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Sifu Jeffrey Segal

Dan Tian Breathing
Sifu Jeffrey Segal progressing from “you wei” to “wu wei” in this Cosmic Breathing exercise

A lively debate in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum results in some invaluable posts by Sifu Jeffrey Segal on the breathing methods and control we use in our Wahnam Taijiquan.

Breathing Methods and Control in Taijiquan

”Taijiquan 1. Entering the Tao

Soon some of us started to sway “involuntarily”. Sifu encouraged us to let go and “go with the Tao”. I remember him saying, “Taiji originates from Wuji, and this is what we are experiencing now”. That was a most memorable experience. I felt free, joyful and also energised.

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”Taijiquan 2. Platinum Card Kungfu

High level Kungfu, Sifu explains, enables you to use just one technique, and sometimes any technique, to develop a variety of skills for many different purposes. In keeping with one of our tenets which says that training (including Kungfu philosophy) should also be fun, Sifu uses the term platinum card Kungfu. Many Wahnam Taijiquan practitioners find this to be one of the dimensions of our art that makes training Taijiquan fun.

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”Taijiquan 3. Breathing Structures

Depending on the purpose at hand and the various levels of attainment, students employ a variety of breathing methods. Initially, when the emphasis is on correct form and reasonable force, they use one breath per pattern. Later on, when the emphasis is on fluidity and speed, but without sacrificing correct form and force, they may use one breath for a series of patterns.

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”Taijiquan 4. How Not to be Out of Breath after Hours of Sparring

This deep, long rate of breathing is maintained even when the movements become fast and vigorous in sparring or certain sections of our Taijiquan sets. This is one of the main reasons that we do not become out of breath even after sparring for hours, like for example, at Sifu's intensive courses in Taijiquan or Shaolinquan. Andrew mentioned in an earlier post that all those who have attended one of these courses can attest to this fact.

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”Taijiquan 5. Breath Control During Combat

Similarly, a practitioner who has experience effectively applying the Taijiquan techniques that I described in sparring or fighting would not ask how the breath is employed in these applications, or not employed specifically, and why. They would simply execute the techniques as well as all other aspects of combat, including breathing methods and control, spontaneously. There is no time to consider which physical or breathing techniques to use, instead of responding spontaneously and correctly.

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”Taijiquan 6. Combat Sequences and Breathing Structures — Hypothetical Scenarios or Direct Experience?

What I have said and what my Shaolin Wahnam brothers and sisters have said in this forum comes from direct experience. The breathing structures we use in Shaolin Wahnam, for example, are not merely "theoretical possibilities", but are taken from direct experience from solo practice, combat training as well as from real fighting.

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”Taijiquan 7. Personal Experiences of Breathing Methods

Well, first of all there is no way I could have sparred intensively up to 10 hours a day for 5 days without this skill. Secondly, I now realize it is appearing more and more in my daily practice. Let's take for example the "Lohan Asks the Way" set: I am at a stage where I start to get comfortable with the form, and don't have to think too much to perform the set. Also, my breath has become longer, thanks to stance training. As a result I can start to focus on reducing the number of in-breaths.

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”Taijiquan 8. From You Wei to Wu Wei, from Control to S;pontaneity

In Wahnam Taijiquan as in Shaolin Cosmos Qigong we use the term visualization but in practice it is more like “gently thinking of”. The progression between visualization and realization and back is very fluid. It's a fascinating aspect of training. Sometimes “gently thinking” of an energetic process gives us the chance to realize and notice something that is already taking place. On other occasions, this “gentle thinking” can set the process in motion. Going from visualization to realization or spontaneity can be described in Chinese as going from you wei to wu wei .

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Breathing Methods and Control in Taijiquan

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