I’ve taught Tai Chi for over 15 years, but as with everything I am still learning, I love the fluid movements – the spiraling, flowing dance that soothes my soul and energizes me. Afterwards I feel calm, alert and balanced inside and out.
It looks so soft and gentle. But Tai Chi is the highest martial art. Many wonder how can this be? Where’s the force, if your arms are supposed to move like ‘ribbons’ (as described in the old texts like the ‘Yang Family Secret Transmissions’).
The roots of Tai Chi are over 2,500 years old. It is the embodiment of the Taoist philosophy of oneness with the universe. When you practice you open the ‘heaven’s gate’ at the top of your head and connect to the unity of all things. And you root down through your feet into the earth, drawing up strength and power from the ground.
Last week, I attended my friend Terry’s push hands class (the highest level of Tai Chi). You work in pairs gently mirroring your partner’s energy and then look for an opportunity to strike at them like a cobra – usually at the heart. The art is not in the attack, but rather in how you respond to an attack. Whereas, the lower martial arts are all about resistance and force (fighting back), Tai chi teaches the opposite, to gently ‘flow like water’. So when someone lunges at you, you sense their energy and turn your torso quickly at the waist (like a revolving door), allowing their intense force to carry them flying past you.
It is no coincidence that resistance is also the worst thing according to Abraham Hicks. Using force to oppose something just generates more of what you don’t want coming at you. And in both practices, the opposite of resistance isn’t acceptance, it is allowing – and a gentle, effortless flowing of energy around an obstacle.
Tao Te Ching – Lao-tzu
(translation Stephen Mitchell)
yielding is the way of the Tao
..the gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
..men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death,
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
..Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.