Class 1 Recap & Taiji 101

Great start to the Taiji 13 seminars! Like I mentioned in class, we have a lot to cover in 8 weeks, and as promised, I’ll be going over philosophy through my blogs.

Taiji without focus and intent is just empty calisthenics; while it provides easy, impact-free exercise, you’re depriving yourself of the great benefits that Taiji has to offer.

Through your journey of understanding Taiji, there are primarily 4 main aspects:

  • Health: Taiji is the ultimate qigong exercise (Taiji is a moving form of qigong, which is Chinese internal arts): "it increases blood circulation, strengthens central equilibrium, produces a deep relaxation of mind and body, and revitalizes the spirit". [1]

  • Self-defense: Movements are a combination of active meditation and exercise disguising a self-defense technique. While we won’t be practicing these movements actively to benefit self-defense, think of Taiji more so as a “defense against the self”. Re-learning how to move correctly and gracefully will help you in your daily life; there have been consistent studies proving how Taiji helps people, specifically the elderly, move and walk more safely and avoid falling.

  • Wisdom: Taiji is Daoist philosophy in motion in consistence with understanding how Yin and Yang affects us – there’s always an equal opposite reaction with everything in our lives. Where there is strength there is weakness. Where there is emptiness there is fullness. Understanding the basics of Taiji philosophy will help you unlock its secrets, such as accepting when there is giving (redirecting an attack).

  • Immortality: As I joked in class, I can’t promise you that you’ll live forever by just practicing Taiji… what I can promise you is that you’ll feel more energy – a sense of better well-being. In cardio and kungfu exercises, we achieve this through means of burning energy. In Taiji, we achieve this through proper breathing and moving our body parts in ways to promote better energy and blood flow.

So now we know what we’re looking to benefit from Taiji… but what does Taijiquan even mean? Loosely translated it means "Supreme Ultimate Fist"; however, it's very interesting to note the characters that make up this term. By understanding how Taijiquan is formally written in Chinese, you'll better understand its intentions.

First off, Taiji and Tai Chi are the same thing; I commonly use “Taiji” because it's phonetically correct and is the pinyin Romanization for its Chinese characters:

太極拳 - Tai Ji Quan

太- This is Tai (tie), meaning “supreme”. This character is made up of a few elements that support this definition. (一) pronounced as yi is the first stroke of this character, which means “the one” or “one”. (人) pronounced as ren translates to “person”. When combined these characters form (大) da, which means “great”. The downward stroke beneath 大 is zhu, which means “a point” of a flame. In total, Tai can be translated to “the flame within a person” , meaning the dantian – the origin of your energy. With this in mind, Daoist priests view Taijiquan as an exercise to discover the flame within yourself and discover a "Supreme" state.

極- This traditional character is Ji (jee), meaning "the ridgepole" - the center pole within a house that maintains the structure to avoid collapse. Because of this, the top of the ridgepole is considered as an ultimate peak. Looking further Ji is made up of (木) mu, meaning "wood" or "wood pole", (氣) qi, meaning "to breath", (口) kou, meaning "mouth" or an entrance, (又) you, meaning the right side, (一) and yi technically means "one" but in this case it's the base of the ridgepole (remember Chinese characters are pictograms). Combined, these characters mean "the breath is the supporting frame so the right thing can enter" so that the "Ultimate" can be achieved - moving your body in perfect unison with your breath.

拳- This character is Quan (chuan), meaning "boxing" or "fists". What makes this character interesting is it's hidden meaning. (手) is shou, meaning "the hand" and/or "skill" while (拜) is bai, a derivative character of an old variant of shou that means "to offer reverence with the hands". Quan in this sense means to pay reverence with a salute of hands. If you look at this symbol the bottom character and the top character both means hands/fists, but it's a fist hidden within a fist - an internal hand. Because of this, Chinese martial arts schools salute with the left palm covering the right hand as a form of salutation in regards to this character - a fist within a fist. For Taiji, this means "secret, concealed hand" or "internal hands".[1]

I hope everyone enjoyed the action-packed class and this thorough information. I look forward to seeing some of you on Sundays and hopefully everyone next Wednesday night!

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[1] Tai Ji Quan Treatise: Attributed to the Song Dynasty Daoist Priest Zhang Sanfeng (2014,Olson, Stuart).

Self-defense - Seminars - Taiji - Kungfu - Qigong - Meditation - Lion Dancing

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