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How to become One with Nature through Tai Chi

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Recently, the students of Ji Hong Tai Chi Richmond Hill and Ji Hong Tai Chi Mississauga attended a Tai Chi Retreat together in Cuba.  Not only did we have a fabulous time together but we were treated to Chief Master Instructor Baosen Liang’s generous insights on the foundational theories of tai chi.  These foundational concepts help us achieve the goal of being One with Nature within the practice of tai chi.

It was an eye-opening experience for many of us at the retreat and most of us can’t wait for the next annual retreat.  We cherished both the camaraderie that we all experienced together but also the thought provoking talks and interactive discussions about the inner art of tai chi.


Here, we’re sharing the fun photos of our time together as well as a summary of those insights gained during our great Tai Chi Retreat in Cuba.


The Foundational Theories of Tai Chi


There are two main theories to which tai chi is intricately connected.  Understanding these two theories will deepen our understanding of tai chi.

The two theories:

  • Yin/Yang (陰陽; yīnyáng) and

  • Wu Xing (五行; wǔxíng) or Five Elements

Not only are these two theories key to tai chi but they are core concepts of ancient Chinese culture and philosophy.



The Concept of Yin/Yang


The Taijiquan Treatise, a piece of classic Tai Chi literature written by Wang Zong Yue (王宗岳), starts off with this sentence: “Taiji is born of limitless, the mother of yin and yang. According to traditional Chinese thought, in the beginning was an empty but infinitely potential nothingness (無極; wújí; meaning no boundaries). From that came Tai Chi (太極; tàijí; meaning supreme ultimate), which then gave rise to Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang is the concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy. Yin and Yang can be interpreted as various opposing concepts such as: action / non-action, fast / slow, hard / soft, front / back, left / right, inner / outer.

The concept of yin and yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world.  They are seemingly opposites, but co-exist and may give rise to each other as much as they interrelate to one another.


We need to understand Tai Chi in light of these paradoxical concepts. The more we practice tai chi, the more we will witness these concepts in motion and understand yin and yang through tai chi.



The Concept of the Five Elements


The Five Elements in Chinese philosophy are: Earth (土 tǔ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), Water (水 shuǐ) and Fire (火 huǒ),.  For the first time in the martial arts world, Sifu Liang has incorporated the concepts of Five Elements into Tai Chi practice.


Earth

Earth represents the ground that we stand on. We cannot escape from Earth’s gravity, so we need to establish a good relationship with earth. Our body needs to work with gravity, not against it. Good posture, balance and relaxation are all key aspects of the Tai Chi stance.  Achieving a grounded stance means we’re successfully incorporating the Earth element into our tai chi practice.


Wood

The Wood element represents the tree with our body being the tree trunk, legs being the roots, and the arms as branches. To master the Wood element, our legs must be rooted deeply into the ground making it difficult for us to be pushed or blown over. The trunk is solid and thick enough to support the branches or arms extending from the trunk. 

The tree analogy mirrors the accomplished tai chi practitioner’s ability to hold the 5 bows of the body’s core structure without allowing the arm bow or branch to break.  As strong as tree branches may be, they are also supple enough to survive strong winds. When we master the Wood element of tai chi, we are both able to maintain the structure of our pose without breaking when heavy winds blow or strong external forces are applied.



Metal

In the Chinese language, the word “Gold” is used to represent metal. The intent of that characterization is to define it as a pure, concentrated and precious metal. In practicing Tai Chi, we want our dantian (丹田) to be like Gold, a highly concentrated and critical source of energy or Qi. As the Chinese saying goes “True Gold fears no Fire” (真金不怕火燒) so a strong and focused dantian is central to improving movement and stability skills.


Water

The first three elements represent static states within tai chi.  We want to master these first three elements before we start training for advanced elements of movement. The Water element represents the quality of movement that we want to achieve.

When we look at the characteristics of Water, here’s what we witness:

Water is soft and has no stiff points.Water flows and it flows downward with gravity towards Earth.Water does not fight with obstacles. Instead, water just flows around obstacles. 

It is high praise for us to say that a tai chi master “moves like water” when their movements embody all of these characteristics representing the water element.



Fire

When all of the first 4 elements are attained to a level of proficiency, then the “Fire” element will begin to appear in our tai chi practice. The Fire element represents the existence of a demeanor or presence which others can feel or experience.  Just like fire, this element represents something which is intangible and has no physical form. Yet, we can feel its presence and influence.

As we advance with our tai chi training, our demeanor grows towards an increasingly imposing demeanor described as poise and authority with a potency and vigor matching our Qi or energy level. Our audience or opponents can experience our Fire element as they witness a form or engage us in a Push Hands interaction. The Fire element is achieved only with years of diligent practice and mastery of the Five Elements.



One with Nature (天人合一; tiān rén hé yī )


The philosophy of “Unity of Heaven and Man” or “One with Nature” originates from Taoism. “Heaven” in this context represents rules of nature. The Unity of Heaven and Man means man must follow the rules of nature. Only when we do this can our bodies achieve harmony and homeostasis.

Yin/Yang and the Five Elements are all part of nature in Chinese philosophy. Everything in nature has both yin/yang and everything in nature can be categorized as one of the Five Elements.  As we practice Tai Chi with the concepts of Yin/Yang and the Five Elements in mind, we are moving towards being One with Nature.

To experience and discover these concepts of Tai Chi, join any of the advanced training classes. Our master instructors will explain, demonstrate and help you understand how to embody these elements into your tai chi practice.



Co-authored by Baosen Liang, Charlmane Wong and May Rahnema


如何透過太極拳與自然融為一體

最近,烈治文山基宏太極學院與密西沙加基宏太極學院的同學在古巴渡過了一個難忘的太極之旅。 我們不僅渡過了一段美好的時光,而且梁寶森師傅更慷慨地與我們分享了太極拳的基本概念和見解。 這些基本概念有助於我們日後在太極拳練習中可以達到與自然融為一體。


對於我們大多數人來說,這是一次令人大開眼界的旅程。 這次,既珍惜我們的友誼,又懷念一切有關太極拳內發人深省的理論和互動的討論。


在這裡,我將與大家分享一些寶貴的照片,以及在古巴太極渡假村中獲得的點滴。


太極拳的基本理論

太極拳主要由兩個錯綜複雜的理論聯繫著。暸解這兩個理論將有助於我們理解太極拳。


這兩個理論是:

  1. 陰/陽

  2. 五行

這兩個理論不僅是太極拳的關鍵,也是中國古代文化和哲學的核心概念。


陰/陽的概念

“太極拳論” 是王宗岳撰寫的一篇太極文學作品,一開始便是:“太極者,無極而生,陰陽之母也”。意指宇宙起初是一個空洞,潛在著無限虛無,稱為無極,即無邊界。從那裡產生了太極(意即至高無上的終極),繼而產生了陰陽。


陰陽是中國古代哲學中二元論的概念。陰陽可以被解釋為一對相反的概念,例如:行動/不行動,快/慢,硬/軟,前/後,左/右,內/外。


陰陽的概念描述了相反或看似相反的力量,但在自然界中它是可以互補,相互聯繫和相互依存的。它們看起來是對立的,實際上是可以並存,在彼此聯繫的時候產生出來的。


我們需要根據這些矛盾的概念來理解太極拳。我們練習太極拳的次數越多,越能夠理解這些概念,從而明白陰陽的概念。


五行的概念

中國哲學的五大要素是:土,木,金,水 和 火。梁寶森師傅將五行的概念融入太極拳的實踐中。


土是我們站立的地方。 我們不能擺脫地球的引力,所以我們必須與地球建立良好的關係。 我們的身體需要與引力一起運作,而不是抗拒它。 良好的姿勢,平衡和放鬆都是太極拳的重要法門。掌握一個良好的姿勢意味著要將“ 土” 的元素融入我們的太極拳練習中。


木代表樹。我們的身體是樹幹,腿是根,手臂是樹枝。 要掌握 “ 木” 的元素,我們的腿必須深深紮根於地下,使我們難以被推倒。 樹幹必須堅實以支撐樹枝或手臂。

樹反映了太極拳練習者能否掌握到身體的5把弓,而不會讓它們斷裂。樹枝要柔軟富彈性,才可以在強風中存活。 當我們掌握到太極拳“木” 的元素時,我們就能夠保持良好姿勢而不會被強風吹動或強大外力施加時而斷裂。


金代表金屬。它是純淨,濃縮和貴重。 在練習太極拳時,希望我們的丹田像黃金一樣,是一種高度集中和關鍵的能源或氣源。 正如中國人所說的“真金不怕火燒” ,所以強大而專注於丹田對提高和穩定技能至為重要。


以上三個元素只是太極拳中的靜止狀態。 練習高級培訓課程之前,我們必須先掌握前三個元素。然後“水”代表了我們要實踐的運動質素。

水的特質:

  • 水質柔軟,沒有硬點。

  • 水不停地隨著引力向下流。

  • 水不會與障礙物鬥爭。 相反,水只會在障礙物周圍流動。

為此,我們常讚賞太極拳大師門 “像水一般地移動”。正因為他們實踐了 “水” 的特質。


當上述4個元素都熟練時,“火” 的元素自然會應運而生。“火” 可以讓其他人感受到或體驗到的。 就像火一樣,它是無形,雖然沒有形態,但我們可以感受到它的存在和影響力。


隨著我們太極拳水平的提高,“氣勢” 便像火一般地湧現眼前。雖然無形, 但它令人充滿活力和威嚴,觀眾和對手都可以感受到這股 “ 火” 。“ 火” 是需要多年勤奮的練習和掌握到五行才可以顯現出來。


天人合一

“天人合一” 或 “與自然合一” 的哲學理論源於道教。 “天” 代表了自然。“天人合一” 意味著人必須遵循自然規律, 身體才能和諧和保持生理平衡。


陰/陽和五行都是中國哲學的一部分。 自然界中的一切都擁有陰/陽,也可以歸入五行之中。 當我們以“陰/陽”和“五行”的概念練習太極拳時,代表我們朝著 “天人合一” 的方向前進。


若要體驗和實踐太極拳的這些概念,請參加任何太極拳高級培訓課程。 我們的師傅將會解釋,示範並幫助您將這些元素融入您的太極旅程中。



梁寶森,黃書曼和黃美瑤共撰


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