Tai Chi Quan is also called "philosophical Chuan," meaning that its principles and techniques all contain the idea of Tai Chi in Chinese classical philosophy. To learn Tai Chi Quan calls, first of all, for under-standing this philosophical thought. This helps to know the techniques of Tai Chi Quan.
The idea of Tai Chi is, in fact, a systematic thought of balance.
Tai Chi refers to a primitive state in Chinese philosophy. It is a natural existence. The life of man was a state of Tai Chi in the earliest stage, just like the baby in the body of a mother. Lao Zi, the repre-sentative of Taoism, spoke very highly of this state when he wrote that people formed much tension in their daily lives which led to illnesses. Therefore, people should relax their bodies and minds through exercise to return to the infant state.
Chinese classical philosophy holds that all things are born of Tai Chi. The whole process is stated in detail in the Book of Changes written in the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 B.C.): "Tai Chi causes the two opposites, the two opposites cause the four seasons, and the four seasons cause the eight natural phenomena (denoting heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountains and lakes)." The eight phenomena cause all things. The two opposites mentioned here are the yin (negative) and yang (positive), which exist in all system. The picture shows the famous "Tai Chi Chart," in which the black represents yin and the white yang. They are supplementary to each other, transform themselves into each other and depend on each other. The harmony and balance between yin and yang constitute the "Tai Chi state." The human body is also composed of yin and yang. When yin and yang are balanced, both the body and mind are in a good state; however, their imbalance leads to illness. Therefore, to improve the physical qualities and prevent illness begins with the adjustment of yin and yang. Offence and defence also form a contradiction of yin and yang; if the relationship between offence and defence is handled well, the key point of combat is grasped. Therefore, to grasp the rules of the changes between yin and yang of the human body is an important way to improve the ability of combat. The ideas described above form the basic train of thought for Tai Chi Quan.
The Tai Chi philosophical thought is embodied in the play of every exercise of the Tai Chi Quan.
Yin and yang are divided in every movement: the relationship of yin and yang is involved in every motion of the Tai Chi Quan, whether in a fixed form or in a process.
There is a clear distinction between the empty and the solid, and between the above and the below in every movement. In the Single Whip exercise, the left hand in front is the open palm and belongs to yang, and the right hand in the rear is the hook and belongs to yin. When the head is up slightly, it is yang, and when the crotch is relaxed and down, it is yin. When the weight is on the left leg, it is solid and belongs to yang; then the right leg is empty and belongs to yin. At the same time, every yin and yang element implies the tendency to transform itself into the opposite. This is why the play of the Tai Chi Quart changes constantly and continuously like the moving clouds and flowing water.
There are curves everywhere: The Tai Chi Chart is round in shape. Between yin and yang are harm-onious coexistence and soft transformation. The curved movements conform best to the natural state of the structure of the human body, making it easy to transform and adjust the yin and yang relationship smoothly.
Motion and stillness exist together. The movements of the Tai Chi Quan are relaxed and slow. They call for stillness in motion to achieve the relaxation of the mind and body. At the same time, while in the fixed form, there must be motion in stillness so that the movements do not discontinue and the mind and energy flow do not stop. Motion and stillness are the two opposites of a contradiction-the yin and yang. The coexistence of motion and stillness is the embodiment of the Tai Chi Quan idea: "There is yin in yang, and yang in yin."
Hardness and softness are combined: if too hard, it is easy to break; if too soft, it is easy to damage. The Tai Chi Quan stresses softness to achieve hardness. In the light and soft movements is an im-posing manner, assisted by the mind at the same time. Where there is the body form, there is the mind. What is tempered is the changeable and flexible "hardness." While executing the movements, softness is implied while hardness is shown in form. So exists the integral whole, whether in ad-vance or retreat, in rise or fall, or in closing or opening. When one part moves, all parts of the body move. This effectively helps to temper the integrity and harmony of the human body and in-crease the harmony between yin and yang.
The Tai Chi thought is a strict system and it is embodied in the Tai Chi Quan in many ways. I have given only a few examples to illustrate the points. The readers have to carefully understand the more pro-found intentions of the Tai Chi Quan through their own practice.