Taichi is a abridged name for the art and discipline of Taijiquan, which may be closely translated to mean the “Supreme Ultimate Fist” one of the three forms of high level internal martial arts. Is a discipline that has it’s focus on individual development and self protection. The aspect of Taijiquan aka Taijiboxing lies in the field of the application and development of close quarter self defense techniques and the implementation of the skill of Tui shou (push-hands technique).
This year I was fortunate to attend my inaugural Canadian Open Taijiquan Championships held in Toronto at the Chinese Cultural Center.
This event with a phenomenal turnout of Taijiquan enthusiasts was sponsored by the Canadian Taijiquan Federation and hosted by C.O.T.T.A. Pleasure to see so many people holding the art of Taijiquan in such a high regard cherishing the moment. I had the opportunity to compete in five various events and had the pleasure to acquaint myself with a number of interesting people. My successful placement had earned me a Gold Medal in
Taiji long weapons, two Silver Medals for Taijiquan in empty hand form and Taiji saber form. I wasn’t as triumphant in two other events -Taiji Tui shou fixed step and Taiji Tui shou moving step.
This personal disappointment was a rather humbling experience that prompted an insight into what the ancients meant by “ investing in loss”. I was duly defeated in both: fixed step push hands (Tui shou) and moving step, push hands.
The fiasco descended partially because the rules were new to me but mostly because I had not invested in loss and had failed to properly practice the skill of “listening” and understand the concept of “stillness in motion.” This was a grave letdown yet an excellent lesson.
I went home to study, and realized that I had gone into the game equipped with the wrong attitude and insufficient tool box. I was taught the classical way of push hands and accustomed to this being a shared opportunity to acquire the skills of “listening, adhering, sticking, connecting, following and disengaging. The presentation at the competition was a mixture of loose judo, weak shou Jow (wrestling) with very little demonstration of eight trigrams in the arms and five phases in the legs (the thirteen powers or thirteen energies of Taijiquan).
The eight forces of CAI, Peng, Ji, Kan, Li, Lieh, An, Zhou, and the five directions of the feet, central equilibrium, right step, left step, forward step, and backward step. These traits are not easily seen or achieved under the current standard rules of push hands. These martial art skills take a whole life time to acquire and eternity to master. Luckily for all Taoist taijiboxers, we believe in the concept of “immortality”. The idea of Taiji Push hands, as being a competition is a oxymoron. This game or skill be akin to soft style “free sparring” to be quite inappropriate, according to my beliefs.
The purpose of close quarter training is a necessary adjunct to a complete rounded system of self defense. The application of these “quiet skills” can prove to be essential in a real life situation for self defense and survival. If the rules of engagement were to be more suited to real life self defense, then the game of balance and push or (push hands) as it is so quaintly known, would need to be revised. With the application of such principles as, stillness and motion, and softness over coming hardness. And demonstrate how 4oz can deflecting 1 thousand pounds!
If the function of Tui shou is to be fully regained, then the application of all the push hand skills, of listening, adhering, sticking, connecting, following; disengagement must be allowed to be developed. With this in mind the ability to understand softness overcoming hardness, and the complexity of silk reeling may gradually unfold. Many instructors advocate these classical concepts, but find it difficult to demonstrate this in a practical manor. Maybe the skills of Tui shou and Nien shou, Tui Tui ( push legs and trapping feet) are the residing vestige of these skills.
Therefore the application of soft Chi Na , Shui Jiao, Tui Shou, and of course Fa Jin can only be truly developed and demonstrated if it becomes part of the universal Taiji curriculum. The standardization or cooperative agreement to introduce “real push hands” into the arena of Taijiquan demonstrations would greatly improve its mutual acceptance as a legitimate martial art with practical applications and proven benefits. This would mean adjusting the current standards of play and for a time categorizing the skill level of the players into beginner, intermediate and advanced. By adding this paradigm to the open public playground, we would honor the forefathers and grandmasters who have dedicated a lifetime to the transmission and preservation of the supreme ultimate fist. Taijiquan as a eloquent sophisticated martial art and philosophical discipline.
These additional skill would benefit both the recreational players and the Taijiboxers, because the practice of push hands helps each individual to deal with fear and anger, hardness and softness, internal and external connectivity. It also teaches benevolence, courage, patience, persistence, practice and calm intuition.
These traits are useful for everyday living and help to cultivate the spirit and allow us to be better human beings and acquire a natural zest for life with a zip of vitality.