Laoliulu Taiji | Relaxed Skill to Promote the Internal Energy of Taiji
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“Relaxed skill is a conscious mind set. This is an important method and basic foundation of practising Taiji to promote and enhance our internal energy power. If one cannot acquired this relaxed skill, or not willing to relax during practising, one will not be able to achieve higher level of internal energy Taijiquan. This relaxed skill has been a stumbling block and puzzlement for many Taiji enthusiasts. Those who really understand and achieve this state of mind are very rare.

The misunderstanding of relax

Taijiquan is an internal style of Martial Arts, which is different from the external skills of other types of Martial Arts. It is not a practice to improve physical skills or to strengthen and build muscles. On the contrary, one must mindfully relax during practice, without using a slightest bit of awkward effort or the muscle power. During Taiji practice, one needs to try to relax and remain calm; feel the emptiness and softness over oneself. Many practitioners are puzzled over this relaxed skill and questioned that even standing still needs strength; any physical motion like raising an arm needs strength. The power for stillness or physical motion in a relaxed skill is the power of conscious intention. The Taijiquan Treatise said, “use intention, not exertion”. We need to differentiate the relaxed skill from the common understanding of relaxation, slackness, or laziness. It is not like a relaxation at home after a long day at work. The relaxed skill of Taiji is a conscious effort to relax the physical body, joints, and internal organs. It is a mindful process of utilizing internal energy that manifests into physical motion and appearance.

There was a comparison of a rag as Taiji because rag is soft and relax. This is totally wrong! Rag has no life force. It can only represent lax, laziness and slackness. The Taiji relaxed skill is like a leaf which has a life force. If one thinks that leaf is hard, but it is not like the hardness of rock or steel. If one thinks that leaf is soft, it is not like the rag. This is because leaf has life force, nourished by water and nutrients. Likewise, Taiji advocates relaxed skill and appears soft in the external appearance. This relaxation is mindfully and consciously supported by internal energy, the life force from elixir field that manifests into external physical form and appearance. Hopefully, with this brief explanation, the misconception of relaxed skill can be understood by Taiji enthusiasts.

Why focus on relaxed skill?

The relaxed skill is the basic foundation to understand Taiji. Irrespective of one’s objective of practising Taiji for health benefit or for Martial Arts, one must learns the relaxed skill.

“Relax” includes mind or potential consciousness; internal organs; joints; muscles; and skin. From the view point of health, relaxation could relieve stress and tiredness, and keep one’s spirit high, and enable a smooth flow of blood and Qi energy within the body. TCM believes that the Qi energy flows smoothly within when one is in a state of emptiness or relaxed mood. And the Qi energy flow is blocked when one is in a tensed mood. This explains the importance of relaxed skill. Our internal organs are the generator of Qi energy. This generation of Qi energy can only happen when the internal organs are in relaxed state. Hence, we consciously or subconsciously relax our mind. Only when the mind is relaxed that the physical parts of the body cab be relaxed. With the relaxed internal organs, the Qi energy will slowly manifest and permeate outwards towards our limbs. Over time, when the Qi energy are enhanced, it will radiate outside our body to form an aura surrounding our body. The stronger the Qi energy, the bigger the circle of aura will be. Relaxed skill is the basic foundation to practising Taiji internal Qi energy. One’s ego is the basic blockage to achieve relaxation. Laozi once said, “my biggest suffering is that I have an ego”, and Buddhism advocates one to pursue an egoless mind set. In order to achieve such state of mind set in Taiji, whether practising the form sets or push hands, one needs to put in great effort over a long period of time.

When one achieves a relaxed skill, one can feel like the mind is totally empty; and one is practising Taiji like swimming on land and dream walking.

Master Yang Chengfu had said, “Really need to relax, relax the mind and whole body, or you are just a stick for opponent to push. The relaxed skill is the hardest thing to learn. If you can master the relaxed skill, the sky is the limit!” Another way to express relaxed skill is the feeling of your whole body, inclusive of joints, muscles and skin that has no sign of tensed sensation. There is an old saying “softening the waist until it seems boneless. If boneless, there is no muscle that cannot be relaxed.” If one practises Taiji pushing hands without relaxed skill, one can never gain the pure internal Qi energy. The reason is that if one is not relaxed, one is actually using muscular force and not Qi energy. The Taijiquan essay clearly had said, “Once there is any slightest use of muscular energy, it is not Taiji. It is other form of Martial Arts.” One can be a mastery of this Martial Arts, but it is not recognised as Taiji Martial Arts because one does not understand the meaning of relaxed skill. “Relaxed skill” is in the mind set. One needs to consciously apply this mind set during Taiji practice until it becomes a second nature of oneself. “Relaxed skill” is really an advanced skill set in practising Taiji. The more one can achieve the relaxed skill, the higher level of achievement in Taiji one can attain.

 The process of relaxed skill

“Relaxed skill” in Taiji is a life time practice and learning. There is no limit to the level of relaxed skill. The more relaxed you are, the higher level of Taiji achievement you attain. There is no limit.

1. Loose

This is the first step to practise the relaxed skill of Taiji. It is the relaxing method of body joints, muscles and bones. Take the whole body as example: head is the upper section, torso is the middle section, legs are the ending section. Consider the lower part of the body as example: hip is the upper section, knees are the middle section, and feet are the ending section. Consider the upper body as example: arms are upper section, elbows are middle section, and hands are the ending section. The three sections are to be loosened but linked; starting from ending section, follow in sequence by middle section and upper section. The process of loosening is consciously carried out by the mind. The Qi energy flow is from upper section, through the middle section, towards the ending section. Without understanding the relationship of these three sections, one will go astray.

2. Loose and extend

This step is using the internal Qi energy to consciously relax the whole body. The achievement of this is to expand the internal Qi energy outwards to form three Qi energy circles surrounding the body. The three Qi energy circles are hip circle, waist circle, and shoulder circle. The Qi energy circle is like a ripple when a stone is thrown into a lake.

3. Loose and sink

This is a measure of the quality of relaxed skill. It is like a loaded boat floating on water. The phenomena is different from heaviness. As mentioned before, relaxed skill of Taiji is a life force, not lax or laziness. The quality of “sink” is in the elixir field that is flexible and lively, vastly different from sluggish heaviness that block Qi energy flow. The feeling of this “sink” is like mercury permeating the whole body.

4. Relax and calm

This is a relaxed skill in a very calm state. The boxing treatise said that this stage of relaxed skill is described as “a feather cannot be added and a fly cannot land”. Another interpretation of this state is that one has achieved the ability to totally get rid of using slightest muscle energy and the calmness is in the mind.

5. Relax and soft

This is the expert level of relaxed skill. The arms of the practitioner is relax and soft like a rope with heavy object hanging. Any movement is the directive from the mind. A famous philosopher of antient China named Laozi said,” Can you let your body become soft like a baby?” This means keeping your mind and energy undisturbed; and your body soft at the same time. This is like a baby, having no worry whatsoever and the mind is calm. Laozi also said, “When we are selfless, what is there to fear?” “If we are selfless, we could merge with Nature. There is no fear.” Only expert practitioners with high level of achievement in Taiji can understand this philosophy. If one can practise Taiji until selfless and emptiness, no one is able to hurt him. This is the term “relax and soft”.