exploring and empowering the human possibility…


What is Taijiquan?

yang, cheng-fuTaijiquan is a holistic discipline which serves three primary purposes: martial, health, and spiritual.

1. Martial: Taiji has its roots in a small farming village in China known as the Chen village. These people were regularly threatened by bandits and military elements and so had need of an effective martial art that was also energizing and healthy to practice. The development of their art was likely derived from some of the Taoist and Shaolin styles of the time and became very effective for them on many levels. (see A Brief History of Taijiquan coming soon) Taiji is referred to as one of the “Internal” martial arts in that it seeks to cultivate such principles as relaxation, listening, sticking, etc. rather than relying entirely on muscular strength and speed. Internal qualities are generally more subtle and challenging to master but are quite powerful and satisfying as they are developed.

2. Health: Taiji is a system of exercise that powerfully enhances health on every level. The stories of people who have healed themselves from various illnesses through the practice of Taiji are legion. The health benefits of regular practice, while cumulative, can be experienced in a relatively short period of time. People often report feeling significant improvements in their overall well-being in as little as 1-3 months. The reason for this is that Taiji is largely a study of human nature and asks such questions as: how are we put together? how can we move most naturally and easily? how can we enhance the natural flow of our energy and handle conflict with the least amount of stress? The answers to these questions become part of good Taiji practice and improves our health in the process. 

3. Spiritual: Finally, Taiji is a spiritual discipline not to be confused with a religious one. Spiritual here refers to that which helps us cultivate our character and realize our higher potential. Philosophically, Taiji is based largely on Taoism which seeks to experience and align with one’s True Nature. A basic Taoist perspective speaks to the interconnectedness of all that is. It follows from there that one should not seek to strive with others or the natural world. Rather, through the cultivation of oneself, one becomes better able to be in harmony with the world. In so doing, conflicts gradually fall away creating a natural state of dynamic peace that can lead to higher levels of self knowledge and enlightenment. While this spiritual element may not have been present in the early days of Taiji’s development, because it is based on what seem to be clear universal principles, the spiritual element arises quite naturally. Taijiquan thus offers the possibility for tremendous spiritual growth if one sincerely practices and integrates his experience.

So Taijiquan is all of these things, yet it remains only an attempt by humanity to more fully know itself. As such, it is important to remember it is only a tool and as with all tools, it is much more useful to emphasize the human being who would utilize it. In actual practice, Taiji is an organic, fluid system and though it is composed of very precise movements, there is a great deal of room for individuation. So, as one develops, one learns what feels correct internally and what works well externally. This awareness can then permeate the rest of one’s daily life in positive, creative ways.

One final thought on all this: It might be easy to conclude from the above discussion that I see Taiji as some sort of “grand ultimate” path for personal development. Actually, no, I believe ultimately “all roads lead to Rome.” This road is pretty neat though…. :)