Taijiquan - an ongoing journey
by Heiko Schulze
My interest in martial arts started in my teenage years. I learnt Karate for many years in my hometown in Germany, until I went to university in another city. It was only when I moved to Singapore about 12 years ago that I thought of taking up martial arts again. I was intrigued by Taiji as an internal martial art and its emphasis on the cultivation of internal energy (qi).
After some research on the internet, I found a class in Clementi and I stayed with the teacher for a few years. In the course of my practice of the Yang style, I learnt a number of different forms (24, 40, and 42) as well as the use of the sword and sabre. However, what I missed out on in these training sessions was the specific cultivation of qi. The training merely mimicked the external representation of forms and did not address what is supposed to happen beneath the surface. After all, Taijiquan is an internal martial art. I was disappointed with this teaching approach and decided to discontinue the training. Instead, I took up a few qigong classes for a while, in particular baduanjin qigong.
It was early last year when I became interested in Taijiquan again. This time around my interest was not only on the martial arts aspects of Taijiquan but also on the health benefits of the practice; I had developed sinusitis and chronic neck ache, and I wanted to find relief from the pain and discomfort. I did some internet research and visited a few classes in Community Centres as well as the class by Master Chong in Bukit Gombak. The differences in the teaching style in Master Chong's class, e.g., the inclusion of breathing exercises and standing meditation (zhan zhuang) as well as the performance of the students, e.g., their body alignment, were striking. I knew that I had found the right class.
Since then I have attended the training (almost) regularly and practice Taiji at least two times a week outside of the class. I would end every training session, without fail, completely soaked in sweat but with a smile on my face. My body and mind felt more relaxed. Now, the tension in my muscles (especially the tension in my neck and shoulders) has significantly decreased and I feel less stressed and sleep much better. Even the sinusitis has improved a lot!
In my current practice, I have managed to memorize the sequence of the Zheng Zhi Taijiquan 37 form. I still have to improve my body alignment while doing the form and, above all, my joints and muscles as well as my mind have yet to become completely relaxed (sung). I am aware that without achieving the quality of sung the qi cannot flow.
In the course of the last year I did feel the qi, manifested as a tingling sensation, more regularly and more intensely in my hands during the standing meditation and while practising the form. And on a few occasions, a warm, tingling sensation spreads through my whole body for a brief moment.
I hope that one day I will be able get closer to the state of sung, maintain the correct posture while moving, and thereby enhance the flow of qi in my body.