“I don’t oppose playing ball in the least, but I do oppose this feverish consumption of foreigners’ goods. This is exercise, but it is the exercise of the gents and ladies of the leisured classes. If you want to exercise your body, is a blade not enough? Is a sword routine not enough? Are wrestling or boxing not enough? Of China’s eighteen types of martial arts, not one is incapable of drenching our entire bodies in sweat, stimulating all the body’s blood, tendons, and bones.”
- Warlord Feng Yuxiang, 1927
(Andrew D. Morris. Marrow of the Nation: A History of Sport and Physical Culture in Republican China. pp. 195-196.)
I am sure I’ve rubbed some the wrong way, when at seminars I said, (teachers in attendance), “You say you are practicing taijiquan, but you are not. You are practicing bits and pieces of the system, not the art.” A big missing piece is the power training. Honestly, how are practitioners to develop internal power without systematic power training? Certainly, pushing on the air while moving thru forms, as important an aspect of training as forms are, does not prove a method for training fajin (releasing power, 發勁). Power training has traditionally been preformed with heavy weapons. I recall a devilishly heavy and flexible hardwood spear at my teacher’s, Wang Yen-nien’s (王延年) school, in Taipei. Not only was it about 4 meters long, the shaft flexed so much with each thrust or coiling movement that it was always a beat behind one’s body action. It fought you every step of the way thru the drills. A few minutes with that beast exhausted the best.
What training with weapons provides is a consistent hard object to release power into. Because the weapon is always the same, unlike pushing a live partner, one can repeat and prefect different types of movements for short energy or long, thrusting or coiling, and so on. Each weapon, the saber (dao, 刀), the sword (jian, 劍), spear (chiang, 槍) and other has its own unique character, each can be used as a tool to develop specific types of jin (勁).
Taijiquan practitioners who desire to go beyond simple exercise and fully realize the art would be wise to follow the entire system Yang Luchan (or other lineage founder) created for us, and not simply practice the parts that are convenient or “easy.”