> Study Options
There are two program options. All students begin in the Personal Interest Program, and students who put in the time and are interested can later be eligible to enrol in the Traditional Apprenticeship Program. A generalized breakdown of content is as follows:
> Personal Interest Program
This program is the standard for everyone starting out. Although a person’s reasons for wanting to practice TaiJi are relevant, the overall focus of this program will always start on movement. Movement, and the specific quality of TaiJi movement, is the foundation of all TaiJi practice. From this foundation, a deeper exploration can develop into more specialized areas. This may include health maintenance, illness or injury rehabilitation, and/or martial arts. As well, the underlying philosophical principle of TaiJi (Yin and Yang), can itself be a full-time study. As a whole, there is a significant amount of content in this practice, but regardless which areas you decide to focus, it can deeply enrich your life.
> Traditional Apprenticeship Program
The Apprenticeship Program is a specialty program reserved for students who have shown dedication and progress in the Personal Interest Program. This program dates back many generations and adheres to standards that maintain a high level of skill and integrity. When initiated into the ‘HunYuan family,’ an apprentice becomes an ‘indoor student’ and is formally added to the next generation of an ongoing lineage. In addition to the standard program material, indoor students will be introduced to specific training that is otherwise kept ‘closed door.’ These students will also have the opportunity to obtain Teacher Certification if they’re interested. Apprenticeship is an ancient tradition, and while not mandatory to achieve a high level of skill, it does offer its own unique experience and value.
Both the Personal Interest Program and the Traditional Apprenticeship Program contain the same general areas of study. Below is a breakdown of these four primary areas:
1) TaiJi Movement:
This area of study has two primary divisions. The first is TaiJi Posture, the second is TaiJi Motion. It might seem strange that ‘posture’ is considered as a separate aspect to ‘movement’, but without a strong foundation in posture, effective biomechanics are compromised.
TaiJi Posture is mainly trained through traditional standing meditation (Zhan Zhuang). Standing meditation is the practice of standing in fixed postures for long periods of time, typically up to one hour. In terms of physical benefits, this practice builds a strong and stable body structure. Internally, it cultivates numerous benefits, including patience, discipline, and interoceptive awareness.
TaiJi Motion emphasizes fluid, relaxed, circular motions that help open up joints, increase range of motion, and release muscle tension. The characterizing Spiralling motion of TaiJi emphasize dynamic and linked motions that help to develop solid and efficient biomechanics, as well as strengthen tendons and ligaments, and help to establish a powerful ‘spring-like’ body.
After establishing a good foundation in the fundamentals of TaiJi, the fluid, choreographed movement sequences, become the primary practice method. These are the forms that most people associate with TaiJi practice. Once the standard ‘hand forms’ are understood, this curriculum includes TaiJi Weapon sequences.
2) Health & Rehabilitation:
TaiJi is sometimes referred to as a ‘moving meditation.’ With the right emphasis, there is strong potential for this practice to maintain and/or rehabilitate your health. To take full advantage of these benefits, specific aspects of practice need to be emphasized. This approach dives deeper into the physiology of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Daoist tradition of Internal Alchemic Cultivation (NeiDan), as well as incorporates more health-focused QiGong practices.
3) Martial Arts:
Historically, TaiJi was practiced as a martial art. This training process emphasizes two-person drills, applications, combat strategy, and power generation. As well, other unique and challenging kinds of meditation and internal practices aid in the development of relevant skills. It’s important to remember that if someones interest is in competitive combative sports, they will likely need to supplement their TaiJi practice with more intense conditioning and cardiovascular training regimes. As well, a strong emphasis on free-sparring and non-compliant partner work would be a must.
Integrated into this TaiJi martial arts practice, are fundamental movements based on the martial arts of Form Mind Boxing (XingYiQuan), Heart-Mind Six Harmonies Fist (XinYiLiuHeQuan), Great Achievement Boxing (DaChengQuan), and Through the Back Boxing (TongBeiQuan). Essentially these martial arts have similar fundamentals and origins. Martial art practice will generally consists of repetitive movements, primarily focusing on unique body positioning, angles of attack, and explosive striking force. These forms can be physically demanding, and serve as a good foundation for martial art practice or general movement fitness.
4) TaiJi Philosophy:
TaiJi Philosophy is ancient, and heavily influenced the development of most Eastern cultures. The word TaiJi symbolizes the movements of life, nature, time, and space. It interprets the continuous and rhythmic ebb and flow of change.
It can’t be overstated how a good overall academic understanding of classical Chinese philosophy can improve all aspects of one’s TaiJi practice. It provides the tools needed grow beyond a simple physical practice. Integrating the philosophical principles of TaiJi into practice is complicated, and requires a significant amount of time, effort, and contemplation.
Since it’s about perspective, TaiJi philosophy can also be incorporated into other areas of your life. Painting, music, dance, art, medicine, landscaping, architecture, and even culinary skills can be enriched by the natural-based perspectives of TaiJi. In a way, TaiJi in this context is similar to the concept of Dao in Daoism, but where Dao is an abstract concept that it admittedly states you cannot ever understand, TaiJi is an expression of Dao that has very practical application. TaiJi helps develop an understanding of natural patterns. It creates a viewpoint that can organize your thinking, and provide insight into the mechanisms of things happening around you.