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:
is better than forceful.
is better than fast
is better than low.
is better than short.
is better than straight.
is better than
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…