Over the last 41 years (since 1980), my direction in the study of Taiji has changed several times. I’ve been privileged to study with some extraordinary Masters, my first one being Master Chu, a lineage Master of The Yang family. Lineage in this context means ‘secret’ info passed down through the generations that makes that system potent. Generally this info is kept very secret, and Master Chu was of that tradition. He taught the outer form very well, but the inner teachings were not taught publicly.
In 2000 I visited Grand Master Yang Zhen Ji in Handan City,China,second son of Yang Cheng Fu with my senior student at that time, Trevor Howell. It was Yang Cheng Fu that popularised Taiji, making the Yang family form the most practiced in the world.
Most of my Taiji and Qigong teachers are listed on this link below. It doesn’t however mention the Spiritual Masters I worked with since 1984.
In 2001 (my Taiji Odyssey), I began studying with Wee Kee Jin, a lineage Master of the Huang Sheng Shyan system. I had to let go of 21 years of practicing and later teaching the
Traditional Yang form. I only did this because I saw the enormous depths Huang’s method
of teaching Taiji was able to reach, and freely divulge to those who were willing to learn.
Grand Master Huang was no doubt a genius. He was already a Master of White Crane, an effective martial art, before he started studying Taiji with the illustrious Master Cheng Man Ching, who became famous in the USA. These days, it’s easy to Google these teachers, to get a broader perspective. Like his Master before him, Jin taught the internal teachings of Taiji-which is very rare, even in China, and that is especially true now, as the Chinese Government has curtailed what the teachers teach- and this includes most Taiji teachers in the West with connections with China.
Huang broke with past tradition and was very generous with his internal (see below) teachings doing his best to avoid the secrecy that prevailed in the past.
His senior lineage students like Patrick Kelly were privy to the deeper teachings on the mental and spiritual level.
Patrick’s path and mine do coincide in that we both studied the Esoteric/Spiritual traditions before Taiji and continued to do so alongside our study of Taiji. Much of this writing below can be attributed to his teachings, which are deeper than Jin’s in that Jin doesn’t go into these spiritual aspects. I believe that is because Huang died when Jin had studied with him for 5 years, whereas Patrick had studied with Huang for 20 years.
The true purpose of Taiji (called ‘The Supreme Ultimate) is the true purpose of our time here on Earth. All true Taiji has an external level, 3 internal levels within the Deep Mind and the level Beyond the Mind (Enlightenment). Though outwardly based on physical exercises for health and self-defense, all deeply refined teachers aim to lead their students through the body to the realm of Deep Mind, then gradually, step by step, working their way through the 3 levels Jing, Qi and Shen before reaching the Beyond and the final Realisation of freedom from the 3 worlds of human existence. The majority of Taiji teachers, including those in China mainly focus on the Physical form. This is much more prevalent now in China, because of the Communist governmental influence, which frowns on Spiritual aspects altogether.
What follows below is the Huang tradition, still taught by Patrick Kelly, including the Spiritual aspects, to which I too endeavour.
External Practice – This is concerned with body positioning, balance, weight, speed, contracting and relaxing the muscles, calming the disturbed emotions and quieting the thinking mind – then using these skills to physically interact first with a partner, then later life. Typically 4 to 8 years is spent on the external level – depending both on the initial condition of a persons system and the intensity and intelligence of their practice.
Beyond this, most do not go.
Internal Practice – This is based within the Deep Mind Energy Sphere whereas the external level is based in the physical (brain-consciousness, hormonal balance and body structured movement). The 3 internal levels – internal body level, energy level and mind level – can be named:
Earth, Man and Heaven; Etheric, Astral and Celestial; or Jing, Qi and Shen. This is based on Alchemical
Cosmology, which is why I emphasise (symbolic) 3 breaths, 3 connections and exchanging Qi with Heaven and Earth etc. This is not based on Chinese/Oriental philosophy. It is actually based on how the Cosmos itself is structured. It is seen in every religion (that being the external representation of the work of the original Enlightened Masters, like Buddha or Jesus Christ), eg Father, Son, Holy Spirit in Christianity, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva in the Vedic (Indian) systems etc.
Progress from External to Internal – From the very first exercise, this progress is built into true Taiji training. It would be an unfortunate mistake to aim to strengthen only the external first then hope to approach the internal later. It is 4 to 8 years of internally aimed external effort that can open the door to the true internal. Unfortunately, when Taiji is taught and learnt primarily for the purpose of healing (with emphasis on soft, pleasant outer conditions and little effort required from the practitioner) or over emphasising self defence (which while requiring effort thereby strengthening the body and personality structure, also inevitably builds the outer ego), then reliance on and attachment to the body is increased, suppressing the influence of the small inner voice and its natural innate aspiration towards the Beyond, thereby further obstructing the already narrow door to future true inner progress.
Progress within the Internal – Once over the threshold, then intensity of effort and purity of motive are the 2 important factors that will irresistibly lead to deep development. Intensity of effort causes change on a deep level, which unfortunately also stimulates growth of the ego – often on a subconscious level.
Only purity of motive (Integrity) will ensure that the inner-growth strengthens the hold of the True Self, rather than the false self (ego) which if left to grow will bring all internal progress to a halt.
To deliberately direct all results of inner training to the benefit of the True Self (of yourself and those connected with you), then consciously remember this aim when beginning to practice or whenever results seem to appear, is the base method for gradually purifying inner motives. Only to the degree that you have purified and understood your own inner motives will the motives of those around you become clearer. Until that time of understanding arises try to see others in a positive light or the ego will entrench itself by placing you at a higher position than you really are while placing those around you lower – this being the most obvious outward sign of the ego at work.
It is useful, even if you are a beginner to get a glimpse of this broader perspective, as you attempt to rush to learn the Taiji form, which is a very common Western pre-occupation! Remember that there are very few practices that can continually evolve as you practice and as you get older. Taiji is one of those rare jewels for Transformation on a body, Mind and Spirit level.
Blessings for your Taiji Journey, at whatever level it is.