Training with Chen Xiang
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
the many highlights of our China tours is the opportunity to visit and
train with highly accomplished masters of the Chinese internal arts.
Last year (2006) in Wudang, we trained with the Head Coach of the Wudang
Taoist Martial Arts Institute for four morning sessions. In 2005,
we trained with Chen Xiang, Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang’s most accomplished
disciple in the Hun Yuan Tai Chi system. Chen Xiang kindly shared with
us his insight into some of the Tai Chi principles and practices.
Xiang explained how the Tai Chi form is used to train the body, mind and
spirit. In relation to the mind, the Chinese make this distinction –
the original mind and the everyday mind. The everyday mind is full of
conditionings, tainted with beliefs and is ego driven. In Buddhism and
Taoism, the original mind is called the true self or true heart.
Through the regular practice of Tai Chi, we learn to quieten the
everyday mind, thus allowing the original mind to surface. This is
similar to cleaning the dust off the mirror.
essence of Tai Chi is stillness in motion and motion in stillness. When
the body moves, the mind is tranquil. Out of tranquillity, movement is
born. Tai Chi is a combination of intention, qi (internal energy),
spirit and method. Intention leads the qi to guide the movements.
Intention is the product of good concentration or focus without
tension. Method is the Tai Chi form and its principles – relax, move
the body as one unit, distinguish Yin Yang, open and close from the Dan
Tian (the body’s energy centre) and so on. Spirit shines through when
mind and body are in harmony.
Chin Na (Joint Locking)
– Chen Xiang
you are practising the form, use the mind (that is, intention), not
force, to direct the body. For example, in a punch, the mind directs
the qi to the fist. When the arm that holds the fist relaxes, the mind
returns the qi to the Dan Tian. Even when a movement appears to have
stopped as it comes to its end, the intention needs to continue. Chen
Xiang used the example of Chinese calligraphy. An expert can see where
the brush stroke stops. When the mind wanders during practice, it is
the same as the flow of the brush stroke not being continuous. It stops
and starts at various places. If the mind is not focused when we relax
the arms and body or close in the form, qi cannot return to the Dan Tian.
Chen Xiang used the analogy of guarding a treasure. This is the kind of
attention we need to place on the Dan Tian. This is the state of the
mind that enables us to nurture our qi.
daily life, we are constantly consuming our qi because of work, study,
tension, stress, emotional ups and downs, etc. Food and sleep are not
enough to replenish our internal energy. Through the practice of Tai
Chi and Qigong, we strengthen the qi to rejuvenate the body and the
practice, we calm our mind and focus our attention, thus eliminating all
unnecessary thoughts and thereby conserving and cultivating our qi.
When we enter into a state of tranquillity, our breathing and heart rate
naturally slow down. Normally, we have little awareness of our
breathing. We use only the lungs to breathe. In Tai Chi, when we
relax, we breathe with our diaphragm and abdomen. Tai Chi focuses on
cultivating qi at the Dan Tian. When we have reached a good level in
training, we begin to breathe using the Dan Tian. It is similar to a
fetus in the womb. The fetus breathes through the navel, receiving
nutrients and oxygen from the mother. At higher levels, the skin
breathes as the pores open more. At these levels, the organs also
breathe. Cell oxygenation is boosted. Our bodies will naturally
function more efficiently in terms of eliminating toxins and taking in
uses the mind to direct the qi and connect the internal with the
external. Chen Xiang said, “The more you practise, the more you
understand and are transformed by the art. In the end, it is your mind
that becomes Tai Chi.” When you train with Tai Chi, the more you
practise, the stronger and healthier you become.
Xiang himself found that he was able to understand the Tai Chi method of
training after three years of diligent practice. He has now entered the
door and knows the correct road to higher levels of development. Chen
Xiang has been training in other martial arts since he was a teenager.
Before he began practising Tai Chi, he was an expert in Ba Ji (Eight
Ultimates Boxing or commonly known in China as the Bodyguard Style) and
Shuai Jiao (Chinese wrestling).
road to Tai Chi mastery requires patience, perseverance, consistency and
correct practice. The journey is the result. Qualities that are
necessary to achieve higher levels will be developed through sincere
practice. One day at a time. Training in this art will enable you to
come face to face with your original mind. Wishing you a rewarding and