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Yang’s Taiji Boxing’s Secrets - Q & A - By Tian Yingjia & Yao GuoQing

By Tian Yingjia & Yao GuoQing

Translated by Key Sun, Ph.D, Edited by LeRoy Clark Please see the entire interview at: http://www.taijitian.com

Grandmaster Tian Yingjia is a son of Tian Zhaolin (1891 – 1960).

Tian Zhaolin was a Yang style taiji direct descendent of the family. Tian Zhaolin’s father passed away when he was an infant. As a young boy of eight years, he had to sell fruit to support his mother and two sisters. Yang Jianhou, the son of Yang style founding father Yang Luchan, noticed him on his walks to the palace where he taught. He recruited him as his student and also provided maintenance for young Tian’s impoverished family. Thus, from the age of 13 years and on, Tian Zhaolin learned taiji from Yang Jianhou and subsequently from Jianhou’s sons Yang Shaohou (1862 – 1930) and Yang Chengfu (1883 –1936).These teachers were exceptional and profound taiji grand masters. Tian Zhaolin became one of the most senior non-family students of the Yang family; more senior than any yet known to the west. The following questions and answers were graciously shared by Grandmaster Tian Yingjia and Mr. Yao Guoqing with us recently for the purpose of presenting genuine material to serious learners of taiji’s wonder. We express our indebtedness to them for their noble intention.

Please note, the term “launch” is used herein as a sort of subset of “fajin”. This refers to issuing which not merely softly or easily pushes the other person away but rather to an issue of such magnitude that the receiver’s feet actually leave the ground – he is “launched”. The Chinese word for “energy” is “jin”. They are used interchangeably in this article. Note also please, taijiquan is often described in the west as having civil and martial components. Herein we see another term for the ”civil” – “literature”. This is quite deliberate.

Q (Yao). Shifu (Teacher), remember when I first started boxing, I asked you a question about taiji’s energy? You told me then that after I learned the 8-Section Brocade, you would discuss this with me. Did your father (Tian Zhaolin) also teach you in this manner?

A. (Tian). When my father was alive, he often told me of Mr. Yang Jianhou telling him, “Force is square; energy is round”. To put it simply, we can say that power is dead but energy is flexible. For most learners, however, without at least three to five years of boxing practice, they can hardly expect to understand this concept. If they only have half-baked knowledge, it will only make it more difficult to comprehend later.

Q. I often wonder, there must be some reason for the existence of this energy. We are already in the 21st century and science is very advanced. Why have we still not solved the energy problem? What is this energy? 
 
A. This is probably because tradition emphasized literature while de-emphasizing martial art in Old China. In olden days many martial artists had very little opportunity to learn much of anything regarding literature.  Even if they had excellent skills, even if they reached near perfection, they were not able to write down their own understanding or thoughts, let alone explore the science and theory behind this energy. Chang San Feng, Wang Zongyue, Chen Xin : those people were excellent and rare because they excelled in both literature and the martial arts. There are only a few people like them throughout history of humanity. Besides that, at that time the fields of physics and other sciences were hardly developed yet into our modern sciences. Therefore, for those previous enerations, literature and science were beyond their reach and could hardly be understood. Also, unless the learner practices to a certain level they are not likely to even understand when reaching certain awareness. 
 
Q. Can one say that people who do not practice boxing have no way to understand this energy? In other words, is there an objective standard to measure this energy? 
 
A. We must answer this question from two perspectives. First, without practice you will not feel the energy. So, if the student is unaware of it, how can he study it? 
 
Secondly, energy, according to reason, must have some scientific basis. The question of this energy is mostly restricted to people of martial arts discussing the boxing school's gestures within the martial arts field. Non-martial artists do not believe they need to study this energy and are mostly not even aware of it. Most of them believe that with such tools as we have in modern technology now and with modern weaponry there is no need to study the old martial arts.

Q. I still do not understand the energy problem. Teacher, you are the engineer. Can you explain this energy from the scientific perspective? 
 
A. Well, although I have some scientific training and knowledge, I still have a long way to go. Also, because boxing is such a vast field and such a 
refined area, even as an engineer, I wouldn't dare to comment with certainty or with complete confidence. 
 
Today you explored somewhat the relationship between force and energy. This problem is simple; at the same time it is very complicated. I only offer you my personal understanding and personal perspective on this issue. 
 
How do they differ? - First, force originates from muscle extension and contraction. When all the combined forces reach your hands through your joints, they will totalapproximately several tens of pounds. Most of these forces are exhausted going through the various joints. However, the whole body energy can be mobilized to send it to a particular point. This is why the practice of boxing requires all the joints be connected properly. 
 
Consider that a lion or a tiger are kings of all the forest animals. Yet, their real force is not that much greater than that of a cow. So, how can they fell a cow? Also, consider that the leopard is an extremely fast running animal. May be you can achieve some awareness or enlightenment from observing their situation and their use of force versus energy? 
 
Secondly, force is visible often for a relatively lengthy time period but it is somewhat rigid and unchanging. Energy, on the other hand, even if seen as a mere flash, is highly flexible. Then, consider that although a martial artist may hardly be able to lift an object weighing one hundred pounds, he can easily knock a person down. 
 
Third, when a learner enters middle age, their force will always diminish but their energy will stay at the same level. 
 
Fourth, force travels in a straight line, therefore, if you wish to use small force to overcome big force, you will have to induce an opponent and make him miss the target. Or, you must follow his momentum and detect the point from which to launch. There is no other way of dealing with an opponent's force. But, small force can be used to change direction of a big force. So, when we combine forces, large and small, basically you may decide the resultant direction in accordance with a vector parallelogram. 
 
On the other hand, energy may not only be straight; it may also be twisted. When reaching a high level of taiji skill, it is kind of like a microwave type of thing. Energy may be thought of as a wave. This is why in the practice of taiji, five bows are required in your body. All boxing movement has peng, a lifting energy. Peng is round. Peng is supportive. Peng is elastic. 
 
Q. If energy comes out like a wave, then can we say energy is a wave? 
 
A. Yes, yes, and this is why I say when you have personal experience you will get his idea right away. Just consider that when boxing books discuss energy, they also mention the shaking, penetrating, and tip-weaving energies, and also exploding energy. 
 
Q. Certainly that shows the seriousness and the consistency of the sciences. Do force theory and wave theory conflict? 
 
A. There is no conflict. Consider an airplane flying. The plane generates sound. Sound is a wave manifestation. 
 
Q. Can we practice force and energy at the same time? 
 
A. Yes, however, if we are discussing how to learn boxing, we should first learn force, learn the gestures. Then later practice energy, practice the circle, and practice qi. Once the learner is familiar with these, they may be combined. 
 
Q. Can you explain to me how force is described in physics? 
 
A. Yes, F = MA, where "M" represents the quality, mass, and "A" represents velocity. IF the quality is maintained and the velocity increases, then the force increases in direct proportion. This is precisely why small force should not attempt to confront big force. However, because there is direction inside, a small force may influence a larger force. Therefore, in boxing, if you use force to hit and should you miss, you will have momentum that is difficult to change. 
 
Energy is not like that. Note that when you throw a pebble in a pool of water or into a quiet pond, the wave goes out in all directions. Yet a leaf floating on the surface of the water does not change location because of the wave passing underneath. In other words, a wave can pass from one point to another point, in the water medium, yet all the water molecules remain in their original location. That is characteristic of wave phenomena. 
 
Q. When I first arrived at the farm, every harvest season, I noticed the huge fields of wheat. I especially enjoyed watching how the wind created waves that rolled across those fields of wheat. Often I wonder, okay, wheat has roots, then how can such a wave be created? I am not joking. 
 
A. Well, it is not a joke. Many, many have practiced taiji their whole life yet still do not understand energy theory. 
 
Q. What do you mean? 
 
A. Look, taiji boxing emphasizes "listening", transformation, grabbing, and launching jins. Even just a discussion of "listening" jin will puzzle many people. Some believe that push-hands only practices the sense of touch. They insist on deleting the word "listening". When my father was alive, he 
said, "You cannot change even one single word." 
 
"Listening is the most appropriate word." Just consider how we are able to hear a sound from the other side of a wall. 
 
Q. Since sound is a wave phenomena, it can propagate in many directions? 
 
A. Yes, remember the word "listening" is the key to understanding energy. Energy is a wave. 
 
Q. After hearing your explanation I understand much better now. Then, this is why when a fist hits the front-side of a person, they feel pain on their backside. The concept of mere force could hardly explain this phenomenon. But if we use wave theory, it is easy to understand it clearly. So, that is how energy is able to penetrate. Force can only be reflected; it cannot penetrate. That probably is one meaning of "force is square' energy is round". 
 
A. You, my pupil, are so observant. You have such talent to so easily comprehend and gain enlightenment. 

Q. Oh, you give me way too much credit. I have another question : can we say, in a fight, when hitting the other person's body, that penetrating energy is always used? 
 
A. Not necessarily. Penetrating energy is only one term used to describe wave phenomena. A wave has many forms. Two different waves can somehow, without interrupting one another, pass through one another. They can also move together to create a group of waves. For example, cold jin, disruptive jin, inch jin: they all have momentum and also exhibit pulse. These kinds of waves are very short waves. Take, for example, three pool balls placed together, touching one another on either side aligned in a single, straight row. Now remove an outer ball and use it to hit the next in line. The farther ball will move outward at the same speed as the striking ball. What does this show? 
 
Q. Can we say it is because the wave passed through the second ball to the third ball? 
 
A. Yes, and if you understand this idea, you can understand the concept of launching others in taiji. You only see them touch hands, he does not appear to move, yet somehow the other is moved away. 
 
First you, yourself, must have enough energy internally. This means that in your dantian you must have a strong wave, vibration. 
 
Second, you must take advantage of the opportunity afforded in momentum. 
 
Third, all the body's points must be properly connected; there should be no internal resistance. 
 
With these then, you may understand why the previous teacher Yang Shaohou advised: "First you must do the frame; second, you must know push-hands; third, you must learn how to practice launching jin." It is more difficult than merely using force to hit others. But, it also has a much more clever method. This again is why we say, "Force is dead but energy is alive. Energy is flexible." 
 
After I heard your previous response, I remembered an old boxing discussion with an excellent description : "First become familiar with the gestures; then you may reach understanding energy. From understanding energy, you may reach the level of the immortal." 
 
Q. Teacher, can we say that every time we touch hands we must use "listening" energy" 
 
A. Taiji sparring emphasizes "listening" energy. Certainly, without listening energy you can spar, however, to do so will show you still do not understand taiji. 
 
Q. Relying solely on one's own force in touch hands seems to be instinctual. Why does taiji place such emphasis on the use of "listening" energy? 
 
A. The use of force or energy is a measure of a person's skill level. Only when people reach the level of understanding energy can they go on to reach the level of the immortal. In addition, since taiji means to start from wuji, or of being utterly void of qi in the extreme, it is the mother of yin and yang. This kind of birth is not merely for motion. It also means there is a kind of soul inside there. 
 
Q. How can one understand that? 
 
A. Thing about that radio over on the table. That radio is more than just singular electronic resisters, capacitors, wires, and other devices. It is not merely an assembly of these various devices. Only when you use these devices, put them together in a certain way, can you receive radio transmissions. You could say that from nothing came something in there. Otherwise, it is just a combination of odds and ends, of useless iron, copper, and plastic, etc. 
 
Q. How is this related to boxing? 
 
A. Taiji boxing is not the mere grouping of the different components. When we discuss yin and yang, opening and closing, when you breathe, when you 
move energy, you must follow a certain sequence. When touching hands, how you realize your own personal situation, you must use listening. "Listening", transformation, grabbing, and launching, the true purpose is to use a circle to transform your disadvantaged situation into an advantaged situation. This is how and why taiji was created. Taiji has no beginning; there is no end. Everything, everywhere contains change. Everything must necessarily have some different states of advantage/disadvantage condition, 
succeeding or losing, becoming prosperous or going through a state of deterioration. This is the so-called "taiji everywhere". This is how you should use listening, transformation, grabbing, and launching to do transformation. 
 
Q. Then, can we say that "listening" is not just the physical listening but has other meanings? 
 
A. Oh yes, yes, "listening" has many more dimensions. But just practice "listening" jin well. Then you will be able to open energy. This opens the wave. I use our understanding of the wave phenomena to reason. This represents a higher level of taiji philosophy. The more educated people become, the more they become interested in the philosophy of taiji. 
 
Q. It is not easy to understand "listening". Sometimes when people touch hands they just feel the other's arm but cannot change to listening. I want 
to understand how "listening" and touching are related. 
 
A. The early stage of the boxing practice is characterized more by the use of force and less by energy. You use touching and groping. Everyone who learns taiji must go through this stage. However, after you understand energy, the other's intention will pass down to you through their energy-based wave. If you still use touching and groping to feel the other, then you can hardly receive and sense those waves. Then, being unable to receive and sense, how can you know yourself and know others? 
 
For example, we "listen" to the radio. Only if you understand the language, understand the topic of discussion, or understand the music and the meaning of the music, does the hearing become meaningful, otherwise, it is just sound or noise. If you cannot decipher those sounds, how can you know yourself and know others? This was is called, "If you want to understand music, you must have the ear for music." 
 
Q. Based on what you have just said, "listening" is very similar to what I think is the American scientists' discussion of how people communicate. The communication model is that first there is a sort of transmitter with the information, a channel, a decoder, and the receiver. 
 
A. But that is only one aspect of the issue. We can say that listening, transformation, grabbing, launching, this circle, can be called an information and feedback control system. "Listening" first identifies information. Then, you change and send out new information. So it is based on the feedback you receive to reach your goal. 
 
Q. But what is the purpose of it? 
 
A. In taiji boxing there is the phrase, "Stay in the middle". This means to use the least amount of energy to reach your goal of having an advantage and creating disadvantage for the opponent. My father often said, "If you come, come in; if you leave, I will send you out". Please just try to understand this by yourself. 
 
Q. Teacher, can we say that listening comes from touching but only if you understand energy does it become real "listening"? 
 
A. You can say it this way : If you understand the meaning, you will understand that if the other does not move, I do not move. If the other wants to move, I will move first. You should understand this theory. 
 
Q. Oh, you are talking about the difference between force and energy. After reaching "understanding" energy then listening reaches a much, much higher 
level? 
 
A. Yes, this is the key to learning boxing. First, you must practice. All boxing starts from the gestures. 
 
Secondly, you must respect boxing and you must respect the teacher. Only when you respect boxing will you study carefully. Only when you respect the teacher will you get the teacher's instruction. If you wish to discuss the real secret of learning taiji boxing : that is it. 
 
Q. I think the teacher's instruction is very important. 
 
A. Well, it is not easy to learn boxing. But neither is it easy to teach. A gesture is the external form. The external form is easy to teach and also easy to learn. But energy is an internal quality. Internal things are difficult to teach and difficult to learn. People soon are at different levels and also have different ways to practice. Therefore, there is the Chinese saying, "If you miss by 1/10 of an inch in the beginning, the result will be off by a 1000 miles." 

Q. Most scholars only emphasize the gesture. But if the gesture does not have internal energy, it can only enhance physical health. It will merely 
be like doing exercises in a gym. 
 
A. Yes, and this is why my father (Tian Zhaolin) said, "Good-looking gestures may not be applicable. What is applicable may not be so good-looking." 
 
Q. Teacher, I still want to ask the question : when Yang Jianhou was alive,  you say that he often said, "If you are light, then your are flexible." How is this related to "listening"? 
 
A. Well, when you "listen" to other people's energy, it is analogous to the use of a weight scale. If you use a large scale to weigh a very light material, of course, it will not be sensitive enough. This is why when dealing with diamonds or other precious jewels, we must use a very sophisticated scale capable of making very small measurements. This is the idea. 
 
Q. Can we say the lighter, the better? 
 
A. Here "lightness" must still carry information that will allow you to note a very, very small change. This is why we can say that you cannot add even one feather, cannot allow even one fly to alight on you without you sensing it. Otherwise, your listening energy is just not sufficiently sensitive. This means the "lightness" becomes floating. So, light is better; light is flexible, yet it must not float. Floating is an illness because there is not sufficient "listening" energy. 
 
Q. Today I just realized that my greatest benefit and goal is to understand "listening" and the theory of the system. Teacher, your taiji boxing comes directly from family tradition and legacy. Can we discuss how to make later generations understand this traditional 
value? 
 
A. Sure, but in boxing, I can never dare to reference myself to the previous generation. I know that there are lots of people better than me. Here today you mention taiji boxing's value. I cannot estimate that. Boxing reaches the higher level when the internal/external can be connected. Then all the theory becomes one, regardless of whether you use soft or hard; develop to five yin and five yang. However, if you do want to strive and finally do reach this level, you will see that there is no end to it beyond that point. 
 
So, therefore, the higher level people, when they touch one another, when they spar, they really know and can tell when the other person is developed to a higher degree. Chang San Feng said, "There is no fixed frame." That says that boxing actually does not have a fixed rule. This refers to the gesture. This is only a way of thinking. But you have to learn those gestures first. That is how you enter the door. For example, if you learn to do painting, first you learn the framework, the basics. After you understand the framework, then you can get rid of the frame and paint at your will. My father, Tian Zhaolin, often said, "Taiji boxing is boxing guided by taiji philosophy. There is no beginning and there is no end. The beginning is the end; the end is the beginning. This is called 'long boxing' ". Everything, everywhere, in the universe continually transforms and changes. Everything is in this circle. But if you are really to understand this theory, you must have persistence and perseverance. When just reaching a most difficult part, perseverance is needed. Each time you step up to a new level you will reach a different understanding. This is the wonderfulness of taiji. 
 
Q. If everybody's awareness is different, will that develop into different styles of taiji boxing? 
 
A. No. But, if you only see it as a boxing gesture, you could say that. But taiji boxing's true meaning is not merely a gesture. For example, there is a book of literature entitled, "Stone". People even make different interpretations of the content. So, taiji understanding, body awareness depends on the individual's practicing method, progress, feeling, understanding, and awareness. This does not mean that, because you have a different awareness, you can change the essence of taiji boxing. 
 
Q. If this idea is so simple, why cannot everyone learn this? 
 
A. What you observe, you only see that on the surface. It is really not the real nature of the thing. When people try to understand the true nature (of 
the thing) they must make a really huge and difficult effort to get rid of the first, false perception in order to discover the true essence. They must get rid of the raw in order to discover the sophisticated nature, the true nature of what is being observed. 
 
Taiji boxing deals with listening, transformation, grabbing, and launching jins. The beginning step is "listening". Listening means exploration, investigation. When we deal with the concrete material, it first means that if others move fast : you move fast in response; if others move slowly : you follow slowly. However, it is not so easy to even reach the listening, transformation, grabbing, and launching levels. 
 
Q. Does taiji boxing have to reflect nature (listening, transformation, grabbing, and launching), so that if we have the gestures alone, can we call this taiji? 
 
A. If the gestures are really guided by taiji's theory then they must show the boxing's nature. Wang Zongyue's boxing theory, along with the discussions of several other ancestors, all proved that, if the gestures show the boxing's nature, it really matters not whether we call it taiji boxing. There are other names used for this, e.g., Chang Chuan (Long Boxing), soft boxing, pre-heaven boxing, and whole heaven boxing. 
 
Q. Teacher, this is very interesting. May I also ask, taiji as boxing : what is the initial meaning? 
 
A. My father, Tian Zhaolin, said, "I use boxing to understand how everything in the universe moves." In other words, it is just "system theory" in today 's language. We just discussed "listening". We said that if you have a radio, if you combine all the component devices of that radio, together, combined in a certain manner, they become a new system. 
 

That is how taiji was produced. We are speaking here of our planet and the solar system, of silver atoms to electronics, of day and night. That is a system. You should understand taiji as a system that uses the circle to overcome an enemy. Understand how many circles, whether they move forward or backward; whether and how the circles are connected, visible, invisible, how they show all the theory of unity of opportunities, of yin and yang. 
 
Q. Teacher, how do you view the routine? 
 
A. The routine is also called, "making a frame". Actually, from the beginning to the end, it is one circle. Like music, the starting rhythm changes from slow to intense; from exciting to explosion; then, returns to the slow. Similarly, repetition of gestures is necessary to run and change energy. 
 
Q. How do you see the different schools? 
 
A. All schools are good. You can reach the level of the immortal in any of them. Learning the traditional taiji boxing only means that you will use a 
shorter time and less physical strength to finally reach that higher level. 
 
Q. In taiji boxing there is the bagua with circle and xingyi's straight lines. There is also the combination of external family's hard energy and the internal family's softness. Does this show that taiji is perfect? 
 
A. No, no, this is not the case. If you do not understand this, regardless of how hard you may try to combine everything, you are wasting your time. Know how to do 1,000 gestures is not as good as understanding one gesture completely. Boxing has no fixed law. The key is to obtain awareness of energy through being accustomed to the gestures. Then you may achieve the level of the immortal. Finally, you may reach the level of true awareness. But even this is not the end. You may go even higher. 
 
Q. Why do you emphasize that "listening" must come first in practicing taijiquan? 
 
A. This is the essence of taiji. When you respond, it depends entirely on listening, transformation, grabbing, and launching. 
 
The computer was first invented for use by the military. The purpose and function was to decipher enemy communications, calculate missile trajectories, and to make predictions on future events. Predicting future events involves "listening". Modern weapons are very advanced. Launching missiles and defensive missiles are really based on listening sensitivity. Only when you understand listening can you change your disadvantageous situation into an advantageous position. 

Q. What do you think about the direction of taiji's future? 
 
A. Taiji is indeed a national treasure. Only China has this treasure. In addition to martial art defence and offence, military strategy is implied. Besides this, universal concepts and physical sciences are also implicated, and taiji has implications for medical science and in psychological science theory as well. So, it is really a rarity of the boxing arts. However, times are different now from earlier. Really, very few people understand it. 

Taiji is like stoneware covered with layers of dust. Few people can hope to really realize the true nature of taiji. Some people unfortunately misunderstand when thinking that taiji is only for physical health. So, I think I am not the person to answer your question. Someone else must take care of this issue. 
 
Q. Teacher, I would like to ask another question : what about history dividing taiji into different schools? 
 
A. I have not studied this completely yet. I cannot be sure. But I think that there is no need to create separate schools if the boxing has not gone through a great transformation and revolution. This would cause the whole group to become disintegrated. Some people who practice the same boxing, in the past would exhibit some differences. Sometimes it looked so different, even for fellow students, it may have been called a different style of boxing. That is okay. However, for people who really reach a high level of enlightenment, their whole body achieves transparency. These achievers are not concerned with superficial labels and do not try to create this type of school or that kind of school. 
 
Chang San Feng was the founding father of taiji. He did not create different types of separate schools within the system. Some outsiders believe that because taiji differs from shaolin, they call taiji the internal family boxing and shaolin the external family boxing. 
 
Later, Wang Zongyue passed down his skill to the two schools of South and North. These two schools did not divide until the end of the Ching Dynasty. Furthermore, what we today call the different styles did not actually begin until the 1930's and 1940's. 
 
Note that Tian Zhaolin's was also called the "Tian School" by some. When my father heard of this he said, "All my learned skill came from the Yang family. Up to this day, I have only learned a small portion. How could I call it my school when my skill is not equivalent to even one finger of Yang Jianhou or Yang Chengfu? How could I call mine a separate school? Even if my skill should become perfect : it is still of Yang's family. This is my personal opinion." 
 
Sidebar: Chen Yenlin was a student of Master Tian Zhaolin and a colleague student of Shi Huan Tang. Chen is reported to have told others that he really did not even know that the dantian was the place for live qi and for restoring qi until he finally noticed his own belly rising after practicing taiji. 
 
The book entitled, "Taiji Boxing, Sabre, Sword, Spear, and Push-hands, was co-authored by Chen Yenlin and his fellow student Shi Huan Tang while bother were students of Teacher Tian Zhaolin. Some mistakenly believe that Chen Yenlin manipulated and stole the material from Yang Chengfu, later publishing it under his own authorship. Chen Yenlin is unlikely to even known Yang Chengfu. His taiji and explanations came from Tian Zhaolin. 
 
The book was initiated during dinners when Chen Yenlin invited Teacher Tian Zhaolin to his home. A secretary on-hand recorded the conversations and Teacher Tian's explanations. In the original draft, there were photos of Shi Hung Tang pushing hands with Chen Yenlin. Chen asked Teacher Tian for photos of Tian demonstrating the frame, however, Tian could not recall where his photos had been placed. Tian then asked that stick drawings be made of him in the set. When the book was published, however, the only photos included were those of Chen Yenlin. This upset both Teacher Tian and his 
students. Later the book was republished by yet others. 
 
Why many consider the work rare and even a necessity for beginning taiji learners, actually, the book dealt only with the large frame practice. The large frame is but a small part of the whole of Yang's taijiquan. It did, however, do much to promote taiji. 
 
In a previous article (Qi Journal, Autumn 2001), Li Ya Xuan, offering an example of an extremely rare skill level when he briefly described a phenomenon exhibited by Yang Chengfu. Li said that during push-hand practice, when Yang placed his hand on Li's chest, Li would feel extreme pain deep within his chest. He then would have to disconnect by stepping back. 
 
Tian Zhaolin also reached similar levels under the guidance of Yang Jianhou and Shaohou. Once in Shanghai, a newly arrived master of external art, called "Spear Liu", arrived in town. On a visit to a place of entertainment, he asked the doorkeeper if he knew of any martial artists people of merit with real skills in town. The doorkeeper paused for a moment then told Spear Liu that one Tian Zhaolin was reported to be particularly skilled. With that, Spear Liu was off to search for Tian. He finally found him. Immediately upon approach, Spear Liu challenged Zhaolin proposing that each hit the other three times to determine who was the more effective. Tian agreed to Spear Liu's proposal but asked Liu about trying a slight variation first. 
 
Tian proposed to place his hand on Spear Liu's chest and he told Liu that if he could withstand his touch, Tian would publicly acknowledge Spear Liu as the winner of the challenge. Spear Liu agreed to this. With that Tian stepped up and then placed his hand on Liu's chest. After a few moments, Spear Liu began to feel discomfort in his chest. After a few more moments, Liu's face began to contort and grimace in pain. Within moments, he grimaced reflecting such intense pain in his chest that he was forced to 
suddenly step back, away, disconnecting from Tian's touch. 
 
After taking a few moments to recover, he acknowledged the superior and rare skill of Tian Zhaolin. Spear Liu said he had travelled throughout five provinces, testing martial art adepts, but had never encountered a skill of this level.