruising all across my chest and neck. The very nice ambulance man and the doctor both said I wasn’t actually broken but I was going to get very stiff and tight for a few weeks, maybe a month or two. My solution to that was to get out in the garden and do form. Lots of Form. I did hand form as much as I could everyday and the weapon forms if I got a chance. The weapon forms were a bit harder because simply holding the weight of the weapon was a bit of a challenge. Now, although the bruising stayed for a while I didn’t stiffen up at all. Not one little bit. Simply doing Form ensured that my muscles stayed loose and flexible and any tightening was effectively averted. I think this is amazing. I wish I could spread the word about Form in a manner that would make people fully appreciate the benefits of the Form. It’s a hard job.

So props to Somerset Council. They appreciate the benefits of helping people stay out of hospital, of keeping well and staying healthy. It’s easy to measure the traffic through a hospital and say that in a given timeframe a number of people were treated in which a certain percentage were fully discharged.
It is significantly harder to say that a number of people were kept out of hospital because they didn’t fall and didn’t injure themselves.

In an effort to help them I’m advertising the fact that they’re bringing Jesse Tsao over to the UK. Jesse is, I believe, a Yang Stylist and he can be found on YouTube. He certain seems know know his stuff and if you’re a Yang Stylist it’s almost certainly worth your time attending one of the sessions if you can make it. I really hope Somerset Council do well out of this because I’d really like their venture to succeed and for other councils to take note. I think it could be the start of something special.

Jesse Tsao


Conditioning is massively overlooked in Tai Chi Chuan. Other martial arts have conditioning wether it be running or hitting wooden boards or doing walking on hands while feet are carried or some other such activity. For some reason people seem to think that simply doing form is enough. For some reason people seem to think that doing form will be enough to make them effective in use. Form is great for strengthening the legs, especially the deeper stances and the arms and back can be strengthened by the weapon forms. This only works to a certain point though. In the Wudang style the Nei Gung exercises strengthen the body significantly more than the form and these exercises are the core of the style. There are many conditioning exercises that improve strength and flexibility that are not documented in the syllabus. There are exercises that are documented such as punching with weights and handstands and things like that. These aren’t actually Tai Chi exercises as such but they are necessary to develop and strong and healthy body, especially when it comes to fighting. After all, let’s not forget that the “Chuan” in Tai Chi Chuan means “boxing” or “fist” or some other connotation towards hitting people. If the purpose of class is to train the technique and application of the form in hurting other people then the flip side of this training is that we’re also going to have to accept the fact we’re going to get hit.

Training a martial art is not easy and conditioning is massive overlooked precisely because it is difficult. It would be nice to think that simply training form will be enough to get us out of any difficulty that arises.

Sadly this is not the case.

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In Tai Chi Chuan the dao represents the tiger. It is a ferocious weapon used to hack and slash at the opponent. It is fast and agile, it spins and bites. It appears and disappears, twists and turns. It snarls and growls and attacks constantly. The form contains many deep, long stances that really build out the legs and the sweeping, hacking motions strengthen the waist and the arms. It is possibly the most energetic and vigorous of all the forms in the Wudang style.

The dao is, possibly, the most practical of all the weapon forms in the Wudang style. It is actually really easy to substitute the dao with an umbrella or a walking stick. All the techniques still work in exactly the same way except for the fact that they bludgeon rather than cut.

The spear techniques require long weapons ( and we tend not to carry long things around with us ) and the jian techniques are geared towards piercing cuts or techniques that draw blood through slicing actions ( there aren’t too many chopping techniques ). The dao however is a very hacky-slashy weapon that translates very well to being used with umbrellas or walking sticks.

The dao is often the first weapon learnt and in terms of practicality and versatility it really can’t be matched.

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Ray Skin

Swords are beautiful. A well made jian though is a thing of beauty. From the bound ray-skin handle to the layers of folded steel in the blade a well made jian is an amazing piece of workmanship. These things are not cheap. A good blade can cost a lot. Cheaper, practical blades are available but a good weapon is not cheap. The martial artists that invest in these blades, from the ones I’ve met anyway, tend to be the people who want to know how to use the weapons properly, they want to know the techniques used with that weapon and want to be the best they can be. Picking up and holding a sword actually carries an immense amount of responsibility. There needs to be a recognition that by holding a sword and learning how to use it properly we’re actually learning how to kill people. The hand-form contains lethal techniques but these are less obvious and are only taught to the inside students. Weapons are different it should be obvious right from the start that every single technique is designed to kill. Anybody can come to class and learn the weapon forms but this, to my mind, needs to be tempered with emphasising the responsibility of wielding a blade and the ultimate outcome of any fight. Only by learning the form and understanding the nature of what we’re learning can we fully appreciate what a truly dangerous piece of metal we’re playing with. All true martial artists have immense respect for the blade and the weapon they train with is very much a reflection of themselves. A good sword though is an absolute work of art and truly beautiful to behold. A beautiful weapon matched with the graceful and flowing movements of the form though is the reason why many people are entranced by Tai Chi.

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In Tai Chi Chuan the jian represents the dragon. It is graceful and flowing, subtle and clever, high and low, fast and slow. It sweeps and soars, climbs and dives, withdraws and pounces.

The sword and body move as one. They sweep and flow with a grace and beauty that is unmatched even in the hand-form. The sword techniques are subtle and clever and require an understanding of the weapon to a great degree. There is a saying that goes along the lines of 100 day for spear, 1000 days for sabre, 10,000 days for sword, while that’s not meant to be taken literally it does given an idea of the amount of effort necessary to develop a working relationship with the blade.

The sword is possibly the most enjoyable weapon contained within the Wudang syllabus but it does take a lot of effort to learn and a lot of work to understand.

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