Six Levels of Song
by Adam Mizner
Within the traditional teachings of the Yang family, Song is divided into 6 levels. Each level dependent on the one before it and inclusive of all before it.
It’s important to understand that Song is always release, and that the six grades of Song are refinements on this one principle, much like milk becoming cream, becoming butter and so on.
松開 Song Kai – Open
When the body is closed, bound up and filled with Li, Song is not possible. In order to achieve the first level of Song, it is first vital to open the body.
Traditional training in Taijiquan involves various exercises designed to stretch, separate and liberate the tissues of the body. This openness of the tissue within the body, allows one to begin to touch the first quality of Song, namely openness. So the opening of the body allows one to taste Song, after which, Song, or release of the tissue allows the body to open. So we open to Song, and we also Song to open.
When one observes the Da Lu, performed by a competent practitioner, it is clear that all the joints of the body are open and not compressed. The tissue is released and free.
This initial stage of Song, Song to open, begins the process of allowing the Qi to move within the body, where it previously could not because of tension and blocks that needed to be opened. This is traditionally called Kai Men, or Open the Gates, referring to the energy gates within the body. When these gates are open, it allows the mobilization of Qi and Jin to travel, unifying the body from toes to fingertips.
While external methods may use contraction force, and the closing of the muscles around the bones to generate power, this is strictly taboo in Taijiquan, for it restricts Song and the one flow of Qi.
松沉 Song Chen – Sink
The second level of Song is Song to Sink. At this stage we must understand that Song and Qi move together. When we begin the training, all the joints, tissues and diaphragms of the body, act as gates or dams which are tightly closed. The first level of Song, Song to Open, opens these gates, or destroys these dams. This allows our body to function as an open conduit.
Openness allows sinking, we Song to sink the Qi. The sinking of the Qi to the Dan Tien is of paramount importance. When there is no Qi in the Dan Tien, this is considered having no Qi from the Taijiquan point of view. In fact, the Dan Tien is widely misunderstood as simply a region of the body, or something that is innate. We are born only with the Tien, or the field, but it is empty of Qi, it is empty of Dan, or the Elixir. Only after extended periods of authentic practice, with a well developed quality of Song to Sink, does the Qi begin to sink to the Tien, accumulating drop by drop over time, to form the elixir, and thus one has formed the Dan Tien.
When engaging with an opponent or training partner, any resistance within our body creates bracing, which is a quality of Li. This brings your force and center up, away from the ground, causing the Qi to float. When the Qi is floating, one becomes top heavy, clumsy and easy to tumble. Song to Sink is the antidote.
Mental activity and emotional turbulence also cause the Qi to rise. In order to achieve Song and for the Qi to sink, one must develop a calm and tranquil mind, as well as emotional stability. This calm and stable mind can then be used as a powerful tool, because the calm mind has Yi, or mind intention, at its service. The Yi is used to command Song, while the Ting is used to recognize Song to Open and Song to Sink.
In the Neijia arts, one of the most important practices is Zhang Zhuan, or Standing post. The purpose of Zhang Zhuan is twofold. The first aspect is aligning the skeleton with gravity. This alignment, which includes the quality of Song to Open, decompressing the joints, allows the skeleton to act as efficiently as possible, allowing the flesh to release and sink. The second aspect is Song to Sink. Once the skeleton is aligned and open, the sinking process can begin. Without the openness of the body, sinking is not possible - the internal dams caused by tension (contraction) and blockage, stop the downwards flow of Qi. Standing practice in this way is an excellent method for developing the initial stages of Song to Sink, and sinking the Qi to the Dan Tien.
松散 Song San – Disperse
From the accumulation of sinking over time, one achieves a profound fullness of Qi. This fullness is also known as Peng Jin. (point to Peng). This leads us onto the third level of Song, Song to Disperse. There are two basic manifestations of Disperse. The first is dispersing your Nei Qi to generate mobilization of the Nei Qi and the Wei Qi for offense. The second is dispersing internally within yourself, in order to disperse the power imposed on you by your partner or opponent.
The first quality causes the opponent to float upon contact. This is one of the keys for the application of Peng Jin. The second quality causes the opponent to be unable to land force on you, functioning as one of the initial causes of Hua Jin. (redirect to Hua) Thus, receiving and issuing become the action of an instant.
松淨 Song Jing – Clean
The fourth level of Song is known as Clean Song. This is simply the culmination of the first three, the coming to fruition. When one has Song to Open, has achieved sinking the Qi through Song to Sink, and can Song to Disperse at will, one can attack and defend freely and has truly entered the door of Taijiquan. When the skills of receiving and issuing happen naturally, with no involvement of Li, it is said that one’s Song has become clean.
松通 Song Tong – Penetrate
When one’s Song becomes deeper and deeper, the previous qualities of open, sink, disperse and clean, increase exponentially. Thus one reaches the level of Song to Penetrate.
The Song itself, and thus the Qi, penetrate and pass through every channel, every cell, every cavity of the body. The Chinese words and 松通 can also mean to pass through.
The Song and Qi penetrating throughout the body on such a fine scale, allows a highly refined ability to change, to articulate the body through Shen, Yi and Qi. This allows Yin and Yang to alternate freely even within the smallest point. Your opponent cannot know you.
In regards to your opponent, Song to Penetrate allows your Qi to enter the body of your opponent, passing through apparent blocks, to penetrate any cell at will. This gives you complete control of your opponent, in a similar way in which Song to Penetrate within your own body gives you complete control over yourself. Join, from Stick, Adhere, Join and Follow finds it’s true meaning here. To touch hands with an initiate who has achieved this level, is like touching hands with a puppet master, and you are the puppet under his will.
松空 Song Kong – Empty
In this text I have refrained from intellectual musings or fantasy. In taking upon this task, I committed to only write from direct experience. Because of this I will refrain from giving an in depth explanation on Song to Empty which is endless in depth. I will however give some short explanation based on my experience.
When the body reaches a profound level of song it becomes as if completely empty, the opponent finds nothing to attack, nothing to land on. At this stage the body is so empty that it is as if completely insubstantial, the substantial form/yin has the quality of the insubstantial/yang. In comparison to this, the insubstantial/yang nature of your Shen and Qi beyond your bodily form are potent and thus have the quality of substantial/yin substantial. This is the yang within the yin and the yin within the yang. This is Taiji born from the emptiness of Wuji.