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Six years ago, I started doing Tai Chi Chuan because I wanted to feel as light as a feather and as strong as a rock, as the leaflet suggested. Apart from a vague idea about this Chinese martial art I had little insight and no expectations. Today, I feel grateful it is part of my life, and so lucky to have found a style and the teacher that suit me.
What Is Tai Chi?
Originally designed as a self-defense discipline, Tai Chi has now evolved into an entirely different martial art: by practicing Tai Chi, you fight stress and anxiety. With a belief system dating back to the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng from the 12th century, it is influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. The phrase "t'ai chi ch'uan" roughly means "boundless fist".
Tai Chi comes in five distinct styles:
- Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style
It is the authentic Yang Style I’ve been learning, with a devoted student and a master himself. "Let the pain entertain you". he said during my first Qi Gong position. How insensitive, I thought, feeling stiff, pained and unnatural. When I do Qi Gong these days, it is that memory that entertains me, because there is no more pain, and no need to explain the benefits of Qi Gong – I can feel the energy bubbling up and my body getting charged, and I can move on to practicing the form. In my six years of practicing, more or less regularly, I’ve learnt the 108 positions of the form, linked together with slow transitional, yin-yang movements.
And about a year ago, just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, he introduced a new way of doing it: the yin-yang form, where I’m learning to recognise the moment a Yin position turns into Yang, and vice-versa. A new element, bringing you back to the beginning in a way, but revealing a whole new level of the form.
In the beginning, anxious to move ahead I kept pestering my teacher about the next position, the next level. And patiently he gave me very cagey answers I wasn’t happy with. But as time went by and I began to accept the pace of progress and relax into it, it became clear that there’s no running before you can walk in Tai Chi, and there’s no clear idea of the long term goals. So quickly, my one and only goal with Tai Chi became to let it bring my body and my mind back into balance, to calm the thoughts running through my mind, distracting me from the simple "basic goodness" of existence, and heal my body of all the aches and pains caused by modern daily routines, connect to the world around me, tap into that universal life force, and let it flow through me.
I feel a glimpse of this, from time to time, moments of being physically healed and mentally cleansed and comfortable in my own skin. And it is worth it, particularly because life these days has a way of pulling you into disorder and disbalance. So I don’t ask about how many more positions there are, how many ways of doing the form. I trust my teacher to reveal the secrets to me when I am ready.