Getting In Touch With The Inner Strength Of Tai ChiMarch 5, 2011
A roadmap to guide you on your voyage of Tai Chi
Watching a demonstration of Tai Chi by a student of many years is a beautiful experience. The smooth flowing movements seem to be part of a long dance, however one is not able to understand how inner strength is developed from watching the form performed. It looks so relaxed and soft. Totally the opposite of an external martial art like karate, where muscular strength and the contraction of the body are evident in every block punch or kick. I came out of the karate environment after 15-20 years of teaching and training and entered into tai chi on blind faith. I constantly wondered how tai chi could be called a martial art. Just where did the strength come from? I reasoned that sooner or later if I stayed on the path of tai chi, I would understand.
The development of internal strength starts with relaxation. In the beginning of your practice you need to adhere to two important concepts. The first is relaxation. By relaxation I mean just using enough muscular strength to hold the posture you are practicing. All other muscles must be relaxed to the extent of your ability. Easier said than done. This is one of the reasons forms were developed. The form gives you a series of postures in which to practice your relaxation as you move in and out of the motions of self-defense.
The second concept is that of standing meditation. Standing meditation consists of holding the wu chi posture for a specific length of time with your arms encircling an imaginary beach ball balanced on your chest. Imagine that the beach ball is gently resting on your chest and your arms are hugging it. The wu chi posture consists of hip width stance slightly bending the knees, rotating the pelvis slightly in order to straighten the spine, letting your hands hang by your side and slightly pulling your chin up as if your head were hanging by a thread from the ceiling. Now we come to the heart of the training. While holding the posture, start to relax the whole body piece by piece. Start with the fingers and relax all the muscles in the arms, then go to the chest and back, down to the lower abdomen and last relax the legs. (Use your imagination and say to yourself I am relaxing my hands etc. Visualize your hands relaxing as you go thru the entire body. Continue until your time is up.
Now, here is what is going on as you hold the posture. Imagine that you are a weight lifter developing your muscles by lifting weights, the more sets and reps you do with increased weights, the stronger you get. Now look what is happening as you hold the posture. In the beginning you are holding up your two arms (each weighing 10-15 lbs) for a specific time. Your arms are totally relaxed just like dead weight. Your shoulder muscles are aching due to the transfer of the weight of your arms to your shoulders. As you relax your shoulders your chest and back support your arms and shoulders. You see, you are lifting weights; only the weights are your relaxed body parts. The longer you hold the pose the stronger you get; however this new strength is coming from the tendons. Once you feel the difference between strength from the tendons and that of the muscles, you will understand where internal strength comes from. Try standing for 5 minutes. As your body relaxes, increase your time standing up to 45min. to 1 hour.
This is not easy. Your sense of discipline will show you the way. Practice as much as possible. Each session will bring you a sense of self-satisfaction. As you relax more and more your mind will start to calm. New thoughts will appear in a calm mind, happiness will start to surface, as life gets better.