Understanding and Learning Taijiquan

by Rennie Chong, translated from Mandarin by Jaleen Ho

Many practitioners choose to practise Taiji Quan as the soft, relaxing exercise is well known for its health benefits and healing effects. There are patients who suffered from many kind of disease approached me because their doctors advised them to exercise and recommended Taiji Quan. I would make it clear to them that Taiji Quan is not a Panadol that can relief pain and can work miracle in healing. If one decided to commit oneself to Taiji Quan,, determination, patience, perseverance to practise daily to lay a solid foundation is essential and cannot expect to reap the health benefits of having radiant physical, emotional and mental health that characterized accomplished martial artists if one only practises flowery Taiji Quan once a week.

Besides learning the form, a practitioner needs to constantly study the culture, philosophy, principles, medical and scientific relations of Taiji Quan to have a better understanding of what is Taiji Quan. Training diligently, adhering to theories of movements and incorporating Taiji's philosophy/practice into daily life, one's Taiji Quan will improve as one continues to refine it. There is a Chinese saying: 拳不离手,曲不离口, meaning a martial artist/singer needs to train constantly and diligently to attain skillfulness.

Taiji Quan adheres to the theory of Yin Yang which is summarized in the Huangdi Neijing. Yin Yang mutually coexist and are inseparable, it is the principle of all things. Taiji Quan is not about moving hands and legs or using force. The movements are slow and gentle, adhering to Yin Yang philosophy, e.g hands are soft and yet not collapsing within the yin there is yang.

Concentrating on the specific posture, the nine joints during practice is essential as wrong posture while practising will lead to joint pain or even injuries. Besides learning to master the external form, the internal training of yi, qi and shen (意,气,神) will be incorporated slowly, therefore, to master a set of Taiji Quan is not an easy task. Sad to say that, not many practitioners will concentrate on this as many prefer to learn the strokes as an exercise or many sets of forms for performance/competition which does not require tough training. This is causing the downfall of Taiji Quan.

On the other hand, there are practitioners who concentrate on the combat/tuishou training and interested in taking part in sparring competition hoping to be able to show that they are good when they are able to push opponents down. My master, Huang Xing Xian, who is known for his good skills ever mentioned: 功夫越好,死得越快。 This quote reminds one not to be proud and boast about how good one's skills are as that will invite more challenges.

In this modern world, the main aim of practising Taiji Quan is to stay fit and healthy. I used to fall sick easily when I was young but my health gradually improved after learning Taiji Quan from my father and master Huang. I have been practising Taiji Quan for more than 60 years and am now 77 years old, I wouldn't say my Taiji Quan's skills is very good but at least I am fit and healthy, I think even fitter than many youngsters.

I wish all practitioners good health and hope all will put in more effort to learn and practise high quality Taiji quan.

July 2016

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