Taijiquan is no different than any other martial art in that
to achieve usable skills you have to put in the hard work. This is reflected in
sayings such as “Go to bed with tired legs and wake up with tired legs”, “eat
bitterness” etc. But training hard is not the whole story. The obvious
consequence of intense training is the expending and depletion of energy,
physical and injury and damage to a practitioner’s body and, at times, feelings
of exhaustion and despondency. To counter these negative aspects most
traditional martial systems include exercises to help the body recover and recuperate
– exercises such as zhan zhuang (standing pole), variations of standing, seated
and even lying down meditation, massage, breathing exercises etc. To be completely
clear, these methods were never designed to replace intensive training but to
|A complete training approach needs to balance the internal and |
external, balancing physical and mental aspects.
The late grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang summarised the balance between training and recovery as follows: “Taiji gongfu is acquired through a combination of training and nurturing, with nurturing being its mainstay.” Optimum performance is only possible when all the forces within the body are balanced so every aspect must be cultivated and nurtured. He went on to say that robust good health was the necessary foundation without which any talk of gongfu was irrelevant.
In The New Toughness
Training for Sports, premier sports psychologist James E. Loehr examined
the mental and physical factors that impact human performance at the highest
level. In particular he looked at the areas of mental, emotional and physical
conditioning and the equally if not more important need to actively train
recovery in these same three areas. “At the most basic level, recovery is
simply anything that causes energy to be recaptured… It’s essential also to
understand that recovery occurs in three areas – physical, mental and emotional
– [just like the three areas to which we must apply stress if we are to see improvement
and growth of a Taijiquan martial artist].
|Taijiquan trains skill and resiliency|
The most common signs of recovery identified by Loehr in each area include, but are not limited to - Physical Recovery: reduced feelings of hunger, thirst, sleepiness, tension; slower heart and breath rates; decreased blood pressure, muscle tension and brainwave activity. Emotional Recovery: feelings of emotional relief; increased positive feelings of fun, joy, humour, and happiness; decreased negative feelings of anger, fear and frustration; and increased feelings of self-fulfilment. Mental Recovery: feelings of mental relief such as an increased feeling of calmness; the sense of mentally slowing down.
Back to Taijiquan – Where some people are naturally drawn to the physical aspects of practice enjoying the sweat and hard work, and others prefer the quieter and more meditative aspects. Both are necessary and any complete training approach needs to take account of multiple characteristics that address both internal and aspects. The goal in the end, alongside the development of skill is to get stronger and more resilient physically, mentally and emotionally. Final word to Loehr, who after a lifetime coaching world class performers to peak performance in disciplines including boxing, speed skating, golf, tennis etc., concluded that, “Mind, body, spirit, thoughts, feelings, emotions are all part of the same continuum of life. There is and can be no separation.”