The New York-based acclaimed Tai Ji master, Chungliang Al Huang, was in the Indian capital of New Delhi for a hour-long live demonstration and lecture on “Living Tao-Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living” in December 29.
Teaching a packed house the basics of Tai Ji, he said the ancient Chinese martial art and dance form, Tai Ji, can be used in Indian yoga to make the later more relaxing and spontaneous for effective healing and circulation of positive energy in the human body.
“Tai ji (sometimes pronounced Tai Chi in west) facilitates movement of energy in the body - golden circulation - through free and sweeping gestures of the hands and limbs. Tai Ji open the 'chakras' or the energy points in the body like Indian yoga, which also operates on the same principle,” Huang told this journlaist-writer later.
But unlike the seven 'chakras' in Indian yogic tradition, Tai Ji supplies energy to endless energy points in the body, he said. “Mixing the two makes yoga more effective. I want Indian people to understand the healing powers and spiritual importance of Tai Ji,” Huang said.
Chungliang Al Huang, who teaches Tai Ji in New York with his American wife Susanne, has worked Hollywood veterans like Sammy Davies Jr, Bruce Lee, Mary Martin and musicians John Denver and Joan Baez.
He has also appeared in movies like “Flower Drum Song” and “The Green Hornet”. Huang moved to US at 17 to become “first an architect, then a philosopher, dancer and finally a Tai Ji master”, he said.
Huang has collaborated with western philosophers and writers like Joseph Campbell, Allan Watts and the Dalai Lama.
Recalling his association with musician John Denver, Huang said he had named Denver, "The Buddha of the Little Chakra (gut)". "I helped Denver with his Windstar Foundation - an ecological movement in Aspen Colorado. He was greatly admired in China."
Huang is the founder-president of the Living Tao Foundation and the director of the Lan Ting Institute in the sacred Wuyui Mountain of China and at Gold Beach in Oregon. “I wanted to become Fred Astair, but my friends in Hollywood, with whom I worked in movies, wanted to learn Tai Ji from me. Si, I became a master,” Huang said.
The Tai Ji master was born in Shanghai in the middle of the Sino-Japanese war and was raised in the province of Fujian, where he learnt his art in the villages “by osmosis- watching others dance”.
Huang has also authored several spiritual best-sellers like “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain: The Essence of Tai Ji” and the “Chinese Book of Animal Powers”.
Explaining the similarities between Tai ji and Indian yoga, Huang said, “The basic principle in yoga and Tai Ji are to connect to the universal power and to bring positive energy into your spiritual and physical being. But the difference is that yoga sometimes becomes static, blocking the flow of energy because of the stress on breathing. Tai Ji, in contrast, allows the practitioner to breathe naturally and move the lower body, hands and limbs in rhythm with the chi (energy), the yin and the yang (the male and female forces in the body). In Tai Ji, the movements cannot stop, the motto is- be natural, naturally so.”
Huang allows his students to make sounds while dancing Tai Ji.
“The essence of the sounds of Tai Ji is 'om' – representing the heart,'ah' – the throat and upper torso, 'ha'- the lower chakra or the gut,” the master said. Tai ji, claimed Huang , has “potent healing powers”.
“Researches are underway in US to prove that it even cures cancer,” the master said.
Huang is helping revive Tai Ji in China, where it had lost popularity and relevance since the spread of Buddhism .
“It is more popular in the west than in China. Chinese youngsters feel that only the aging practise Tai ji. I am trying to bring back the youth to Tai Ji, helping them connect to their roots in mainland China,” Huang said.
The master also wants to “return to India for a weekend seminar where he can teach people for a longer period”.
History cites that Tai Ji in China can be traced back to 1247 AD to one Chang San-Feng, a Shao-Lin master, who incorporated the philosophy of the Taoist breathing techniques into Tai Ji by telling practitioners that “softness was superior to brute force in martial and daily life”. Tai Ji emulates the movements of a fight between a crane and a snake.