TAJIQUAN (TAI CHI CHUAN) 太极拳
Background & Philosophy
According to the quote from the ‘I Ching': ‘From the beginning of time, there is only chaos (Wu Ji). Tai Chi, the fusion of Yin and Yang, springs the Being from the turmoil.' For centuries, the concept of ‘Tai Chi' acts as the crucial brick for the development of Taoist cosmology and practices. Through which, the ancient philosophers created Tai Chi as one of the numerous means in facilitating the comprehension of Taoist culture. In the 14th century, the ‘system of Tai Chi Dan Dao' was created from the wisdom of Taoist Zhang San Feng, who dedicated years in the Wudang mountains to perfect his work that will later set the foundation for the Chinese internal martial arts (Nei Jia Quan). The stunning movements of the martial art, along with its profound core of Taoism, has introduced a state of harmony and tranquillity that enables individuals to dive into the grand wisdom offered by Taoism (philosophy) as well as the entire Chinese culture. More importantly, it enables a practical means in realizing the nature of Taoism.
The beauty of Tai Chi is the beauty of nature, it could be formidable and frightening but also it could be gentle and tranquil. Most of the Tai Chi forms do not contain drastic movements, it requires bodies to move like water in the stream, smoothly and gently. However, when it comes to some of the explosion points, it requires bodies to move like arrows, fast and fierce. The philosophy of this movement of Yin and Yang could be simplified to the Taoist philosophy of water. Like what is said in DaodeJing, “The perfect goodness is like water. Water benefits all things instead of contending with them.”That is the virtue of water. Nevertheless, water could also be devastating. Like how the DaodeJing describes it “Heaven and earth are not merciful.” Consisting of these two sides, Tai Chi practitioners present the beauty of nature by being nature. By watching a good Tai Chi practitioner practice taichi, it gives people a great sense about how the “Tao” is operating the universe. That is the reason why Tai Chi is not merely a combination of body movement, but also a work of arts which contains a cosmic consciousness and life sentiment that is unique to Chinese Taoism (philosophy).
In sharp contrast with other martial arts, which requires lengthy and intense training. Wu Dang Tai Chi may gradually and gently promote mental and physical health. As Master San Feng quoted, “the ultimate goal of Tai Chi is to prolong the life span of the practitioner”. Taoists believe that the preservation of both spiritual and physical energy is achieved through “Wu Wei”. while practising Tai Chi, during which the mind fuses with the body and lets harmony flow like a stream that cleanses all distractions, hence becoming one with the cosmos. Achieve “Wu Wei” then our minds can be empty. Since our minds are empty, our Qi (气）is able to gather. When Qi (气）is able to gather, then our body can work in great harmony. Therefore all parts of the body will function better and fewer toxins will stay in the body, we are thus more healthy. Tai Chi's secret to health is very much unlike the bodybuilding exercises in the west, all people need to do is stay in a state of "Wu Wei”.
The tremendous connection between Tai Chi and Taoist philosophy makes Tai Chi an endless study subject. Every rule in Tai Chi practice fits perfectly with Taoist philosophy. It is common to hear Tai Chi teachers use quotes from the DaodeJing directly to correct student’s movements. When practicing Tai Chi following Taoist philosophy, a sense of peacefulness pervades the practitioner’s mind. Then, they can easily understand what Lao-tzu meant by “One should stop in due time, rather than fill it to the brim. When a point is whittled too sharp, its sharpness cannot remain long.”
Compared to other martial arts, Tai Chi has a more significant effect on the mental state of the practitioner. As it cultivates peoples’willpower in‘taming the monkey within their head’, allowing the enrichment of soul from a state of simplicity. After all, It is said that 9 out of 10 mistakes made in life are a result of angst, an emotion that will be withered away following the practice of Tai Chi. By incorporating the study of Taoist classics, not only does it facilitate the promotion of harmony, but allowing Taichi to transcend from a mere activity to a way of thinking that guides the practitioner towards a path of wisdom. Thus, the spirit is lifted as a whole which may greatly benefit happiness, satisfaction and even efficiency and productivity in the workplace, school or home.