1. Theory and Practice
The taiji martial art system comprises of two aspects: the artistic - the conceptual, the body of the art; and the martial - the technique, the use of the art.
The artistic aspect provides a practitioner the conceptual tools to work out the best positioning. The martial aspect provides a practitioner the techniques to destroy.
Dealing with the art of taiji in the pure artistic way is just like treating it as an academic subject.
Developed from the pure artistic is the artisticalisation of the martial art - the art is practised as soft physical exercise. The stress in the exercise is on the spiritual aspect and the will power.
It should be noted that, without the support of training in fighting , a theoretician (soft physical exercise is generally not sufficient, unless having reached the level of achievement), no matter how knowledgeable, is like one who has a useless body .
Dealing the art of taiji in the pure martial way is different, it stresses on usefulness / effectiveness.
Developed from the pure martial is the martialisation of the martial art. It emphasises the strengthening of both the internal and external physical power (with more emphasises on physical strength). In action it calls for meeting the positive force with negative force - using intentional softness to dissolve the positive force. This is where taiji becomes a fighting art.
It should, however, be noted that, without the backup of the artistic, a fighter can only apply the techniques in a mechanical way and will not be able to deal with an unexpected situation which he has never been taught.
2. The Three Levels of Achievements
Upper-level: The practitioner starts with both the artistic and the martial from the very beginning and get the best of the art.
Mid-level: The practitioner starts from the artistic and develops the martial subsequently in accordance with his studies. Alternatively, he starts from the martial and works out the artistic from the applications. In both cases, the practitioner reaches a higher level through devotion to his art.
Low-level: The practitioner focuses on either the artistic way or the martial way only and manages to work out the best of either stream.
The distinctions are for illustration purpose. They are not in hierarchical orders as the emphasis is on the effort and achievement of the practitioner.