Spirit in Taijiquan

This week in Qi Elements’ Taijiquan classes we have been focusing on a combination of three of the Taiji Essentials—an intangible and lively energy lifts the head upward, match up inner and outer, and seek quiescence within movement. All three concern the intent and spirit in Taijiquan. When the spirit is raised, and the movements are performed with correct manifestation of the martial intent, the Qi can be abundant and circulate freely. The raised spirit and the abundance and smooth circulation of Qi are critical to manifesting Taijiquan’s martial power and to achieving the full benefits of Taiji for maintaining and improving health.
It is very difficult to raise and maintain a high spirit if your head is not lifted and your gaze level. Try it sometime. Try to raise your spirit while looking down. It’s difficult if not impossible. I think this is why the common folk were forced to bow their heads to the nobility in ancient societies. Doing so would lower their spirit and keep them aware of their subordinate position in the society.
In Taijiquan the spirit is raised but contained within. That is to say, the spirit is evident but not overly obvious. It is said that such a raised but contained spirit shows through the eyes. This inwardly calm and contained spirit in Taijiquan contrasts with the externally manifest spirit in other, hard-style martial arts. Watch an old kung-fu movie, and you will probably see examples of externally manifested spirit—an angry face, tense muscles and loud sounds. These are correct in the harder styles as performed by younger people, but not correct in Taijiquan. External manifestation of spirit consumes energy, Taijiquan conserves energy. The need to conserve energy is one reason why many aging martial artists move from hard styles to internal styles.
In regard to matching up inner and outer, it is said that when practicing postures your internal intent will manifest spirit. Without knowing the intent of the Taiji movements it is difficult to raise the spirit and move the Qi strongly. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Taiji to be taught as simple choreography without an understanding of the internal intent of the movements. When you see Taiji performed in such a manner, it looks lifeless and limp.
The gentle lifting of the head to maintain a level gaze and the raised but calm and contained spirit are two of the most important transformations that most people should achieve when they begin and continue to train Taijiquan. The habit of lifting the head will help maintain correct posture and prevent the decline that accompanies advancing age in many people. The raised spirit will help in the constant battles we fight with stress, illness and premature aging.

About Qi Elements Taijiquan & Qigong

I am the director and chief instructor at Qi Elements Center for Taijiquan and Qigong in Herndon, Virginia. I have been a Taijiquan and Qigong seminar student of Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming since 1996 and am certified by Dr. Yang as a full instructor of YMAA Qigong.
This entry was posted in living the taiji life, martial arts, tai chi chuan, taoism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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