Taoism in Wudang Martial Arts


Wudang Mountains, in China, have been known for hundreds of years as a sacred place of spiritual cultivation and deep development of Internal Martial Arts or "Neijiaquan" (家 拳 拳). They stand out especially for being nucleus of multitude Taoist temples and for their historical tradition of relevant Taoist masters and Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Taoism is a philosophical system developed from writings of Laozi, compiled in Tao Te King book or "Daodejing". It is a philosophical tradition that has more than two millenia exerting its influence in far east's people.


Fundamental objective of Taoism is to search for immortality or rather longevity and self-improvement as well as being itself in communion with its surroundings. Taoist ideals are born of integration into natural environment, the idea of becoming entangled with nature in such a way that gets to experience vital rhythms that resonate in it, tuning own human body through a series of exercises according to those rhythms, thus gaining mental serenity and physical energy.


Taoists have always lived discovering methods that could prolong their life. Part of the result of this patient search has been great development of refinement practices of vital energy "Qi" (氣), and increase in health of its practitioners. This path includes purification of oneself through control refinement through contemplation, meditation, breathing control and other forms of self-discipline such as well-known exercises within inner arts as: Daoyin (導引), Qigong (氣功), Neidan (内丹) and Neijiaquan (内家).


For all this, Taoist practitioners develops such activities through concept of "No action" or Wu Wei (无为), that's in Taoist philosophy a concept of action without intentional action, where it should not be confused as not to act in the sense of doing nothing. Wu Wei describes an important aspect in which most appropriate way to deal with a situation is to act without forcing, is therefore a natural way of doing things without forcing them through devices that detract from their harmony and principles. It is cessation of action induced by desires and attachment, a mode of action that leaves no trace in nature, invisible, harmonious and not revealing itself. A special way to flow without influencing, live without interrupting and favor without impeding.


Neijiaquan or "Inner Martial Arts" focus on spirit awareness, mind, vital energy and use of relaxation instead of taking advantage of muscle tension. Although practice of most of internal styles is carried out slowly, sometimes appearing explosive movements or "Fajin" (發勁). In a real combat situation, internal styles are carried out with lightning speed, yet goal is learn to involve the whole body in each movement, keeping breathing deep and controlled, adopting relaxation through a distended muscular tone and coordinating body movements and breathing with precision.


The practice of internal arts necessarily implies use of energy "Qi" (氣) and for that is necessary proper use of intention "Yi" (意), is frequent in Taoist arts the mention of "Yi Yi Yin Qi "(意 引 氣 氣): Intention moves Qi. When one moves with intention, breath and movement, it does with whole body at same time.


In Internal Martial Arts difference between a technique performed as a consequence of an exclusive strength muscle "Li" (力) and a technique accompanied by a correct approach of our Yi is usually very large, both in effectiveness and power as in comfort of the one who executes it.


Applying aforementioned concept of "Wu Wei", it is understood that Taoist practice goal in struggle is to be able to fight in a state of quiet attention "Moting" (听 听) where each movement is effortlessly performed apparent, avoiding linear confrontations with the opponent, absorbing power of their attacks and responding with circular movements and softness as well as forceful, loaded with qi.


One of the passages in "The Art of War" by Sun Zi reads:


"Be extremely subtle, to the point of having no form. Be completely mysterious, to the point of being silent. In this way you can direct the destiny of your adversaries "


It is important to emphasize that in Taoist practice, martial arts also teach much more about how to protect physical body or how to safeguard physical integrity of practitioners, it show us how to deal with our weaknesses and push our physical and emotional limits, forging our endurance, perseverance and patience as manifestations of strong will. Leaving aside anger, impatience, selfish desire and hatred.


Through these practices and the experience gained through them we begin to have a greater understanding and awareness of our health and well-being that extends far beyond struggle, penetrates every aspect of our lives including our relationships with the world, developing greater balance and greater awareness of ourselves.


© Alex Mieza ‘Zī Xiǎo’ (资晓)

16th Generation Wudang Sanfeng Pai





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Article published in 'ElBudoka', Martial Arts pioneer magazine in spanish language: