Energy and Poetry in Motion

T'ai-chi-Ch'uan connects the mind to the body,
the consciousness to the subconscious and the individual
to his environment. It calms the battles within you,
eliminating tension arid anxiety.

When you see someone practicing Taijiquan you may mistake it for ballet. Taijiquan movements are graceful and rhythmic, suggesting poetry in motion. Yet Taijiquan is an exceedingly effective martial art.How can such slow, gentle movements be used for fighting? .Great masters who first devised and developed Taijiquan, the health aspect was secondary, their primary aim was combat. A Taiji performer moves in one particular way or holds one particular form, not because it promotes his health, but because it enables him to fight well.This, is not to deny the tremendous health benefits one gets from practicing Taijiquan. Because of its nature and philosophy, Taijiquan fulfills this health function better than most other of styles. It is particularly useful for people who for various reasons like age and illness, find the other more vigorous styles unsuitable.

There are several reasons for calling Taijiquan one of the most beautiful martial arts in the world. There are literally hundreds of kungfu sets in Shaolin, there is basically only one in Taijiquan. In the Yang style of Taijiquan which is probably the most widely practiced today, the original set consisted of one hundred and eight patterns, which were repeated. Its modern, simplified, version contains only twenty-four patterns. These twenty-four patterns - if the exponent knows how to use them properly - are sufficient to meet any Combat situation! In many martial arts, a young man has a clear advantage over an elderly woman, but not so in Taijiquan. This is because the force in Taijiquan is internal, and therefore is not affected by sex or age.

In many martial arts, the exponent pays the price of external force with bruised knuckles, roughened skin and callused feet. Taiji is a powerful tool. In other martial artists, because of the nature of their training, tend to become more tense and aggressive, the Taiji exponent becomes more calm and relaxed the more he trains. This is due to the harmonious effects of breathing and meditation exercises in Taiji Chi Kung.

Taijiquan not only provides you with a reliable form of self-defense, but heals you if you are sick and prevents you from becoming ill if you are already healthy. It is especially effective against organic disorders and emotional illness. You will enjoy these benefits even if you practice Taijiquan without any awareness of its Chi Kung aspects, but they will be greatly enhanced if you practice it with Chi Kung.

Taiji masters say that there are three levels of attainment in Taijiquan. At the first level the exponent can perform Taiji movements flowingly, and achieve health and fitness. At the second level he can apply the movements effectively to combat.At the third level it connects the mind to the body, the consciousness to the subconscious and the individual to his environment.

Why Are Tai-ji Movements Slow and Gentle?

Have you ever wondered why Taijiquan is usually performed slowly and gently? It is because of intrinsic chi training. If the movements are fast and forced, energy will not flow smoothly. That is why Taiji instructors keep reminding their students not to use strength. The trouble is that they seldom explain how one can fight well without using strength, or why doing so will hamper the development of internal force.

Just as in normal practice, the Taiji exponent does not use mechanical strength; he uses internal force. If he uses mechanical strength, he has to tense his muscles, which in turn will constrict his meridians and interrupt the internal energy flow. A Taiji exponent aims to be calm throughout even when someone is endangering his life or those of his loved ones, so that chi flows endlessly inside him and provides him with stamina and internal force.

In his practice, he coordinates his move- ments with his internal chi flow. When he spreads his arms in the pattern Separating Horse's Mane, for example, his bodily move- ment must be such that his internal chi can reach his hands by the time they have reached the limit of their spread. If he moves his arms too fast, his chi flow may not follow quickly enough, with the result that his chi may only have reached the elbows (and be locked there) when the hand is already extended. And if he tenses his arm, or any part of his body, he blocks his flow of chi.

These slow, gentle movements are performed during practice. At an advanced stage, when his chi flow is as quick as he directs it with his mind, the Taiji exponent can be very fast. In fact, he has to be fast and forceful when he spars or fights.

Intrinsic Chi Training in Taijiguan



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