(6 pages total)
Page 3 - Taiji in the Workplace
In the Organization
An organizational environment is like a microcosm of life. Taijiquan is performed solo, but often practiced in group unison. The company that has harmony, yet respects the individual, is a desirous place to work. This "soft martial art" provides a safe activity that promotes these important aspects for an organization and its people to thrive. There have been a growing number of places over the last number of years that have successfully implemented Taijiquan into their employee wellness programs. For instance, in Los Angeles, city workers have taken Taijiquan literally by rising above their daily stress. Classes were conducted on the roof of one of the city hall buildings(6) . City employees who participated benefited greatly from the program, and it was said that it gave them renewed physical and mental strength in a gentle safe manner. Some of the participants mentioned that they didn't even have the strength to climb the stairs prior to taking Taijiquan classes. After taking the class members said that the classes have increased their strength to do so.(7)
Even the army has joined the act. The Walter Reed Army Hospital's Wellness Center in Bethesda, MD has taught Taijiquan exercises to staff and patients. The goal was "to demonstrate the importance of using the mind as a therapeutic tool to soften the impact of stress on the immune system-and other body functions.(8) The American Health magazine article went on to say "the main mission of the Army corps is to maintain a healthy fighting force. The more we stress prevention, the closer we get to that goal."(9) The concept of a strong self-defense organization parallels the workforce of a company.
Strength Through Relaxation
I have had the good fortune of witnessing first-hand a demonstration of a master's "push hands" technique (a two person self-defense exercise using Taijiquan principles) with a young man in his twenties. At the time of the demonstration the master was in his late seventies. Not knowing what to expect, I was flabbergasted to see that from nowhere the young opponent was suddenly propelled off his feet into the air and smack into a mat placed against the wall to break his fall. (He wasn't hurt; only his pride).
There was no sign of exertion or even movement that I could see on the master's part. I can assess that the movement at the moment of impact could have been much like being hit by a Mack truck, but prior to that fraction of a moment, the master was completely relaxed and playful as he was after the impressive shove. I was just about two feet away from this remarkable demonstration. The young man was dazed while the master seemed to be totally enjoying himself. The master was not a huge 250 pound muscle bound bully. This was an older man of small proportions who without seemingly any effort literally "blew away" his opponent. This demonstration was what I consider an illustration of Qi. Taijiquan magnificent strength without muscular force.
Power of Qi
These kinds of demonstrations are somewhat theatrical, but the impression has long lasting effects. How could something that relaxed and casual have such profound focus and force? "Qi", or "prahna" as expressed in the East Indian culture, means life force. In the practice of Taijiquan the Qi, which is the intrinsic life force, becomes refined like steam.
Steam as we know has the power to move such massive things as trains and boats. In Taijiquan the Qi moves freely throughout the body. The body holds no tension, thus, the body feels almost transparent. The body can be likened to an empty vessel in which the Qi can flow in and out. You become "plugged" into this universal Qi energy by focusing your mind at your center (located in the lower abdomen-approximately two inches below the navel) and relaxing the body while standing in perfect alignment. These kinds of visual impressions have a marked effect on the quality of the movement and the thinking of the individual. To empty your mind is a freeing experience and one that enables you to be open, flexible, and capable of responding to a situation in a calm and appropriate manner. These abilities are valuable on the sports field as well as the in the business environment.
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