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Continuity: Master of the Pen and the Sword

Wén Wŭ Shuāng Quán 文武双全

When we look at the symbols for Yin and Yang, we see that they represent a state of constant change. When we are faced with changes, we have to learn to keep a very clear mind.

In our Taiji practice, if any part of our body changes or a movement is adjusted or the path changes and we don’t pay attention, it will cause an imbalance in our whole body. All changes have to be carefully looked at to determine how we want to adjust ourselves mentally and physically.

Every little change will affect the whole body. If you sit in an airplane in business class it feels different than if you sit in economy class because the chair size affects the body. That’s a physical change because the chair is different. There are also mental changes. If you have a crying baby sitting near you on the plane, you also have to make adjustments. Sometimes the changes that affect us are things that we can do something about. In that case, we can balance ourselves to adapt to the change. Sometimes there are changes that we cannot do anything about, like the baby crying. There’s nothing that can be done about that, so we need to make a mental adjustment to accept that it is part of the world that we have to balance at that moment.

That’s the thing about change. Change isn’t always about forcing a difference to happen. Some changes are physical, some mental, some situational, but in all of them we can make adjustments.

This continuity practice is meant to get you away from doing Taiji mechanically. Once the body becomes mechanical, our mind is no longer being used. It really doesn’t achieve the very first goal in our practice, which is to have good spirit. “Lifting the head to raise the spirit” is our first goal in Taiji practice. Doing it mechanically is like running on the treadmill, where you just run without thinking of anything else, like a lab rat.

When you do this practice, you have to think. Your mind thinks, Qi moves, then body moves – that’s the sequence. We don’t just say, “I move the body”. You can move the body, but Qi needs to guide it. Qi can never move where the body wants it to unless you have looseness and tension that pumps the Qi. But it would be better if your mind guided the Qi to say “This is what I want you to do”. The mind has to be awake and alert. The body moves with calm emotions and a clear mind. Clear doesn’t mean that it’s under tension all the time. It’s clear. The mind says. “Okay, we need to take a break”. The mind says, “I need to be sharp”. The mind says, “I need to be sensitive”. The mind says, “Now I would like to see this movement complete”. Everything is in the mind first.

I gave you this exercise to release you from doing the same routine without thinking. We never want to be people who can only use muscle but not use the mind. In Chinese culture, there is an ancient saying: “A person has to be able to pick up a sword to fight, at the same time has to be able to pick up a pen to write”. In Chinese this is called: 文武双全 wén wŭ shuāng quán. That’s the definition of a perfect person. This is someone who can face great dangers, violence and fighting and at the same time can sit down and write poetry. The mind needs to keep active and be sharp all the time. That’s why I gave you this drill. I want you to become better rounded and more alive.

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