Taiji: Life-Nurturing Martial Art
By Master Chun Man Sit
We all know that Taiji quan is an excellent health promoting practice. We also know that it is a martial art of the first order. But can we practice Taiji to cultivate both health and martial art at the same time?
This is an interesting question. In China there are many different opinions on this topic. Some teachers say you should just pick one goal; others say you need to know both if you want to get the most benefit out of Taiji practice. Still there are those who believe that you can practice for both health and martial art, but it will take a much longer time to achieve both goals.
Here is my opinion: for all the above answers, my opinion is yes, and no. Sounds mysterious? I’ll explain.
First I want to point out that the first level of taiji practice is always for health, even if you learn Taiji as a pure martial art. To reach the first level effectively you must:
1) Learn your form correctly
2) Practice your forms regularly
3) Practice slowly
4) Focus on what you are doing
5) Use less force
These five principles seem quite simple; but they are not. You must pay full attention and try your best. If you follow these guidelines you will improve quickly. They are good for both health and martial art.
Taiji as a health exercise
If you practice Taiji just for health and healing, reaching the first level is enough. However, the more you learn, the better your practice, and the greater the health benefits.
Practice with correct body structure will help you to relax. Focus on doing the routine will calm your mind. Practice slowly and you will know the details of the form. Use less force and you will improve the efficacy of your body mechanics.
And even if you are not interested in self defense, learning the self defense of Taiji postures will help you to perform the routine better. Besides, it’s fun to know things.
Taiji as a martial art
Taiji is a martial art from the Daoism School. It is non-aggressive by nature. The best Taiji fighter is one who can borrow his opponent’s force. If one wants to borrow force, one must use less force. If one wants to listen to one’s opponent, one must be quiet.
To use more force than one’s opponent is not true Taiji. It doesn’t matter if one uses li or jin, it is still force against force. To fight force with another force is what we call ‘double heaviness’. The strong will win; the weak will lose. And it is always a struggle.
When the sage said, “Use yi/intention; don’t use li/force.’ He meant exactly what he said: Don’t use force. (In my opinion, li and jin are both forces.) If you know how to win without using force against another force, then you have entered the threshold of Daoism Taiji. You can use Taijiquan for both health and martial art. There will be no conflict.
And the secret is simple: borrow your opponent’s force. You are always as strong as your opponent if you can borrow his force. To borrow force, you must first use less force. The less force you use, the easier you can borrow. If you want to borrow your opponent’s total force, you must use no force at all. This is what the Daoism idea of : do the non-doing and then you can do anything.
Master Wu Tunan’s wisdom
Master Wu Tunan lived to the amazing age of 104. He lived through many difficult times in China: First and Second World Wars, the Civil War, and the Cultural Revolution, which was as bad as both of the world wars..
According to a research by doctors in 1981, Master Wu was in excellent health even at age 96. Doctors found that Wu’s heart worked as good as an athlete. He had good eyesight and hearing, his blood pressure normal, and he still had full functions of his mind. He could hike for hours and climb up hills like a young man. And above all, he could defeat many Taiji artists easily in the push-hand exercise.
Master Wu claimed that it was the result of a life time of Taiji practice.
Master Wu said, “If you want to achieve maximum benefit from Taiji, you must learn to practice accurately. You should practice every day. But Taiji alone cannot make you healthy. You should also learn to live a harmonious life. No one can stay healthy if he abuses himself with over-eating, over-smoking, over-working, over-indulgence in sex, over-drinking, etc. Remember the principle of the middle way.
Even in Taiji practice, you should not overdo it. I used to practice more than three hours daily in my youth. I practiced about two hours a day when I was fifty, then one and half hours daily after age sixty. My daily practice was about one hour when I reached eighty. Now that I’m 98, I practice 15 minutes in the morning and again 15 minutes in the evening. And I feel fit and healthy.”
Master Wu Tunan is a good example of how you can practice Taiji and achieve both health and martial at the same time. Just consider the fact that he was a sick and weak little kid, hoping to improve his health by practicing Taiji. It is almost magical![Master Chun Man Sit was born in southern China. His family moved to Hong Kong when he was six. He lived in Hong Kong for twenty years. In 1976 he moved to the United State. He lives in Overland Park, Ks. with his wife Mary Ann. Master Sit began his martial art training in 1969. He has learned and practiced continually for forty years, learning many styles, such as: Karate, Tai Chi, Qigong and Kungfu. He is the expert on Wu style Taiji, Tai Hui Six Elbows Kungfu, and many Qigong methods, including 6 Healing Sounds, Drifting Cloud Moving Qigong, Nei Gong, Silk-reeling Gong, etc. Master Sit has been a chief judge in many national Tai Chi and Kungfu tournaments in the USA for the last 18 years. He has taught workshops on Tai Chi, Qingong and Kungfu. His articles appear regularly in Tai Chi and Kungfu magazines. He is currently writing a book on Tai Chi.]