Saturday, 10 June 2017

Following the nature of water...

The highest virtue is to be like water (the big dao of Taiji).

Laozi stated:

 "The highest virtue is like water, benefitting all things, contending with none, and is content with what others disdain. It is therefore closest to the dao"

 Water possesses these virtues:

It flows unceasingly and benefits all living things; therefore it is virtuous.
Always flowing downwards, whatever its shape it is formed without going against the rule of nature; therefore it is righteous.
It is vast and has no limits; therefore it has dao.
It travels without fear into challenging terrains; therefore it is courageous.
It remains level and settled wherever it lies; therefore it is constant.
It is as you see it, with neither embellishment nor detraction; therefore it has integrity.
There is no opening it does not enter; therefore it is perceptive.
It finds its way to its destination; therefore it is tenacious.
It adapts and adjusts continuously according to its situation and environment; therefore it has changeability.

These are the characteristics of water, seemingly harmless but has the potential for great damage; seemingly weak but latently powerful.
It is an ally to everyone, and yields unnoticeable benefits on everything around it. It is a formidable foe, and destroys everything in its path.

This is the nature of water. People who study the internal martial arts need to understand the big dao...

Learning to "harmonise"...

Taijiquan postures are often complex in nature and require the mind-intention to be focused on more than one area, such as on the coordination of the upper and lower limbs with the waist; on the coordination of the hands, eyes, body and footwork; on the physical form and structure being in their intended positions; on the functionalities of each action and each non-action; on keeping the whole body relaxed and supple; on the coordination of every movement with the breath and energetic feeling and many more.

In practice the different aspects cannot be considered separately and the mind-intention should not focus on one area at a time. If the mind-intention were to direct each one separately it is not possible to integrate the whole body whereby action, breath, relaxation, energetic manifestation, power, etc are at one. A new learner does not yet know how to work in concert and tends to focus on one aspect and lose another - e.g. concentrate on the hands and forget the feet, thinking of relaxing and forget to move freely...

Therefore training the intention is to train the ability to "harmonise", to be able to bring different requirements into play at the same time. The key is in the slow practice method of Taijiquan. From the simple to the complex. First train intention-breath, so that the mind becomes focused and until breathing becomes natural. Then intention-breath-relaxation, as now the intention is able to focus on the relaxation aspect, and the breath is able to synchronise with the relaxation processes; then intention-breath-relaxation-movement. Built upon the previous training of coordinating intention with the breath and relaxation, the focus is now on coordinating movements with the other aspects. In this way step by step train the six harmonies i.e. intention-breath-relaxation-shape-energy-spirit. Shape encompasses the correct movement coordinations of the hands, eyes, body and footwork. All that are visible and invisible will completely come under the control of mind intention (xin yi).

In practical learning and training, find out the meaning of each action, what the key points of an action are, its specifications, its Yin -Yang (complementary opposites) principles, so that proper intention is used. Continuously correct and adjust as skills improve.

"Living in the art"

Incorporate your art into every aspect of your daily life

Firstly, as much as possible ensure that your life style and habits do not contradict or conflict with the rules of your internal arts. For example, Taijiquan requires looseness, suppleness and calmness; in life, therefore, try to avoid using needless strength and holding unnecessary tension. Secondly, try to incorporate your internal art... into every aspect of your daily life, so that it can be practised anytime, anywhere and not restricted to certain times and conditions. The cultivation and maintenance of energy, spirit and consciousness have positive effects on the development of your art, and should be practised anytime anywhere. Saying that you have no time to train is an excuse. There are training opportunities when you are standing in queuing, waiting for your transport, reading, chatting...If you forget your practice as soon as the designated time for training is over, then your training time is indeed limited and short. The correct way is to "live in the art", whether standing, walking, sitting, or laying down. Then you will find that there's limitless and abundant time for training and you are never too far from your practice.

Internal martial arts are trained through the vehicle of the body and mind. Anything that is detrimental to the physical body and mental health is therefore bad for its development. The external factors which cause physical illnesses are the excessive or untimely exposure to the six conditions - wind, cold, heat, humidity, dryness and fire. Also habits such as unregulated food intake, irregular lifestyle, personal uncertainties, overworking or too much idle time. Mental stability is affected by the extreme exhibitions of the seven emotions namely: joy, anger, anxiety, thought, brooding, grief, fear and shock. And emotions such as arrogance, envy, greed, pride etc...These external and internal factors have the capacity to reduce physical fitness and mental health and therefore directly or indirectly affect the focus and potential for a successful long term practice.

Only people who love their art fervently and who have the deep interest to study every aspect of it will embrace it as an essential part of their lives.