Monday, 7 February 2011

The Four Essential Elements of Martial Skill




During a seminar in Poland last year Chen Xiaoxing told one of the participants not to underestimate the importance of external physical training.  Many modern Taiji players think only in terms of internal energy, qi, quietness etc.  Vital as these are, they are just part of the equation.  In an article entitled Taiji: Ancient Methods and Modern Science, Chen Ziqiang, spoke of the four key attributes that must be cultivated if an individual is to be successful in combat:

  • gongfu
  • jishu (knowledge of technique)
  • shuzhi (body constitution)
  • li liang (physical strength)

It is not possible to fast-track gongfu or fluency with a broad range of techniques.  These aspects are only possible with time and experience.  However, physical strength and body conditioning can be greatly increased in a relatively short time.  Strength training is not a new phenomenon in Taijiquan – just think of the many auxiliary training exercises – pole shaking, heavy weapons training, stance holding etc.  Look at the top masters and ask yourself, as well as being relaxed, calm, balanced etc, are they physically strong or not? If we claim to practice Taijiquan as a martial art then all these aspects must be addressed in our training.  This is no easy feat.  In the words of Chen Ziqiang: 
“It is very rare to find someone who has achieved excellence in all four aspects of gongfu, technique, constitution and strength. In my family, for example, since Taijiquan was created it is said that only Chen Wangting, Chen Changxin and Chen Fake have achieved this.    The rest of us are striving to be as close as we can to this perfection”.