Taiji is a moving meditative exercise which emphasizes the relaxation of the body and the mind. Early stages of training aim at learning the typical body usage for Taiji as well as making the body stronger and more flexible. In the long run the purpose is to learn to unite different parts of the body into a coordinated whole and to try to understand and develop the cooperation of the body and the mind.
Taiji is an energetic exercise. This refers to the collecting and controlling of the intrinsic qi-energy of the body under the mind's command. However, practising the qi is not the main goal of taiji training, rather an intermediate stage on the way to real knowlegde of one's body and mind.
The most important training methods are forms and pair training. In addition to these, other exercises such as repeating single movements from the form, other energetic exercises as well as meditation can be used.
The function of formwork is to get familiar with one's body and mind and learn control. There are forms for both unarmed training as well as weapons, the most common of which are the sword, sabre, stick and spear. Training always begins with the unarmed forms.
Taiji forms are composed of combat techniques which have been seamlessly arranged as sequences of movements. The techniques come from four classes:
4. Qinna or controlling and joint locking techniques
Although the forms can be used as technique drills, the main purpose of formwork is building ones internal gong fu. This includes:
• Accumulating qi-energy into the body and learning to control it;
• Understanding and improving the connection between the body and mind;
• Learning relaxed and efficient body mechanics.
Baji association's taiji curriculum consists of the following forms:
• Chen style 24 movements. It is a modern version of Chen style Taiji created by master Feng Zhiqiang.
• Chen style 48 movements. This form is a natural continuation of the 24 movement form which constitutes the first half of this form.
• Classical Chen style first form or Yi lu, 83 movements. This is the big style (da jia) of Chen style as taught by Chen Fake (1887-1957).
• Classical Chen style second form or Er lu, 71 movements.
• Chen style Taiji sword, 56 movements.
• Yang style 85 movements. This long form is the content of both the elementary as well as the advanced Yang style courses.
On Chen style elementary courses we teach the 24 movement form or the Yi lu form.
Taiji's tuishou pair training exercises are a natural continuation of the form training: they continue the experience of understanding oneself, although now this is under the influence of an external stimulus caused by a partner's touch. In beginning stages tuishou training supports formwork: the errors and shortcomings of form training will manifest themselves quickly in tuishou, making it easier for the practitioner to correct them in formwork.
In the long run, tuishou training aims at learning to know the partner, to "listen" to their movements and intentions with the final goal of controlling them completely. This is based on using their own power against themself. In addition, the purpose is to conceal one's own intentions and this requires learning to relax the body. Generating one's own power is also based on relaxation and connecting the body, not on using raw muscle power.
Tuishou training is an inevitable phase in learning combat skill but it can be recommended to all taiji practitioners, not only those seeking fighting skills. Tuishou exercises are not based on the use of violence but on the cooperation of the practitioners.
Tuishou training has also been permanently established within the training curriculum of the Baji Association.
Feng Zhiqiang demonstrating tuishou exercises and their applications