Bridges Chinese Martial Arts

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Taijiquan Information

Instructor: Terry Bridges

The following is a cursory explanation of the art of Taijiquan. For more in-depth reading on this subject, please visit www.ymaapub.com

Taiji is a philosophy. The words 'Tai Ji' mean Grand Ultimate. Quan means fist and implies martial art or technique. So, Taijiquan is a martial art based on the philosophy of Taiji and means Grand Ultimate Fist. It originated in China around 700 to 1,000 years ago. It combines the martial techniques of  the Snake and White Crane styles with internal power or “Chi” also written as Qi (Chee).  Taijiquan is a very fluid and graceful art which uses a calm mind, and slow, relaxed movements in coordination with deep breathing which ultimately results in enhanced martial power. Improved health and increased energy are actually a side effect, but not the original goal. In today’s society, the need for the martial applications of Taijiquan has diminished and the focus for the vast majority of practitioners is on the healthful benefits, both mental and physical. 

The practice of Taijiquan enhances and increases our internal energy or "Qi" flow. Qi is a bioelectric energy which is a natural result of our body's metabolic processes of breathing and eating as well as our physical movement. Everyone has Qi flow. It is the energy on which everything in our body operates. When the Qi flow to a particular part of our body is stagnant, diminished or out of balance, we experience illness, disease or even death. Qi flows throughout the body through “channels.” The “quantity” of the Qi flow depends on our body position as well as our mental and/or physical state. Additionally, the “quality” of the Qi itself depends on the quality of the air we breath, the type and amount of food we eat and how well we deal with the “external” pressures of every day life. Dr. Wu Chengde once said, "We get Qi from heaven and Qi from the earth." Which means, we get Qi from the air we breathe (heaven) and from the food we eat (earth). In fact, the modern Chinese character for Qi is  comprised of two words which mean Air and Rice. 

In practicing Taijiquan we learn to regulate the breath, relax the muscles and calm the mind. In the process of doing this, our energy level increases, we feel better and chronic problems such as high blood pressure or stomach problems, etc., gradually subside. In some cases these chronic ailments have completely disappeared. We also learn to “live in the present.” This means we do not “worry” about what might  happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday. We are not even thinking about what we will be doing when we finish practicing. Our only focus is on the here and now, the movement we are doing right now, not even thinking about the next movement. In so doing, we are better able to regulate the breath, relax the muscles and calm the mind, in turn improving our health and vitality. The deeper our understanding of these concepts, the more we are able to apply them to everyday life situations. This does not mean we don’t plan for future events or remember the past, we simply don’t agonize over them. Things which would normally annoy us don’t even seem to warrant our attention. This does not mean we never worry, get angry, upset or frustrated, but through the practice of Taijiquan we will tend to return to a state of balance or “let go of things” more quickly and focus on what needs to be done right now. Getting out of our initial emotional state and back to a state of calmness allows us to think clearly. Since we can’t think clearly when we are overly emotional, the sooner we get back to calm, the sooner problem solving can begin. In life we cannot control the words or actions of others, but through the practice of Taijiquan we learn to better control our own reactions to these external forces. Keeping our head while all those about us are losing theirs.  

The above mentioned "calm mind, slow relaxed movements and coordinated breathing" are absolute necessities in developing the martial aspects the art. Taijiquan is a Martial Art which utilizes Qi to support the martial techniques. In Taijiquan it is said, "use the mind to lead the Qi." In the previous paragraph we described a mind-set and the physical methods of practicing the Taiji form to accomplish this mind-set. But, if the student does not understand the concept of "use the mind to lead the Qi", the full benefits of practicing Taiji cannot be realized. In order to do this, one must know and understand what each movement is actually doing, i.e., it's martial application. This understanding will get the student closer to those "full benefits", but not all the way there. It is also said, "Taiji begins in the feet and legs, is directed by the waist and is manifested in the fingers". Applying this concept is the beginning of "rooting". The student must understand and apply the concept of "rooting" while moving and applying the techniques of the Taiji form. This understanding, combined with relaxation and breathing is the beginning of the mind leading the Qi. Ultimately, the student interested in developing the martial art of Taijiquan must practice the movements faster and faster, eventually reaching fighting speed. However, you cannot go faster and faster without first going slower and slower. But remember, these concepts are a journey not a destination. The understanding and realization of these concepts is a very gradual, life long process. Even the most accomplished and highly respected masters continue to ponder and research these concepts as they apply to their own practice, and if we are fortunate enough to be associated with or have access to their advanced understanding and knowledge it will benefit us greatly in our own journey. But, ultimately all these masters can do is lead us to the door of knowledge and understanding. It is up to us to enter in.

For more information on utilizing meditation (Qi Gong) to enhance your Taijiquan it is highly recommended to get Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming's book, "Qi Gong for Health and Martial Arts".

 

Taijiquan Form

Although there are several styles, they are all based on the same principles and all follow the Classics. The particular style taught here is the Yang Style. There are many variations of Yang Style even as there are variations of the other styles as well. The student will learn the Yang Style108 movement long form over a period of about 1 year (1 day per week). The initial focus is on teaching the physical movements, and very gradually emphasizing the fine details as progress is made. This includes proper breathing methods, body movement coordination and the martial applications of the movements. As one's energy flow and blood circulation increases, one's physical and emotional health improves.

Push Hands (Tui Shou)
Stationary and Moving

Push Hands is a 2-person exercise that involves the practice of redirecting each others' forces by way of manipulating the opponent's hands, arms and shoulders. Physically, as a martial art, Push Hands teaches the ability to redirect physical forces by first "rooting" that force into the ground. Through sensitivity training, the force is "sensed" at such an early stage, that the redirection process begins when the slightest amount of force is recognized. Once the force is redirected, an opponent is vulnerable to counter attacking and/or control. The Taijiquan form also helps in this training in that the Qi circulation is improved, which also allows one to "connect" to the energy of an opponent.

Another benefit of Push Hands is, on an emotional level, it trains how to "redirect" emotional forces acting upon us from an outside source. Emotional forces can come from personal verbal or social situations, environmental conditions, etc., all of which can cause stress. Push hands trains us to "root" the situation by NOT allowing the situation to control our emotions but, rather treat that situation as something happening outside of us rather than happening "to" us.  Self confidence and self esteem are developed and increased with Push Hands practice. The "physical" pushing in push hands also represents emotional forces acting upon us, so this training is very beneficial with regard to "emotional rooting".

Stationary Push Hands is available to all beginner students. Moving Push Hands will be taught to students who have completed at least 1 year of Stationary Push Hands and can demonstrate a good grasp and understanding of it's principles. In moving Push Hands, the same principles of rooting and force redirection apply, but in addition, proper stepping training is emphasized to allow a wider variety of options, both in martial applications and in emotional situations.

The practice of Push Hands, both Stationary and Moving, will greatly benefit the student's balance and stability in practicing and understanding the Taijiquan form and the art itself.

As with the Kung Fu training, Chin Na techniques will be taught and incorporated in the Push Hands training as well as when demonstrating the martial applications of the various movements in the Taijiquan form.

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