Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taijiquan and the empty mind

Taijiquan (traditional Chinese: 太極拳; simplified Chinese: 太极拳; pinyin: tàijíquán; Wade-Giles: t'ai4 chi2 ch'üan2) is, together with Liuhebafa, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, Yiquan, Taikiken, Aikido and many others, an internal martial art.
The daoist master Zhang Sanfeng is credited as the creator of Taijiquan in the 13th century and the famous Five Dragon Temple from Wudang Mountains was the first place where the style became a daily routine for the daoist monks.
The Mandarin term "taijiquan" literally translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "boundless fist," or "great extremes boxing" and comes from the daoist philosophy.
Although the style used to be one of the most impressive and effective combat martial arts, Taijiquan is typically practised today mainly for health and longevity. Unfortunately, even in this aspect, the exercise that became very popular in the West and is called by most of the people "Tai Chi" is a very watered down version of what the art used to be in the past, with low benefits for both health and self-defence compared with the original. The long traditional forms have been replaced by shorter, "modern" forms which barely resemble the original movements. The people in the West, who want to learn a form in a few days, are also guilty for this situation. To learn the movements of a traditional form would take between 2-6 months and after that another 2-3 years for a decent execution, but the benefits for health and self-defence are worth the effort.
Although some people in the West, like Master Erle Montaigue have been working hard for many years to promote the original aspects of Taijiquan, most of the general public is not aware yet of the real effectiveness for health and especially self-defence of this art. As these two faces are interconnected, one cannot learn one without mastering the other. So, as a consequence, there cannot be such a thing as "Tai Chi for Health" without the fighting aspect.
With its long forms executed in slow motion, Taijiquan acts as a powerful moving meditation, circulating the qi energy through all the body channels during the practise. The mind empties and connects to the fundamental levels of the Universe with the body moving (at an advanced stage) only by the power of the thought. The practitioner feels invigorated and full of energy after finishing the set of movements.

At the Five Dragon Temple from Wudang Mountains, Taijiquan is still practised and taught today in the traditional manner (the students try to imitate the instructor practising the form until they master it). The video presents a typical class and a demonstration by one of the masters, the priest Yuen.


Chris | Martial Development said...

As far back as the 1930s, Chinese martial artists were already complaining that Taijiquan had no power. Maybe the good old days never were?

Gebeleizis said...

Hi Chris,
I think that Yang Chengfu was the last great Taijiquan master, but not as good as Yang Luchan. The Chinese were right in the 1930's, but I'm sure there were better days for Taijiquan in the 19th century or earlier.
My hope is that some day those good old days will come back.
Many thanks for the visit!

foongpc said...

Tai Chi is very popular here in Malaysia. Every morning, you can see senior citizens and a handful of young people doing Tai Chi in the parks. I myself have learnt Tai Chi but due to lack of practice and time, have yet to master all the moves. It's very true you can't master it within a few weeks. It takes years to see the health benefit. Maybe that's why most young people are not so keen .

Gebeleizis said...

Hi foongpc and thanks for the visit and comment.
I have been training in Taijiquan (traditional Yang style) for 11 years now and I can say I've barely started to grasp its basics, though I've felt its effects for the health in a few months. It's a never ending, but fascinating journey.
And I had the chance to use some of it's principles in fighting - it's a very effeftive martial art for self defence. I plan to write more posts in the future about internal martial arts, depending on the comments and interests of my readers.

Catherine said...

gebeleizis thanks for the information. I love learning about different cultures.

Gebeleizis said...

Hi Catherine and many thanks for the visit. I'll try to add new posts here about twice a week and I'll do my best to put only good stuff on this page.

julia~ said...

wow i'm learning 'bout diff. cultures here!

by the way, thanks for the compliment, actually i don't do nothing special, to get that traffic.

i just update everyday, ping after i post, submit my article to digg.

and encourage others to trade links with you.

i'm sounding like an expert here lol ;), but i'm not i'm just 18 and still learning many things


Gebeleizis said...

Hi Julia and many thanks for the visit. I'm trying myself to bring more readers to my blog (like most of the people) and I guess I have a few things to learn from you. Age doesn't matter, you may be "only 18" but you are a good source of inspiration for me.



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Gebeleizis said...

Thank you!