"Swallow the qi of heaven, tap the strength of earth, cultivate softness to prolong life."~Grand Master Cheng Manching
The practice of taijiquan is based on balance and harmony of the body, mind, and spirit. It is a contemplative martial art and integrative self-cultivation practice that trains awareness, agility, and embodied engagement.
Taijiquan is a physical practice based on ancient Chinese traditions and philosophies, including such writings as Laozi’s Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) and Sunzi’s Art of War. The taijiquan we study emerged in the 1800s as a comprehensive system of meditative postures strung together in slow, graceful, continuous movements called the taiji form.
A literal definition of taijiquan is "great polarity boxing," or the martial art of balanced duality. The well-known yin/yang symbol is a graphical depiction of our art, illustrating how practitioners balance the qualities of hard and soft, full and empty, and yin and yang to create new possibilities.
Taijiquan embodies the philosophy of aligning with the Dao to skillfully engage with the world. It teaches students how to be responsive to what is happening in the moment, using deep relaxation, attentiveness and presence, and nourishment of one's intrinsic energy, or qi (chi), to transform mind and body.
Taijiquan is a potent form of exercise and meditation that can guide one’s daily life as a spiritual practice. The lessons of taijiquan -- going with the flow and being grounded, present, and centered—apply to many areas of study.
Taijiquan is also popularly known as Tai Chi Chuan—the multiple spellings are a result of the challenges of transliterating Chinese characters. Naropa uses the modern spelling (Taijiquan) that is standard in academia.
The taijiquan curriculum at Naropa University is based on three major components of the practice: the solo empty-handed form, the interactive two-person practice known as push hands (tui shou), and form and fencing using the Chinese double-edged sword (jian).
In addition to deep hands-on training in the practice itself, students also study the history, theory, and philosophy of the art, and may pursue teaching authorization through a teaching apprenticeship.
The curriculum is based on the teachings of Cheng Manching, who formalized the art based on the yang-style practices of his teacher Yang Chengfu. Grandmaster Cheng first taught in mainland China and then in Taiwan before coming to New York City in 1964, where he taught until his death in 1975. Among his students there were Jane and Bataan Faigao, the founders of Naropa’s Traditional Eastern Arts program.
They also founded Rocky Mountain Tai Chi Chuan (RMTCC), an independent taijiquan school that draws students from across the Front Range with diverse skills and taijiquan backgrounds. Naropa students have opportunities to practice with members of the RMTCC community, which give them exposure to fellow practitioners with years and decades of experience beyond that of their cohort.