Tai Chi (or Tai Ji)
Tai Chi (or Tai Ji) translated into English is roughly the ‘optimal fist fighting’, ‘the root of all motion’ and ‘supreme boxing’. An old saying in Chinese martial arts field says ‘Tai Chi (Tai Ji) in the world all originated from Wudang Mountain’. Tai Chi s an internal training method that was created by the great Daoist priest and immortal, Zhang San Feng at Wudang Mountain. Tai Chi is considered a martial art, but unlike the most combative styles, Tai Chi is based on fluidity and circular movements.
Generally when people discuss ‘Tai Chi’ they are referring to Tai Chi Quan, or the forms practice involved in Tai Chi. However, in Wudang, Tai Chi Quan is considered a part of the greater ‘Tai Chi System’. The Tai Chi System is composed of 3 parts: Wu Ji, Tai Ji, and Liang Yi. Each of these three parts contains their own practices, purposes, and methods of training. Although the Tai Chi System is separated into three parts, they are all integrated and complementary to the others.
Wu Ji is another name for ‘nei dan’ (Daoist meditation practice). The practice of Wu Ji (oosely translated as ‘ultimate emptiness’) is for the cultivation of our three vitality: Jing (Essence), Qi (Energy), and Shen (spirit). We practice Wu Ji in order to promote the health of these three vitality. Tai Ji (Tai Chi) is the balancing interaction of yin and yang. Under the Tai Chi System, Tai Chi Quan is the form that we use to cultivate ourselves and learn to develop and understand feeling in our bodies and how to integrate that into movement. Liang Yi is the separation of yin and yang. Under the Tai Chi System, Liang Yi Quan is for the use of the energy that we have cultivated through our practice. Whereas in Tai Chi Quan we combine the soft and hard, in Liang Yi Quan practice, we separate the soft and hard. The power of Liang Yi Quan is explosive, resembling a bomb detonating; its practice is more for use in practical fighting application.
Tai Chi’s Health Benefits
The practice of Tai Chi Quan holds great benefits for those looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional health. Many people in modern society suffer from chronic neck, shoulder, back, hip and knee discomfort as a result of poor posture and bad living habits. If these strains are not rectified early, over time they can become chronic problems that have a great effect on one’s personal life and overall health; painful problems that become increasingly more difficult to fix as we become older and our bodies become stiffer. Tai Chi Quan places great importance on the cultivation of correct posture. By aligning the posture, maintaining a straight spine and relaxed back and waist, over time practitioners of Tai Chi Quan begin to feel a greater release of built up tension and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, back, waist, and hips. This happens as a result of the process of relaxing the muscles and tendons of the body, especially those that are in the neck, shoulders, and back.
The practice of Tai Chi
Practicing all of the elements that comprise the Tai Chi System can help us to more deeply understand our bodies and minds and learn the methods to make them cleaner, clearer, quieter, and healthier. Tai Chi training teaches us not only to train our muscles, tendons, and bones, but also to train our intention, internal feeling, awareness, and power in order to bring about greater balance and health in our lives.
Here at the Wudang Tai Chi Kung Fu School we have four main Tai Chi forms: 13 Step Tai Chi, 18 Step Tai Chi, 36 Step Tai Chi and 64 Step Tai Chi. We also practice Tai Chi Sword as well as other practices that are complementary to Tai Chi such as Tai Chi walking, standing meditation, and several forms of Qi Gong. Every morning students practice Qi Gong. Often times during basic training students practice Tai Chi walking, cloud hands, and standing meditation.