Threshold in Taiji Quan
If you want to achieve the real experience of Taiji Quan, if you want the Gong Fu, then you will have to put in the time and the effort because the learning curve for achieving that level is steep and long. This is because the art of Taiji quan is multilayered, counter intuitive, technical and both physically and mentally demanding. But don’t let me put you off because it is also fascinating, rewarding, challenging and all embracing as well as being an Art for Life! The rewards are worth it all.
There are many stages of development within the Taiji journey. Some of these are obvious and some are subtle. Recognising them is important to your development. Generally, different phases of development are characterized by different hurdles that need to be overcome before you can claim an understanding and before your practice improves. I call these points of achievement and transition ‘thresholds’ since as you progress you will certainly arrive at them and unless you move beyond them you will stay stuck. Good teachers recognize these points and serious students ask for guidance when they feel them. Moving beyond them can take some time and considerable effort and guidance but if you want to achieve the Taiji as a ‘technology’ and then as an ‘art’ it is necessary.
Everybody gets stuck at some point on their journey, since many aspects of Taiji are notoriously elusive and difficult. They require you to remodel your body and your perception of movement, power and energy. This means that often one of the most difficult thresholds to overcome is what you bring to practice: yourself; your body and mind.
Few of us start out entirely comfortable within ourselves and this is often the reason why we study Taiji Quan. Adjusting our bodies and mind set to realise Taiji principles is a significant challenge. The demands are such that the only way to progress is to give yourself up to it and to go at your own pace. Do not be tempted to progress too fast or tempted into thinking you have cracked the puzzle too soon. There’s a good chance you won’t have! When you find one aspect particularly difficult, you can divert your attention to another. There is always something to work on and to perfect. There is something for everybody in a good and focused study program, and yes, with perseverance, the ‘body/mind’ thing will adjust if you give yourself up to it. One day you will be practising and discover that what before was a problem is no longer. You will have ‘entered the stream’. All you need to do is go with it. Indeed that is a main purpose of learning the Form.
Getting stuck at developmental thresholds is perfectly normal whether personal or technical. One good trick is to gently ignore what is ‘sticking’ and get on with the rest since often working on other aspects may bring about a slow or a spontaneous understanding of what previously had seemed puzzling and difficult.
In Taiji, as in life, understanding evolves and not always in a linear or obvious way. Most importantly when real understanding dawns, it will become evident in your form practice and how you feel about yourself. You will feel the change.
You are probably wondering by now what the key thresholds are on the Taiji journey and I will return to this in further blogs. What is most important now is how to deal with them. Master Li’s recommendation was always to maintain an ‘intelligent’ and ‘aware’ practice and never forget the fundamentals. This means to never give up and always assume a reflective and investigative mind on what it is you are doing without concern for success or achievement. This way you can navigate successfully the different threshold you are likely to encounter.
Thresholds are normal markers for your progress. Even after many years, they never really go away, they just become more subtle and less worrying.
Enjoy your practice!