Many of you will have seen older folks in the gardens, parks, community centres and such, doing their slow gentle exercises in the mornings. Taijiquan nowadays is commonly practised with a very gentle and relaxed pace, such that it gives rise to the misunderstanding that this is what Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan) is all about. Then again, most old folks taiji as a form of gentle activity than as a martial art, which suits them just fine.
Sadly, most so-called Taijiquan instructors lack a real understanding of its martial and health benefits. The original martial application has been left out, and Taijiquan as most will know it today has evolved into those competitive forms (Jing Sai Tao Lu) instead. These forms are mostly devoid of any combative elements and their primary focus is on aesthetic appearance! This is really, really sad.
The end goal is to achieve such a state of balance in the body that there is always a Peng Jing inherent in every posture that it takes. And when the body is in motion, the movements should create a spiralling force arising from the Dantian Qi at the waist area. In order to cultivate strong Qi, you need to have strong leg muscles, as they are the pillars of your body. Your legs form the foundation on which your body stands. The firmer the foundation, the stronger will be the force that you can exert. Hence, the most basic training goal is to develop your leg power, which will enable you to maintain your "horse-stance" at a fixed height throughout the routine, and so be able to root yourself into the ground.
Pushing hands is meant enhance your sensitivity to an opponent’s exertion of force. This is practised against another partner. One learns how to apply your body in directing your opponent’s energy in order to overcome them. The governing principle lies in "Using four ounces to overpower one thousand ounces".
Training in the use of weapons is usually not encouraged until you have attained a certain level of mastery in the Basic Old Form. Just for knowledge, the Chen Style weapons training include the Sword, Broadsword, Pole and Spear. The same Chan Si Jing or spiralling energy needs to be applied to the weapon and this takes a great deal of skill – that’s why you need to be well-versed in the Old Form first. The weapon has to be treated as an extension of your own body.
Your Qi is developed through regular practice. Slowly by slowly, depending on your rate of development into Taijiquan, your Qi will gradually build up. First, you notice it in the tips of your fingers where a feeling of numbness will occur as the blood rushes into them. At the next level, you should develop a prickling sensation in your hands like many needle pricks or ants’ bites. This is the beginning stage in the development of Qi. However, experiencing Qi in isolated areas as the hands or fingers and actually controlling your Qi through the various gateways of your body are worlds apart. The development is definitely incomplete!! There are further stages you need to progress through before you can even think of mastering your Qi. As our masters often advise us, you need to practice seriously and very hard in order to break through the different stages.
The specific development of the mind in using it to control the body is essential to Taijiquan. This is important in that you have control over your body just by using your mind’s intent.
Taijiquan is actually a highly refined science of the dynamics of the human body. It teaches not only self-discipline through the its mental focus, but it teaches the body to seek a state of optimal balance. In terms of Taijiquan, optimal balance means seeking a physical position (posture) which enables a person to achieve a maximal creation of power with the minimum of effort. This brings us back to the principle of "Using four ounces to overpower one thousand ounces".
CHEN STYLE TAIJIQUAN is a distinctively unusual pugilistic art, which deserves more study. It is definitely worth learning and you can start learning it at any time of your life. It is a holistic health regiment that everyone should be encouraged to build into their lives.
Generally, you will notice that your muscles and joints become stronger, suppler and you have better motor coordination.