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The art of taijiquan is much like the art of being a masterful magician. It requires a subtle skill and a balanced blend of techniques and tools that come together to form a state of “synchronicity”.  Just like being a magician, there are many layers to your craft. A magician may employ the skill of illusionist, or the skill of being an escapist, then there is the slight of hand techniques, and of course, the masterful  ” vanishing act”. All these skills require dedication, practice and discipline, just like the art of taijiquan. Each facet of training should be intricately woven together so the final product appears to be flawless and limitless. The tools of a taiji boxer are hidden in his training and his ability to glean the skills from his daily practice, knowledge and interpretation of the classical text, with developed natural ability and persistent  dedication to his craft.  A demonstration of true synchronicity is like the quiet workings of a very exclusive watch. On the outside, the watch serves a basic function that is to measure and determine a constant known as time, but the mystery lies in the synchronicity of the unseen working parts, …the gears, springs levers and, of course, the power plant, the quartz crystal.A basic watch can only tell the time, (in hours, minutes and seconds).  The more sophisticated watch can not only keep track of time, but also the month, the lunar cycle, direction, and dual time zones, speed and distance travelled, to name a few things. 

The point is, it all starts with the same basic components, just as the practice of taijiboxing starts with the basic structure of the ” form”. The “set or form”,( as it is often called) is a wealth of hidden skills waiting to be rediscovered.

This wisdom of the old masters is a gold mine of treasure waiting to be revealed.   If you choose to search for gold, you will need the right tools to find the treasure that is buried below the surface.  

1. The taijiboxer bag of tricks!!.

The ability to use taijiquan as a martial art lies in the understanding and application of  its fundamental principles.  Most of these concepts may be found in the theoretical interpretations of “taiji classics”, but most are found by trial and error.

“Invest in loss.”

A) The skill of relaxation.   The first key is to understand what it means to be relaxed. Relaxed does not mean collapsed.  It means to have a relaxed awareness with a flexible but supple body, mind, and spirit. By achieving this skill both your attention and intention will be in a state of harmony allowing your awareness to expand beyond the obvious and the immediate.  Consequently, you will gain the ability to focus without being easily distracted or in mindless isolation.

B) “Emptiness and fullness”. With this skill, it requires you to incorporate  the principles of yin and yang, and the application of the  “thirteen powers” (the five phases in the legs and feet), and eight triagrams in the arms and  hands.

C) “ Evenness and slowness“.  When using the principles of evenness and slowness, it means to match your opponents movements, while using  the concept of” silk reeling”, thus creating a feeling  of purposeful movement with balance and stability and continuous natural flow. (We practice slow to move fast,… you move fast, I move faster.)

D)  “ Rooting and stability”. Conceptually, rooting means to be still, but not immobile. Rooting does not mean you become rigid and stiff. You should still be light on your feet. Mastery of this skill allows you to have maximum stability with minimal effort, allowing you a greater range of flexibility and upper body mobility to attack and defend, spontaneously and simultaneously.

E) “Coordination and centering”.  It requires many years of practice and more years of patience, coordination, relaxation and complete awareness in order for  the body to move as one complete unit. By mastering this skill, your movements will not be premature or telegraphed, and you should not be tense or stiff. This negates the tendency to rely on speed, power and aggression as your only means for self-defense. Quite the opposite, all your movements are connected in a natural coordinated continuous flow, just like  the natural way a shark moves in water or a bird flies in the sky (nothing is wasted and nothing is needed)…

Economy of Motion

a) Breathing and Qi kung. The use of breathing is unique but not exclusive to taijiquan. Most disciplines of martial arts and competitive sports utilize the inherent benefits of proper breathing. The one major difference is that, in taijiquan, the purpose is dedicated to a breathing system known as “ Nei kung”.

This specific method of breathing is called the “internal merit system”. The application of this specific style of breathing allows each practitioner the full benefits of his every breath, both for healing himself or others, and protection (as in self-defense and fa jin).

This is accomplished through a specific method of visualization in meditation, diaphragmatic breathing techniques, concentration, attention and practice of mental, spiritual and physiological cues that allow the process to take place over time.

The taijiboxer combines all the tools and skills to create a system of unlimited phases in  power, speed , stillness and motion.

These skills provide the ultimate expression of synchronicity, and like the magician, allow each practitioner an opportunity to have a full bag of tricks to be used and shared at their discretion. Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope it helps and empowers you on your journey of self discovery in the wonderful art of taijiquan.

Sifu Dennis Pounall

Sifu Dennis Pounall lives and works in Elliot Lake, Northern Ontario as a Paramedic  and has been practicing martial arts for over 28 years. He has studies in Okinawa Karate, Pang GI Noon Gung Fu, Kali Jujitsu, Kook Sol Won , Korean martial arts and Traditional Yang combat style Taiji Quan.  He competes nationally and internationally, and is available for workshops and Seminars.

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