The Principle of Gradualness
To fully understand Taijiquan it is necessary to understand its underlying philosophy. This is less of a problem for Chinese students as many of the ideas are omnipresent throughout their everyday culture. Western students, on the other hand, need to explore aspects of Chinese thought that have permeated its culture for several thousand years. Failure to grasp its philosophy results in one training a superficial system that is lacking in real foundation. 18th generation exponent Chen Zhaopi believed that this does not just apply to Taijiquan, but that every action a person takes in everyday life should be in accord with a higher philosophy.
At Taijiquan’s core is the Taiji or Yin-Yang theory – the search for harmony and balance. In Daoist alchemy heaven, earth and humans are collectively known as the “Three Powers”. Humans thrive to the extent to which they conform to the forces that mould and nurture them. It was said that:
“Heaven is clear and calm; earth is stable and tranquil. Humans who reject these virtues perish, while those who adapt them thrive.”
Following its Daoist roots, Taijiquan asks practitioners to seek “ziran” or “the natural state”. To do this we must accept the principle of gradualness – the long journey towards mastery can only be achieved gradually. Looking at the normal development of a person from infancy to maturity – each day they may seem the same as the day before, but if all their basic needs are met a fully functioning adult eventually emerges.
Taijiquan places great importance on fulfilling basic requirements which must be trained daily over a long period of time. We all know the rules – suspend the head, store the chest, relax shoulders, sink elbows etc etc… This is the core of Taijiquan skill and no amount of new forms and novel applications can replace it. The following advice from Chen Xin’s “Illustrated Explanation of Chen Family Taijiquan”, reflects this inexhorable approach to developing real skill:
“The Taijiquan practitioner must apply ceaseless efforts to make his mind aware of each tiny transformation taking place in the postures…one must establish full mental control over every movement: from the way one’s hand commences a posture, to the area through which it passes, and up to its final resting place.”
This can only be achieved gradually!
from his blog: Talking Chen Taijiquan qith David Gaffney
*pictured: Chen Zhaopi. “Lean With Back”