Comparing Principles: Tai Chi – Kyudo

I had been going through my old blog re-reading some posts. I came upon this from 2010. I did as the title said a comparison of principals. Another Tai Chi/Kung Fu, Karate instructor ( who studied Kyudo) got it right away. A Kyudo instructor ( who had not studied,  Tai Chi/Kung Fu or Zen) who I knew, did not get it and belittled my effort. His reasoning was somewhat because Kyudo is not a hand to hand combat art, he said. Well the same principles are used with Tai Chi weapons as well. Perhaps he did not know there are also Tai Chi swords, and staffs. Kyudo uses a bow, and one makes that bow and arrow,”part” of self, an extension. Tai Chi Chuan uses weapons as part of self an extension. Our failure to communicate was not a surprise as we are in disagreement abut the “Zen” and Kyudo as well. It is always interesting when someone who has not studied both arts, poo poos ( puts down) statements concerning the two, made by someone who has. There is a saying that many people do not listen to understand, only enough to reply. This it seems was the case here, he did not read to understand, but to make a comment. Saying that some parts where the same but other things were different, so one should/ could not compare…sigh. No matter. Some people choose to see the commonness of things, others choose to see the UN-commonness of things, things that separate us vs things that join us. My point here is that there are enough sameness that help to solidify ones foundation by drawing from other training ( cross-training is the “in” word now) without reinventing the wheel. A strong foundation is needed, building a house or growing a tree. If the same Soil, nails, mortar, bricks, compost will work, for both, why go buy new same stuff from a different store .

So lately with the reading of Black Arrow blog and some of his insights from seminars and other statements statements about breath and Tai Chi, as well as some conversations I have had with my local Sensei, a Kyoshi, and finding a recent article about “Song/Sung“, I have decided to repost this. I find it just as valid zen, as now (word play) :-). Perhaps more so since I have more experience to speak from now and refined it some:


Just so I’m clear in the use of my saying Tai Chi-Kyudo (taikyuku-kyudo) and I do not get nasty comments about making up a style.

I’m not talking about a style I’m only referring to the same principles. I have been told many many times in the past by my Shifu and kung fu “uncles” to understand the Principles of what I am learning in Praying Mantis or Tai Chi, adapt my movements, techniques to the Principles, universal principles. In the study of Kali my teacher, D. Inosanto speaks of the principles of movement, principles of “human” movement, the angles of attacks, I should not to be lost on the weapon. I saw a clip recently about Okinawan Karate, and the universal movements and balance of man. The same movements done in different arts as what was being shown by this person doing Okinawan Karate. The “Principle” made the technique work, not the style or name. Sort of like the finger pointing to the moon thing.
Below are listed the 10 basic principles of Tai Chi Not all of them match up exactly nor at every step with what one is doing in Kyudo but most do at key points. The internal Principals are what is important. Here is a general comparison, if you can relate good, if not, not my concern:

Tai Chi Principles

1.) Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don’t use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch’i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.

( Kyohon: The upper body should be held correctly with the neck erect.)

2.) Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch’i can sink to the tan-t’ien [field of elixir]. Don’t expand the chest: the ch’i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch’i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.

( Kyohon: Focus spiritual energy in to the legs, hips and abdomen. D0 not put power in to the chest and shoulders.)

3.) Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said “the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist.”

( Kyohon: The center of gravity of the whole body is placed in the hips. Placing Spirit in the center of the whole body, ” This means you must arrange the stability of the spiritual  center of the abdomen (Tanden) which is located in the center of the physical body. Every movement should be supported by the hips The hips are the central  part of the body. Unless the hips are stable the balance of the body is lost and movements will become disturbed)

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.

5.) Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch’i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. “Drop the elbows” means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.

*This was a hard part for me in Kyudo, keeping the elbows up and out, it goes against all Tai Chi training. ( new: here I had problem in the past, but now It is still somewhat the same , the elbows are still somewhat sunken, the arms are curved, the elbows do not stick out and up but are curved out yet still down, eg; in Ushiokoshi  ) However it is a different art so the nature of the critrion is different and as one must be able to flow from hard to soft, Yin to Yang, adapting to the nature of the weapon in use, this must be considered as well, not just one point. One the other hand, I have been repeatedly told drop and relax the shoulder when going into Kai.

6.) Use the mind instead of force. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li.” In practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan the whole body relaxes. Don’t let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?

The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch’i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch’i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch’i follows it. The ch’i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong.” Someone who has extremely good T’ai Chi Ch’uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don’t use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.

( Kyohon: In addition the mental and spiritual energy should be focused in the region of the abdomen just below the navel and the chest and shoulders should be relaxed. )

7.) Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn’t follow, the whole body is disordered.

( Kyohon:When standing , sitting, and moving forward and backward it is most important to keep the form of the torso in every movement.

It is very important to take care with the use of the eyes , as the condition of an archer’s mind is reflected in his concentration and the direction of eye movement.

The way is not with the bow, but the bone, which is of the greatest importance in shooting, this means that when you are going to shoot, you must not lose youroverall awareness and become preoccupied in just manipulating the bow and arrows, but remember that shooting effort shouldalso be made with your muscles and bones.

“Placing the Spirit in the center of the whole body’)

8.) Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan the main thing is the shen. Therefore it is said “the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate.” If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.

( Kyohon: After having acquired the right inner intention and correctness in the outward appearance, the bow and arrow can be handled resolutely.)

9.) Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is “like a great river rolling on unceasingly.” and that the circulation of the chin is “drawing silk from a cocoon ” They all talk about being connected together.

( Kyohon: All movements depend on timing. During movements we must choose timing which is neither too slow or too raid, nor too light or too impressive in quality so that the balance is timing disrupts the movements.

In the performance of shooting, this division in to eight stages should be regarded from start to the finish as one complete cycle, in which there is no separation .

10.) Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch’i sinks to the tan-t’ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.

( Kyohon: The fundamental form should be carried out naturally, observing the correct manner and courtesy. There should be no separation but a harmonious unity ( spirit, body and bow) that produces Truth, Goodness and Beauty of Kyudo through which the personality and dignity of the archer are expressed.)

There is much more, but I’m tired of typing, nor do I wish to write a whole book. At least not right now 🙂 This is just a little FYI to give you an idea of the sameness in many of the Principles. A way to relate to what I’m saying about Tai Chi – Kyudo, like Zen Kyudo is more than just being calm of mind when shooting or finding Enlightenment. And just a quick note on that, people have used the sound and playing of the Shakuhachi to gain enlightenment so yes, Kyudo can also be used as a path to enlightenment. Tai Chi-Kyudo is not just about moving slow and being meditative, or me making up a new art style…


siting Kyudo

This post was for those who eyes/minds are open enough to see. If you do not, are not open, fine. I don’t care. I respect your beliefs, and will not come to your house trying to change your mind or convert you…Perhaps you stand on a different spot on the mtn with a blocked view.

( Kyuhon: The upper body should be correctly with the neck erect.)

One thought on “Comparing Principles: Tai Chi – Kyudo

  1. Excellent article. I’ve always thought of these types of connections, but it is so rare to find people who have practiced both Chinese internal arts and kyudo to make the connections.

    One thing about the elbows, I remember being told to drop the elbows so that tension, or chi, doesn’t get caught up in the shoulders and hands. In kyudo, they tell us to left up and flare out our elbows which is the opposite, but the effect is just the same as tai chi as we seek to relax our shoulders and hands. Effectively using the elbows as focal points in our arms to take away the pressure of the hands and shoulders. (Apologies for thinking as I write and rambling).

    Looking forward to a day when a book on the combinations of these two fine arts is available written by Zensekai.

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