Some students who come to Jung Tao School to learn acupuncture are surprised to find how much emphasis we place on learning other practices – in particular, the practice of Taijiquan.
Taiji — also known in Chinese as “Grand Ultimate,” “Great Pole, or “Great Pivot” — is a nature philosophy that arose in China circa 500 -350 BCE. Taiji philosophy and the concept of the Dao (Tao) became the two pillars of what became known as philosophical Daoism. This philosophy was most succinctly described in the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing), the primary text of early Daoism. However, almost all schools of thought in ancient China were influenced to a greater or lesser degree by the philosophy of Taiji.
Daoism, as taught and practiced at Jung Tao School is a system of mental and physical training that is based on principles derived from nature. In no respect are we attempting to indoctrinate anyone, or to change or undermine anyone’s religious beliefs. These principles are consistent with the teaching of all the world’s great religions, not in competition with them. As Paracelsus said,
The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.
Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) – also known in Chinese as “Grand Ultimate Boxing” – is a movement art that we use as a physical practice to enhance our personal cultivation as Chinese medicine practitioners. The art of Taijiquan gets its name from the alterations of yin & yang around a central pole throughout the form. Even though Taijiquan was originally created as a martial art, at Jung Tao School we look at the Taijiquan form as being an empty vessel. Because it is empty, it is useful in many more ways than just as a martial art. Taijiquan is, therefore, a means to acquire a way of being in our bodies and, by extension, a way of acting in the world. Ultimately, we believe, there is nothing we do that is not Taijiquan. We, therefore, strive to use the physical practice of Taijiquan to cultivate character development, physical skill, and social skill.
To accomplish this, it is not enough to just go through the movements of the Taijiquan form. There must be committed practice of the form with attention to the details and the principles of Taijiquan as well as meditation, contemplation, and study.
Some of the skills and qualities that can be derived from the practice of Taijiquan include –
- Self-awareness. As the Daodejing states, “Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment.” The practice helps develop “witness consciousness” through growing awareness of the position of the whole body, and the relation of each part of the body to everything else. It also helps distinguish between “full” and “empty” states, which we also understand as relaxation and tension. Releasing tension helps resolve qi (energy) stagnation.
- Unity of the mind and body. Taijiquan focuses attention on the current movement, and develops holistic consciousness.
- Softness overcoming hardness. This is an attitude as much as a skill.
- Getting “self” out of the way. The practice helps develop humility (“daring not to be ahead of others”), moderation (not going too far), a cultivated emptiness (having no intention, going with the flow), and a sense of wuwei (an action that arises in harmony with what is occurring instead of in opposition to it).
- Embodied listening. Touch becomes more aware; students become more sensitive to what they are feeling in their own bodies as well as in a partner (or patient’s) body, which we learn to extrapolate to places where we are stuck in our lives.
- Created sensations. Each physical posture also has a feeling associated with it. These feelings and the ability to generate them in our bodies open us to the internal aspects of Taijiquan. Sensations of entering and exiting, as well as raising and lowering, are the language of the body, so we use them to cultivate our capacity to discern and respond to the body.
The daily practice of Taijiquan is a core element to the personal cultivation that becoming an effective Classical Chinese medicine practitioner requires. At Jung Tao School, we help students form the foundation of a lifelong practice that enhances their own — and their patients’ — lives.
Barry Marshall LMBT, NCTMB has been Jung Tao School’s Personal Cultivation / Taijiquan teacher since 1997 and is also the school registrar.