Style - "A particular procedure by which something is done; a manner or way."
Method - "A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one."
- Oxford Dictionary
What is the Choi Method you've heard me mention the past year? It is Master Wai-lun Choi's way of learning, practicing, and achieving results with Chinese Internal Martial Arts. I actually coined the phrase "Choi Method." And after discussing the meanings of style and method with Master Choi, he agreed to use it.
Learning Internal Martial Arts, such as Tai-Chi or Liu Ho Pa Fa, or the practices of Qi-gong and meditation, can be confusing and complicated. If I don't understand something, it can become a “secret.” If I can't do something, it can become “magic.” The Choi Method uses the laws of nature, science, physics, physiology, and common sense, and the training methods of the past masters to make these arts clear for learning, practice, and understanding.
Master Choi broke down the various training sequences into four practices. As he recently taught at a seminar, "Humans can't do two things at once and expect them to be perfect. You need to train one aspect at a time and they will automatically coordinate and blend." Master Choi teaches any internal art in the same way.
His four-part training sequence is:
It doesn't matter what style or art you practice, the Choi Method will help you to progress and understand the many questions and mysteries in Internal Martial Arts. Here is a brief explanation.
As Master Choi teaches, all benefits come from relaxation. Blood circulates better when you are relaxed. Your body is able to respond better when it's relaxed, connected, and on standby. And you can relieve pressure and worry when your brain is relaxed. The training at this level focuses on alignment, relaxation, breathing, and looking inward. Standing meditation is the main practice.
Harmony centers on whole body structure. Alignment is your relationship to gravity. Structure is your relationship to your opponent, inanimate objects, and the world. Harmony attempts to move three parts of the body - torso, arms, legs - at the same time, in the same direction. This provides instant support. We can't brace the arms or torso without the legs or the structure will collapse.
9 Joint Harmony is the ability to move your structure in place at the same time - you “start together, stop together.” Master Choi teaches that structure is where the internal arts get their power and that structure conforms to the laws of physics. “Any contact needs physics,” he says. Contact can be a punch, or a push, or where you need support. Physics is the structure, the laws of gravity applied. Single movements, shorts sets, and forms training fall into this category.
After a long time of separately practicing relaxation and harmony, your body will be united and on standby, and able to make structure instantly. This is what Master Choi calls the "inside and outside coordinated." Your mind and body work together, and the body can obey the commands of your mind. Sensitivity is partner training, where you test yourself to see if your response and structure are correct.
Sensitivity is also close-distance fighting, known as Sticky-Hands, or sensing training, like Tai-Chi Pushing-Hands. To Master Choi, this is "Chase-Hands." Usually close-distance training is taught last because it is the most advanced and difficult to learn and master. But Master Choi teaches it first for two reasons. The first is that, because it takes such a long time to learn, he wants his students to get into it as soon as possible and give it the most time. The second is that the previous two skills of Relaxation, or standby, and 9 Joint Harmony, or structure, are tested and refined. According to Master Choi, “You can't issue energy and adjust your body at the same time.”
Strategy is long-distance fighting or sparring. Most martial arts train at this distance. The strategy is how to get close to the opponent and control them so they can't throw their physical weight and make weight x speed = power. The strategy also becomes how to join and make contact while protecting yourself. Punch techniques and "broke apart " techniques are the main training here, as well as sparring.
The hallmarks of the Choi Method are:
- What you practice has to make sense.
- Science, nature, and principles are your teachers.
- Always ask yourself "Why?”
- Practice must feel good.
- Do your own research.
- Don't copy.
- Prove to yourself.
This is just a basic outline of the Choi Method. A complete explanation, with detailed practices and instruction, will be in the second edition my book, "Real Gold Does Not Fear the Fire."
“My job is to teach the method. Your job is to learn and practice. No guarantees!”
Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi