Eight basic energies

In the magical science of Taijiquan, there are eight basic movements. They are the fundamental ways to react to oncoming force and neutralize it. A lot of martial arts and philosophies actually have eight basic movements/ideas/potentials, so it’s not that big of deal (or maybe that means it is). But I’m just talking about Taijiquan here so lets keep moving.

These basic movements all represent a kind of energy. When you’re pulling someone off balance, you’re using cai or “pulling” energy. When you suddenly expand your arms to block a hooking punch, you’re using peng or “ward-off” energy. There are distinct moves in Taijiquan forms that implement these basic movements; in fact the forms are pretty much exclusively made up of variations on them. But the thing is, we can’t get attached to the actual movements themselves. We want to implement into our minds, as if some kind of full-body hermetic tantra, the ideas behind these various energies.

So the eight basic movements really exist symbolically. That means, every time something expands, it is peng energy. Every time something is efficiently shrouded and deflected, that’s lu or “roll-back” energy. Within these definitions, the movements work like the Hermetic ideas about the elements — that fire represents expansion and the notion of heat, whereas water represents contraction and the fundamental notion of cold. Similarly, in Chinese five-element philosophy, the elements are (obviously) symbolic. For example, metal symbolizes things rendered and removed from direct association with the earth or elements (tools, technology, and so forth).

The movement of various energies becomes a mental exercise. After training with physical structural concepts for a while, one practices with others, and here one becomes adept at maintaining utmost single-pointed concentration side-by-side with sensitive “listening” skills. By harmonizing the basic energies with the body movements, one begins to respond appropriately to physical engagements by perceiving the duifang (uke, opponent, whatever) intimately in the mind — as a subtler mental manifestation. This is where one begins to “see into the 4th dimension”.

What really kicks ass about all this is that one gets to the point where the physical senses no longer are the primary sense faculties. They certainly are in so much as they indicate immediate qualitative distinctions in the immediate physical environment to the individual’s brain. But they cannot project onto our minds the bigger cosmic picture, they cannot sense predators or impending catastrophe. It is only as these peripheral, intuitive mental faculties increase in sensitivity from our training (again, not necessarily MA or Taiji), a greater awareness of the universe opens up.

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