The eight trigrams and five elements are innate within us. You must first understand that they are based in these four terms: perception, realization, activation, action. [These four terms amount to “moving with awareness”. This is a breakdown of four words – 知, 覺, 運, 動 – which would typically, and especially so for modern Chinese speakers, only be considered as two terms: 知覺 and 運動. To break movement (運動) and awareness (知覺) into their component parts results in: moving = the activation (運) of movement + the act (動) of moving, and awareness = the perception (覺) that something is + the realization (知) of what it is. In short, moving with awareness. This idea is further elaborated upon in the next section, where the purpose of breaking down the two terms into four becomes more clear.]Once you have achieved moving with awareness, then you will be able to identify energies.
Once you can identify energies, then you will be able to be miraculous. But in the beginning of training, you should understand moving with awareness. Although it is innate, it is nevertheless hard to achieve within oneself.
OUR INNATE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH
蓋人降生之初目能視耳能聼鼻能聞口能食顏色聲音香臭五味皆天然知覺固有之良其手舞足蹈於四肢之能皆天然運 動之良思及此是人熟無因人性近習逺失迷固有要想還我固有非乃武無以尋運動之根由非乃文無以淂知覺之本原是 乃運動而知覺也夫運而知動而知不運不覺不動不知運極則為動覺盛則為知動知者易運覺者難先求自己知覺運動淂 之於身自能知人要先求知人恐失於自己不可不知此理也夫而後懂勁然也
From birth, our eyes can see, ears can hear, nose can smell, mouth can taste. Sights and sounds, smells and tastes – all innate senses. Dance of hands, prance of feet – the abilities of our limbs are all innate forms of movement. Pondering upon this, we find it is our random experience – “Our natures make us the same, but our experiences make us unique.” [Lun Yu, 17.2] – that makes us lose touch with what is innate. If we want to return to our innate qualities, there will be no martial aspect unless we seek the source of movement, and there will be no civil aspect unless we grasp the basis of awareness. With these things, then there will be moving with awareness.
If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.
First strive to move with awareness for yourself, grasping it within your own body, then naturally you will be able to spot it in the opponent. If on the other hand you try to find it in opponents first, you will probably never find it in yourself. You have to be able to understand this concept in order to be able to identify energies
These two sections are from the oldest known ‘Tai Chi classic’ written by either Yang Ban Hou or Yang Lu Chan, translated by Paul Brennan