What is Taiji?

learning the Way
Learning the Way - Patrick Kelly, Master Huang


Excerpt from 'Relax, Deep Mind' / What is Taiji.

Taiji is an internal style of Chinese martial art, stressing the principles of relaxation and yielding both in application and in daily life. Taijiquan training develops inner strength and harmony through the coordination and relaxation of Mind and body. Externally, Taiji is the art of movement for health and self defence. Internally, Taiji is Raja Yoga, the science of Mind and internal energy or Qi (气).

Taijiquan is said to have been created 800 years ago by the Daoist Sage Zhang Sanfeng (張三丰) as a practical method for attaining immortality (enlightenment) through the cultivation of internal energy and Mind. Its principles were formulated 2,500 years ago by Laozi (老子) the founder of Daoism in his book Dao De Jing (道德经)and expressed a thousand years before that in the Book of Changes or Yi Jing (易经). There exists a small but concise set of writings known as the Taiji Classics. In these are preserved a complete outline of the ideas behind the Taiji method. Daoism provides the philosophy while Taiji provides a practical method for incorporating those Daoist principles into practice. Taiji has evolved into a set of soft, slow, gentle movements coordinated with the concentration of the Mind and the breath. This is supplemented with 2-person exercises which allow you to bring what you have practiced in the Taiji Form, into the more complex interactions with another person – an intermediate step towards bringing the practices back into your everyday life.

Initial training in Taiji consists of learning to relax the body and quieten the Mind. All movements are circular – on reaching one extreme they return to their source without stopping. This is achieved by using the Will or Yi (意), not insensitive strength. From deep consciousness arises Yi, which moves the Qi. When the Qi moves, the joints extend like blowing into a rubber tube. So the Yi moves the Qi which moves the body. The internal organs receive a gentle massage, increasing the flow of blood and lymphatic fluids, while the ligaments, tendons, sinews, other elastic tissues and bones are strengthened. The Qi accumulates and circulates freely throughout the body. Time brings a depth of refinement from which the Spirit emerges, manifesting spring-steel inner strength and profound peace of Mind. The application of Taiji is practised with a partner. Here the aim is to relax completely, yielding before the partner’s Yi and internal or external force. The entire body is so light that a fly cannot alight without setting it in motion.

This is not weakness. The feet are rooted to the ground and a fluid central stability is maintained. Using the sense of touch, yield at the opponent’s slightest pressure, follow them at their slightest retreat, respond quickly to fast action and cautiously to slow action. At every place the Yin and Yang (substantial and insubstantial) must be distinguished. Advancing, the partner feels the distance incredibly long; retreating, they feel it exasperatingly short. Then, when the moment is right, internal energy is released, returning to the partner any force they have ventured to express. This is the application of Taiji for self defence. People of all ages and degrees of health are equally able to practise Taiji. It leads people from the mundane everyday state to a position of inner knowledge, inner calmness and inner power. Quiet concentration relieves mental problems, practising inner calmness most effectively resolves emotional problems, while practising relaxation and energy circulation will alleviate physical problems. Success in practice requires an attitude of genuine enquiry, patience and perseverance, an openness to practise according to the teaching and a willingness to constantly examine and refine your motives according to your inner conscience.

The essence of Taiji is thousands of years old and has been refined by long chains of highly evolved Old Masters. The methods have been well tested over hundreds of years and the benefits, both internal and external, verified by hundreds of thousands of practitioners. To experience the full potential benfits, once begun, Taiji should be thought of as a lifetime practice.

From: 'Relax, Deep Mind' 2021 ©
'Song' 放松, 'Hsin'(Heart) 心
- P. A. Kelly

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Design & Code by Niall O'Hare, © 2022. All Rights Reserved. Due acknowledgement to excerpt from Patrick A Kelly © 1995.