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This week's food for thought: advice from the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang on Taijiquan practice/training. This is from a more recent book by Davidine Sim and David Gaffney, a pair of Taijiquan teachers in the UK who have studied with many of the Chen Taijii masters. This book compiles their dialogues with those masters over the years of their training and teaching. 

Excerpts from Davidine Sim & David Gaffney, Chen Taijiquan: Masters and Methods 明師要言. (2018)
Q: what is your opinion regarding Taijiquan being practised for health vs for martial arts?

At the beginning, training must be approached with the aim of building your level of health and fitness. It is important to know that all martial arts are built on the basis of excellent health and fitness. Everyone must start from this point and in the process, increase your energy and train your brain, heart and nervous system. At the same time, you accumulate gongfu, giving you the essential skills required for martial competency and self-defence. You have to start with the basic requirements and then build upon them. Obviously, a person who does Taijiquan for health will not attain the higher level of gongfu required for combat efficiency. They may cultivate an abundance of neigong (internal power), but they will not be able to coordinate and apply the power to a self-defence/combat situation. On the other hand, practitioners who constantly think of applications and fighting while doing the form will not reach a high level either, as their qi will not be smooth and their minds will be distracted. with these people, regardless of how many techniques are learned, if they are lacking in internal power and their practice is not based upon correct Taijiquan principles, they will not be effective. A person training with this mindset can never get the real Taijiquan.

Q: what is a practical way to attain internalised skill?

FZQ: The cultivation and nurturing of qi (intrinsic energy), of shen (spirit), of xing (character) and of shen (body) is the foundation of Taijiquan. Understanding the importance of cultivation (xiu ) and nurturing (yang ) is crucial to the practice of Taijiquan, whether it be for health or for self-defence. This nurturing process requires you to pay attention to many different aspects, including qigong , diet and spiritual training to promote emotional stability.
To ready the body, the initial step is the cultivation of an individual’s energy ( qi ). Qi represents the source the body's integrated strength or jin . Jin in turn is the result of qi being put to use. Consequently, without sufficient qi, there will be insufficient jin . There are many methods of qi cultivation, the most basic and fundamental of which is still-standing or wuji zhuang. Through stillness, qi increases, strengthening the body, filling the dantian, dredging the channels and meridians and flowing through the whole body.
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