The short answer is we train to push our boundaries. The long answer is we train to learn all our boundaries and strive to constantly overcome the things that hold us back.
There are 2 classes I currently focus on, Tai Chi and Chi Kung, they complement one another and one very much empowers the other. In both we seek to challenge ourselves in order to surpass where we’ve been already. I feel the distinction helps us by allowing us to pinpoint our focus. In short each practice is seeking to embody principles spoken of in the Tao Te Ching, yet with 2 different avenues. In Tai Chi we seek to yield while staying physically relaxed, in this way strength comes from allowing opportunity to come to us. In Chi Kung on the contrary we seek to empower and build ourselves while staying mentally relaxed, in this way we create our opportunities from strengthening ourselves.
In both arts the foundation is essentially the same, in practice we summarize this by asking, “Can I relax more with stability?”
Can I relax more with stability?
In our training we say the answer is always, yes. =) The purpose of training is finding exactly how to do this, and it varies in every situation, which is why the practice must be all inclusive. Sometimes tension and action is required, sometimes it is not. A yin and yang exchange, if you will. This way relaxation becomes powerful and is far more than simply working the body more efficiently; it encompasses the actions of the mind as well. Keeping an objective view of your emotions, keeping yourself out of the problem you’re striving to solve, seeing clearly without being pulled or influenced by something to make a decision, these are all examples of relaxing the mind keeping a strong sort of stability. Therefore, this principle is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one.
The other piece to this is application, so it can also be worded like this, “In the face of stress or hardship can I relax more with stability and strength?” In Chi Kung we ask ourselves this physically by holding postures and doing exercises to simulate internal stress. In Tai Chi we use partner work and form work to simulate stress or hardship. In this way we train to relax and strengthen.
A perfect illustration of this is Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching. It offers us great insight and questions we should ask ourselves constantly while practicing, indeed while living our day to day life as well.
This passage I feel should be a cornerstone to all martial art and health practices. As such it should be referenced frequently and reviewed often.
(ref. http://www.taoteching.org.uk/chapter10.html )
Tao Teh Ching:
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage
Tai Chi Chuan
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu