You are currently viewing Wu wenhao – To cultivate oneself, one must first rectify the mind
tai chi Logo

Wu wenhao – To cultivate oneself, one must first rectify the mind

To practice Tai Chi Chuan, it is essential to understand its characteristics. Tai Chi Chuan first involves physical movements, which refer to its external form. Secondly, it encompasses internal aspects such as spirit, intention, and energy. Tai Chi Chuan integrates the external form with the internal spirit, intention, and energy, making them interdependent and forming a unified martial art. Therefore, whether practicing Tai Chi Chuan for fitness or combat purposes, both aspects cannot be disregarded. According to Wang Zongyue’s “Thirteen Dynamics Song of Practice,” it states, “The ultimate purpose of understanding intent is to prolong life and remain forever youthful.” This indicates that the highest level of practicing Tai Chi Chuan is to promote longevity. This change in the purpose of practicing Tai Chi Chuan has emerged due to the changing times. In modern times, the emphasis of practicing Tai Chi Chuan is on fitness, self-cultivation, and nurturing the mind, while combat effectiveness becomes secondary.

To practice Tai Chi Chuan for fitness, one must also adhere to the guidance provided in the “Thirteen Dynamics Song of Practice.” It states, “If you want to establish standards for body and application, first focus on intent, energy, and spirit.” Here, “intent, energy, and spirit” are the primary aspects of practicing Tai Chi Chuan, while the physical body movements are secondary. Based on this verse, I believe that to achieve the goal of fitness through Tai Chi Chuan, it is sufficient to focus on two points. The first is to achieve relaxation, meaning to be loose and relaxed. The second is to achieve stillness, which refers to tranquility of both body and mind. Both relaxation and stillness are guided by conscious awareness.

Why is relaxation and stillness prioritized when practicing Tai Chi Chuan for fitness? Only by achieving a state of relaxation and stillness can one maintain a calm mindset, relax the muscles, and promote the circulation of Qi and blood. How can one achieve relaxation? It requires maintaining a relaxed state of mind, letting go of tension, and achieving tranquility. Muscles and tendons should also be relaxed as much as possible. Relaxation means not exerting force or engaging in unnecessary effort. Once the muscles are relaxed, the circulation of Qi and blood becomes unobstructed. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, life depends on the circulation of Qi and blood. When Qi and blood are abundant, the meridians are clear, and a person is healthy. Therefore, in practicing Tai Chi Chuan and promoting meridian circulation, relaxation should be the first priority. How can stillness be achieved? Stillness means avoiding excessive mental tension, maintaining a state of calmness and relaxation, and focusing the mind without wandering thoughts.

By achieving relaxation and stillness, one can experience a sense of Qi during Tai Chi Chuan practice. Here, “Qi” does not refer to mere breath but an invisible and intangible substance that circulates through the body’s meridians. This substance can be felt during the process of training. Traditional Chinese Medicine also emphasizes internal Qi, which can be felt by acupuncturists when inserting needles. For example, if the acupuncture point is accurately targeted, a sense of heaviness can be felt at the needle site. If the point is missed, it may feel like the needle is inserted into cotton. When Qi is obtained through practicing Tai Chi Chuan, the entire body feels extremely comfortable. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a person cannot exist without Qi and blood. Qi governs blood, and the circulation of blood relies on the propulsion of Qi. Therefore, Qi is the internal driving force of the body’s vitality. When the body is filled with abundant Qi and blood, health is promoted. Thus, by

 achieving relaxation and stillness in practicing Tai Chi Chuan, the circulation of Qi and blood can flow freely, leading to vibrant life and vitality.

Achieving relaxation and stillness is not the end; one must also use the power of intention to guide the circulation of internal Qi and drive the external movements. The principles of Tai Chi Chuan state, “Use the mind to guide the Qi, ensuring it remains calm. Use the Qi to move the body, ensuring it flows smoothly.” This means that one should use the power of intention to guide the circulation of internal Qi while maintaining a state of calmness and tranquility. Under the guidance of intention, the internal Qi flows throughout the body in conjunction with the physical movements, reaching every corner and achieving harmony and unity of essence, Qi, and spirit. By achieving this, a person can be free from impatience, possess clarity of mind, and maintain smooth circulation of Qi and blood, thus promoting kidney health, nurturing one’s temperament, and strengthening one’s willpower. In short, this leads to physical and mental well-being.

Overall, as long as relaxation and stillness are achieved, practicing Tai Chi Chuan can yield certain fitness benefits. Relaxation and stillness complement each other and are guided by conscious intention.

Furthermore, we should pay attention to another line from the “Thirteen Dynamics Song of Practice,” which states, “The source of intention lies in the waist gap.” Here, “source” refers to the body, and “intention” refers to the power of the mind. The “waist gap” refers to the acupoint Mingmen, located between the two Kidney acupoints. Mingmen is associated with the fire element, while the kidneys are associated with water. The interaction of water and fire promotes vitality. During Tai Chi Chuan practice, the legs constantly alternate between emptiness and fullness, and the movements of the waist and hips drive the kidneys to revolve around Mingmen, achieving the merging of water and fire. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mingmen governs the entire body and serves as its ruler. Through such exercise, the alternation of water and fire can naturally strengthen the body. The song also states, “With relaxation and stillness, Qi rises within the abdomen.” This line reveals the principle of Tai Chi Chuan for fitness. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the heart corresponds to fire, and the kidneys correspond to water. By focusing the mind on the Dantian, maintaining relaxation and stillness within the abdomen, the fire of the heart and the water of the kidneys interact, generating Qi. This phenomenon is described as the rising of Qi. After the Qi rises, it fills the entire body, generating the Qi of nourishment and defense, thus enhancing the body’s ability to resist disease. Additionally, the body’s fluids enter the bone marrow along with the internal Qi, increasing bone density. Therefore, those who consistently practice Tai Chi Chuan often have higher bone density.

In conclusion, correct body posture, standardized forms, and persistent practice are essential to achieving the benefits of physical fitness and strength through Tai Chi Chuan.

Currently, although Tai Chi Chuan is widespread, I believe there are some drawbacks that affect the effectiveness of physical fitness and strength-building.

Firstly, there is a problem of disorganized forms. Many people create their own routines with various movements, but many of these actions contradict the principles of Tai Chi Chuan. Deviating from the theoretical principles of Tai Chi Chuan while creating routines results in a departure from the essence of Tai Chi Chuan. Some routines are a mishmash of different styles, combining elements from various schools, which may appear as a superficial combination but lack internal integration. The five major Tai Chi Chuan styles have their historical origins and should not be mixed together. Additionally, incorporating movements from Long Boxing (Chang Quan) into Tai Chi Chuan is a step backward since Tai Chi

 Chuan evolved from Long Boxing. These phenomena are detrimental to the fitness aspect of Tai Chi Chuan.

Secondly, incorrect practice methods are another issue. Some people excessively pursue foot stomping and exerting force, especially foot stomping. Practicing with incorrect methods can easily lead to knee joint injuries and brain damage, causing long-term harm to the body.

Thirdly, some people prioritize performance and aim for exaggerated postures and high leg lifts. These practices are incorrect and detrimental to physical health. The height of the stance in Tai Chi Chuan does not have a fixed standard; it depends on individual physical conditions. For taller individuals, a higher stance may be suitable, while shorter individuals may adopt a lower stance. It is not accurate to solely emphasize that a low stance is good and a high stance is bad. Tai Chi Chuan should be adapted to the individual.

Fourthly, some individuals introduce Qi Gong too early during the teaching process. Tai Chi Chuan itself is a method of guiding and cultivating Qi. Practitioners should allow the Qi to flow naturally with the mind, rather than forcefully combining movements with breathing. Forcing the synchronization of movements and breathing is a significant mistake and can result in the phenomenon of Qi stagnation and breath-holding.

Fifthly, many people are too eager to learn multiple Tai Chi Chuan routines. As a result, they do not excel in any of them and may even perform them incorrectly. Although they may have learned many routines, they fail to achieve effective exercise. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan requires precision and should not be driven by a desire to learn as many routines as possible.

Sixthly, some instructors who teach Tai Chi Chuan do not practice it themselves. Teaching and practicing Tai Chi Chuan are different aspects. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan can promote health and wellness, while teaching requires mental and physical exertion. If one continuously teaches without practicing, it will naturally harm their own body.

Seventhly, some individuals have excessive attachment to fame and gain, which can negatively impact their cultivation and overall physical and mental well-being. Generally, one’s virtue and skill are interconnected. Without high moral character, skill cannot reach its highest level. Excessive pursuit of fame and gain may prevent one from truly attaining mastery in Tai Chi Chuan.

In my opinion, as individuals, we should not abandon kindness and ideals. We should remain virtuous and humble in the face of wealth and maintain integrity even in times of power. The highest realm of practicing Tai Chi Chuan is self-cultivation and seeking truth. To cultivate truth, one must first cultivate oneself. To cultivate oneself, one must first cultivate the heart. With a righteous heart and a virtuous character, one naturally achieves a state of calmness, harmony, and physical and mental well-being. Therefore, as Confucius said, “The benevolent enjoy long life.”

Leave a Reply