Page 6 - The Key to Practicing Taijiquan's Skill & Form
This skill is made up of three aspects: your spirit, qi, and body. The main emphasis is on enhancing your spirit. Afterwards comes the practice of qi. Last in importance is the practice of your physical body.
What is the meaning of spirit? Spirit here refers to something in addition to our whole body, it is empty, it is flexible, there is momentum, a function of mind, controller of intention. The movement cannot be predicted, thus, in addition to the flexible, there is quickness and the concept of changing. Spirit is really not involved with clenching of teeth, intensely staring, or the use of physical effort to produce qi.
What is the meaning of qi? qi may refer to breathing. It is that that sinks downward when you acquire stability. It is not something seen in muscle or use of effort to breathe. The body is stable and comfortable. Movement should be flexible and light. Merely taking a standing position to strike sand bags, beating the body, or striking objects with the hands will enhance neither spirit nor qi. Those people who practice the spirit cannot be without qi and the body - they have all three. Rather, there is merely an emphasis on spirit development. For those people who merely practice qi, they may have some qi, they may have some body, but their spirit is lacking. Those who only practice the body aspect also have some spirit and some qi, however, they can not completely know the wonder of the spirit.
In the practice, if your intention does not completely reach the breadth of your mind, your body gesture cannot be relaxed. Without proper relaxation, the upper and lower will not follow or be coordinated. Thus, your internal and external cannot match. Then your breathing may not be comfortable. At this point, with these problems, you should seek a good teacher for guidance otherwise, you will harm and worsen your practice.
If the mind thinks of relaxing after awhile the body gesture will also relax. Every movement should be followed by heart and qi. Then your four limbs will follow nature and the internal/external will become fit. With this your boxing intention can reach your hand. Stillness and contemplation will allow you to reach the level of your mind controlling everything. Everything should follow slowness, being stable, being quiet, and reaching stillness. If the mind is not clear and the qi floats, the more you practice with these illnesses, the farther you will go from boxing's intention. In this case, even if you practice like this for your whole life, you qi will not reach your hand. Learners should persevere, should have talent, and should have a true teacher in order to achieve success. Even with these qualities, in addition, the teacher and theory must be respected. With all these present, perhaps in one or two years you may reach some success. However, if you leave the teacher too early, you may have some problems and attain no awareness. One way to avoid this is to be open, to sense how the body and mind are connected. Quietly think about what the teacher advised you about the practice. Also, think of and visualize how the teacher practiced the gesture. With this your problem may not become too deeply rooted. Otherwise, if you make just a small mistake early there will be no end. It is like a horse without a rein, it cannot be guided.
People's practice problems may be visible or invisible. The visible problem is easily corrected, however, those invisible are very difficult to rectify. For example, some of these types of problems may be the hand and the feet being high or low, or not in balance, or not matching, or the direction is not correct, or the waist or kua are not straight, not horizontal, or the spine is not relaxed. These are visible problems. They are easily corrected. But, if your mind and intention are in the wrong way and, thus, your movement and spirit do not follow one another and your mind and body, internally/externally, do not match; these are invisible diseases. These diseases sometimes appear, sometimes do not appear. You can sense it but it is difficult for you to describe or pin down. It is very difficult to correct and eliminate these problems.
For people internally ill, regardless of how they spend their practice, the gesture and momentum will always show ugliness. That is because they do not listen to the teacher's words of how to practice. Again, they spend too much time thinking of east, thinking of west. That is how they go down the wrong path. Learners, in particular, should be aware of these problems.