Foundational Taijiquan is practiced by those with health or mobility issues. This is a gentle set of physical movements designed to get a person moving around in a dextrous manner. Taijiquan can be very useful for those who are not fit and need some type of co-ordinated physical movement combined with deep and full breathing. With repetition this training process can build strength in the legs, improve balance and dexterity, and enhance the circulation of oxygen throughout the body by relaxing any and all unnecessary muscular tension. Through aligning the bones (and dropping the bodyweight into the ground), the bones, joints, ligaments and tendons are made more ‘robust’ through correct weight-bearing! Many people spend years working on this practice and quite often gain a considerable suppleness through this relaxation and the sharpening of ‘awareness’ in the mind!
For many practitioners in the West, Taijiquan is encountered only later in life, and quite often is not the common spectacle it is in China and throughout many diasporic Chinese communities. The popularity of basic Taijiquan (even in China) relies on quick courses which involve a ‘coach’ who has learned a Short Taijiquan Form over a six-week time period and is then tasked with conveying these movements to two or three classes of students a few times a week! This approach certainly gets the basic techniques ‘out there’ and gives dedicated individuals a training platform which they can build upon at a later date. This can involve longer and more complex Taijiquan Forms (of which there are many Styles), and can even include competitions, seminars and demonstrations, etc. However, even if this type of practice results in winning a World Title for ‘moving about effectively’ - this is still not the complete Taijiquan practice.
If you want to master the proper and in-depth practice of Taijiquan, you will have to find a genuine gongfu Master who is knowledgeable in Daoist self-cultivation technique and knows how to ‘fight’ in real life without compromising the sublime spiritual vision that underlies the Chinese martial arts. Following decades training with Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - I now occasionally have the honour of meeting the odd male or female Taijiquan Master through ‘invitation’ so that my physical and spiritual understanding of Taijiquan can be ‘tested’ and ‘confirmed’. Such encouragement ‘dissolves’ difficult to see ‘habitual blocks’ in the mind and body and moves onward or deeper into penetrating the empty essence of the Dao – as all movement is equally ‘empty’ and ‘still’ - this is why an immense power emanates through the channels that connect the ‘broad earth’ to the ‘divine sky’. This is why every perfect technique is both immensely ‘powerful’ and equally ‘empty’ from beginning to end – and within this freedom is vibrating a positive light that is a combination of wisdom, loving kindness and compassion for the entirety of existence!
Advanced Taijiquan is a product of a perfected state of mind and body that expresses the perfect Taijiquan technique – but which is no longer ‘limited’ to the practice of the physical Taijiquan Form - which naturally manifests every moment of everyday, whether formally training, lying in bed, going to the toilet, meditating, making love or carrying-out your work! As many of you reading this either have a low opinion of Taijiquan or believe Taijiquan cannot be used for combat (viewpoints that are a product of a lack of direct cultural knowledge), the manner in which Taijiquan technique is used on a kick-bag is simple and straightforward.
Advanced Taijiquan expresses the entire ‘bodyweight’ through any part of the body without any undue effort. Just as the bodyweight ‘drops’ into the ground through the aligned bone-structure – a re-bounding force naturally rises up continuously and without a break in the circuit. This remains true just as long as a practitioner is stood within a strong gravitational field. I start a suitable distance from the kick-bag and carry-out a mini-form set of co-ordinated movements that brings my body nearer the kick-bag and sets-up the power-technique! Today, I started with the left leg forward and threw on the spot a left-lead punch, right-reverse punch and left-lead punch. Weight shifted back onto the reverse right-leg (with bent left-leg forward in ‘cat stance’) and I throw a front-snap kick – landing forward on my properly placed left-foot and bringing the weight onto the left-leg. The power-shot is the reverse right roundhouse-kick – which swings through the air and impacts the bag with considerable and unhindered power! The process is repeated on the other side of the body and I repeat this for three-minutes.
Any combination of techniques can be used that test the ‘smoothness’ of Taijiquan technique on the one-side – and the unbroken (and considerable) power on the other. Obviously, being ‘rooted’ is important as is continuously changing sides so that left and right are properly trained and tested (as true combat is unpredictable unlike fighting with rules during sporting encounters). The mind should be calm, still, aware and all-embracing so that it is ‘reflective’ of all phenomena (like a mirror). The Buddhist Surangama Sutra explains this principle, as do various Daoist texts such as the Laozi and Zhuangzi, etc, and the ‘Book of Changes’ (Yijing). Not everyone is trained to this depth of Taijiquan attainment, and not everyone wants to be trained to this degree – but it is an option with the proper training and instruction.
ORIGINAL CHINESE LANGUAGE ARTICLE BY: QIANFENG DAOIST MASTER ZHAO MING WANG (赵明旺)
(TRANSLATED BY ADRIAN CHAN-WYLES PHD)
A few days ago, a venerable 70-year old man came to visit me in Beijing (at the Qianfeng Hermitage) from his hometown of Weihai in Shandong province! His name is ‘Jiang Daochang’ (姜道长) and he is a Disciple in the ‘Wudang’ (武当), ‘Sanfeng’ (三丰) School of internal martial arts practice and mastery! Indeed, Jiang Daochang has dedicated his life to the pursuance of Daoist gongfu (功夫)!
In his search for genuine Daoist self-cultivation knowledge and technique, he has travelled far and wide over many mountains and across numerous rivers! He is a Master of the ‘Taiji’ (太极) ‘Long-Sword’ (剑 - Jian) ‘Law’ (法 - Fa)! Eventually, he has settled in the ‘Wudang Sanfeng School’. However, he has also been aware of the Qianfeng Pre-Natal School and has attended a local study group for many years. It has been his positive experience with this group that led to him taking the decision to travel to Beijing and visit the Headquarters of the Qianfeng School.
He is a straightforward person who understands that usually a student must study with a Master for at least three-years (usually after three years of visiting other Masters) before being accepted as a ‘Disciple’ - but this situation is a little different due to Jiang Daochang already training in the Qianfeng School and the fact he is a Taiji Sword Master of many years standing! As is his right as an enquiring student – he requested that I ‘prove’ the efficacy of our School.
I first explained the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' (性命双修 - Xing Ming Shuang Xiu) self-cultivation method as preserved within the Qianfeng School. I then assessed the health of his mind and body – and immediately ‘opened’ ALL of his energy channels throughout his body. As the transformation was ‘immediate’ - Jiang Daochang stated ‘This is the genuine Daoist self-cultivation! Without this method, the essential nature (精 - Jing) cannot transform vital force (炁 - Qi) in the mind and body!’ After experiencing this – Jiang Daochang immediately requested ‘Discipleship’ and he was formally accepted into the Qianfeng School!
Jiang Daochang is very concerned for the health of those who have practiced Taiji martial arts all their lives but who have also reached middle-age. When this stage of life is reached, it is important to replenish the ‘jing’ and ‘qi’ (精炁) so as to nourish the bones and inner organs. This is the same advice for ‘internal’ or ‘external’ martial arts practice! These activities consume a lot of ‘Jing’ (精 ) and ‘qi’ (气) - and this foundational store of energy needs to be replaced. This is a primary issue for athletes and people who like to keep-fit. Of course, this is also the same issue for everybody else – but at varying levels of use and replenishment. Many just burn themselves-out wasting their internal energy on frivolous pursuits! It is the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' self-cultivation technique that can easily remedy this situation!
Qianfeng Pre-Natal School
Qianfeng Hermitage: Zhao Ming Wang
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2021.
Original Chinese Language Source Article: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_64e533c90102yssx.html
I was recently asked (by a prominent [British] Muay Thai practitioner) to write a short text about the cultural differences between ‘Western’ Thai Boxers when compared with ethnic ‘Thai’ Muay Thai counter-parts. He was particularly interested in the different cultural patterns of ‘effort’ that are in effect in the Thai Boxing ring in Thailand. He explained to me that he knows full well that many dedicated and very respectful Westerners travel to Thailand to compete in ethnic Thai Boxing competitions (not ‘adjusted’ to the sensitivities of the international community) - and as soon as they step-off the aeroplane suffer the beginnings of a psychological collapse and the development of tremendous feelings of doubt!
Furthermore, despite bravery and stoicism – as soon as the ‘smiling’ Muay Thai Warriors the ring and being the traditional ‘Ram Muay Wai Kru’ - an ancient ritual of respect that praise the Hindu God – Rama – as well as the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – a very strong sense of ‘alienation’ manifests. This sense of ‘cultural’ distinction is made even more pronounced as the Thai practitioner also ‘praises’ his or her family ancestors, parents, teachers and fellow students, etc. Perhaps this is one of its main purposes. This ‘dance’ is in fact a ‘secret’ martial art that only true Muay Thai Masters know how to interpret and use in combat. Muay Thai Masters have told me that it is a Thai manifestation of ‘internal’ martial art similar to the Taijiquan of China – which is often performed nowadays to ‘music’ as is the ‘Ram Muay’ (this is the shortened title my ethnic Thai friends us who live in the Warwick area of the UK).
I have had the privilege to train in the UK with students of Master Sken and Master Toddy over the years – despite never meeting these two experts in person. When some of these practitioners have passed through Sutton (South London) - they have come into our gongfu training hall on Sunday mornings and we have worked together. They have always been respectful, tough and very dedicated. Other than this contact with Muay Thai, my family frequent the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon, and on occasion, the Forest Hermitage (Wat Santidhamma) in Warwickshire – both of which serve the British ethnic Thai population and the Theravada Buddhism they practice. Years ago, when I lived in Hereford, I sparred full-on with ethnic Thai visitors and I was impressed with their ‘relaxed’ attitude and ‘fierce’ manifestation when fighting! I was inspired by how they live and breathe Buddhism first and foremost – and throw punches and kicks only after they have learned the Buddha’s Teaching fully! This is why I often seek-out special Theravada Bhikkhus living in the Buddhist temples in the UK. Unlike in the Thai villages and forests – this is not a common occurrence in the UK – but occasionally I get lucky!
I have also discovered that the Head Monks are often reticent to discuss this issue in the temple due to many Westerners developing the wrong attitude about Buddhism and Muay Thai. The way this works is that if the Head Monk wanted Westerners to learn Muay Thai – he would make its presence known and organise access. When I have discovered Muay Thai practice in the Buddhist temples – it has always been by mistake. This has also included incidents of special ‘tattooing’ sessions – whereby ‘sacred’ images and spiritually empowered mantras are ‘tapped’ into the skin – using a pointed-bone and coloured ink... These marks are considered ‘sacred’ and ‘divine’ as they grant the carrier with special spiritual powers. Interestingly, when I asked the Head Monk about how a person should begin their practice of Muay Thai? He answered that I should read the Pali Suttas about ‘correct breathing’, and about ‘stilling the mind’ - whilst living in an isolated meditation hut for at least three-years. Without this foundation of ‘Dhamma’ - I was told – I cannot practice ‘genuine’ Muay Thai.
Starting from around 16 years of age with a ruck sack of around 15Ibs - 20Ibs - a practitioner should start running over various types of terrain, and for different distances at various times of the year. The point is to 'sweat' and a number of clothing layers should be worn. This practice is a combination of weight-lifting and running. As the body (and mind) strengthens, the weight should be slowly increased. As a grown man, the weight should reach 56Ibs (perhaps 40Ibs for a woman) - but temporary increases up to 76Ibs can be used for short periods. Distances should vary from 1.5 miles to 5 miles on paved roads, but it is also good to run on grass and occasionally on sand. Much longer distances can be used if running is replaced with hiking. If a practitioner is only just beginning to get fit, or is recovering from injury or illness, always start by walking over a certain distance. It is a good idea to lift free weights for a time prior to ruck sack running so as to build the bones, muscles and joints, and to practice ordinary running (and periodic sprinting) to condition the cardiovascular system. For many, just 'wearing' the iron vest for any extended period of time is very difficult to do, and creates substantial muscular pain in the neck, shoulders and back, as well as in the knees, ankles and various parts of the feet. This is normal and will pass. Just as the iron vest compresses the body - the structures of the body 'resist' and generate an outward counter-pressure - which generates a substantial repelling force. This is how the body withstands and rejects any incoming power. Furthermore, carrying this weight forward generates tremendous 'forward' momentum which is very difficult for an opponent to 'stop', and which has the effect of 'uprooting'. All the blood vessels are opened and strengthened through a stimulated circulation, the bones are hardened and the both strengthened and relaxed in a coordinated and dynamic manner. The mind becomes calm and all expansive as the qi (vital force), jing (essential nature) and shen (all embracing empty mind) are thoroughly cultivated.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.