The following exercises are a sample of how you may take your tai chi training even further. As you will see, there is no limit as to how much you can train. It is up to you to challenge yourself to reach deeper levels of understanding and excel at taiji ball training.
To do these exercises you should have a firm concept of solo exercise as well as practicing with a partner. Now it is time to challenge the body to reach greater strengths. This will include brick training, taiji patterns, and two person jin patterns, or ball tossing.
Rooting (Brick) Training (Zha Gen Lian Xi, 紮根練習)
The purpose of brick training is to develop a firmer and deeper sense of being rooted. What does rooting mean? It involves feeling centered and balanced on both a physical and mental level.
At each stage of brick training, keep your mind focused at least six inches below the ground. Begin with two bricks flat on the floor, approximately shoulder width apart and train the stationary circling, rotating, and coil-wrap sets.
Next, place a few bricks in a line. They will be used for your moving sets. Train the bagua movements by placing the bricks on the ground in the shape of the bagua circle.
The first thing that will become apparent will be the constant falling off the bricks with any leaning away from your centerline. In fact, in the beginning, you probably will not want to make the motions large. Over time, however, you will feel comfortable and be able to increase your movements. Just be patient and allow enough time for your body, breath, mind, qi, and spirit to be regulated.
Eventually, set the bricks on their sides and continue the same patterns. Finally, place the bricks in the upright position and repeat all the patterns. You see, the training is endless. After one brick, use two, then three. It is up to you how far you want to go. If you can train all the patterns on three bricks, your rooting is considered exceptionally good.
Taijiquan Patterns with Taiji Ball (Taiji Qiu Zai Taijiquan Jia De Ying Yong, 太極球在太極拳架的應用)
The taijiquan patterns exercise is simply practicing the taijiquan sequence while holding the ball. Of course, there are certain patterns in the sequence for which you may need to separate the hands (i.e., grasp sparrows tail left). In such cases, place the ball in one of your hands. Practicing these movements with your taiji ball will help you focus on twisting the waist as well as demonstrate a compact, rounded feeling for your postures.
Ball Tossing (Tou Qiu Lian Xi, 投球練習)
The final exercise is the two-person jin pattern, also known as ball tossing. This exercise will help develop your fa jin skills as well as assist you in intercepting, yielding, and neutralizing jins. To begin, face each other in si liu bu stance, approximately six feet apart. With the taiji ball initially in your hands, begin the yang vertical circling pattern while rocking. Your partner will start the vertical circling pattern in the yin direction without the ball. Once you have reached your maximum range of motion, you toss the ball. Toss the ball as it moves over the top of the circle and forward. With the proper timing, your partner will catch the ball without disrupting the flow of his pattern.
Your partner will continue with his pattern for a few repetitions, and then toss the ball back to you. While your partner is moving the ball, you should continue your pattern simulating a ball in between the hands. If you can do this successfully, back and forth, increase the distance between you and continue the exercise. Eventually you should add the yin-yang exchange while intercepting the ball. You may also include stepping.
Tai Chi Ball Qigong has revealed many of the training secrets that have been passed down to us from the ancient Chinese martial arts society. The theories and concepts explained open the door to understanding how taiji ball qigong practice is able to condition your energetic (qi) body and physical body, and how this qi can be more effectively manifested into power through a focused mind. This is one of very few traditional qigong practices that combine internal gong (nei gong, 內功) and external gong (wai gong, 外功) on a very deep level.
If you are a martial artist, taiji ball qigong training can bring your energy to a profound level and develop your ability to move in one line, as described in the taiji classics. This energy, applied to the physical body correctly, can be as soft as water and also can be as hard as steel. Even if you are not a martial artist, there are many benefits to be derived from taiji ball qigong training. It can strengthen your guardian qi (wei qi, 衛氣) to boost your immune system and recondition your physical body, and taiji ball qigong training can direct abundant qi to nourish your bone marrow. This is the crucial key of longevity.
We hope that after you have studied the taiji ball basic training patterns, you will ponder and develop your own applications. Taiji ball qigong is an art that was created through deep feeling. As an art, it should be creative and alive and can be continuously developed, without limitation. If you have an opportunity, you should teach others. This will bring other people a healthier life and give you the opportunity to think about what you think you know. Learning through teaching is the best way of self-teaching.
We hope those who have learned other styles of taiji ball qigong will write down their ideas and publish what they have learned from their teachers and discovered in their training. Knowledge should be shared or the art will be lost.
Together, we can preserve the past, value the present and create the future.