The Level of Shen in Taijiquan
By Chun Man Sit
Shen is the highest level in the art of Taijiquan. But one needs not wait for another 20 years to start traveling on this path. All Taiji practitioners who are sincere and have a solid foundation can begin this training anytime if they wish to do so. And they can all succeed eventually, because given enough time and effort, anything is possible.
So what is the level of Shen in Taiji?
It is the spiritual level. At this level, you are at peace with your Taiji, your teacher, yourself, and the world. There is much joy and tranquility in your form practice, be it the short 24, the medium 48 or the traditional long form. At times you’ll feel like there’s water surrounding your whole body. Sometimes you seem to move around by using just consciousness alone. You will always feel greatly energized after every practice session.
Your push-hand and self-defense skills will improve to a mystical level. All techniques are performed effortlessly and naturally. You can respond towards your partner’s push spontaneously, with perfect timing. And things seem quite unreal: weak can be strong and slow can be fast. Everything becomes easy and you don’t know why it is so. This is the level of Wu-wei, non-action.
The Training Method
- You must practice until you can perform your form with correct body mechanics. Any Taiji style is fine. Incorrect Taiji is bad Taiji. Whether you choose Chen, Yang or Wu style makes little difference. You’ll need about 3000 repetitions to reach this goal.
- Now you should try to use less strength in your form practice. Use less Li; use less Jin. They are all just different kinds of tension. Try to imagine your body to be very light and soft. Practice until you experience softness. This part of the training is difficult because it is your ego and your mind that will resist it. The ego likes the power of jin; it feels good. Get rid of the ego! This is the level of “use yi instead of li”. It is the advanced level of Taijiquan. About another 3000 repetitions.
3. However, one more step is necessary. Now try to use less yi while practicing
Forget about jin; forget about qi; and cut down on yi. The key to the Dao is less, not more. To achieve jin you must give up li. To achieve yi you must give up jin. And to achieve Shen you must give up yi. Each day you practice to decrease, until you reach the point of Wu-wei. Another 3000 repetitions or more.
- Sitting meditation
Sitting meditation is great for Shen practice. It is a simple method. The basic key points are: correct body structure, peaceful mind, calm and deep breathing. When you advance, you should just relax while practicing. Don’t ask the universe for anything. Instead, just practice. In the Confucius school, this is called zou wang – “to sit and forget”. The goal is to be in harmony with the universe, not to demand anything.
2. Standing meditation
This is also a great method. It is more physical so you need to be stronger to use this method. It uses the same principle as in the sitting practice. Standing Gong practice is the shortcut to Taiji Jin. But on a higher level, you need to give up the idea of Jin. Just relax; practice until you feel the gravity pull of the Earth. If you become greedy and want more Jin, you’ll never reach the Shen level. Be careful!
When you have reached the Shen level of Taijiquan, you need to remember one thing: be humble. There is still room for improvement. But now you’ll feel content. To improve is good, not improving is good. The practice has become the goal.[Master Chun Man Sit was born in 1951 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.]