In the Earth Dragon Canon Method of mindfulness martial arts practice, I shared how my early focus on taijiquan benefited me on multiple levels. I also shared how my related success led to pain from sitting with a computer for hours on end. My focus on taijiquan helped to create my success, and that success leads to the latter pain. That same pain leads to my intense study of baguazhang and exploration of isometric exercise to improve my posture.
The lesson I learned is that taijiquan alone is not a replacement for other physical movement. Despite the decades of teachers promoting taijiquan as a superior form of physical exercise, it is not. The general effects of taijiquan are the same as taking a brief walk, and that is only if you practice a long traditional form and include supplemental exercises with your practice.
If you want good health, a thirty-minute brisk walk will serve you better than most martial art routines, thus my better experience with baguazhang for my health. If you have stuck with me this far, you might think why bother with taijiquan at all? And to be honest, I have thought the same. Circle walking is so simple, the forms so easy to learn, and the basics so easy to get right, that the extra effort needed for the detailed and extensive study of taijiquan seems like a waste a time.
If you will not take the time to do the supplemental exercises of taijiquan, it is a waste of time. Also, some styles of taijiquan are better than others for general fitness and I will talk about that in other posts. The purpose here is to discourage you from starting taijiquan practice as a superior form of fitness. Don’t buy into that myth, because it is a myth.
First, that myth is based on the superstition that qi is a mystical, still undetermined force you can generate to improve health or even cure disease. And second, the promoters of this myth will blame you if you do not experience better health from your taijiquan practice. The premise is that you are “doing it wrong.”
Let me start with qi. Qi is a difficult concept to define when discussing martial arts or Chinese medicine because some associate it with a mysticism that causes many rational people to dismiss the discussion entirely. Qi is not magic. Qi is not electromagnetism or a variant of electromagnetism that acts as a magic force on the world. Qi is not the force from Star Wars. Qi is just a term used to define and classify all those invisible forces that made the world around the observer function. Today, we know what those forces are and how they work. Science is a wonderful thing.
Taijiquan is physical movement, and if you move little in your day, it can have some benefit. Movement is a good thing. But the notion you are not getting continued benefits from your taijiquan practice because you are “doing it wrong” is hogwash. Taijiquan is not a spell. Moving your arms and legs a certain way does not induce a secret power that improves your health.
When done with focus and approached with a meditative mind, taijiquan is very rewarding. When I teach taijiquan to someone that does very little exercise, I am amazed at how difficult it is for them to recognize the left and right sides of their body. If that is your baseline, then learning a complete eighty or one-hundred posture sequence is a wonderful achievement, and being able to approach that experience daily is the reward.
Before you travel the taijiquan road, you need to know that it is difficult. Taijiquan requires focus and commitment, and if stumbling on either of those would cause you to stop seeking better fitness than don’t choose taijiquan; take a walk instead. If you start taijiquan, I need you to realize that you still need to take that walk. I know I will.