Understanding Real Tai Chi Part 1July 21, 2008
Defining the real practice of Tai Chi
The term Tai Chi is thrown around often these days. It seems to span the bridge between a slow motion physical exercise and a moving meditation. I am sure that most of you have seen Tai Chi being performed in advertisements and in parks located near Chinese population centers. Viewing Tai Chi for the first time, it is hard to believe that any form of strength is involved. In fact it looks deceptively easy to perform. What you do take away with you after your first view is a state of calmness that the practitioners seem to exude. Is this all it is? or is there some hidden agenda just below the surface? Some secret mechanism for long life and good health generally hidden from the public. The only way is to check this strange slow motion exercise out yourself or continue reading while I dispel some of its myths and truths.
My first introduction to Tai Chi had to do with my seeking something more than I was getting from my teaching and practice of a Japanese form of karate. I had been lucky enough to get an address of a Tai Chi school from a friend. After calling the school, I arranged to stop down in order to watch a class. Wow, was I impressed the first time I saw Tai Chi up close. There certainly was an aura of calmness in the school and students were not only doing the solo form, but also some type of practice with wooden swords and others were doing a two person exercise called push hands. I was mesmerized with the apparent ease in which the students performed these exercises. I signed up on the spot and was given the start date of my class.
I arrived at the school early on the start date and immediately noticed a Chinese man of sweeping dignity walking out the door just as I was entering the school. After questioning the two instructors who would be teaching my beginners class I learned that was their father and that he was off to Taiwan for a year. Not to worry, they told me, he would return. That man was the head of the school. His name was Cheng Man Ching and unfortunately he would suffer a fatal brain injury while away and never return to the school. However here I was and my class was starting. The first direction I was given was to relax. I was to relax my whole body as I moved in slow motion thru a fixed set of postures. This looked easy, not so. We were told that it would take from 9 months to a year to learn the form. The practice would be rigorous and we were also told that we would develop discipline in our daily lives through our form practice.
To be continued next week