Three Attainments in Taijiquan Training
Past masters have said that there are three levels of Taijiquan training. At the first level, practitioners have good health. At the second level, practitioners have combat efficiency. And at the highest level, they have spiritual cultivation. It is unbelievable but true that in the Intensive Taijiquan Course, we aim to attain all these three achievements.
On the other hand, it is sad that most Taijiquan practitioners all over the world today do not have the first two attainments. Many Taiji practitioners, especially in the West, have knee problems, which show that they are not healthy. Almost all Taiji practitioners today, including masters, have no combat efficiency. Indeed, many of them, again in the West, do not realize that Taijiquan is a martial art.
However, it is fortunate that many Taiji practitioners do have spiritual cultivation, albeit at a low level. Most Taiji practitioners are peaceful and happy, which shows that they have cultivated their spirit. But very few of them have the type of spiritual cultivation Taijiquan masters in the past were supposed to have, i.e. spiritual expansion into the Cosmos.
The first benefits of practicing Taijiquan are to have good health as well as vitality and longevity. This is due to energy flow. Energy flow is basic in Taijiquan as it is the ingredient of internal force. Without internal force, Taijiquan would not be effective for promoting health and combat efficiency.
Taijiquan practitioners who practice genuine Taijiquan, i.e. Taijiquan capable of providing good health and combat efficiency, need some time of regular practice before they can generate an energy flow, ranging from a few months to a few years. Most other Taiji practitioners, from our perspective, do not practice Taijiquan as an internal martial art, which it actually is, but practice only its external forms as a graceful dance.
But for us in Shaolin Wahnam, we are able to generate an energy flow very quickly. Those who attend the Intensive Taijiquan Course would be able to generate an energy flow in the first hour of the course－if they were unable to do so previously. This is simply incredible but true.
How does generating an energy flow give practitioners good health, vitality and longevity? When the energy flow is smooth, practitioners become healthy. As they continue to practice, the energy flow is not only smooth, but has become vigorous. This gives them vitality. As they continue to practice further, they generate more energy than they normally need. This energy will be stored in their Dan Tian and side meridians, enabling the energy flow to go on for a long, long time, which means it gives them longevity.
The term quan in Taijiquan means kungfu, clearly indicating that Taijiquan is a martial art. Indeed, I had to remind even our instructors of this fact when they referred to kungfu to mean Shaolin Kungfu. In fact, being a martial art is fundamental to Taijiquan. In other worlds, Taijiquan practitioners in the past practiced what they practiced because it made them combat efficient. To have good health, vitality, longevity and spiritual cultivation were secondary, though historically speaking, Zhang San Feng evolved Taijiquan from Shaolin Kungfu for spiritual cultivation. Indeed, apart from vitality which good martial artists should have, some well known Taijiquan masters in the past sustained injuries, did not live long, and were not happy and peaceful.
In this respect, those who attend the Intensive Taijiquan Course can do better than even past masters. They would be nowhere in combat efficiency compared to past masters. In fact, some of them would not even be able to handle black-belts comfortably, which actually is easy, but they have more benefits in terms of good health, longevity and spiritual cultivation. If they are sick or injured, they can generate an energy flow to overcome their illness, which even past masters could not do. If they are already healthy, they will have the vitality of a young person irrespective of their age and gender. They will live to a ripe old age. They will find joy in daily life, again which even past Taijiquan masters did not have!
Unlike Taijiquan practitioners in the past who would need a few years to learn the skills and techniques for combat, those attending the Intensive Taijiquan Course will learn them in a few days! The core of these combat skills and techniques are found in the 12 basic Taijiquan combat sequences, which course participants should familiarize themselves with before they attend the course. These 12 combat sequences cover all the four categories of attack, namely striking, kicking, felling and chin-na.
Course participants need to spend some time practicing these combat skills and techniques at home if they want to be combat efficient. At the course, they learn the skills and techniques. They need to practice them at home to be skillful in applying them in combat. If they spend half an hour a day practicing them daily, they should be able to handle black-belts comfortably in a year -- if they do apply them on their opponents.
In our modern societies, physical combat rarely happens. The benefits we derive from our combat training are more useful and meaningful in our daily non-combative life. We are full of vitality, quick in our thought and action, and relaxed and peaceful even in demanding situations.
The third attainment we aim at at the Intensive Taijiquan Course is spiritual cultivation, ranging from the elementary level of being relaxed and happy to the highest level of merging with the Cosmos. Indeed, this was how Taijiquan first evolved from Shaolin Kungfu. Zhang San Feng, the first patriarch of Taijiquan, was already very healthy and highly combat efficient. He practiced Wudang Shaolin Kungfu, which later evolved into Taijiquan, to attain immortality.
Merging with the Cosmos is a very advanced art. Even monks of any religion who could merge with the Cosmos after at least five years of practicing meditation daily, would kiss the feet of their master to express gratitude. It is just ridiculous, in a good sense, that at least 60% of course participants attempting this very high level skill would be successful. But as we still live joyfully in our phenomenal world, we will just have a glimpse of the Cosmos, and then return to our world. It is a life-changing experience. This merging with the Cosmos must be practiced in the presence of a master.
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit 21st February 2016 Sungai Petani