- What is Taijigong / Tai Chi Kung? (太极功)
- What is the difference between Taijiquan (太极拳) and Taijigong?
- What is the difference/relationship between Taiji Quan and Qi gong?
- Is Taiji or Qi Gong a breathing exercise?
- How should I practice the breathing in Taijiquan/ Tai Chi Chuan?
- What style of Taiji do you teach? What style of Taiji is the best?
What is Taijigong / Tai Chi Kung? (太极功)
It is an ancient Chinese system of exercise that trains the body in totality.
Normal exercise usually works only on your muscles, stamina and blood circulation, what we call the externals. But Taijigong relaxes and energizes the whole body including one’s organs, cells, bones, joints and meridian lines. It also focuses and relaxes the mind. That means it works both the externals and the internals.
Taiji Gong is able to do this due to 2 important content:
1. The application of Qi
2. The understanding that all things have Yin-Yang (complementary opposites) and therefore the way to good health is through balancing the Yin-Yang.
Properly done, Taijigong can have 4 ideal benefits:
– Physical Well-Being
– Mental and Spiritual Well-Being
– High-Level Self-Defence (Optimizing the Body and Mind Potential)
– Lengthening your Normal Lifespan (relative to each individual)
Taijiquan is just one part of Taijigong. Taijigong is the complete system and field.
This system and field includes the external form of Taijiquan (形), the Internal Knowledge in the form (心法), and Qigong (气功, energy work). For those who are keen, there is also the spiritual philosophy of Taiji Gong, which is derived from the holism of Daoism and Buddhism. All these must be learnt in a systematic way with the knowledge passed down by true lineage Masters of the past.
Without Qigong and the Internal Knowledge, Taijiquan is just like a vehicle with no passengers and no destination (no point!). It becomes normal exercise, which can only give you limited benefits. If Taijiquan is to live up to its aim “To treat when unwell and to cultivate when well”, then the Qi work and Internal Principles are an indispensable part.
Qi Gong is the traditional umbrella term that refers to the huge field of Chinese culture related to everything to do with Qi. It includes Medical Qi Gong in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and all types of Qi-work related to physical, mental and even meta-physical training. Thus Taiji Quan or Taiji Gong, being a type Qi-practice that uses Taiji principles, is a type of Qi Gong.
Qi Gong as it is commonly used today refers more specifically to Qi-practices that is generally stationary, compared to Taiji Quan or Taiji Gong where both movement and stillness play important roles.
In Taiji Gong, there is stillness in movement. And there is movement in stillness. There is growth and accumulation of Qi. There is flow and usage of Qi. There is practice of power in gentleness, and gentleness in power. This is the interdependence and the ceaseless interplay of Yin and Yang. This Yin-Yang quality ensures the necessary ingredients for a full healthy training, and is present in every level of our structured teaching.
Herein lies the fundamental difference between common Qi Gong today and Taiji Gong. Taiji Gong is the practice of Qi Gong by thoroughly understanding the Yin-Yang nature of Qi. The balance of the Yin-Yang nature of Qi constitutes the state of Taiji, the Supreme Wholeness in Us.
No it is not a breathing exercise. If breathing refers to the superficial in and out of air through the nose, into the lungs and and so on, then the answer is No.
But ‘breathing’ in traditional Chinese Qi Gong can mean more than air breathing. It means the in and out of energy (吐纳，非简单的呼吸). This again is a kind of ceaseless Yin-yang.
Ultimately, the ‘breathing’ in Taiji Gong is the ability of our body’s Qi to flow, interact and respond with the environment naturally with minimal obstructions.
In a practitioner’s beginner stage, if he/she has difficulties focusing and quieting the mind then breathing can be a useful tool. Placing the mind on the ceaseless in and out of the breath can help with relaxation and focus.
If the new student has problems dealing with the concept of Qi, or problems with moving or guiding Qi, then visualizing the Qi in coordination with inhalation or exhalation, can help build the initial connection to Qi.
However, once the student has developed focus and found the ability to relax, or when the student can guide the Qi and feel the basic Qi feelings, one must drop the reliance on breathing.
The student then pays attention to the task and instructions at every given moment, and not on the breath. The Taiji tasks and instructions do not leave the principles of focus and relaxation. In completing all tasks and instructions with focus and relaxation, then the breathing will naturally tend towards being fine, gradual, even and deep (细、缓、韵、深). Then, whenever you detect that the breathing is thick, rushed, uneven or shallow, it means you have lost some of the principles that work. Thus breathing is merely a guide and a mirror to help you check yourself in your practice, and not the focus or the aim of the practice.
The confusion between Qi and breathing, and the consequent over-reliance on breathing itself is what has caused much Taiji Quan and Qi Gong in the last 100 years to become watered-down or misunderstood, so much so that most people can practice decades of Taiji Quan without corresponding levels of progress. It has also given rise to the misconception that you have to practice for ages before you can see any kind of substantional progress, which means the higher levels of Taiji Gong remain out of reach.
Our Grandmaster Sim Pooh Ho is the lineage-holder disciple of the late great Grandmaster Wu Tu Nan. Master Wu was a lineage holder disciple of Grandmaster Wu Jian Chuan, the originator of Wu style Taiji Quan and Grandmaster Yang Sao Hou of the famed Yang family. After he finished his learning with them, he went on to study and practice the ancient transmissions of the older lineage Masters from Zhang San Feng, Li Dao Zi, Xu Xuan Ping and back to the Sage Lao Zi. Thus his own practice was beyond the achievements of any particular school or family name. Therefore, he was always grateful to his learning under the Wu and the Yang but he neither named his art after them or after himself, preferring to just call it Taiji Gong.
Thus we prefer to simply call our practice Taiji Gong, rather than after any style. If necessary, we say Wu Tu Nan Taiji Gong to indicate our lineage.
For more info on the Taiji Quan sequence that we use, please go to:http://blog.omy.sg/taiji/2008/12/03/dont-get-trapped-in-form/
Many people ask the above questions for 2 reasons.
1. They think there is an intrinsic difference between the so-called different styles, Yang, Wu, Chen, etc. For example, some think that Yang means bigger, more open stances, focusing on health, and Wu means smaller, and focusing on defence.
2. They believe some are harder to practice and some are easier, so they want to find something personally suitable.
These are common misconceptions.
Working methods and systems might vary from style to style, but there should be similar principles at work, relating to strength in softness, deep relaxations, focus, alignment posture, advanced coordination, gradualness (that which comes across as the slowness of Taiji). In short, The Internal Knowledge should be similar, even though the external styles are different.
The difference that many people encounter are not due to any real differences between the original practices of the various styles, but due to the different competencies of the teachers/schools they meet. This is in turn due to the mass dilution of Taiji teaching in the 20th century, when Taiji gained huge popularity.
The other big reason for the misconception is also historical. The original practitioners of most of today’s recognized styles didn’t call the art after themselves. For example, Yang Lu Chan and son Yang Ban Hou never said they practiced Yang style Taiji. Everybody respected the lineage masters that came before themselves and understood that Taiji had deep universal and natural knowledge that was beyond the limited achievements of any particular person or clan.
But later on there were some groups in the Taiji world that started to make the claim that they themselves were the originators of Taiji, and thus named their Taiji after their clan names to differentiate themselves. This unwise act divided the Taiji world and made all groups self-conscious of their identities and lineages. Thus the naming of each family style only occurred in a major way in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and was never a part of the long history of Taiji before that.