Liu Wai Sang

Tai Chi Chan

Tai Chi Chuan can be literally translated as Supreme Polar Boxing. Tai Chi Chuan is traditionally treated as an internal school of Chinese martial arts since it emphasises the acquiring of a better skill of self-defence by means of an inside to outside or mind to body approach. Although today, Tai Chi Chuan is widely practised, not as a means of self-defence, but as a means of keeping fit, its practice is still persistently guided by an internal approach. Historically, the development of Tai Chi Chuan, true to its name, has been based on the ancient Chinese theory of Tai Chi. According to the Tai Chi theory, every being is a Tai Chi being, including the universe and each human, and also Tai Chi is the mother of Yin and Yang and the generator of all dynamic and static phenomena. This theory also implies that Yin and Yang are actually two universal, opposite yet interdependent forces or aspects that exist within each natural being or phenomenon. The practice of Tai Chi Chuan aims at improving the harmonic balance of the Yin and the Yang of a practitioner.

When the Yin and the Yang of a practitioner are harmoniously balanced, good health ensues. As a result of regular practice, many Tai Chi devotees have significantly improved their general health. Although such improvement by practising Tai Chi exercises may be considered to be more complete and lasting than with many other conventional health exercises, it is relatively slow and often not easy to advance the progress of the practice of this exercise. It is especially rather difficult to put Tai Chi concepts into real practice during each routine. After all, Tai Chi exercise is still an internal work, it naturally demands much longer time and effort than many other conventional health exercises. Thus, many Tai Chi enthusiasts may often be put off because of lacking time or lack of proper guidance.

Chan is a Chinese word derived from the Sanskrit word of Dhayana, meditation. About 2.500 years ago, before Buddhism took root in China about 2.000 years ago, a school of thought called Tao or the Natural Way, had already been flourishing. While the practice of Taoism emphasises the following of the harmony of the Way of Nature as a way of living, the practice of Buddhism emphasises the following of the Middle Way or Moderation to liberate sufferings due to living. Chan Buddhism is a Mahayana, Big Vehicle or Big Way, school of following the Middle Way to attain liberation chiefly through meditation. Chan Buddhism began to grow in China in the 7th century AD and spread to Korea as Son and to Japan as Zen Buddishm, under the strong influence of Taoism.

As Taoism has been continuing to influence and nurture the development and the spreading of Chan Buddhism ever since its founding, Taoism is often regarded as the mother of Chan Buddhism. In a hectic, ecologically unfriendly and unsustainable world such as today, Taoism should be aptly encouraged to play an even more important role in influencing and nurturing Chan Buddhism in order to exert certain effects on society in general, to hold back at least to a certain extent such irresponsible worldly trend. Although following the teachings of Buddha can effect each practitioner to become more responsible to herself or himself as well as to her or his society and environment, the following of the Middle Way, the central theme of the teachings of Buddha, with typical Taoist encouragement of living in harmony with nature, thus following the Middle Tao, can certainly help prevent many present and future global sufferings and avoidable catastrophic disasters if a sufficient number of people participate. Proper practice of Chan Buddhism is certainly one of the most effective means of dealing with sufferings like modern stress. Unfortunately, like in the practice of Tai Chi Chuan, its progress is often not easy or direct since Chan Buddhism is also an internal exercise. Worse still, as Chan Buddhism is an ancient branch of Buddhism existing under the influence and nurture of Taoism, when practised without proper guidance, it can easily become a following of incomprehensible mysticism instead.

The development of Tai Chi Chan, a combination of Tai Chi Chuan and Chan Buddhism, is not really a matter of convenience in that both are commonly effective in improving general health and in relieving daily stress, because both are closely related and hence there is a matter of related natural virtue of necessity in the promotion of harmonious and compassionate healing. According to Yi Jing, the Book of Changes, 1122-1115 BC, one Yin and one Yang is Tao. In this respect, as Tai Chi is the mother of Yin and Yang, it can be literally, if not rightly, called the mother of Tao and thus can also be literally, if not rightly, called the grandmother of Chan. As a matter of relation, Tai Chi Chan can be regarded as a family reunion of Tai Chi, Tao and Chan.

It often may take quite some time for a practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan or Chan Buddhism to realise whether she or he is following a correct practice but for a practitioner of Tai Chi Chan, the realisation should be instant, thanks to an old and very true but unfortunately often forgotten Chinese saying: ?What exists within, can manifest without?.

It is largely through the inspiration of the above Chinese saying that internal health exercises like CranioVisceral Qi Gong, Yi Quan Plus, Tai Chi Yoga, Foot Course, Vertical Chan and Tai Chi Chan have been intently developed, in such a way that the practitioner of each exercise, including Tai Chi Chan, can commonly base herself or himself on this very saying to correctly and safely guide her or his practice without confusion or waste of time. This means that by following closely this very saying, at any moment during practice, a practitioner of any internal health exercise just mentioned, including Tai Chi Chan, can instantly and clearly know how proper her or his existing state of harmony and balance of her or his internal work is, just by judging how correspondingly proper her or his contemporary existing state of harmony and balance of its external manifestation is, mainly through the display of her or his posture or position at that moment. As a result, she or he can immediately and objectively improve her or his progress.

The practice of Tai Chi Chuan puts great emphasis on keeping and using the Middle to properly guide all Tai Chi movements, and the practice of Chan Buddhism puts great emphasis on following the Middle Way or Middle Tao to guide proper meditation. It naturally follows that Tai Chi Chan puts great emphasis on the optimal application of the merged Middle Principles of the above to correctly guide all meditative movements. During the practice of Tai Chi Chan, when all the meditative movements can manifest themselves as continuously dynamically changing or shifting harmonious and balanced postures or positions, with a constantly relaxed and upright back, the practice will assuredly be automatically conducted rightly and its progress fast.

Normally, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to practise different internal exercises like Tai Chi Chuan, Tai Chi Yoga, Tai Chi Diagrammatic Dance, Foot Course, Yi Quan or Mind Boxing Plus and Chan Buddhism properly within a short spell and, at the same time, to obtain all their desired effects. It is exactly because of sincerely following the very same above saying that all the internal health exercises just mentioned can actually be merged into one complete exercise, Tai Chi Chan, to obtain their combined desired effects with much more simplicity and clarity.

Any practitioner who is used to devoting herself or himself to internal health exercises other than the ones just mentioned, and who would give herself or himself a chance to properly practise Tai Chi Chan for a certain period in accordance with the very same above saying, will certainly experience more significant and rewarding progress than before. As a result, it is possible for each to apply her or his rewarding experience to enhance her or his previous internal health exercise. Thus, the practice of Tai Chi Chan can be regarded as highly recommendable and beneficial not only for any beginner preparing to take part in internal health exercises, but also for any advanced practitioner.