Keep It Simple
The more time I spend with Tai Chi, the more I realize how the true focus of study is to become simple. In my small town, we have a majority of senior, retired people. So most students are interested in a simple, easy, yet complete, exercise system. Tai Chi fills the bill. They don’t need to study history, philosophy, Chinese natural medicine. Just do the movements and one can improve strength, flexibility, mind/body coordination. Simple.
I also see many people who are mostly interested in the Chinese philosophy in action. That is all well and good. It is an important first step, not the ending. I feel the ultimate goal of Tai Chi is to act naturally without running actions through the mind. Just do what needs to be done as simply as possible. Can you run through the form without thoughts interrupting your movements? Most people will answer that they can do movements, maybe one or two, without the mind grabbing ahold of outside thoughts. Then the mind goes off in a different direction.
In learning the complete Tai Chi system, the first step in learning should be the history and philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan. What is it? What makes Tai Chi unique. Next learn the movements – exactly, especially the stances. Make sure you understand the applications. Structural integration. Then go deeper into how to gather and release, Duei La, circulation of energy in the meridians and vessels, breathing. Then advanced forms, push hands, partner forms, weapons. All of this is important and make Tai Chi a great meditative exercise/martial art. But all of this should be let go of, once mastered. The true master just acts naturally, reacting only to forces that invade one’s space.
Yet to achieve mastery, one must let all this go and act naturally. Great athletes train until the body just does what it needs to do, nothing more. You will never achieve this level of ease of movement if you only attend one class a week and don’t practice between classes. Every day practice is the only way, until the principles, structures, balance, coordination are flowing out of intention. You do not have to concern yourself with microcosmic orbit, the breath, the meridians, correct structure once they are integrated into your body/mind.
Don’t let yourself get hung up on details, once the details are mastered. Just act without the interference of the mind. Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? I sure do. I remember the very first time. I was riding with a friend in his 51 Ford (stick shift on the column). Fred Postel was his name. His father was the fire chief of San Francisco at the time. We were near my house. He stopped in the middle of the block, put the car in neutral, set the emergency brake, got out, and said “You drive”. I was 14 at the time.
Needless to say I did it, after some uncool fits and starts. It took a while, but I mastered the art of driving. Now I no longer have to think about when to shift, how much pressure to exert on the brake to stop when and where I want. The mind does not have to be involved, except under special circumstances.
So playing Tai Chi is just like this. At first it seems strange – many rules and maneuvers to master, but now I can just sit behind the “wheel” and enjoy the ride, the view, the trip from here to there.
Push Hands Workshop
We will begin to explore the art of Tui Shou or Push hands starting on the first Saturday of September, and continuing on for the next several months. We will start with basic principles, sensitivity training then into forms, free style, and deeper. Not for new beginners.
Sat., Sept 1, 2018 at the Dancing Sky Studio (formerly Gilman Studio) from 1 to 4 PM. $30. Just show up or call Michael at 360 385-5027 for more information.
Full Studio Schedule
Starts on Monday, Sept. 3. Please visit www.gilmanstudio.com and click on Studio Classes. Don’t forget, first class is always free.