View Full Version : A question about open/closed posture
Hello, I do not practice the neijia, but I am very interested in them. I was wondering if you gentlemen could help me with something. I have now read often in interview with taiji masters of having open or closed posture. What does this mean? I should think this refers to the positioning of the extremities relative to the body. A question of tightness or looseness and balance between the two. What is the proper definition? I imagine this also has to do with the idea of opposing power, which would be surely lost by overly loose posture. Also, does this refer to something other than posture and if so, are the interrelated? :)
Thanks a bunch!
Superb question. Probably the daddy of them all in respect to Taijiquan. My reply will be relevant to Traditional Yang Family Taijiquan, but is probably applicable to all of the traditional family forms. (Although my knowledge of other forms is limited and I stand to be corrected in relation to these other forms).
There are two aspects to the opening and closing. The External one and the and Internal one. The external is probably the easiest to explain and refers to the orientation of the hips at the end of a posture. When the same hand and leg are forward (as in single whip)i.e. facing 45 degrees, the stance will be open. When the opposite hand and leg are forward (as in brush and push), i.e. the hips will be square, the stance will be closed. This is purely the physiological aspect.
The internal is much more difficult to explain (and achieve!!!). I'll try as best as I can but this is an aspect I am still working on myself (and that's after 15years of training taijiquan). I'm sure you all know the classic "Taiji was born from wu chi and wu chi is the mother of Yin and Yang. When there is movement, Yin and Yang separate and in stillness they combine". This is the essence of understanding "Opening and Closing". With movement the Yin and Yang separate like the outward drawing of silk and this is "opening" and is attack. In stillness the Yin and Yang combine like the inward drawing of silk and this is "closing" or defence. So in performoing the Taijiquan set you must constantly be using Yin and Yang in your movements. Internally you must constantly be aware of being empty/solid, receiving/releasing. Tension and relaxation must be combined and used in combination. That's about it!!!!! The whole "secret" of taijiquan in a paragraph!!!!!!!!!!!!
Easy to say, almost impossible to achieve!!
Hope this helps and I'd love to hear some of you other guys take on the subject.
Very best wishes
Thank you! Very nice answer! This is exactly what I was looking for. Since I'm sidelined from real practice, my studies have become somewhat academic. This certainly clears a big boulder from the road. Thank you again.
And I love that signature quote :)
Thanks. You would of course have realised that this was a "stripped to the bones" description and that I didn't even mention Jings!!
If you wish to pursue the subject in greater depth, a very good book is "The T'ai Chi Boxing Chronicle" by Kuo Lien-Ying (Translated by Guttmann). ISBN 1-55643-177-5. Not an easy read, but its all there. Good luck with your research.
Very best wishes
I'm pretty new here but sutherland seems to be right on the money. However I have studied taiji but don't practice it,beyond similar principles in chi-gung and xing-yi anyway, but I think opening and closing relate to every joint. not only in individual joints but also in the relationship between the joints in the whole body.
i only practiced Tai-Chi for one year, prior to this i practiced only two other martial arts style, i hope i possess the experience that could help you - even if i carry an apparant lack of credentials.
open/closed can relate to any single item of thought a human mind can envision and designate in terms 'seperated' from the infinite vastness of the universe. joints, focus, jing, anything...
most books on tai-chi do not allow a western reader to actually digest the contants and many instructors obtain a social-position/group qualified teachership on grounds of graceful movement alone. these sources mistakenly - merely repeat what their master said or what go's written in some manuscript. a good book or two do exist, though - they be out there :)
i do not dispute any before-mentioned discriptions of opening and closing technique for the internel. the variation seems pretty infinite when you get down to it.
here: inside your mind - feeling seperate from the body you start.
you think of yin/yang, empy/solid, ect... just seeing and understanding this on the external takes time - it carries an almost identical mirror in the mind. what your mind holds in 'connection' with and 'touch' or 'holds' you can consider yang - all else yin. seperate states. closed. a small thing closed off and seperate from the larger.
mind with universe yet seperate in mind. closed.
at this point both exist seperate from one another. once you know this - you relax and allow yourself to feel the unity between both, know each connect, even if you do not yet understand, and then allow the mind to harmonize -
acceptance, with an eye toward 'seeing/knowing' rather than 'thinking' - the small circle 'opens and becomes one with the infinite of the universe - this keys in faculties of 'extra-perception'. (you know without knowing and 'see' without 'seeing')
you allow a co-existance of harmony w/ opponent this is open, by the way you do not oppose them now - you follow and harmonize. then you close as your opponent 'closes' for a strike, or leaves a gap - your subset awareness of an individual existance/ego (your closing) allows you to strike an opponent who desires to strike you - this will carry through and it mirrors their intent.
then you let ego die. thus the importance of a warriors (especially in samurai traditions) resolutely seeking out death. hindu/bhudist renunciation of the world and indifference to personal death. the seperation between your mind and the universe upon opening - bleeds together into one intermingling - relax and allow your body to allow unity with the mind in practice and you then manifest Tao.
internal manifest with external. closed to open, and back again.
external or merely closed does not express the depths possible for the internal. do anything else and you get slow dance or martial-practice. no harmony and vision can come from limited harmony and vision.
Tai-Chi serves well for meditation if done even half-way properly.
identify the seperation expressed in yin/reception, and practice yang - the empty manifested 'just happens' - then allow them to become one through realization, both connect and any lack of 'knowing' serves merely for your rational mind like an illusion. a connection exists - even if the rational/linear cannot 'track' it offhand.
if you practice a martial discipline, then the stronger your expression of yang you allow and the more giving to yin - the 'deeper' the 'groove' you will eventually feel in your practice - this becomes the reason a so-called 'soft' internal style expressed in physical format can escape many of the limitations of power and ability the 'harder' styles find they often run into.
the limits these hard style practitioners who cannot see beyond the limitations of the gross physical body, emotional set, and rational-mind can look rediculous after a while. more muscle. more angry faces. less acceptance.
one cannot obtain a high level of skill by mere physical training alone. you simply 'condition-in' more 'development' on those levels. by themselves overdevelopment in a single area can spell blindness, even hinder the learners potential on other levels.
shaolin kung-fu (hard-style) masters in the old day consisted of bhudists & practiced in a setting where it served appropriatly and the people could digest the lessons. Tai-Chi carries similar mystic origins (ie...escape the limitations and pains of this world for service too humanity & go beyond mere calisthenics and exercise if properly carried out. there exist islamic kung-fu traditions too. hsing-i, works similar to Tai-Chi. so-called hardstyles with a true internal aspect produce similar results when successful - along with the emphisis on muscular development.
if i sound 'out there' to some, i will go on to feel gratified that 'they' disregard me, i welcome this. if it makes sense - obtain truth/real and put that into practice. glad if i could serve you well.
- good luck - :bow:
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