PANEL 14 – From Taijiquan to Mindfulness and back again
Giles N Yeates & Tamara A Russell
Beyond Mindfulness: Introducing constructs and practices from Chinese Martial Arts into Western healthcare
Mindfulness meditation has become a widespread and influential set of concepts and practices within Western healthcare, education and neuroscientific communities. However there are several limitations emergent in the rapid transition from the heterogeneous Buddhist spiritual and cultural context of origin, to secular set of techniques in the West. Perspectives on these limitations are shared in this presentation from two clinicians who are also martial artists working with enduring complex physical and mental health problems in the UK’s NHS. Firstly the progressive disembodiment of mindfulness practices during their secularisation as psychotherapy techniques is explored, resulting in the restricted access/benefit of now predominantly sitting meditation practices to those with complex health conditions. A programme that uses Chinese martial arts movements, breathing practices and sequences to improve the accessibility of mindfulness concepts and benefits to these groups will be described. Secondly, the over-extension of mindfulness to many therapeutic mind-body practices within the Western lens is reflected upon, alongside the progressive loss of the original cultural and spiritual contexts of practices such as Tai Ji during their incorporation into Western healthcare. It is argued that these trends have inadvertently masked the unique applied potential of other ancient Eastern spiritual traditions. The Daoist concepts and practices of Flow (famously evangelised by Bruce Lee) and Neidan within Chinese internal martial arts will be shared as an example, together with their planned application within UK stroke rehabilitation.
Bodily Sense and Spiritually Sensibility: the practices of Tai Chi Quan in the UK
This research takes one of the primary contemporary icons of Chinese tradition – the popular practice of Tai Chi – and subjects its career in both China and the West, to a series of critical interrogations focusing on three main moments; the invention and (re)imagination of tradition, the practice’s migration from China to the West, and its translation by its English practitioners. Based on ethnography in the United Kingdom it explores the contending understandings of Tai Chi among its British practitioners, both teachers and students. It explores the ways in which British practitioners’ invention and translation of bodily sense such as rou (softness), xu (emptiness) and how these bodily senses shape the practitioners’ understanding tai chi quan as a spiritual discipline rather than martial arts.
Mark Langweiler & Stefanie Sachsenmaier
On Not Neglecting the Near for the Far: The Practice of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan
Drawing on a range of perspectives, this contribution presents a discussion of some of the philosophical principles underlying the practice of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. Based on the Daoist concepts of ‘the constant within change’ and ‘movement within stillness’, Tai Chi Chuan can be understood as the physical embodiment of these principles. Relying on an analysis of the underlying anatomical structures, along with concepts of the theory of practice, the present discussion focuses on several aspects of the Wu Family archive with particular emphasis on the process of ‘practising of the self’ as a means to martial skill. As a martial art it is a training system in which the practitioner prepares for the continual relational changes that an opponent might present. Through discussion and the presentation of examples of selected forms, as well as pushing hands techniques, we seek to highlight the mental, emotional and physical components this state of ‘constant readiness within the changing martial parameters’ might involve.