The Zen of Taijiquan

When people think of taijiquan — as a martial art or as a spiritual discipline — the first association is with the principles of the Tao. The classics of Taoism are tai chi chuan’s philosophical foundation, and without them, any consideration of our beloved art is missing its most essential cornerstone.

Zen and Taijiquan

The history of Taoism and Zen (Cha’an in China) are intertwined in too many ways to count, but for the sake of the Zen of this article … we’ll save the history lesson for another time.

As I have heard from one of my teachers:

“All explanations are wrong. Correct taijiquan is a feeling.”

It is here, at this intersection of feeling & explanation, that I would like to examine the “Zen” of Taijiquan.

As I understand it, Zen, too, is a feeling.

I have heard it referred …

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"Internal" Power vs. "External" Power

This debate will probably never end … and the question will probably never be fully answered:

What exactly is the difference between the internal and external martial arts?

While I certainly can provide no definitive answer, I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of what I’ve learned in my experience with the Chinese internal martial arts, and particularly the distinction between jìn (勁) and lì (力).

First of all, an important linguistic note from native Chinese speaker & master taijiquan practitioner, Zhang Yun’s article on Li & Types of Jin in Taijiquan.

“In everyday usage, both of these words mean physical force, and can be used interchangeably. Very often, people use jin to denote a very large force.

In martial art, these are technical terms with more precise definitions. Li is simple muscular force, what we call “untrained force”, …

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