The Trap


I recently attended an "advanced"  Tai Chi workshop:

Sadly, it was from my perspective a lacklustre affair: the offering on the (single) day I attended was in general vague, imprecise, ill informed and almost entirely lacking in any of the necessary ingredients of Tai Chi, such as stretching, expansion, clarity of substantial and insubstantial, Yin & Yang, uprightness and most sadly Shen or Spirit. 

In terms of the specific subject matter, which I have been intimately familiar with from its original source for over 20 years, various postures were ommitted, misplaced and/or misunderstood. 

The teacher seemed uninterested in and resistant to any new possibilities;  to part paraphrase, mostly quote  –  “I don’t want to change it, I want to make it work this way even if it is wrong”  and for me the only virtues of the day were good weather and a nice lunch. 

I have little doubt that this teacher is a nice man, genuinely believes he is teaching Tai Chi and means well for his students, but the body of work offered up bears a rather tenuous relationship (although modelled on and directly descended from) to that originally taught and is a classic example of the diminishment in quality that appears to be engulfing and neutering Tai Chi in the modern world.  

Without attention to the principles, Tai Chi becomes stagnant, rigidly bound up in meaningless formal patterns of postures, that without their internal content and intent no longer function properly. Tai Chi is in my experience and opinion the study of change: we all have to change with the world constantly moving around us. Tai Chi, whether for Health or Martial Art, provides us through its principles, philosophy and practice, with a means to manage and interact and move and change in some kind of harmony with those changing circumstances. 

Trotting out some shapes without any real understanding of or passion for these things is not Tai Chi, it is stagnation, and therein lies the trap that so many have fallen into. 

Lots of people know how to teach Shapes: they can even sell you Chinese Jackets so the shapes look more colourful and authentic. 

It took me nearly 15 years of regular study and practice to realise that all that time I was vigorously and proudly making shapes with my body, I could have been making them with my mind, too. Then I would have learnt a lot more and changed a lot more quickly too, because my Qi would have moved around inside me in response to the demands of my directed concentration.

So save yourself some precious time: don't worry too much about the jacket, see whats inside it: fill up your physical shapes with mental concentration and outward directions and let your Qi loose!