TÀIJÍ (Tai Chi) AS A MARTIAL ART AND THE BIRTH OF TÀIJÍ “STYLES”
TÀIJÍ (Tai Chi) AS A MARTIAL ART AND THE BIRTH OF TÀIJÍ “STYLES”
Is Tàijí also a Martial Art?
But Tàijí practice is sooo slow right? — There is no emphasis on physical strength. No hard kicking, punching, striking, building up muscles or toughening one’s knuckles involved…
…So how is it that Tàijí is not only known as a martial art, but is considered to be the ‘Grand Ultimate’ martial art?
You see, Tàijí (太極, also spelled ‘Taichi’) means the ‘Grand Ultimate’ or the ‘Supreme Limit’, which is fundamentally the ‘unlimited’, or Wújí (無極), referring to the origin of everything, beginning with the ‘boundless union’ of yin and yang (陰陽, Yīnyáng).
Tàijí means the ultimate union and harmonious operation of yin and yang, born from the boundless unlimited. This is where Tàijí derives its famous and mysterious power from.
Tàijí training uses the principle of ‘internal power’, called Nèijìn (內勁, or ‘Jìn’ for short), instead of relying on ‘external power’, or ‘force’ (‘Lì,’ 力) — which is conventional power brought about by physical movement and muscular strength.
The fusion of mind (‘Yì,’ 意) and Energy (‘Chi/Qì,’ 氣) along with the body’s correct posture, forms Jìn.
This movement, while trained along with the body’s movement, relies primarily on the flow of energy inside the body, propelled by the mind.
Jìn: Internal Power.
The ancient Chinese Masters learned how to produce Jìn (sometimes transliterated as “Jing”) through a highly advanced technique, using an ultra-high frequency vibration controlled by the mind and integrated by a total coordination of mind and body, into an ultra-fast wave-like unit.
To be more precise, it’s a single wave-like unit with numerous smaller, higher-frequency waves riding on top of that single, unified wave.
As Grandmaster Waysun Liao explains in his book “The T’ai Chi Classics”:
“By using the mind to increase the frequency of internal vibrations, the waves of energy created will ultimately begin, through the sheer speed of their production, to collide with one another and break the barrier of time.
This will cause the release of large amounts of internal energy, which will in turn allow the individual to send out a powerful [internalized] force.
As one continues to practice over a period of years, the body’s vibrations will become finer and finer, as the frequency is gradually increased.”
A Short History, FOR CONTEXT
If we take a look at our world’s history, we will notice clear cycles in which the development of the total person was either emphasized or ignored.
When the development of human nature was emphasized, this yielded a very strong creative civilization, one in which society progressed and people became spiritualized; yet many mistakes still took place during this journey.
Several thousands years ago, such idealism emerged in China.
During this period, they were searching for the highest form of life for the human system, without separating mind from body, and without keeping spiritual development stuck only in terms of religious, mystical ecstasy.
They understood the human mind to be an unlimited dimension, but the scope of human activity to be moderate. This observation helped to give birth to what we know today as Tàijí 太極 (Tai Chi) thought.
“According to Tàijí thought, the abilities of the human body are capable of being developed beyond their commonly conceived potential. Civilization can be improved to the highest levels of achievement. Creativity has no boundaries whatsoever, and the human mind should have no restrictions or barriers placed upon its capabilities,”
explains Grandmaster Liao.
“One reaches the ultimate level, or develops in that direction, by means of the ladder of balanced powers and their natural motions — Yin, the negative power (yielding), and Yang, the positive power (action).” Liao continues.
These two equal powers of Yin and Yang oppose and yet complement each other, in an interplay of constructive and destructive forces.
By doing so, they cause the essence of life to materialize.
And the spiraling movements of these forces seem endless.
How the Martial Art Aspect of Tàijí Developed.
“In the old days of China, Tàijí Masters were greatly respected and regarded as the symbol of wisdom.
Tàijí practitioners believed one should discipline themselves to be spiritual, healthy, kind, and intelligent; to be responsible for assisting others to reach the same levels of achievement; to enjoy the truth; to fight fearlessly against immorality and injustice; and to protect the needy and the weak.
They practiced justice, charity, education, and the medicinal arts, and often played a role in the enforcement of China’s codes of human morality, codes even the emperors needed to follow.”
It was with these goals in mind that the martial art aspect of Tàijí came to be developed.
Tàijí theories were easily applied to the martial arts. — Mind and body harmony, in tune with the natural order of things.
This offered a direction of development completely different from that of other forms of fighting techniques.
It also yielded unbelievable results in terms of human abilities coming from the power of an integrated mind, body and energy system.
Thus Tàijí/Taichi became considered by many to be the most powerful martial art ever known.
Deal with others with gentleness and kindness.
Speak with truth. Governing everything well.
-Tao Te Ching
(Translated by Grandmaster Waysun Liao,
from his book “Nine nights with the Taoist Master” )
The Need for a Martial Art in Times of War or Social Instability.
Throughout Chinese history, periods of unrest led to local power formations and the use of force.
In some cases, even Tàijí practitioners became involved in the enforcement of peace in their areas, with the result that instruction in the martial aspect of Tàijí was urgently needed.
The philosophical and meditation aspects of the art were gradually ignored by most people, with instruction in Tàijí becoming almost completely limited to its martial art aspect.
During the many political upheavals in China a great number of Temples were destroyed, leaving fewer real practitioners, who had to practice in secret to keep this precious knowledge alive.
Even recently, during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the Chinese government suppressed all traditional teachings, as well as the practice of martial arts.
Many Masters were publicly denounced, practitioners were prosecuted and training facilities were closed.
The true, dedicated masters of this art mostly lived in the mountains with their students, where they led a monastic life in order to preserve the original art.
They meditated and practiced daily to attune the spirit, condition the mind, discipline the body, and elevate the essence.
the birth of TÀIJÍ styles.
During the times when peace was re-established and the need for self-defense training faded away, those who had taught the art professionally carried on their dedicated careers as a type of family business.
They taught only those who were most seriously interested, especially any of their own children who wanted to study the art as their profession.
Herbal medicine and acupuncture were also offered to the local community on a charitable basis. Financial support depended on contributions by the local people whom they served, and by their students.
Family surnames came to be associated with the different styles of Tàijí that were being passed on.
Learn more by reading the T’ai Chi Classics, Translated with Commentary By Waysun Liao, Shambhala Publications (1977)
The ancient art and knowledge of Tàijí 太極 is the foundation from which every style grew, and has existed for thousands of years as a critical component to Taoist Alchemy Practice.
The idea of differing “styles” started only some hundreds of years ago.
As Grandmaster Liao said:
“How many Tàijí styles should you learn? Accumulating many styles of Tàijí is no different from collecting many different styles of pens.
If someone claims that his ability to practice in many styles means that he really knows the true art of Tàijí, he is just as mistaken as someone who claims that her big collection of pens makes her a great writer.
Traditionally, Taoist Teachings and instructions [that accompany the Tàijí Practice] were given and transmitted verbally only to Nèijiā (內家, “indoor disciples”), and they were very careful in the screening of new students. Partly that was done to prevent the abuse of such powerful knowledge.”
For several years before they learned to put together the whole sequences of short or long forms, Nèijiā (“Indoor disciples”) were trained in Single-Form drills — Dānshǒu (單手):
“Single-hand” or more specifically, Dāncāo Gōngfǎ (單操功法), meaning, “Single Form Training Method,” or, circulating repetitions of very precise but natural energy-flow patterns].
The Wàijiā (外家, “Outdoor disciples”) were [traditionally] only allowed to follow and mimic the short or long forms.
These outdoor disciples did not receive the training and critical detail required to develop the essence of the art: The Chi [氣, ‘Life-Energy,’ also transliterated ‘Qì,’ or farther East, ‘Ki’].
Often [Wàijiā] mistakenly thought they had graduated from a style just by memorizing a sequence, and sometimes went on to teach the art in that incomplete way.
As Tàijí eventually became a cherished cultural tradition, the demand for learning these practice sequences gradually increased. This too aided in a proliferation of this ‘outdoor’ or ‘external’ sequence-based Tàijí.
“In the original Mountain Temple system, we feel that instead of focusing on the external differences of each style, we should remember to focus on the origin, where it all began.” adds Grandmaster Liao
Buy books by Grandmaster Waysun Liao here
The True Aim of Tàijí
“Tàijí is not just a relaxing beneficial set of movements, and it’s not just a martial art, and not just a specialized exercise for good health.
When practiced the right way under the guidance of a true master, it will profoundly change your internal nature.
But we are not simply trying to improve ourselves.
Our goal is complete and total Transformation.
Be careful not to accept improvement short of the true goal. Have you been totally and completely transformed?”
Grandmaster Liao reminds us.
The analogy of the Rabbit Transforming into a Cat:
An analogy we like to use for this Transformation is the change that would happen if a rabbit transformed completely and turned into a cat.
If I am a rabbit, I like to eat grass and hop around. I get scared when other animals look at me. I can’t feel comfortable and am constantly worrying about what others may be thinking about me.
Now, I can practice some martial arts or weight lifting and become a bigger, faster and stronger rabbit, or eat more carrots and become a sleeker, healthier rabbit.
However, even though I’ve worked on myself and see many nice changes, I am still a rabbit.
What we are talking about is to use Tàijí to completely transform your nature.
First you are [like] a rabbit, then you become [like] a cat.
You have no interest in eating grass. Other animals no longer scare you. Instead of you running away from them, they run away from you.
Your total nature has changed. You are still you, but you are totally transformed.”
The You that has been hidden under layers of time, pollution and wrong thinking. The You that was forgotten as you grew up, left to the side, ignored and buried. The You that enjoys a natural and spontaneous connection to the Original Energy of the Universe.
That old rabbit you is gone.
What this means is that when we really practice Tàijí, we are not interested in a ‘quantity’ change — making you [only] calmer, kinder, a little bit healthier, or better able to perform 200 new Tàijí forms.
We are looking for that ‘quality’ change.
Yes, if you practice earnestly, you’re liable to become calmer, kinder, healthier, and better able to perform many Tàijí forms. We may even develop a powerful martial ability. But if we stop with these achievements, we’ve missed the true potential of the Real Tàijí Practice.
How Does Tàijí Change Your Fundamental Nature?
Tàijí can teach you how to focus your mind like a laser beam, burning through all of the pollution and distractions of the artificial world.
It can help you raise your energy frequency so high that negative energy and attachments simply fall away because they can no longer cling to you.
Tàijí heals the separation between you and the One Living Energy of the Universe — a powerful Field also known as Tào’s (道) One-Chi (一氣, or “Yīqì”).
“Tàijí is the tool to bring back your original connection to the inherent intelligence of this Field of powerful Energy, what many call God. This is the real goal and experience of Tàijí mastery,” teaches Grandmaster Liao.
Every precision cycle of moving meditation purifies and strengthens your Chi (Qì), by connecting the awareness back to the feeling of the body movements.
As the movement refines, so too does the mind.
Eventually, we reconnect back to the Chi.
Keep going, and the mind fuses together with this Chi, generating Jìn (勁, Internal Power), which we use to further refine and connect back to Shén (神, Spirit), and then to the Té (德, True Nature or Original Energy).
The purer your Chi, the better your chance of connecting with that piece of Original Energy inside you, the “Té.”
The Té connects you back to that Network of Tào.
though Tàijí is also a Martial Art, it has a way bigger aim.
According to Grandmaster Liao and the Tàijí Tào Teachings,
“Life-Energy (Chi/Qì) is extremely important, although we take it for granted and forget about it most of the time.
With proper training, you can grow, strengthen and develop your Life-Energy — the vital force that is responsible for your life and your ability to grow and heal.”
You can even learn how to move that energy around to accomplish things.
This is called ‘Chi application.’
Some people become very good at using their Life-Energy and applying it to martial arts and healing work. But no matter how good you get at Chi application, you may still end up ignoring your spiritual nature.
You may spend so much time healing others or practicing martial arts skill that you never take your Chi ability and apply it to the task of cleaning your own Energy and connecting with your Té, truly connecting you back to Tào as a real experience.
Without paying attention to your spiritual nature, you may fail to learn how to navigate through the spiritual dimension of your journey and understand how it affects you.
Don’t Get Stuck at the Chi Level.
It can be exhilarating to use Chi for healing, martial arts and spiritual work. But so many people stop there and never develop and use that Chi toward the highest goal, of reconnecting with Té.
Chi that has not reconnected with Té will drop away and keep recycling after your death, so reconnecting with Chi is not your ultimate goal either.
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Learn more about Grandmaster Liao
Grandmaster Liao, with the help of some of his students and students’ students, is now sharing this ancient technique, that he himself learned as a child in the traditional way, from his Master in his native Taiwan.