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On Practicing Taijiquan—The Five Mindsets

by Henry (Yinghao) Zhuang, June 29, 2015

Many people are aware that taijiquan is beneficial, but to obtain those benefits one needs "samutpada" (arousal of earnest intention) and one has to pay the price. Everyone can afford it, but most people are reluctant to pay. Whenever I run into taijiquan enthusiasts who want to practice taijiquan with me, what I first say is, "If you want to learn taijiquan you need to pay the price. So, what is it? First, you must have the five kinds of mindsets and at least spend more than half an hour a day to practice taijiquan. Second, you do not turn back once setting foot on the journey of taijiquan, and it will accompany you throughout your life as an integral part."

For those who are willing to pay this price, they will be more than welcome; otherwise, there is no need to waste our passions.

The Five Kinds of Mindsets

The five kinds of mindsets include sincerity, determination, confidence, perserverence, and patience.
Sincerity

Taijiquan is "philosophical boxing" that is metaphysical and played subconsciously. One must earnestly and sincerely accept the principle of carrying yin and holding yang, the theory of valuing serenity and softness, and the mechanism of opening and closing substantiality and insubstantiality. Only with faithfulness can one obtain the inherent and natural ability through practicing taijiquan. The sincere practitioners of taijiquan and the tonsured monks who cultivate themselves with Buddhadharma are all enlightened people.

Determination

The determination to practice taijiquan can be big and small. Nowadays, in the materialistic, competitive, fast-paced, and fickle society, people invest their energy and time into the career of "money." They need extremely great determination to squeeze half an hour or more every day to practice taijiquan for their physical and mental health and potentiality exploration. Don't people always say, "You trade health for money when you are young and money for health when you are old?"

Unfortunately, when people become old, health can never be bought back even with much more money. So why not spend some time to take care of your health when you still have it; let it be your company and plan on a long-term basis to make money. This is the decision a sensible person makes. After all, taijiquan can be of benefit even if you start at a later age, or in a weakened condition.

Confidence

You may still have doubts after reading the above taijiquan functions of fitness and cultivating the original nature. After all, seeing is believing. You need to know that the enthusiasts who play taijiquan together with me every Saturday and Sunday are all elites in their professions, and they joined in the learning and practicing of taijiquan only after some observation. What did they look for? First, to see whether the author, the head of this group, who is nearly seventy (at this writing) and has practiced taijiquan for decades, presents a hale and hearty look with light and steady postures. Second, they learned of the improvements in both body and mind from the other taijiquan practitioners. After seeing and hearing in person, they believed in the effects of practicing taijiquan and now have confidence in learning and practicing taijiquan for the rest of their lives.

In order to boost confidence, the practitioners should tailor their goals in phases with their taijiquan teachers, and regularly test their skills and enter into the real world of taijiquan, step by step.

Perseverance

There is a saying: "Practice taijiquan for ten years before going out." True gongfu cannot be obtained without perseverance. Wind or rain, hot summer or cold winter, traveling on business, or being on vacation are not excuses for not practicing taijiquan every day.

As a teacher, I have set a rule for the fellows who play taijiquan together with me: Those who cannot practice taijiquan on Saturday or Sunday for any reason must ask for leave and must do some self-learning of the "mind approach" for the day. The purpose of this rule is to help the practitioners achieve perseverance. It is not meant as a show of respect for the teacher.

If you regard taijiquan as a lifetime sport, then taijiquan will definitely give you a lifetime benefit.

Patience

Practicing taijiquan is a process during which haste makes waste, and perseverance prevails. It will be counterproductive to be anxious for success. Therefore, more practicing, more observing, more questioning, and more thinking are the correct approach for practicing taijiquan. The attitude of the author is to focus on the process rather than results. Success will come naturally before you even notice it.

Three Conditions for Practicing Taijiquan

Three conditions for practicing taijiquan are "a sagacious master, comprehension, and diligent practice."


A sagacious master

The role of a master is the precondition for practicing taijiquan. You may not be so lucky to meet a famous master of taijiquan. But if people want to practice taijiquan well, they must have a "sagacious master" with high moral character, proficiency of taijiquan theories, consummate skills, and a good teaching approach. Although taijiquan is a gongfu that requires personal experience, both physical and mental, in order to understand it fully, a student must be guided by a capable hand. Once you go astray, it is difficult to enter into the real world of taijiquan.

Of course, it is difficult for the sagacious master to find a good student and vice versa. Those who are willing to practice and learn taijiquan can choose appropriate books with illustrations on practicing taijiquan and learn by themselves before meeting a "sagacious master."

In the author's preface, I describe my taijiquan journey. I made the effort to self-study taijiquan and sought out the advice of many sagacious masters. It was my good fortune to have learned from them and it is with deep honor that I again acknowledge their generous spirit in sharing their knowledge. I am particularly indebted to my master, Duan Baohua, the head of Liangyi Kungfu.

Comprehension

Comprehension includes a clear mind, love of thinking, agile reaction, receptivity, and imitative ability. The subtlety of taijiquan is not only transmitted by tutorials from teachers, but also from firsthand experience, deep thinking, and tacit understanding. Even if each student receives the same tutorial from his teachers, improvements will differ, according to individual levels of comprehension.

In terms of comprehension, some people are born gifted with this comprehension. However, my experience is "a slow sparrow should make an early start." If you put more effort into your practice, you will be able to understand that just one movement or even one concept contains many things: philosophical content and/or combat skills.

Practice

Practicing is critical for positive improvements in practicing taijiquan. It is easy to understand tacitly under a master's guidance. However, the subtlety and profoundness of taijiquan can be substantiated only through long-term practicing. Just as the classics mentioned, "Clear theory and direction are not enough. One must proceed with the effort of initiating all day long and keep advancing without stopping. The destination will show itself in the course of time."

Practitioners must follow all rules and regulations, and with persistent and diligent practice, they will be able to produce qualitative change, obtaining the true essence of taijiquan. The students with persistence will be able to remove stiffness and release the internal force with better performance after one year.

(The above excerpt is from The Mind Inside Tai Chi: Sustaining a Joyful Heart by Henry Zhuang.)

Henry (Yinghao) Zhuang has been involved with tai chi for over thirty years. Starting as self-taught, and then seeking formal instruction, the author is in a unique position to help others on this rewarding, but sometimes solo journey of seeking health and happiness through tai chi practice. Henry Zhaung is a chief real estate appraiser, and resides in Shanghai, China.


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