Inner Martial Arts and Tai Chi
The Chinese Inner Martial Arts (Nei Jia Quan) have a strong Qigong component and may thus be practiced for health, energy development, and fitness or as self-defense. Grandmaster Cohen teaches the classical Inner Martial Arts: Tai Chi (more properly spelled Taiji Quan), Bagua Zhang, and Xing Yi Quan. Tai Chi is the gentlest, flowing like water and dissolving tension. Bagua Zhang spirals and coils, like a dragon playing in the thunderclouds. It famous for opening the joints. Xing Yi Quan is dynamic, a great exercise with clear martial arts applications. Its linear movements complement the circularity of Tai Chi and Bagua Zhang.
Taiji Quan (Tai Chi) 太極拳
Taiji Quan means the martial art (quan) that harmonizes yin and yang (taiji). The practitioner learns to balance the spiritual and physical dimensions of yin and yang:
Spiritual: inside with outside (self with nature), lower body with upper body, female with male, subconscious with conscious.
Physical: passive with active, soft with hard (suppleness with strength), slow with quick, high postures with low.
Taiji Quan looks like a slow motion choreographed dance, with 108 postures each flowing into the next.
Grandmaster Cohen teaches the popular Yang Style Taiji Quan, noted for its gentleness, and the original Chen Style Taiji Quan, with dynamically changing rhythms– like crashing waves and slow retreating tides. Students may also learn Taiji Sensitivity Training (Push Hands and Taiji Ruler), Taiji Self-Defense, and Sport Weaponry (Staff, Sword, and Saber).
The Taiji Quan martial artist learns to move away from aggression, “neutralizing” it like a stream flowing around a rock. Taiji Quan has proven effects on pulmonary function, cardiovascular health (especially blood pressure), and balance. It was the first Chinese self-healing art to appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association and other peer-reviewed journals.
Bagua Zhang 八卦掌
Bagua Zhang trains the body and palms (zhang) to move in circular patterns (bagua). It is generally considered the most mysterious of the Inner Martial Arts. The founder of Bagua Zhang was nursed back to health by Taoist priests who taught him their healing and martial art. Bagua Zhang is a superb art for cultivating flexibility and rooted strength. When applied to self-defense, the Bagua boxer imagines that the attacker is the center of his or her circle. She whirls around the attacker with a combination of ingenious locks, throws, and strikes.
Xing Yi Quan 形意拳
Xing Yi Quan (Body Mind Boxing) is based on five linear strikes, each related to one of
the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy:
Splitting moves like an ax chopping wood (Metal Element) and benefits the lungs.
Crushing darts out like a wooden arrow (Wood Element) and benefits the liver.
Drilling coils like a meandering stream (Water Element) and stimulates the kidneys.
Pounding explodes like a canon ball (Fire Element) and is related to the heart.
Crossing trains diagonal footwork (Earth Element) and benefits the spleen.
After learning the Five Elements, students progress to the Twelve Animal
Movements: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Chicken, Sparrow, Hawk, Lizard, Horse,
Phoenix, Snake, Eagle, and Bear. As a martial art, Xing Yi Quan is the opposite
of (and complement to) Taiji Quan and Bagua Zhang. The practitioner never retreats.
He or she drills into the opponent, defending and counterattacking at the same time.
A Note on Supernatural Abilities
What about the stories that made qigong famous (and infamous) in China during the 1980s and 90s? Examples include using qigong to dodge arrows, qigong to strike people without touching them (ling kong jing), qigong invisibility, light weight qigong (qing gong) to jump 20 or more feet in the air (as demonstrated in Chinese martial arts movies), driving bamboo chopsticks through tables, reading words through an opaque sealed envelope, using palm energy to start fires, and so on. When the founder of Yi Quan was asked about these, he, like other masters, frowned on such tricks and exclaimed, ” ‘Ping chang ji shi fei chang!’ The ordinary is the extraordinary! I contend that invisibility is the art of being unnoticed, and light weight qigong means to take oneself lightly. People who are successful at living are already adept at dodging arrows.