Taiji for Health

One of the main reasons I began training in taiji was due to injuries. Like most young guys who do taiji (at least most that I know of), generally start due to knee pains. I can’t say that I’ve pampered my body as I did a lot of TKD as a kid. All that snap kicking in the air had to do wonders for my knees. Then to top things off, I did A LOT of wushu and with all the jumping and flying acrobatic stuff with ultra low stances, that was not good for my knees either.

So.. when I first started taiji, my main goal was to hopefully rebuild some of my knee issues and that it did. While I don’t think it was all mainly due to taiji as I did a lot of zhan zhuang at the time too. I think a conjunction of the two is what helped me. I no longer felt the intense shooting pains or the occasional incidents where my knee would just go out on me. I do sometimes still feel pain, especially when the weather changes.

The reason I bring this all up, is after reading an interview with Feng Zhiqiang titled, Like the Body of a Dragon, I really started to reevaluate my goals. He laid out the following points:

1. Gentle
is better than forceful.
2. Slow
is better than fast
3. High
is better than low.
4. Long
is better than short.
5. Curved
is better than straight.
6. Single-weighted
is better than
double-weighted.

The points that got me are the gentle better than slower and higher better than lower. To me, that kind of goes against what I’ve been learning or what I want to do with chen taijiquan. One of the things that got me interested in chen was all the fajing, but is all that fajing good for you? There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the potential negative effects on the brain with all the fajing due to the shaking or reverb of the head. Also, if there is no target, then your body absorbs the hit (similar to snap kicking in the air). Feng Also mentions the negative impact of stamping and jumping on the body and knees.

I believe what FZQ mentions is much better for one’s health. It’s kinda interesting to note the change in focus of most master’s over time. Early on, it’s all about the martial but then towards the end, it becomes much more meditative and introspective. Just look at O-Sensei of Aikido or even Chen Xiaowang with his emphasis on zhan zhaung, chansigong and fansong. I think Feng may have taken the chen to the extreme and it appears almost more yang like in nature due to it’s emphasis on the yin. Maybe the yin is where it’s at.. perhaps that’s the key to all of this…

I have noticed that over time, I have modified my own chen form. I do the form higher when I feel knee pains, but then I feel bad for not going as low. I do dramatically slow down my fajin until I feel “warmed up” but is that the point of taiji? While I do realize in modern society there is little need for the martial training but I still like the martial aspect. However, how often have I worked on or practiced the martial aspect? Very little.. if any, mostly in the context of push hands, but to me, that’s not really martial training, as it’s more sensitivity training and body conditioning, which could kinda be martial, I guess.

My own training has changed in that it’s much more personal now. I do 99% of my training and learning on my own. I do read books and forums and such, but most of my time is with myself and my own corrections. It’s almost gotten a bit more meditative in nature. This is one of the reasons why I find myself hopping from chen to yang. I can easily get in the meditative state when I do the yang and I’ve often mentioned that I feel more connected with the yang.. this is causing me to consider why.. what is the reason for my training? I guess I’m trying to decide if I should just pick a path and focus on it instead of doing 2 paths half-assed. If the goal is martial then train the martial, but what to do if the goal is yin? hmm…

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About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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5 Responses to Taiji for Health

  1. minamoto9 says:

    I read an article the other day about a chen stylist talking about the focus of the art. that it should be martial/primary, health/secondary and holistic(i interpreted this as spiritual)/tertiary. his view was that if you start with the primary you would also get the others.

    my question is, why couldnt you start with any of them and then get the others? (commutative property?)

    cmc gets alot of crap for changing his form and that it is not primarily martial. who said that was his focus? maybe he set the primary as the spiritual, health second and martial thirdly.

    you would still get martial training, but it would take longer to matriculate.

    thoughts anyone?

    M

  2. wujimon says:

    Hey M:
    As for CMC changing his form, I believe when questioned as to the reason for practicing taijiquan, he commented:

    “The most important reason is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is about, you’ll have some health to enjoy it,” was his answer.”
    Reason to Study Taiji

    So in this regard, I felt his focus was more on the health aspect than the martial. The emphasize could also be due to the social climate of the time in that hand-to-hand combat was no longer needed in modern society. However, the quote goes a bit further to note:

    “More than self-defense, more even than its health benefit, he taught Tai Chi Chuan as a Tao, a ‘way of life'”

    I think this coincides along more with the ‘spritual’ aspect of the art.

    As for the commutative properties, I think it really depends on focus. Just b/c CMC’s art is touted more along the health/spiritual lines, I don’t think that means the martial is not existent. William CC Chen is an example of a CMC stylist who emphasizes the martial aspect in his own training and teachings. I believe there to be CMC schools out there who do emphasize the martial, it’s just that most do not.

    As for getting the martial aspects while focusing on the health, not too sure that would work. Martial efficacy will only be gotten if one trains for the martial, IMO. In this regard, I think any style, including chen, if focus is placed solely on the health, may not yield martial efficacy.

    Given that, if we want martial efficacy, then we must train in a martial context irregardless of style, IMO. We can’t just imagine opponents and combat techniques to work magically when called for if we haven’t been put in that situation. Part of martial training is training the mind in such a way so that we can remain calm when confronted with the stressors of conflict.

  3. minamoto9 says:

    i agree, but i dont think my point came through.
    >As for getting the martial aspects while focusing on >the health, not too sure that would work. Martial >efficacy will only be gotten if one trains for the >martial, IMO.

    by this logic, you would get neither health nor spirituality. you can never (IMO) train taiji without some aspect of the three. no matter what your focus is, the others will ‘leak’ thru. if you train just for martial purposes, you have to keep alignment, relaxation, etc. this benefits health no matter how hard you try not to incorporate it.

    it you came from the health side, you still have to adhere to taiji principles. since taiji is a martial art, even if you just want health, you still need alignment and song and coordinating breath. quite good skills for martial arts. i agree you probably wouldnt be able to kick as tech-wise, but even without focusing on the martial, the very nature of the art gives you skills in that area simply by following its principles.

    know what i mean?

  4. wujimon says:

    Hey M. I believe if one focuses on martial, then things like mental training, correct structure, proper alignment, etc, come into play, thereby yielding the health and mental aspects as a byproduct of martial training.

    I agree with you that in some form, all 3 aspects are represented. However, to me, the differences is in their proportions. Given that, something like:

    50% Health
    30% Spiritual
    20% Martial

    will probably not yield martial efficacy. Sure, you’ll get something but I think when people refer to martial training, this means if someone could “hold their own”.

    However, I feel given the breakdown, a further breakup of martial training is required. By this I mean, what is martial training? Is this knowing an application? Is this drilling applications? Is this push hands? Is this sanshou or free form sparring? Give that, if the proportion spent on martial training is primarily spent on ‘knowing an appication’ but not drilling or testing, then I don’t think martial efficacy will happen. I think some type of ‘contact’ is required for someone to truly say they train the martial aspects, otherwise what people are doing is philosophizing or playing around with martial ideas.

    In regards to coming from the health and training skills required for martial artists, I don’t doubt that. However, I don’t believe alignment, relaxation, breath control are really ‘skills’ as much as they are characteristics of good martial artists. Skill, IMO from a martial perspective, come from execution.

  5. Pingback: wujimon » Blog Archive » Cheng Man Ching on Applications

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