Taiji - Beyond Self Defence
Ni Hua-Ching: "Martial artists who emphasise fighting are not much good for the spiritual path. The desire to be better than others is a rough motive which mostly feeds the ego."
Everybody is an expert at self defence. Daily, people protect themselves by resisting incoming mental, emotional and physical forces. The condition necessary for resistance is tension, which is a habitual protective mechanism generated by fear and insecurity. Attempting to become physically stronger and faster merely covers the inner insecurity with a thicker outer layer. Alternatively, through Taiji we may learn how to not protect ourselves, by yielding to, accepting and neutralising these incoming forces, and when appropriate, returning them to their source. Through building inner harmony and internal strength together with physical relaxation and the philosophy of yielding, we gradually arrive at that place where the defence of the self in daily life no longer serves any purpose.
People in the early stages of learning - the first 14 years - are typically eager to learn many forms. But this is to do with outer accumulation, not inner progress. It is not harmful and keeps new students interested. It is part of the horizontal circle of the Mind. The vertical circle is concerned, not with accumulation, but with refinement of inner understanding combined with the gradual letting go of these previously accumulated outer practices.
What then of the many classical weapon forms? In earlier generations, hand weapons were used for self defence. Nowadays in civilised countries, people do not carry weapons and the weapon training seems a little pointless. Some quote learning the ability to project your internal force to the tip of the weapon as being worthwhile, but I prefer training this extension out to the limits of my energy field. Master Huang did not encourage the practice of weapons in the last 20 years of his life. As a young man he had killed many people with his sword and seen many of his friends killed - they were not a toy to him. He stated, "Each student's way of movement is so bad already - put a weapon in their hands and their movement becomes many times worse." He also revealed that when his own students practiced the weapon-forms, he could barely endure to look at them.
Some great seers have been complete pacifists and some have been great warriors. Many Indian saints have preached non-violence yet most Chinese sages have practised and taught martial arts. Clearly either method can be practised on the world wide way. This again is all outer matters and part of the horizontal circle of learning. Better a peaceful warrior than a fanatical pacifist for example. As an old Indian yogi once told me: "From start to finish, it comes down to motive".