Many Tai Chi practitioners only see the Large San-Sau as a training method to gain the fighting applications of Tai Chi. However, it goes much deeper than that. There are actually three reasons that we must practice Large San-Sau.
The first reason is the obvious one of purely physical contact and learning about how to use the postures from the Tai Chi form. It is said that during San-Sau, we practice every known kind of attack and defence, even those ones that aren’t actually physically included in the sets. By this I mean that we learn sub-consciously to move the body in such a manner as to teach it to react automatically to any kind of attack, not only those that we are performing. We learn to ‘see without seeing’ in that our sub-conscious brain will learn how to read an attacker’s movement and body shape, how his is placed for power and whether it is even worth reacting to. In the beginning, students will always ‘look’ at their partner/opponent, nit wishing to miss an attack etc. However, as one progresses. we learn that we actually see more without seeing! Our sub-conscious brain picks up on movement that our eyes do not focus upon and then our body reacts instantly to that unseen movement.
The second important reason is that we learn how to transmit Qi either for the self defence art or the healing art. All great internal systems have this aspect somewhere in their sets. If we do not release the stored Qi, no more can be gained and we will sort of explode like a pressure cooker! We must release the built up Qi to stop stagnant Qi building up in our body thus causing disease. We gather the Qi using the Qigong and the Tai Chi form, then we store it using the fast movement and release it using the Fa-jing movements of the Pauchui/Large San-Sau forms and two person sets. This is why we must learn to perform the San-Sau at a very explosive pace never allowing any blow to make contact with us, we have it covered the instant that it is released upon us. Many make the big mistake in the beginning of waiting for each attack to be made before reacting to it! In a realistic situation, the attack would never come too close as you would have it covered and would have instantly reacted with a re-attack. Many find that the movements are too close and awkward, however, this in only because they aren’t reacting soon enough and allowing the attacker’s attacks to get to you before sing attacking/defensive movements yourself. So the whole thing will become very fast and furious and this is when the whole two person set becomes a joy to perform and only then do we begin to get the real benefits of the next section.
When two partners have been practicing the large San-Sau for some time, become as one unit, the whole Qi systems of each player unites as one flowing river and this practice actually becomes a little addictive, leaving each player on a high for hours after their practice. You should never however, only practice once! You should always practice three times or more with both players practicing on the both sides more than 3 times. So that amounts to 6 times at least each day. It only takes a few minutes going at a cracking pace though.
This brings me to the last section and really is the most important and hidden or secret meaning of Large San-Sau. When I was with Chang, I would always ask him the meaning of things which would often annoy him I am sure as he would only hit me to demonstrate. On one such occasion, I asked him about the true meaning of Large San-Sau to which he answered with a whack on my arm leaving a huge bruise! However, his attack was not that hard and I wondered what the meaning of all this was. I thought in the beginning that he was trying to tell me that the real meaning was to build up resistance to hard attacks and that my arms would become impervious to attacks in the future with practice. However, as my own training
Article written by WTBA Founder Master Erle Montaigue www.taichiworld.com
Video courtesy of WTBA London Senior Instructor Paul Brecher www.taiji.net
NOTE: Paul Brecher resigned from the WTBA in May 2009. You can read Erle’s comments about this on page 44 of volume 60 in the Combat and Healing Magazine.