Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 313
Who, What, Where, When, Why, How
When I was in high school, I took a journalism class and worked on the school paper. We were taught to use the 5W’s – who, what, where, when, why, and also how. Let’s see if that relates to our Tai Chi study.
Who is easy. It is you, me, and everybody else who is interested in Tai Chi Chuan. Who builds community, which is so important, especially in these pandemic times.
What is the study and practice of Tai Chi Chuan, which encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual all related to the Asian philosophy.
Where hopefully is a park, nice beach, majestic mountain, or any place you find the impulse to play the form. The beauty of Tai Chi as an exercise system is that, if needed, can be practiced in a fairly small room, with no equipment needed to gain benefit.
When is as often as you can find the time and desire. You can never practice too often. The more the better.
Why is more complex. Most people are looking for a system of enjoyable exercise that will lead to health and happiness and one that can be enjoyed for the rest of the life. Why also helps to explain the moves of the form, as well. Each move tells a story of some interpersonal relationship. You do something and I then react according to the principles handed down through the centuries, mostly from father to son, or master to disciple. My Tai Chi journey is not so different than most students I relate with.
How. I remember clearly the moment 53 years ago when I first saw Tai Chi being performed. It blew me away. I immediately started taking classes and my life was changed forever from a television director to a Tai Chi instructor. I have never for a moment regretted my decision.
When I started learning, I was focused on How to do the movements. Trained as an actor, I was good at pantomime, so I was very good at copying Master Choy’s movements. I would stand right behind him and mimic his each and every move. I didn’t know what I was doing, nor did I care or think it important. The flowing, smooth, easy moves calmed me right down. At the time I started there were no books or any information about the history and philosophy of Tai Chi. It was all about learning to move like Master Choy. How to move like him. Most all of his instruction was focused on How to do the moves – the various stances, positions of the hands and arms, relation of head to torso, etc. The mechanics of Tai Chi.
It wasn’t until I started teaching on my own five years later that I discovered the importance of the Why of Tai Chi. Why are the moves done the way they are. The Why determines the How. Most of the people who come to my classes who have been involved with Tai Chi in the past have experience in How but not the Why.
The Why is based on the martial qigong aspects – what is the purpose of this or that move. The Why is also determined by the Daoist, Buddhist, Confucian philosophies. The martial aspects came first, then as this martial art spread, it was picked up by practitioners who were monks of one philosophy or other who added their thoughts and skills, and, as time went on, the self defense aspects became less important. Tai Chi evolved more into a qigong, meditative, breathing, exercise system.
It is similar to what I have done to the form. I took the form as passed to me by Master Choy, and as I grew in understanding of what I was trying to accomplish, I decided to add my own interpretation. My form is no better than other peoples – just different. I was a hippie at the time I learned Tai Chi and that had a big influence on how I saw the form at the time. I was also into the performing arts – acting, directing, dance. I had no background in martial arts, but I soon realized it’s importance.
So use the 5 W’s to examine your own practice. Write your answers down. The more you become involved with your study and practice, the more enjoyment you will experience. I guarantee it.