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Taiji (pronounced as “tie-jee”) is an excellent system of exercise characterized by spiraling, supple, lithe movements, but it is much more than just a mild exercise. Taiji can also be used as an effective martial art, moving meditation, a way by which blood, nerve, and lymph blockages can be reduced, as well as reducing needless tensions, thus improving health; a way to develop good balance and power, clearer thinking, smooth and more effective actions, and is even able to make one better looking. These are some of the benefits of practicing taiji, but they do not tell us what the essence of taiji is.

Taiji is the art of using the body, mind, emotions, and spirit most efficiently and comfortably for peak performance. It is interacting with the world within and without. It is accomplishing much by doing little. It is the art of being efficient, comfortable and effective in EVERYTHING that you do by using optimal action—doing what is needed without doing anything not needed. Much of this is just not interfering with yourself.

The main prerequisites for mastering this art are not what one may imagine them to be such as learning the form(s) or learning martial art moves and counter moves. The main skills of taiji are internal and are surprisingly pleasant to learn and apply, and when learned then, not only will you be able to do the forms well, you will be able to do everything well. It’s a matter of not only doing things correctly, but also not doing incorrect things. The forms are simply used for training mind and body to ideally integrate.

While doing taiji you must be comfortable, relaxed, hence, free, so that you are loose and fluid in whatever position or circumstance you find yourself so that you move internally and externally with minimal effort. In such a state, you will be able to naturally and most effectively use all internal and external forces at your disposal, whether they originate from gravity, an opponent, or are self-generated. The underlying basis for these accomplishments is noninterference with self and noninterference with external forces, including those from martial art opponents, so that you can use their forces and movements for your purposes.

Being in the taiji state is like the state of being in “the zone” that many great athletes experience, where mind and body are synchronized in perfect harmony, coordination, relaxation, and comfort; where time seems to move slowly; where they find themselves alert and ideally interacting with themselves, and the world around them.