THE FACETS OF TAIJI QUAN by TIZIANA CAZAGRANDE

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Why do so many people train Taiji Quan ? Many people have erroneous or preconceived ideas as to why but the foremost reason is for health . This however is only one small part of Taiji Quan .

HEALTH :
Taiji Quan is a form of exercise which develops and coordinates different parts of the internal and external aspect of the human body . It is a perfect method of exercise for health improvement and vitality which can be done by people of all ages and all levels of physical condition . The diversity of exercise methods can be adjusted according to the different age groups as well as physical ability of each person . Consequently it is not difficult for someone to learn Taiji provided he or she trains regularly and mindfully .
The art of Taiji Quan or the Supreme Ultimate Fist is one of the most perfect creations of Chinese philosophy and culture . Based on the principles of the I Ching and the philosophy of Lao Tse , Taiji Quan is a system of circular , flowing , balanced movements which should be practiced daily for health and peace of mind . When the movements have been well absorbed , the innate energy of the trainee develops , his balance is restored and the technical skills of Taiji Quan can be used to neutralize an attack from an opponent as well as to counterattack .

MEDITATION :
Many people are unaware of the deeper , more “internal” facets or aspects of Taiji Quan because the knowledge they have been imparted for this complex art is only a superficial and general one . For this reason they are therefore unable to reap the full benefits that this art offers .
For example , many know that the movements of Taiji Quan are “circular , flowing , balanced , slow and relaxed” and they try to practice them in this manner . Few however are aware that “all the movements must come from a calm , peaceful , fully concentrated mind” and that personal guidance and training by an experienced teacher is an essential for anyone who seriously wishes to study this art .
The cultivation of mental calmness and spiritual concentration is of vital importance to Taiji Quan and this is developed through particular meditation techniques and exercises which only a capable and experienced teacher can pass on to his students .
The absence of correct mental and psychological calmness and concentration in training leads many practitioners of Taiji Quan to execute Taiji as a form of “gymnastics in slow motion” or as a “slow dance” without any mental focus or concentration in what they are doing . In this way the true benefits and results in the practice of Taiji Quan are lost , irrespective of the length of time that someone may have been practicing this art .

QIGONG :
Many people are also unaware of the f act that Taiji Quan is a form of Qigong . Properly executed with correct breathing techniques and mental guiding of the breath it generates and circulates the innate energy or Qi of the body , thus enhancing the overall well – being both physical and mental , of the practitioner . This cultivation of Qi further promotes health , vigor , longevity and mental freshness . Qigong , being one of the greatest treasures of Chinese culture , is one of the biggest secrets of life enhancing methods which combined with Taiji , contribute unlimited benefits to the serious practitioner .

MARTIAL ART :
Another fascinating aspect of Taiji Quan is the Wushu element of the art which gives the practitioner practical skills in the art of self – defense . Very few people however nowadays practice Taiji as a self – defense martial art . This aspect however , is one which should not be taken lightly . The training methods of Taiji differ in relation to the more common martial arts or sports . They are based systematically on the mind , energy and intention , not on muscle power , but on sensitivity and not on strength , in relaxation not on tension , and on a calm , tranquil mind rather than a violent and aggressive one .
There are many combat training methods but the most important is “Pushing Hands” ( tui shou ) . The fighting strategies and techniques of Taiji can all be mastered through the correct training in pushing hands also known as Taiji for two people .
Through pushing hands one learns the principles of not resisting to the force of the opponent but following it , redirecting it and counterattacking using the opponent’s power against him .

PHILOSOPHY :
Finally , the last aspect of Taiji Quan is the understanding and application of its philosophy , based on the harmony of Yin and Yang energies , such as attack and defense , hardness and softness , internal and external , physical action and mental concentration , motion and stillness etc. Among the many benefits of this philosophy is the achievement of a more harmonious and balanced way of life , living , thinking and acting while promoting a healthier , longer and happier life .

Some people may feel that to perform Taiji Quan correctly in every detail is difficult , but more important than correct form are the mind and energy aspects of the training . Without mind control to channel your internal energy , one will achieve no more than mediocre results , no matter how long one practices . As the ancient Chinese classics state “The mind is the master , the body is the servant” .