"Learning Tai Chi is like learning a musical instrument, only in Tai Chi your body is the instrument" -- Don LeClaire
"Barefoot is a state of mind" -- Ethan Zuckerman
I am a student of Tai Chi, a novice, who seeks to go beyond the basics of mimicing the movements of the form and memorization to reach that level of getting "it" -- to advancing to higher and more refined levels of understanding. This is a highly personal journal of my incomplete but growing knowledge of Tai Chi and what it means in my life.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is the graceful, health-giving art form practiced daily by millions of Chinese, young and old alike. The form has a slow-motion, dance-like quality that hides its true combat origins. Through the gradual building of one's inner energy, known as chi, one discovers how soft truly does overcome hard and how in combat, an ounce of energy can defeat a thousand pounds of force. Tai Chi is known as an internal art because of its emphasis on internal chi power, rather than on external physical power. Tai Chi is referred to as "the grand ultimate" fighting form.
Tai chi chuan is a riddle. It is at once both hard and soft, combative and peaceful, for body and soul.
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Raven's Site Peaceful Dragon Official Glossary of Taoism and Taoist Health Arts Gin Soon Tai Chi Club Canadian Yang Style Tai Chi
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Master Tang LaiWei posing at the Great Wall during the Club's inaugural visit to Beijing, China
Poetry began me: gave me a place where I could imagine and shape my life, my voice, my way of being both in language and in the world. A life. -- Dr. Marilyn Kallet http://www.entelechy.org/fiction/index.html
Tai Chi is a quiet place in my less than quiet world. It is poetry in motion. It is more than the movements alone, a concept hard for someone who has never experienced it to believe. There is believing and there is knowing. I know something happens to my body when I do Tai Chi ... I feel it, I become one with it, I am a unified person not the separate mind and body but a union of mind, body, and spirit.
When I am doing Tai Chi, there is a lightness of being that comes over me. I am starting to realize that to do Tai Chi right, I need to be comfortable in my own body, and I am not. How can I not be comfortable in my own body? It's true. When I stand in Wu Chi position, I feel my body and it hurts. My spine struggles to stand straight, my neck muscles clench after hunching over a keyboard all day. My flat feet scream at the indignity of being asked to hold up my overweight body. I feel the fact that I am not strong enough to hold up my own body, that even the simple act of standing at rest is something that is beyond my ability. I stand in Wu Chi, and I try to center, find my root, relax the muscles, sink into to stance, align myself, perhaps for the first time all day, into a proper posture. Yes, I am uncomfortable in my own body, but only when I quiet my mind during Tai Chi do I notice it.
Chinese Garden Japanese Garden
For centuries, the Chinese have sought inspiration and self-knowledge in nature. Hence, their gardens evoke the natural world.
To enter a Classical
Chinese garden is to step into a world profoundly different from our own; a place
where the very notion of "garden" is transformed.
Even the most seemingly insignificant feature has been deliberately chosen and placed not only for artistic effect but for its symbolic importance. The Chinese term for landscape, "shan shui" means "mountains and water" and no garden is without a lake or pool. This body of water, no matter how small, is its spiritual heart. Rocks, especially the fantastically eroded Taihu rocks of Suzhou, are placed in groupings that suggest the rugged cliffs and soaring peaks of the great mountains that have fascinated Chinese painters and poets for millennia. The lithe grace and flexibility of bamboo serve as reminders of qualities valued in human beings.
A pavilion, or "ting", is an essential component of a Chinese garden . . . the resting place from which to contemplate nature. It is here that one can begin to appreciate the fact that the various views are as much a part of the whole garden as any solid object.
Despite the artifice used in designing them, the most admired gardens evoke the natural world. There are no manicured lawns or topiary shrubs in the classical urban gardens of Suzhou. The garden is experienced as a series of vignettes, each new vantage point offering fresh visual surprises.
The visitor cannot help but perceive a sense of timelessness.
As the traditional retreat of scholars and gentleman, the Classical Chinese garden
provided a place not only to meditate, but also to socialize, play music, indulge in the
calligraphic arts, paint, write, eat, drink, and play games. The Chinese garden was
not a place apart from life, but a part of life.
Originally designed by Taoist poets, classical gardens were meant to create an atmosphere of tranquility for contemplation and inspiration. The Lingering Garden
Suzhou Gardens GallerySuzhou Classical Gardens The Chinese Gardens of friendship are designed in China to celebrate the Australians Bi-centenary, the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour is a haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of Sydney. Beautiful winding pathways, waterfalls, lakes and pavilions follow centuries-old traditions of landscape design. A traditions of landscape design. A traditional tea house over looks the water.
Notes on Chinese Gardens
Japanese GardensBasics on Japanese Gardens
Welcome to Peace, Tranquility, and Quiet Beauty.
Stroll through my garden.
In China, the Tea House was the place where people met to talk and catch up with each other. It was a place of good tea, delicious snacks and relaxation. A place to be away from the hustle and bustle of normal work life. It was also a place where much information was shared among those with mutual interests.
"The goal is not to demonstrate strength, power or violence. The goal is to attain serenity, tranquility, and the discovery of oneself. It is truly an exercise of the spirit"
Master Tung Kai Ying speaking on the Chinese art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
a learner can improve his skill if he keeps on practising and someday he will become an expert. As the saying goes: Drops falling, if they fall constantly, will bore through a stone.
Being continually relaxed, comfortable and well balanced are fundamental to Tai Chi. While practising a form these are constantly being worked on. Fast movements let you cheat and 'wing it' through unstable transitions to get from one position to another. If you do the moves slowly you can work out all the transitions, which are of great importance to Tai Chi. Through practising the moves slowly you learn to do them in a relaxed way while becoming more aware of the way your body moves.
Likewise in Tai Chi you also learn to 'listen' to the movements of your opponent by touch. You strive to be aware of every move they make, and to be aware of where their centre of balance is. If you are aware of your opponents centre of mass and movements and are relaxed and uncommitted yourself, you can follow their movements. Ideally you are no longer worried what they do, because you are confident that whatever they do you can avoid harm to yourself. If the opponent thrusts in a given direction that is not a problem because you will already have shifted your weight so you can effortlessly move out of the way when they get there. However you can follow their movement and exploit their movement by giving them a little helping hand in the right direction to put them off balance and control them. At the same time a Tai Chi practitioner hides their own moves, by virtue of being relaxed and subtle, from the opponent.
Skilled Tai Chi practitioners follow the movements of their opponents, and by using subtle movements and barely more than a light touch deflect attacks directed at them and take advantage of the opponents own movements to put them off balance. The more relaxed they are the better than can do this. To practice using brute force and fast movements would be counterproductive.
Master Yang Zhenduo has described the characteristics of Traditional Yang Family Style Tai Chi Chuan as marked by: (quote)
|These features are derived from the ten requirements set by his father,
Master Yang Chengfu.
The ten requirements are: 1) emptying the neck and straightening the head; 2) withdrawing the chest and extending the back; 3) relaxing the waist and hips joints; 4) distinguishing between emptiness and solidity; 5) sinking the shoulders and dropping the elbows; 6) using the mind instead of force to direct the movements; 7) coordinating upper-body and lower-limbs movements; 8) integrating the external with the internal; 9) moving continuously ; 10)seeking tranquility in movement (sinking chi down to the lower abdomen).
"When these requirements are fulfilled, the features of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan become manifest". (end of quote)
Essential to this Japanese garden is water and rocks. Movement in the garden is around ponds and islands. Each area of the garden is an individual scene which can be viewed and experienced separately from the others. The essence of nature is the main theme in the garden, but the viewer is invited to complete the picture in his or her own mind.