By Jiang Changfeng, transcribed by Ma Zhenfu
An excerpt from the Club Magazine No. 4, p. 11 of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association Shanghai, 15.1.1982
In a nutshell, Taijiquan, established both nationally and internationally, is an outstanding development of the Chinese martial arts, breathing exercises, the teaching of daoyin (the teaching of leading and guiding) and other techniques. As early as in the Song of the 13 Basic Movements the following is pointed out:
“Become aware of the ultimate purpose. To prolong life. To extend the years. Eternal spring.”
That brings us from the martial arts to the aim of health care. Why practise Taijiquan?
Ultimately it is to attain good health and to live longer. This is an important characteristic of Taijiquan. It prompts us to strive for the following:
A calm heart/mind (xin).
Application of the imagination (yi).
The movements are slow and relaxed.
The whole body is in harmony.
Inside and outside are united.
Thus it becomes a comprehensive training method, which corresponds exactly with the concept of Chinese medicine. Taijiquan plays a positive role in the prevention of illness, the strengthening of the physical constitution and the prolonging of life. If others are to be envious of your youthfulness in your twilight years, just remember, this is no easy achievement.
In order to scale the summit it is necessary to subject yourself to hard long-term training with many twists and turns along the way. I myself have now practised Taijiquan for several decades and have some experience concerning this subject. Thus, in order to stimulate a productive discussion, I would now like to bring up some unfinished thoughts for consideration.
1. When beginning to learn Taijiquan you must first look for a good teacher and helpful friends. Then you must practise the positions of the form until you have mastered them. You must at all costs avoid giving up after a certain amount of time because then you will go down the path of easy learning turns into difficult learning.
At the same time you must work on the quintessence of Taijiquan, e.g. collect your thoughts, let the qi sink into dantian (qichen dantian), erect head and empty neck (xuling dingjin), lower your shoulders and let your elbows hang (zhuizhou chenjian), etc. Sooner or later you will be able to achieve this in everyday movements.
You can train while walking, standing, sitting or lying down. While doing so you should always maintain your own centre, a correct posture and a state of calm and relaxation. This powerful posture passed down by our ancestors of the martial arts is bursting with vitality. In short, the trunk is as straight as when one says, carry yourself with respect and sit in a dignified manner. This is a good model on which to base our training.
2. The next step important to building on the foundation of a good Taijiquan form is Pushhands. The form is the foundation (ti) and the ability (gongfu) of knowledge of oneself. Pushhands is the application (yong) and the knowledge of your opponent. Both are connected with each other and by practising both, better health can be achieved.
Some people merely consider Pushhands to be another of the martial arts, with which to easily defend yourself. This is not necessarily the case. As mentioned above the ultimate goal of Taijiquan can be shifted from beating your opponent to achieving a long life. This can only be achieved if both parties practising Pushhands consider that friendship is most important – soft neutralisation has precedence. If this is the case it is not only possible mutually to exchange views on the martial arts but it can also be a challenging and absorbing activity and lead to increased motivation.
To summarise, through Taijiquan both good health and a long life can be experienced. Most important is strict adherence to a conscientious training regime. But it is also important to combine this with an in-depth study of theory (lilun), because through sensory experience it is possible constantly to achieve a reinforcement of rational insight. The old classics of Taijiquan are derived from decades of the great masters’ practical experience. They are very rich in content and refer to classical philosophy, The Explanation of the taiji-Diagram, the teaching of yin and yang, Chinese medicine, the Art of War by Sunzi and many more.
Among them are theories from modern science such as dialectics, mechanics, physiology, health care and many more which arrive at the same result. While we maintain the tradition and practise Taijiquan, we absorb its essence. Science can improve the training methods of Taijiquan, increase the effect it has on one’s health and create new methods of progress.