Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip – #306
Why 108 Moves in Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi study can be as simple as memorizing movements or as complex as a life-long journey into the self. It doesn’t matter what you seek with your study, Tai Chi will have plenty to offer. One of the questions I asked myself in my study is “Why 108 moves in the Traditional Yang Long Form?” Here are some ideas.
The early beginnings of Tai Chi are obscured by myth and not much in the way of written fact. Mostly Tai Chi has been treated as an oral history, passed from teacher to student, and modified by the instructors own interest in the physical, emotional or spiritual aspects of our art. O.K. But what about 108 moves?
We surmise that a Buddhist named Bodhidharma (Ta-Mo in Chinese) traveled to China to spread the teachings of the Buddha. This was around 475 AD. He ended up in the Shao Lin Temple where he taught what would later be called Chi Kung (Qigong). Being a monk led to emphasizing the spiritual aspects. He also introduced the martial aspects into the art that became known as Shao Lin Kung Fu.
So the first 108 connection relates to the number of beads in the string of beads on a mala (prayer beads), important to all Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, Yoga. This number is obscure, dating back many centuries. When chanting in several religions, a monk would recite the mantra 108 times – once around the string of beads. This recitation of the mantra 108 times is said to bring harmony with the vibrations of the Universe.
Another connection to Buddhism and 108 is the fact that it was discovered that there are 108 pressure points in the body where consciousness and flesh intersect to give life to living beings.
A little less esoteric is the fact that there are 54 bones in the hands and 52 bones in the feet which adds up to 106, and if we add Commencement and Conclusion as prologue and epilogue, we end up with 108 moves in the traditional Yang long form.
There are plenty of other examples where 108 is a sacred or important number. Do a little research and you’ll be amazed. Realize you are the now leading edge of the importance of “108” after thousands of years.
Note: Even though purists like to learn 108, there are many forms that are shorter. Master Choy said he shortened the beginning form ( 54 moves) to shorten the time to learn and practice. He said Americans didn’t have the patience to learn and practice longer forms. Nowadays there are forms as short as 24, and even 8. No matter what length, there are benefits to be had.