Five Key Words by Li YiYu

五字訣 – 李亦畬
Translated by Chao-Sun Pang

一曰心靜 – 心不靜則不專,一舉手前後左右全無定向,故要心靜。起初舉動未能由己,要息心體認,隨人所動,隨屈就伸,不丟不頂,勿自伸縮。彼有力我亦有力,我力在先;彼無力我亦無力,我意仍在先。要刻刻留心,挨何處心要用在何處,須向不丟不頂中討消息。從此做去,一年半載便能施於身。此全是用意,不是用勁,久之則人為我制,我不為人制矣。

1. Heart – Calm: If the heart is not calm one cannot focus. Once at ready, there is no preferred direction, neither front nor back, neither left nor right. Therefore, the heart must be calm to stay centered. In the beginning, each movement is difficult to control, and it is necessary to study conscientiously. Move by following others. When restrained, seek to extend (energy), not retreating and not forcing. Do not extend or contract on your own. If others have force, I also have force, and my force is ahead. If others have no force, I also have no force, but my intention is still ahead. Pay attention always. Bring attention to where one has been touched. Seek to understand the ways of not retreating and not forcing.  If one follows this guideline, within six months to a year it is possible to embody it. It is about using intention, not using Jin. With prolonged practice, one can control others and not be controlled by them.

二曰身靈 – 身滯則進退不能自如,故要身靈。舉手不可有呆像,彼之力方礙我皮毛,我之意已入彼骨裡。兩手支撐,一氣貫穿。左重則左虛,而右已去;右重則右虛,而左已去。氣如車輪,周身俱要相隨,有不相隨處,身便散亂,便不得力,其病於腰腿求之。先以心使身,從人不從己。後身能從心,由己仍是從人。由己則滯,從人則活。能從人手上便有分寸。枰彼勁之大小,分厘不錯;權彼來之長短,毫髮無差。前進後退,處處恰合,工彌久而技彌精矣。

2. Body – Intuitive (Agile): Being clumsy, it is difficult to advance or retreat. Therefore, one must have agility. Use of the arm must be skillful. When others touch my hair and skin, my intention is already inside their bone. The two arms mutually support each other so that they can penetrate at the same time. If the left is heavy, the left is insubstantial, and the right has gone forth. If the right is heavy and the right is insubstantial, the left has gone forth. Qi is like a wheel, all parts of the body must follow it. If one part does not follow, the body will be scattered and will not be able to gather strength. To resolve this problem, seek for the solution in the waist and legs. First using the heart (intention) to move the body by follow others and not oneself. Afterwards the body can follow the intention. Directing oneself is following others. Self-direction without following is stagnation. Following the other is dynamic. If one can follow others, it is possible to evaluate them and one can unfailingly gauge the depth and magnitude of their Jin accurately. In advancing or retreating all is harmonious. The longer one practices, the more skillful one becomes.

三曰氣斂 – 氣勢散漫,便無含蓄,身易散亂,務使氣斂入脊骨。呼吸通靈,周身罔間。吸為合為蓄,呼為開為發,蓋吸則自然提得起,亦拏得人起,呼則自然沉得下,亦放得人出。此是以意運氣,非以力使氣也。

3. Qi – Converged (Gathered): If Qi space is scattered, it is not possible to contain it and the body is easily dispersed. One must allow Qi to converge to the spine. With no hinderance, Tai Ji Breathing becomes instinctive throughout body. Inhaling, is converging and accumulating; exhaling, is opening and expressing. When inhaling, one can naturally seize a person and lift him. When exhaling, one can naturally sink, to release a person. Everything comes from using intention and not strength to deploy and manipulate the Qi.

四曰勁整 – 一身之勁,練成一家。分清虛實,發勁要有根源,勁起腳根,主於腰間,形於手指,發於脊背,又要提起全付精神,於彼勁將出未發之際,我勁已接入彼勁,恰好不後不先,如皮燃火,如泉湧出。前進後退,無絲毫散亂,曲中求直,蓄而後發,方能隨手奏效。此謂“借力打人,四兩撥千斤”也。

4. Jin – Unified: With practice, the Jin of the body becomes integrated, and with integration comes the ability to distinguish between insubstantial and substantial. To express Jin, it is necessary to have a source. Jin initiates from the heel, is directed to the waist, forms at the fingers, and expresses from the back with Spirit fully attentive. Just before the opponent initiates his unexpressed Jin, my Jin receives his Jin, not getting ahead or behind, like skin being burned or water spurting out. Advancing or retreating without being scattered, just as a curve seeks to be straight, gather and then express. It will appear easy and casual, but it is effective. This is the meaning of “borrow strength to strike back, four ounces defeat one thousand pounds.”

五曰神聚 – 上四者俱備,總歸神聚,神聚則一氣鼓鑄,煉氣歸神,氣勢騰挪。精神貫注,開合有致,虛實清楚。左虛則右實,右虛則左實。虛非全然無力,氣勢要有騰挪;實非全然占煞,精神要貴貫注。緊要全在胸中腰間運化,不在外面。力從人借,氣由脊發。胡能氣由脊發?氣向下沉,由兩肩收於脊骨,注於腰間,此氣之由上而下也,謂之合。由腰形於脊骨,布於兩膊,施於手指,此氣之由下而上也,謂之開。合便是收,開即是放。能懂得開合,便知陰陽。到此地位,工用一日,技精一日,漸至從心所欲,罔不如意矣。

5. Spirit – Collected: In the end when the above four practices are mature, it is about Spirit being collected. Once Spirit is collected, it is possible to do the practices simultaneously, so Qi can follow Spirit. Qi space contains the energy of preparing to move. Intention is focused. Opening and converging are coordinated. Insubstantial and substantial are known. If the left is insubstantial then the right is substantial; if the right is insubstantial then the left is substantial. Insubstantial is not without strength, Qi space has the energy of prepare to move. Substantial is not rigid, intention needs to be focused. An important point is that the transformation of the chest and waist occurs internally. Strength is borrowed from others. Qi is expressed from the spine. How can Qi express from the spine? Qi sinks down from the shoulders, gathers to the spine and fills the waist. The Qi coming from above and going down is called converging. Qi moving from the waist, appearing in the spine, filling the two upper arms and appearing at the fingers, is Qi rising and is called opening. Converging is gathering; opening is releasing. If one can understand opening and converging, one knows Yin and Yang. When one reaches this stage and practices every day, skill will increase until all moves with one’s wish and desire.