Not many individuals who practice taijiquan realise that all the various taijiquan styles also incorporates the learning of the taiji staff ( taiji gun) . In the Li style taijiquan system as taught by Laoshi Keith Ewers of the LFIAA we cover both a traditional taiji staff form, plus we also cover a taiji staff two-person matching form which teaches the student of the Li style taijiquan to bring the movements and applications of the taiji staff form alive.
In the Li style taijiquan system individuals must be fully acquired with the taiji solo form for at least two years before they are introduced to the practice of the taiji staff form. The learning of the taiji solo form teaches the same mechanics that each individual would use in the practice of the taiji staff, any weapon that is used within the practice of taijiquan is just considered to be an extension of the hands and like-wise it is the same with the practice of the taiji staff.
It is mentioned in the practice of the various taiji weapons that the taiji straight sword develops the shoulders, arms and wrist, the taiji sabre develops the back, the taiji fan develops the wrist and fingers, while the practice of the taiji staff develops the waist. The benefits of practicing the taiji staff form greatly develops each individual’s ability to extend their energy beyond their normal reach of their hands, plus it improves their awareness of co-ordination and balance.
The Li style taiji staff two-person matching form develops each individual’s reactions, timing and concentration. It incorporates various taiji footwork and stances, while skilfully weilding the taiji staff from various angles using both defensive and offensive techniques, but all the time maintaining a relaxed body, correct body alignment and the skilfull use of the waist.
In the practice of Taijiquan there are four qigong practices that each individual must learn to fully master the art. These four Taiji qigong practices are. 1. Standing Stake qigong ( Zhan Zhuang). 2. Static moving qigong, 3. Rocking qigong, 4. Moving qigong.
Taiji Zhan Zhuang Qigong or Standing Stake is properly the more less practiced of the four qigong exercise methods especially by the elderly who much prefer the more moving aspects of Taijiquan. All of the postures that are used within the practice of Taijiquan can be used in the practice of Taiji standing stake qigong. One of my teachers would lets us practice our Taiji form and then gets us to stop at certain postures and hold them for a certain number of breaths.
Taiji standing stake qigong practice teaches correct body alignment, plus it strengthens both the body and mind and is supposedly the best way to cultivate energy (qi). In the practice of Taijiquan one of the reasons why it is performed slowly is that your are also practicing Standing Stake Qigong meaning that you are holding each posture slightly longer than normal while slowly moving, this is called “Stillness in Motion” which helps each individual to strengthen their muscles, tendons and ligaments, plus the bones. Energetically you are cultivating and circulating the internal energy around the whole body changing essences ( jing) into energy ( qi) into spirit ( Shen) into emptiness ( dao).
Most people much prefer to practice the more moving exercises of Taiji qigong which mainly promote the circulating of the blood and energy. The moving exercises of Taiji qigong also develop flexibility and improve relaxation by releasing muscle tension,anxiety and stress which make them more popular as I have already mentioned.
The popularity of Taijiquan exercise has grown widely across the world. It is now supposedly the most popular form of exercise for health and well-being practiced by both young and old alike. There is not a town or city that does not have a Taijiquan class for the elderly it is now slowly becoming regularly practiced in hospitals and is offered to some as a preventive medicine.
The name Taijiquan actually means “the Supreme Ultimate Boxing Art” and was formerly created as a Chinese internal martial art that was based upon using the opponents strength,balance and aggression against themselves. But gradually its health related benefits grew more popular over the last 100 years and it’s has now become more recognised as a health and well- being exercise alongside the practice of yoga.
As a form of exercise for the elderly there no better exercise to take up other than Taijiquan, as it greatly strengthens there ability to balance and co-ordinate. But more importantly it also strengthens their concentration for which weakens as we all get older. Health-wise regular practice of Taijiquan allows the individual to relax the tension and stiffness within their muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints improving the circulation of blood and energy (qi) throughout their entire body. Because of the slowness and smoothness of Taijiquan movements it is not harsh on each individual’s body which allows everyone to be able to practice it and receive its benefits towards managing or controlling various ailments like Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Hypertension, etc.
By no means is the practice of Taijiquan an easy exercise to master. There are many who are only interested in learning Taijiquan to just simply relax. This is properly the easiest level of Taijiquan practice, the more intermediate level is to practice and improve your Taijiquan skill towards strengthening your over-Al health and well-being. The more advanced levels are towards the practice of cultivating the internal energy ( qi) and ( jing) for the purpose of self defence and longevity.
Over the many years that I have now been practicing and teaching Taijiquan I still see thousands of individuals failing to develop a quality Taijiquanpractice within their forms. To many individuals are happy to learn a sequence of Taijiquan movements and just move from one posture to another without any thought of maintaining accuracy and skill within their actions.
For example many think that Taijiquan is mainly about learning to relax. So their movements are not precise, rather than keeping their hands in front of their body, they simply allow the non-primary hand to move behind themselves unaware that they are doing it. Another example is that they only concentrate on the primary hand that is usually in front of themselves, while the secondary hand goes limb, causing them to become paraplegic on one side of their body. Rather than concentrating on maintaining an equal amount of energy and intention in the quality movement of both hands.
To many individuals are failing to take up the challenge of achieving a high quality Taijiquan practice and receive the many benefits that regular Taijiquan practice has to offer themselves in combating various ailments like arthritis, osteoporosis, hypertension, falls syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression and much, much more. Or to simply be able to maintain the ability to be fully active as you get older, maintaining your general fitness, stamina and flexibility so that you have quality of life and independence.
Obviously to achieve a higher standard of Taijiquan practice means that the individual must also be willing to put the time and effort in to practicing on their own in their own time. This is the only way you will greatly improve your skill in the practice of Taijiquan. Why not take up the challenge and become the one who stands out from the rest of your class and raise your standard.
Has the popularity of the Chinese mind, body & spirit exercise of Taijiquan grows strongly from one year to the next, with thousands of individuals practicing it for relaxation,health and well-being reasons. Sadly the understanding of the cultivation and circulation of the internal energy through the whole body using the correct internally energetic alignments and correct physical alignments of Taijiquan are slowly being lost. As more and more people are only interested in practicing Taijiquan for the benefit of improving their relaxation.
Sadly there are loads of teachers who do not even mention or talk about the internal energy (qi) within the practice of Taijiquan. There are even those who talk about the internal energy, but cannot even tell their students what they should be feeling when they practice. There are some teachers of Taijiquan who cannot even feel their own energy (with).
One of my teachers would always mention that in the practice of Taijiquan or qigong you cannot smell your qi, you cannot hear your qi, you cannot even see your qi, but you can feel it. As practice more on a regular basis in your spare time and your understanding and skill improves within your practice and studying of Taijiquan you will gradually begin to experience certain sensations of energy movement within your own body.
These particular feelings of energy movement (de qi) can range from a feeling of warmth, tingling, a feeling of fullness or heaviness within the limbs. One might even feel movement, where the energy raises or sinks or even moves to the front or back of the body. The circulation of energy can move through the energy pathways of the meridians and channels (jing luo), or it can move through the nervous system which can cause a feeling of a slight shake within the hands. The stronger the trembling or shaking feeling the more the energy (qi) is blocked.
When you watch beginners practicing their Taijiquan form movements, many will move their hands and arms ahead of the body and legs. Some will only move the hands/arms and legs and forget to involve the torso. The ultimate aim for every practitioner of Taijiquan is to fully intergrate the whole body into a smooth, precise flowing sequence of movements.
The aim is to allow the legs and waist to move first and allow the arms/hands to follow and be moved lastl guided by the waist and legs. This will help the practitioner to keep their arms and hands as soft and relaxed as possible without using any unnessary strength or tension in their Taijiquan movements. By letting the body move first ahead of the arms and hands will energetically encourage the internal energy to flow smoothly and greatly through the nine major joints of the body. Especially when the whole body raises and sinks, simply moving the hands or arms ahead of the body will not fully activate the energy (qi) to flow. When raising , the legs must push the body upwards, this in turn will allow the waist to raise the hands upwards which will then in-turn allow more energy to raise upwards from the ground up through the legs and waist into the hands. Like-wise when sinking downwards simply just dropping the arms and hands will not fully lower the energy back down into the ground. When sinking , the legs will sink firstly, followed by the torso and lastly by the arms and hands. This technique of sinking downwards using the legs and body to move ahead of the arms allows for a greater feeling of energy to sink and connect downwards into the. earth.
The secret of improving your skill in Taijiquan to fully intergrate the whole body to move as one complete unit is through constant practice and more practice. Just turning up to a class once a week will not greatly improve your Taijiquan skill, the hard work must come from yourself in giving up more of your spare time to practice as much as you can on a regular basis. Today, one of the most important aspects for everyone training in Taijiquan is the ability to discipline ones self to practice in their spare time. This will not just greatly improve their over-Al Taijiquan skill and ability,i it will also greatly strengthen and improve their health and well-being.
The self maintenance exercise of the Yin & Yang Natural Patting Qigong method can be used to stimulate the flow of blood and energy throughout the entire body. It can remove both blood and energy stasis that may have accured to either an illness, injury or through lack of exercise.
The patting action causes a vibration that sends a pulse wave deep into the body affecting the muscles, tendons, nerves, meridians, channels and internal organs, causing the turbid blood and energy that has accumulated to be brokenup and dispersed, allowing the circulation to flow more smoothly and freely boosting the individuals immune system and helping them to fight off illness.
When practicing the Yin & Yang Natural Patting Qigong you can use various hand shapes to effect the release of muscle tension, blood and energy blockages. These hand shapes can involve the use of the whole hand, a hollow Palm, a fist or the use of the fingers to pat either lightly or strongly on different parts of the body. Within the practice of the Yin & Yang Natural Patting exercise you must be able to guide and lead (Daoyin) the energy ( qi) by the use of the various hand shapes ( Yin Shou) that you use like a light fist can be used to tonify the energy flow, whereas, a tight fist is used to strongly disperse the blood and energy stasis, the fingers can be used to penetrate deeply into tight muscles breaking up the muscle tension or they can be used to directly strike an energy point (Qi Xue) on a certain meridian ( luo mai).
The Yin & Yang Natural Patting Qigong method can be used also as a warming up or cooling down exercise before or after you participate in either in your Taijiquan, Gongfu or Dao Yoga practice. If you wish to remain healthy then the Yin & Yang Natural Patting Qigong must become a regular part of your daily self maintenance exercise routine.