The Ceaslessly Flowing River, Taijiquan
by Jaleen Ho
Cultivating both the body and spirit is a way to show respect to the art, lack of either, one is not practising Taiji quan as it's a practice to know oneself better internally and externally. Shifu wants us to train our bodies correctly to maintain our health and build up the strength of our physical bodies and to learn to calm our mind and let go of tension. Only with good foundation, correct body structure/alignment plus relaxation one can open up channels and allow free flow of energy, which then can be managed for healing, to gain unity/harmony and longevity or to use as self- defence, depending on each individual's aim. It is a special way of training that regulates and strengthens the human body, bringing the mind and body to a higher level of harmony.
When we learn energy art, we need to learn face to face so that Shifu/teacher can correct the posture, helps you get rid of tension etc. especially when one enters the internal training of the art. Only a fully qualified master can understand and help you attain the higher level of Taiji quan. As Shifu can't see how the energy flows in me, I have to let him know what little sensation/feeling I have during my initial practice to prevent qi from running wild or gets blocked. One needs to be very careful when practising qi as problems might arise if practice is done wrongly. From initial practice of activating dantian qi, directing qi and gradually able to incorporate into form practice, one will be able to understand what Shifu has been emphasizing, intention of execution leading qi and also get to realise the meaning of pushing without pushing. Internally I can feel the qi moves with my intention. Wow.. Taiji Quan is the Motion Meditation, the qi generated is much denser than meditation alone, this is why there is this saying the correct practice of Taiji quan will lead to the correct energy(Qi) management.
As we know, Taiji quan's theory is deep and profound, like a bottomless well/a ceaselessly flowing river and seems that the more I learn, the more I need to explore. Shifu will lift the benchmark higher whenever he sees that we have reached a certain level and ready to progress, he doesn't has a fixed syllabus and there are also many impromptu trainings during class. Besides good learning attitude, a good master is also an important key to learning the high art of Taiji quan. To enter the door and be led along the way, listen to instructions; observe and practise. I know that the only way to understand more is to do self-practice without ceasing. I made mistakes along the way, sometimes even getting injured but no pain no gain, therefore I persevere, practise, ponder every new thing that Shifu taught, goes back to research to further understand the skills and essence with the hope of mastering it. There is a saying... 师父引进门，修行在个人), thus we have to work hard to explore what's in the house after being led into the door.
When one has the basic foundation, some tuishou skills will be incorporated into the training as the practice will be corrupted if one has no foundation. One's achievement will depend on the manner towards the training as tuishou training is used to train many qualities/skills of Taiji quan. One will need lots of patience to practise learning to listen, feel, stick, follow, neutralize and attack while remaining rooted, centered and relaxed. The opponent cannot detect your intention but you can anticipate his/hers. If one's mind is not calm and full of intent to win and find every chance to push training partner then it is against the usage of the training.
After understanding the essence of Taiji quan, one should cultivate it. When one's realm of cultivation is raised, one's martial skills would improve correspondingly. A quote from great grandmaster Zheng Man Qing: 'Self-cultivation lies beyond the physical or mental benefits of Taijiquan'. A good practitioner should strive for morality rather than strength. Having martial moralities is important, because it concerns the student's relationship with master and classmates, other martial artists, and the general public. One must refine one's moral character while training hard to strengthen ourselves externally and internally.
Shifu used to say.. the attitude and sincerity of a practitioner towards will lead to different directions and levels attained. There are many who are intelligent and practise hard in the beginning but change his/her attitude and mind, became defiled, greedy and want to learn more in a short period. We know that without perseverance, one will not be able to reap the benefits of the wonderful art, Taiji Quan.
Shifu, thank you for your patience, your dedicated teachings are greatly appreciated and the only way to show my appreciation is work hard and to learn the art well.