“Our spirit is completely revealed in our hands.”
Practicing T’ai-chi Ch’üan gradually releases us into our innate ability to react naturally to the world by retraining and refining sensitivity itself, through soft balanced movement. The principles which lead to this end are simple yet subtle, possibly esoteric and not easily understood unless clearly explained. But, with correct instruction on how to practice, the highest levels of refinement are attainable by anyone.
Tung Ying-Chieh said, “T’ai-chi Ch’üan is an internal system. If the postures are correct and the inner principles understood, then this is T’ai-chi Ch’üan. If the postures are not correct and the inner principles not understood, even if the postures resemble T’ai-Chi, there is no difference from external systems.” He also said, “Learning self-defense applications is indispensable in T’ai-chi Ch’üan. Students who are primarily interested in exercise must also study applications. . . . The purpose of mastering self-defense applications is not to bully people, but to study the marvelous principles with friends.”
So here we meet as friends, to grow as individuals …
… studying an art form that fell out of the long sieve of human history in the wars of China’s Spring and Autumn period which ended in 256 BC. One interpretation of the story goes; sometime late in the Sung Dynasty, Chang San-Feng found two spears and the T’ai-Chi Stick-Adhere Spear manual from which he “extracted the essence of each word and transformed them into a series of postures”. The principles are principles, because they are in essence unchanging. When these ancient techniques are embraced in moving our bodies around in everyday life, the effect is refreshing and enlivening.
We will be constantly reviewing and discussing these vital principles in each class.
So, the question on my mind is, “How do I convey this marvelous art to you in a manner sufficient enough to kindle interest?” I know each of you would love it once you got to a point of flow and ease in the movements. It takes a short while to start getting what the movements are about, then it can really start feeding back benefits that have a tendency to induce perpetuation. You can’t stop because you know it is so beneficial for you!
If I can get you to experience at some point in class or a moment at home in your practice, what I experience each time I do T’ai-Chi, then I will have succeeded in pointing out a direction that will lead to doing more of the same, if you choose to impose such a discipline on yourself. The Dali Lama recently defined discipline as, “That which you do to protect your own self-interest”. I must agree. So here is my life preserver thrown in your direction to try and pull you through the doorway of potential, before you drift off in another current.
The thing we are trying to accomplish is relaxed movement. That’s it! If it is truly relaxed, it will have no leaning and no undue imbalances. Having not practiced this slow movement art, people are often shaky when they first try. This is soon assuaged, by correct practice. Much of proper actualization comes from approaching it with the correct state of mind. Metaphors like, “walking like a stalking cat” or “moving like Quai Chang Kane on rice paper”, assist in attaining the proper state. Just embrace it! Do it! How could your body do something different than what your mind told it to do? Imagine you, moving like thin silk cloth waving and curling in a gentle breeze. Now sensitivity comes online and more subtle levels of the world begin to be revealed.
The body does not argue with the mind. It can only do what is asked of it, to the best of its abilities. Our task then, is to develop and expand the range of our abilities to a point where what is asked for, is given. This is our true natural home! This is our best means of protection and self-preservation, existing as the vital human being living on planet Earth. Alive! Capable! Certain with confidence! We are trying to become civilized, wild, men and women. Sympathetically inspired and para-sympathetically actualized, T’ai Chi turns the flight or fight response into a measured and focused maneuver.
T’ai-Chi is what we have always done to move our bodies through the interacting world. This is (our bodies contain) the life that dances between yin and yang. T’ai-chi Ch’üan is the art form that continues training our sensitivity to the subtle variations in that dance.
The reason the end results seem so magical, is because our true potential is so far beyond what we typically believe, and the marvelous principles of T’ai-chi Ch’üan deliver such an effortless defense.
So, you’re standing in the doorway to a different future than you thought you would be facing. A new set of options is being offered with difficult to discern benefits. What does it mean? Somewhere in the distance, very near at hand lies the mysterious pass that is the gateway to innate movement. You already possess the key to open it. You stand before it every moment of each day. It opens automatically from time to time, in situations that require actions that are quicker than rational thought. It’s the flash reflex that helps you catch the falling baby, because you had to, because all along you had it in you to do it, because you were designed to do it. Functioning fully in the moment is just a matter of training that particular reflex into continuous operation, and that is exactly what T’ai-chi Ch’üan does to bodies that are repeatedly run through its wonderful mill.
The Mysterious Pass is the state of being that opens, when both mind and body are centered. In that calm vertical posture, the strings of the great marionette are free to move us and we dance to the necessary dance of the moment. Accurate and impeccable!
One of the early great masters of T’ai-Chi explained that, “when the vital breath fills the body, there is not the slightest awkwardness”.
This is life at its fullest, most enjoyable vibrancy, which is the natural result of strength, tone and a deep and guiding harmony in your body.
Come play T’ai-Chi with us for the benefit of your total self and the loved ones around you who wish you to remain strong, safe and resilient in the years to come.
~ ~o~ ~
One of the strongest proponents and transmitters of Yang style T’ai-chi Ch’üan is Yang Cheng-Fu, who passed in 1936. In his first book on Tai-Chi, he said,
“The most important thing in studying the postures is not the external appearance, but to grasp the idea.”
“One day’s efforts produce one day’s benefits, one year, one year’s results.”