Sifu Zhang Wuji
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Singapore

Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu

Grandmaster Wong using Taijiquan sparring with Sifu Goh Kok Hin using Shaolin Kungfu

Like many members of Shaolin Wahnam, Zhang Wuji had difficulty choosing between Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu for dedicated training. To help him make a wise choice, Grandmaster Wong asked him to make a comparative study of these two great arts before making a choice. This resulted in the following in-depth study which will be very beneficial to both Taijiquan and Shaolin practitioners.

Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 1. Evolution of Taijiquan from Shaolinquan

From what I have learnt from you so far, Sifu, it seems that a lot of what is essential in Taijiquan is already found in the Shaolinquan you teach. I speculate that if Zhang Sanfeng had mastered all of the the highest Shaolin arts, he would not have needed to create Taijiquan.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 2. General Practice and Training, and Sparring Mehodology

Combat sequences seem to be absent from traditional Taijiquan training, probably because Pushing and Striking Hands were meant to be that bridge between form practice and free sparring. Sparring sets were however used as part of combat training.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 3. Combat Philosphy on Retreat and Yielding

I think “yielding” means to be able to follow the enemy's thoughts and intentions and then be ahead of him (“If the enemy does not move, I do not move. If he moves, I move firs.t”). The enemy's movements need not be physical movements but an intention to attack.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 4. Difference in Stances

I have observed Sifu and the senior disciples sparring in the video clips and the stances are the same as in normal practice. In other words, we in Shaolin Wahnam use in combat exactly what we practice.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 5. The Use of Internal Force

One characteristic feature of Taijiquan is the many types of jing. I have always been bewildered by the sheer number of jing that Taijiquan has. To my mind, internal force is internal force. Then I realized that possibly, the various jing refer to the different ways internal force can be expressed.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 6. Fa-jing and Qin-na

I feel the process of fajing in Taijiquan is very complex. Would it not be much simpler to send the qi directly from the dantian to the striking hand or leg? I have also read some accounts of how too much fajing damages the internal organs as the force shakes them on the way out.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 7. Academic Questions and Direct Experience

I had despaired of ever finding a true master of either of these two arts. Instead, I dabbled in Karate, Aikido and wushu in an attempt to find that missing element. It was with the greatest joy that I found out about you, Sifu. But even then, I still had this doubt in my mind (“Can this really be true? Can I really do all that Wong Sifu says?”). It was not until I went for my first intensive course that all the doubts vanished.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 8. Yin-Yang, God and Health

I also find the circular and flowing nature of Taijiquan very attractive and at the same time, I find great affinity with the Zen ideas of simplicity and directness. Because I can relate to the underlying philosophy of both arts equally, I find it so hard to choose between the two.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 9. Spirituality and Over-training

Sifu, I hope I can trouble you with these additional questions, if you are not too busy. How spiritual were the masters of old, if they were not practicing for the purposes of spiritual cultivation?

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 10. Questions on Sinew Metamorphosis

It is worthy to note that when Bodhidharma asked his students to describe their attainment, he told some that they had attained the “skin” of his teaching, and others that they had attained the “flesh”. Only to Hei Ke, his best student who later succeeded Bodhidharma, the master said he had attained the “bones and marrow”.

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 11. Questions on Breathing Methods and Control

The classics say to focus on the “yi”, not the “qi” (All of the “shen” is on the “yi”, not the “qi”. If on the “qi”, you will stagnate). May I ask Sifu what this means? Does “qi” here refer to breathing, or to the vital energy of the body? If the latter, should we not be mindful of it so we can direct it?

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Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu 12. Taoist Philosophy and Concept of Open and Close

Some other masters have said that “opening” refers to the physical action of extending the limbs and sending the qi outwards, while “closing” refers to bringing the arms or legs back to the body, and sending the qi back to the dantian. I am confused by this apparent contradiction, but I suspect this is a case of using the same words “open and close” to refer to two different matters.

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