I’ve been busy and haven’t had much I care to write about lately. Society has had its way with me. But I have been practicing a lot of Taijiquan (TJQ). That’s the only thing in life that doesn’t seem like a complete waste of time — it levels up the soul as well as the physical body all at once.
The principle you hear superior TJQ bloggers talk about these days is maximum use of relaxation, specifically the Chinese term fang-song. The principle of using the waist efficiently in movements (“waist is the commander”) is the core of most martial arts; pretty much every martial art does that at advanced levels. But in TJQ and “internal” martial arts, the key unique principle or secret above all else, is total softness and the ability to relax muscle while fighting.
But even if you don’t practice TJQ or any other macho head-games, fang-song is a beautiful concept to work with. It literally means a combination of “relax” and “unclench the muscles”. It’s pretty much the idea that all meditation teachers are trying to point to, but don’t usually have the vocabulary or practice methods to elucidate. Whenever I am sitting somewhere with nothing to do, or lying in bed drifting off to sleep, I just fang-song my whole body. Sure, sure, you could sit and “be mindful of the breath,” but a lot of people do that without taking heed of their levels of tension. Fang-song is a lot like meditation-class body-scanning-for-tension, but it’s a method that was developed to also function when confronting extreme violence or threats to one’s life.
Most tension starts when the back isn’t straight, and immediately ripples to the shoulders and hips. When the shoulders and hip joints are tense, there is a parallel effect on the elbows and knees respectively. The other big issue is the verticality of the spine, which is a whole additional TJQ principle in of itself (all the principles are co-dependent upon one another). Ideally, one wants to tuck the coccyx until the whole spine, from the bottom (or top of the ass), up to the neck, is one straight line (as when viewed from the side).
It’s also very important to unclench jaw and facial muscles. The reason to wear sunglasses in on bright days is to keep your face from scrunching up and becoming incredibly tense. Excess jaw and facial tension can lead to migraines, headaches and other kinds of annoying pains. Shoulder tension can do this too, and practicing TJQ-related fang-song is practically a miracle cure for chronic back pain, myofascial muscle issues, etc.
As far as qi and issuing energy goes — without total relaxation, the amount of qi a person can circulate and issue in strikes is pretty minimal. I’m not entirely sure what the energy programming instructions are in external, muscular styles like Karate, Shaolin, Silat and so on, but in TJQ and internal styles, it’s the total relaxation which gives you the qi explosion. A lot of beginners are always interested in qi circulation and bringing it out in striking energy, but once you get somewhere in practice, you realize the qi naturally appears and soaks into everything when you relax really deeply.
Anyway, I have a feeling that Taijiquan will get super big in a martial way soon, right before the world implodes. Considering that there are a large number of MA teachers pitching TJQ efficiently now, I don’t see how it could go any other way. Especially since TJQ is the best.
But what difference does it make if TJQ becomes commercially popular in a martial way? Is that really better than the current trend of it being popular as a New Age healing tonic? I guess I don’t care either way.