Introduction to the Wudang Taiji System
Taiji 太极 is an internal training method that was created by the great Daoist priest and immortal, Zhang San Feng 张三丰 in the Wudang Mountains. Generally when people discuss “Taiji” they are referring to Taijiquan, or the forms practice involved in Taiji. However, in Wudang, Taijiquan is considered a part of the greater 'Taiji System'. The Taiji System is composed of 3 parts: Wuji 无极, Taiji 太极, and Liangyi 两仪. Each of these three parts contains its own practices, purposes, and methods of training. Although the Taiji System is separated into three parts, they are all integrated and complementary to the others.
Wuji in this context is another name for ‘nei dan’ 内丹 (Daoist meditation practice). The practice of Wuji (loosely translated as 'ultimate emptiness') is for the cultivation of our three vitalities: Jing 精 (Essence), Qi 炁 (Energy), and Shen 神 (spirit). We practice Wuji in order to promote the health of these three vitalities; Wuji is also understood as the road to immortality. In order to become stronger and more robust in our health and our lives, we must strengthen and practice our Jing, Qi, and Shen.
Taiji is the balancing interaction of yin 阴 and yang 阳. Under the Taiji System, Taijiquan is the form that we use to cultivate ourselves and learn to develop and understand feeling in our bodies and how to integrate that into movement. In Taijiquan practice we learn to conceal hardness within the softness of movement and learn to use our breathing through the dantian, and our intention and internal awareness to guide our movement. Contrary to the widespread misconception that Taijiquan is simply a callisthenic exercise only for the elderly, it is actually a deep internal practice that requires great dedication and a strong determination.
Liangyi is the separation of yin and yang. Under the Taiji System, Liangyiquan is for the use of the energy that we have cultivated through our practice. Whereas in Taijiquan we combine the soft and hard, in Liangyiquan practice, we separate the soft and hard. The power of Liangyiquan is explosive, resembling a bomb detonating; its practice is more for use in practical fighting application. While in Taijiquan, all movement is the same speed, with the same balance in softness and hardness at once, Liangyiquan movement is slow and soft, followed by fast explosive movement.
The practice of all of the elements that comprise the Taiji System can help us to more deeply understand our bodies and minds and learn the methods to make them cleaner, clearer, quieter, and healthier. Taiji training teaches us not only to train our muscles, tendons, and bones, but also to train our intention, internal feeling, awareness, and power.