Monday, February 17, 2014

The most misunderstood concept in tai chi

What is the most misunderstood concept in tai chi, even for some with years of experience? It is the tai chi essential of Use Yi (mind) instead of Li (muscular power). I had been puzzled by and misunderstood the concept for many years learning tai chi from my father when I was a kid. My query was "How can one fight without muscles strength?" A very valid question!
By refusing to use muscular power, many tai chi practitioners practice their martial art like a meditator. A meditator has other objectives. He aims at opening his inner chi channels, in particular his central channel (zhong mai 中脈). He sits for hours after hours daily to build up his required level of chi to move it along his, often blocked, chi channels. He has patience and he needs to have it. On the positive side, this is THE way to calm a meditator's restless mind, which is one of his learning objectives in the first place.

Recently I came across a Taoist Neidan (Taoist deep meditation) book written by a well known Taiwanese master. He said that in our fast pace modern world, meditators should also learn some internal martial art, like tai chi, or at least some chi movement exercises (Dao Yin 導引) to facilitate the building up of chi. Apparently the non-muscular method has failed even the modern meditators who do not have time to practice a minimum of 3-5 hours of undisturbed seated mediation daily.

But how come ancient tai chi masters told us to Use Yi (mind) instead of Li (muscular power)? Are these master wrong all along?

The simple answer is no. To solve the puzzle, we have to go back to the basic concept: masters of internal disciplines primarily talked and wrote about internal experience. And, like any important internal concept, the reasoning is simple - though getting the right internal feeling needs some good practice. This is my take:

To lift up an object from the ground to our shoulder level with our right hand we contract our biceps. This internal feeling of muscular contraction we call Li. But if we visualize ourselves slowly lifting up a heavy object with a stretched hand (i.e. not making a tight-fist) and focus our mind on our triceps and related muscles at four forearm (and energized them simultaneously), we can feel all the muscles in our arm being energized (all muscles contracting!) And this energized internal feeling is called Chi, and the manifestation process is called using Use Yi (mind)

But this is not what my tai chi master told me all these years? Why?

I have no answer to this question.

Dao Yin exercise for meditators

1 comment:

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    Walking Meditation


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