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What is Tai Chi?

What is Tai Chi?

What I have found is that Tai Chi Ch'uan has proven itself to be a method of improving my physical health, increasing my internal and external power, helped me discover a state of impenetrable inner calm within and enabled the honing my self-defense skills to a sharpened edge. It has literally opened a portal enabling greater communication with my surroundings and the environment as a whole. This is why I ask each of my students, “Where do you want Tai Chi to take you?”

What is Tai Chi
When beginning the study of Tai Chi Ch'uan the first question we may find ourselves asking is "What is Tai Chi Ch'uan." In fact, we may find that we ask this many times over the course of our lives and the answers continue to be different. Tai Chi is not a static state and does not remain the same, it evolves as each one of us does and as society does and the earth as a whole. This is reflected in Tai Chi's translation as “The Supreme Ultimate.” This is no idle claim of superiority but a reflection of how the forces of yin and yang interact and is reflected by the nature of the Tao, upon which Tai Chi is based.

What is Tai Chi

How do we progress in our understanding of what Tai Chi is? It starts out simply enough in the realm of the physical. We learn to soften the tensile structure of our bodies in order to sense and respond to the energies that surround us. We learn to embrace the opposing yet complementary forces of yin and yang, those of emptiness and fullness. These are polar extremes which, when in balance, can act much like a battery that generates energy. The earth too, has both a positive and negative pole. From these poles, a protective electro magnetic field is generated without which there could be no life on earth. The shape of this field is known as a torus. We, as with every other living thing, have our own torus through which we connect to the energy of the earth below and that of the sky or heavens above. Our own torus is generated by energy moving through the polarized connections of our perineum and the crown chakra. This enables energy to flow from the earth into our bodies through the perineum and out from the crown chakra generating a field around us that is energizing, protecting and empowering us.

What is Tai Chi?

This concept is the basis for increasing and balancing the flow of energy called Chi in the body, which is its' life force. If the body has too much Chi it creates imbalance and can become overworked like revving a car's engine all the time. Too little Chi and the body becomes weak and does not thrive. Besides regulating the body's Chi to find its harmonic balance, Tai Chi works to create a pulsing on and off of this energy so as to regenerate and create itself in each movement of the Tai Chi Form. This principle is demonstrated throughout the body, seen in the functions of the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Filling and emptying is also observed in the universal rhythms such as day and night, active and inactive, male and female, ad infinitum. When we learn how to embody the universal rhythms of life, which are symbiotically connected, we become imbued with great power, internal vigor, balance and harmony. Interestingly, it is not fullness that is the hardest ability to embody, it is emptiness. The greater the cultivation of emptiness, the greater our skills become. Oddly, it is the opposite of what we embrace as a culture where we have come to adulate the power of the body and other traits based on too much, such as aquisition.

What is Tai Chi

Tai Chi Ch'uan is a martial art which embraces the concept of emptiness. If an attacker's energy or strike encounters no resistance it will harmlessly expend itself thus enabling its force to be controlled. So how can we use the powers of fullness and emptiness to help us discover what Tai Chi is? That is each practitioners' challenge. My teacher, Master William C.C. Chen always said that no two practitioners do Tai Chi the same or for the same reasons. We each are challenged with finding what Tai Chi means to us and even that will change as we progress.

What Is Tai Chi

I have come to believe that Tai Chi enables us to positively interact with others, our environment and basically all we encounter. All too often human beings see themselves as separate from their surroundings, moving across the face of the planet and through the events that form their lives often feeling little connection. Tai chi practitioners see themselves as intrinsic to the environment and thereby interact positively with it.

Caesar, who, in very human fashion, pronounced "Veni, Vedi,Vici." I came, I saw, I conquered. A man very much separated from his environment. Certainly if he saw and interacted for the most harmonious result, his outcomes might have been very different. For better or worse is a matter of personal conjecture, but completely different can be assured. Similarly the conquistadors encountering the Maya and Aztec societies, rich in their complexity and greatly inspired in their knowledge and belief. Yet were just seen as impediments or as tools to be used in the acquisition of monetary wealth and expansion of their realms.

This is not the Tai Chi way of seeing the world, or acting responsibly within it.

In Tai Chi the most gratifying results come beginning with the seemingly simple awareness of our connection to the ground through our feet, from our middle or 'tantien' down and from our tantien upwards towards sky extended through the arms and head. In Tai Chi I have come to see myself as not treading through life just across the surface of the planet, but as a deeply integral part of it. I am forming my relationship with all that surrounds me from moment to moment. What was a few short moments ago is no longer and my relationship with it changes as it does. It speaks to me and I try to listen, I listen better and then, when I am not too busy I sometimes hear her words.

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