Red Jade Martial Arts
Traditional Martial Arts for All Ages
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Sifu's Tea Table

Sifu's Tea Table

Taijiquan Translation 太極拳

I would argue though that the translation of Tai Ji Quan 太極拳 as “supreme ultimate boxing” is generally misunderstood. Ji 極 being translated as ultimate is referring to the ridgepole that gives the roof of a house a peak. A place where up becomes down / yin yang transformation. So Taijiquan becomes the study and application of the transformations of yin / yang. Applicable to combat but also life. 

It is not stating it is the "best" of anything.


Studying the transformations means that we look to understand how yin yang are not two different things but like two sides of a coin, inextricably linked and a part of a whole. This means we can look to define many different points within movement at first as yin or yang in nature and see them transform into their opposite. The moment where up becomes down or left becomes right is a Ji 極 moment and worthy of study. This too though is just a beginning even though looking through an entire sequence of Taijiquan training gives many hundreds of chances to see the Ji moments it is the actual study of what takes places in those moments that is important. How does the body change from one thing to another? What physiological changes have to take place? How can I make this happen more efficiently and easily?

Working then to redefine the terms yin and yang over and over to see that they are parts of a relationship and not fixed terms means that while at first we may label expansion or upwards as yang, yang can also be looked at as other things like ethereality, lack of substrate, or perhaps disappearing. The same can be done for the term yin of course in relation to the yang side of things. Only using classical examples of yin yang leads some people to a concrete idea of what they are rather than an understanding of the idea that it something in flux between states. The very terms themselves refer to a single hill – yang meaning the sunny side of the hill while yin meaning the shadowed side of the same hill.


This leads to seeing the body and intention or mind as a yin yang pair as well, and further and further into the martial arts we begin to look at the opponent as a pairing to ourselves. This is why in Taijiquan pushing hands becomes a very important exercise as it allows us to look outside ourselves into an more expanded view of reality and how this process happens with another person. When we become sensitive to the currents of what is happening then we find it easier to allow the transformations or Ji, to take place in relationships to them. Pushing hands of course is a training tool that is meant to lead to skills in actual combat but many people lose themselves here and never do the work to try the principles in live situations. No harm no foul, but yin yang interchange does not stop at any point no matter how you look at the micro or macrocosm so indeed neither should we stop pursuing its understanding.


Looking deeper and deeper at all the myriad pairs shows us why Taijiquan is the

“Grand, huge, enormous/ study of interchanging moments of yin/yang applied inwardly and outwardly to reality which can include conflict.”  

It does not just happen in Taijiquan either, it is a principle not a style and should be investigated in anything you train.


Neil the Kung Fu Guy