Grandmaster Yang Chengfu orally transmitted the 10 guiding principles for practicing tai chi quan to his senior student Chen Wei Ming, who then recorded the instructions in writing. These principles should be contemplated upon during one’s tai chi training.
1. (虚灵顶劲) Keep the head upright and lift the energy up through the crown of the head. Another way to think about it is imagine you are holding up a bowl of water on your head.
2. (含胸拔背) Contain the chest and stretch the back. Containing means softening the chest so your breadth may go down into your dan tien. Stretching your back means extending your thoracic spine upwards at the same time as the chest sinks down.
3. (松腰胯) Being able to ‘sung’ or loosen/relax the hip/waist region.
4. (分虚实) Differentiate between the substantial (full) and insubstantial (empty). If your bodyweight is supported on your Right leg, it can be said to be ‘full’, and the Left one is ’empty’.
5. (沉肩坠肘) Sink the scapula, shoulders and elbow all together. The first stage is being able to relax and let your shoulders and elbow ‘fall’ or ‘hang’ on your body. The next stage is being able to maintain the same state even when external pressure is being applied to you.
6. (用意不用力) Use intent and thought to move the mind and body (instead of muscular strength).
7. (上下相随) Upper and lower parts of the body follow and reflect each other.
8. (内外相合) Harmonize the internals and the externals of the body.
9. (相连不断) Movements should be continuous and without completion. Smoothly flow from one posture to the next as if the whole form is one single movement.
10. (动中求静) Have stillness within movement, and movement within stillness.