By Jace Lee
When it comes to training, not just in the martial arts but with any art or sport involving movement, practicing movements slowly is crucial to refining movement and creating indelible strength and coordination through the movement. By moving slowly and relaxed, all the muscles involved have an easier time coordinating and remaining balanced. This also programs the entire movement into the brain, so when it is performed fast, it is perfect. Being relaxed through movement makes sure that muscles that aren’t involved in the movement remain relaxed. In a martial arts situation, when punching, the arm is completely relaxed until contact is made. This is so that there is no interference in the movement, tension will slow down the punch and power will be lost.
Relaxation, a very underrated practice, is crucial to everything, not just Tai Chi and martial arts. To remain relaxed through movements means increased stamina, less effort exerted, faster movement and more joy moving through life in general. There is a Tai Chi term called Sung, it means sinking. When it is experienced, it literally feels as if your body is sinking or melting. This is accompanied by a feeling of stillness and relief. Once you experience it you can use it to reach stillness. Experiencing Shung is not difficult, but it can be tricky. You have to imagine and try to feel what you imagine, your body sinking. Also, through practicing relaxation, it can just happen. Once you have it, then stillness must be cultivated. Through Shung you should work to be able to call stillness up whenever you want. Just to note, this alone can be life changing. Relaxation doesn’t have to stop here, it can get down right euphoric. Relaxation is also a crucial part of feeling and moving Chi and releasing tension.
Once you find stillness it is time to stand. It is through standing that we start to meld mind and body. At first standing is practiced to strengthen our foundation but mostly to scan the body, release tension and find proper alignment. This scanning the body is the same as the technique I use to get people to feel their Chi, increase the feeling and increase the mind-body connection. Once you can feel stillness while standing and you start to feel as if you are floating and it seems effortless to hold up your arms; this is where you start to see how Chi moves the body.
You see, being relaxed cultivates Chi by increasing sensitivity to it and allowing a greater flow. But when it comes to cultivating Chi and making it stronger, we must use it. When cultivating Chi through movement, first the Chi must be felt and some level of movement must be achieved because one must be able to move Chi before being able to move the body with Chi. This is one of the reasons why Tai Chi is performed slowly, it takes a lot of though, visualization and concentration to move an entire body using only Chi. So, at first, the mind moves very slow. But most people never really make it to this point. I really can’t think of anyone else teaching how to move the body using Chi. I think I may be one of the few. I also teach how to use Chi as strength. This adds great power to any physical activity and cultivates Chi majorly. Tai Chi also cultivates Chi by coordinating movement with the breath. Then eventually that breath will drive the Chi and move the body.
Tai Chi is relatively simple in theory and principle. Relaxation, slow coordinated movements alone can have a huge impact on a person. By strengthening balance and coordination, moving through life becomes much easier. Tension and pain is also released. All this gives the practitioner a sense of peace and tranquility. It is this state of mind that truly is the main cause of these benefits are. The mind is the root of our lives, if negative thoughts can destroy our bodies and our lives then positive thoughts can have a reverse effect. The practice of Tai Chi and also Qigong and meditation, is that they are cultivating a relaxed and peaceful mind, the body and your life are reflections of your mind.
There you have it! These are the core foundational principles that make Tai Chi such an effective and beneficial art form. With relaxation, slow refined movement and fast, Chi cultivation and mind-body connection cultivation, how can you go wrong. Well, it depends on the goal. Now, I want you to look at those principle’s and forget you know Tai Chi. These principles can be any movement, that is, any properly aligned movement. My point is, it is not so much Tai Chi that is so beneficial, it is the way it is practiced. I am not trying to get people to forget about Tai Chi, I am trying to get people to see how Tai Chi, Qigong, etc., doesn’t end when your form does. Every step and every move become Tai Chi or Qigong. These principles can also be applied to any sport or physical art or dance. When it comes to mastery one must strive for perfection in every millimeter of movement.