The Tai Chi (TaiJi) MIND

Tai Chi Shoulder Strike

The development of mind in the internal arts is a very important part of the training. We say that the specific part of the intellect we are trying to cultivate is the "Intention".

What is Intention? It is the workings of the mind which when put in to motion causes the occurrence of events in our lives. When you intend to do something, you cause it to come to pass. When you do something unintentionally, it is a reflection of an undisciplined mind. To train the Intention is to train yourself to be successful in any endeavor.

Tai Chi begins from the posture called Wu Chi (emptiness/absence of support). From emptiness springs forth all movement. The mind, however, must remain still even while the body is active. The chi must be lead gently from one part of the body to the next with the intention while the postures transition from frame to frame. There must be a fullness of path maintained with the intention at all times throughout the practice. Both the closing and the opening energies must be experienced fully for the practice to be valuable.

The serious student, learning the form from a competent teacher, will enhance the benefits of the learning by committing the form as a series of pictures to memory. Then using them, both as a standard for practice, and as training in inner visualization of one's movement. Using visualization in addition to practice is a very powerful tool in developing true ability.

The emphasis on inner visual training that is heralded in tai chi is being echoed in modern scientific studies on the capabilities of the human body. For example, studies have shown that an average person is capable of clear visual memory and distinction between a minimum of one quarter of a million human faces. So, the capacity is definitely there. Studies on applied visualization have yielded impressive results in increasing skills such as dart throwing or shooting basketball free-throws. It should be noted, however, that visualization by itself is not sufficient to develop true tai chi ability.

Tai Chi is an experiential art. First, the mind teaches the body, in that the student watches his/her teacher's movement and then tries to copy the movement as
accurately as possible. With enough practice, the body begins to teach the mind. This is the first experiential stage whereby the body is beginning to "realize" things that the mind had previously missed in the first stage. After a good time of practice at this level, the final stage, which is the third and on-going, experiential stage is reached.

This is the stage of true harmony between the mind, intention, and the body. Hsin, Yi, Li, Chi, Jin (Desire, Intention, Motion, Energy, Power).

If the principles of Sung (relaxation), Yi (intention) and the manipulation of the jin (energy) pathway is not understood, the practice is empty. Without these principles, you are practicing only the shell of the form.

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