When I was younger I used to think it hyperbole when they said that you’d need seven years to master Taiji (or T’ai Chi if you used the old Wade-Giles spelling).
Now, after having taken up Taiji for coming close to three years, I am inclined that you’d take considerably take more time – like a lifetime – if you want to master the art.
But first, what is Taiji? Many people have the impression that Taiji is the slow-motion half dance that old people in pajamas do at public parks. Part of Taiji is that – an exercise you do for health benefits – but it is much more.
Taiji was originally conceived as a fighting art. Legends say that the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng came up with Taiji in the 12th century. The next historical record seems to trace Taiji as an art practiced by the Chen Family in Henan province since the 17th Century.
Whatever the truth of it is, the art was a closely held family secret until Yang Luchan took the art and taught it to outsiders in Beijing. From there taiji spread and many different styles developed from there, among them the Yang, Wu, Chen and Sun styles.
My journey into Taiji started because I wanted to rekindle my love for martial arts (practiced Karate in school and university) but I wanted to do something that didn’t only rely on youth and strength to prevail.
As anyone’s won’t to do these days you go to the internet to see what you can learn. I alighted on Yang Chwen Ming because he was most searchable on Google and Youtube. I then bought his training DVD and proceeded to learn Yang Style Taiji.
His style is fluid but not having anyone to teach you in person was difficult for anyone to learn. And after trying to look for a Taiji school in South Jakarta I managed to hook up with a group of people that practiced the cumbersomely named Chen Style Practical Method of Taiji.
Since then it has been a journey of satisfaction, frustration, many sprains and falls as well as some rewarding moments. In other words I’m hooked.
What I find so fascinating about Taiji is how counter-intuitive it is to you we react to physical challenges. It is purely an understanding of physics, body bio-mechanics – and the difficult part – training your body to do what your mind theoretically knows.
Although we have someone here who has been well-trained, the Grandmaster of the style, Master Chen Zhonghua makes a visit to Indonesia each year to conduct a workshop and teach the students here:
Here’s a workshop in Jakarta from 2015:
As you can see the Taiji being practiced here is anything but soft and slow. It involves students understanding the principles of Taiji and then putting them into practice. There is a lot of push hands (Taiji sparring) in this style because Master Chen believes that you can only learn to apply what you have learned if the opponent’s moves are unpredictable.
Master Chen will be conducting another workshop Jakarta, actually in Tangerang, on December 2 and 3. It would be a treat to watch the man in action and to learn Taiji principles and their application from the man. Beginners and experienced martial artists will be able to learn something from these workshops that are conducted in English and Mandarin and translated into Indonesian.