Taijiquan instructor Pan Roushi
“The Limitless is True Emptiness; the Absolute is
Wonderful Existence. The Limitless gives rise to the Absolute. When
there is movement in the Absolute, yang is produced. When the movement
reaches its limit, it becomes still. At the limit of stillness, there
is movement.” This is a natural law.
O In extreme antiquity,
before the world had been
formed and long before the appearance of written language, the universe
was just a great, big zero—that is, the Limitless 無極 wuji. Later, the
Limitless gave rise to the Absolute 太極 taiji, and the Absolute in turn
produced the Two Primal Forces 兩儀 liangyi, yin and yang. Yin is soft
and yang is hard. Within the circle of the Absolute, yin and yang
mutually revolve so that movement contains stillness and stillness
contains movement. This tiny sphere of light can be expanded to
encompass millions of worlds; this is the basic principle of Taijiquan.
More than 700 years ago, Mr. Zhang Sanfeng
pioneered a set of shadowboxing movements in which the hard and soft
are mutually inclusive. Since his system was based on the principles of
taiji, he called it Taijiquan. The circular heart of the taiji diagram
represents the dantian, in the lower abdomen of the human body. The
practice of Taijiquan consists primarily of smelting the energy (qi) in
the dantian through an uninterrupted sequence of movements.
One should practice inhaling and exhaling using
the dantian, which is located a little over an inch below the navel.
When one exhales, the dantian should send the air to the abdomen and
then slowly upwards. The abdominal muscles should contract until they
are as tight as possible, so that one’s abdomen sinks inwards. The
rectum will naturally contract as well. Yet while the abdomen is pulled
tight, the upper body should be completely relaxed. On the inhalation,
the abdomen should gradually bulge outward. Make sure the shoulders
don’t tense up, for if they do, one cannot progress.
move is aimed at “halting the spears.” This is in close
accord with the
spirit of humanity quest for world peace.
In practicing breathing with the dantian, the
slower one goes, the better. After long practice, one will be able to
maintain the rectum contracted at all times, while the rest of the body
is relaxed. When the body, hands, and breath can work in coordination,
the mind will naturally become calm; this is stillness within movement.
In the state of stillness, one’s muscles and tendons will be relaxed
and one will be able to apply true gongfu (skill)—this is movement
within stillness. This level of accomplishment is true gongfu, the
perfection symbolized by the circular taiji diagram. Based on over
thirty years of experience, I would say that if one practices
diligently, it takes about three years and four months to reach this
level of skill.
The practice of Taijiquan should go hand-in-hand
with meditation. If one breathes with the dantian during meditation, it
is easy to quiet the mind, relax the body, and let go of all external
conditions. One may sometimes feel one’s sitting space expanding
without bounds. Likewise, each person’s inherent spiritual light can
reach millions of worlds.
Every Buddha and Bodhisattva is crowned with a
circular halo of light. The circle is the principle of the Absolute; it
is the zero, which represents the nebulous mass before the formation of
the universe. Although the movements of Taijiquan are many, none are
apart from the circle. As one exerts strength from the waist, with the
dantian as one’s center of gravity, the movements of one’s hands, feet,
and body are all naturally circular in form. If one maintains these
essential guidelines in one’s practice, one will naturally fathom and
attain the essence of Taijiquan. In addition to preventing sickness and
insuring a long life, one will be able to transform essence into
energy, and energy into spirit.
Because I graduated from college in Japan, I have
been in close contact with that country. After Taijiquan became known
in Japan, it evolved into various forms of martial arts, such as the
well-known sport of Sumo wrestling, in which two men duel in a
wrestling ring, mirroring the movements of the yin and yang fishes in
the taiji diagram.
The wrestlers wear only a loincloth, so they
cannot gain a grip on each other by grabbing each other’s clothing.
They must rely entirely on true skill. During the match, contestants
are not separated by weight or age; dantian energy and muscular
strength are the only factors of competition. Judo and Aikido, which
also emphasize the power of the waist, are martial art forms that
evolved from Sumo and thus have their origin in Taijiquan. Their hand
and foot movements originate directly from Taijiquan.
No matter what form of martial arts one practices,
one should understand the meaning of the word “martial” 武 wu. If we
look at the elements of the character, the meaning is to stop war, not
to keep on fighting. The highest state in martial arts is actually the
pursuit of peace. In light of this, we can say that each Taijiquan move
is aimed at “halting the spears"止戈. [These are the two elements that
make up the word “martial” 武.] This is in close accord with the spirit
of humanity’s quest for world peace.
My formal training in Taijiquan began when I was
forty. In the thirty-some years since then, I have walked the path of
orthodox practice, sincerely seeking the truth. Taijiquan has given me
many insights into the truths of life and the universe, and I have
found confirmation for these insights in various spiritual and
Confucius once said, “If I hear of the Way in the
morning, I can die without regret in the evening.” This is the attitude
of a sincere seeker of truth who is not concerned about birth and
death. I share his feelings.