A lady of tai chi
Written by Rachel

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The refined art

Traditionally tai chi was only practiced by the aristocracy, the wealthy, military officers and the literati. Chinese peasants, merchants and everyday folk did not have the opportunity to study the art.
This is understandable in a feudal society.

A lady of tai chi

Tai chi was held to be a refined practice; alongside playing classical music, writing poetry, calligraphy or painting Taoist art.
In China, a lady of tai chi would always ensure that she dressed appropriately. Her attire signified elegance, grace, femininity and dignity.
The idea is simple - if you dress the part, you feel the part - and pretty soon you act the part.

Accentuate the female

Asian women adopted the practice of wearing thin tights/stockings centuries ago. How come? Modesty, leg health, protection, improved circulation and aesthetics.
Tights to serve to accentuate your femaleness...
See comparison: https://crumpetkitten.blogspot.com/2020/03/which-look-best-with-or-without-tights.html

Dress like a girl and you will fight like a girl

The absolute worst thing that a woman can do in combat is to emulate how a man operates. Our muscle mass/fat distribution is different, and we're not prey to testosterone and aggression.
You need to feel and function as a woman - hence the skirt and tights - a physical reminder that you're not a man?

Valuing the female

Attempting to copy men is pointless. It also devalues your own sex. Tai chi encourages you to be cat-like. Sleek, soft, cunning.

Reverence of the female

Unlike most philosophical traditions, Taoism values women. The attributes of women were carefully watched and examined.
Men tend to be direct and confrontational, often clumsy and aggressive, whereas women can be gentler, more subtle and intelligent. These same female characteristics are to be found in tai chi.


The appreciation of virtue has long been applied to people. Dance and fashion make use of virtue constantly.
The femaleness of women is accentuated by costume and poise. A flamenco dancer represents femininity, passion, elegance and strength.
There is nothing masculine about the expression, body language, voice and mannerisms. By expressing the characteristics of woman-ness, the dancer is true to her nature.

'Femininity' means accentuating your gender. Wearing clothing, make-up etc that flatters your form and colouring, behaving in a manner congruent with being a woman. 'Feminism' is a tricky one. Yes, we want to be treated equally. Everyone does. But we don't want to have to dress and act like a man in order to accomplish this. I guess that Margaret Thatcher serves as an example of feminism-gone-wrong. In the UK she was caricatured in the 1980's; portrayed as a woman who had turned into a man.

When I see other women in my everyday life, so many have adopted the body language, mannerisms, facial expressions and gait of men. They look like transvestites. Is this a mean thing to say? No; it's just an observation. I don't think that women should totter around in fluffy, high heeled shoes.... but becoming men seems to somehow defeat the point of equal rights. Is equality to be interpreted as 'the same as men'? This seems silly, since we're not. We are different, and if we can't have equality as women, what exactly is the point? This ties in with the 'science of the essence', and 'te'; where power comes from being true to our inherent nature.



Malaysian film actress Michelle Yeoh beautifully balances femininity, grace, agility, strength and martial skill in the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The actress was 38 years old at the time.
See her vigour?


Japanese, Korean and Chinese women are some of the best dressed professionals in the world. They look really smart in contrast with many of their Western counterparts.
Yet, the attire is simple: skirt, blouse, jacket, low heels, hosiery, no jewellery, no fancy nail treatment, modest haircut.


Thin tights/stockings are the norm throughout Asia for women. Asian women consider thin hosiery to be
quintessentially feminine and wear them pretty much all the time.
Traditionally skin colour/tan throughout the day and black for evening wear.


Hosiery makes the skin of the legs look sleek, smooth, flawless and perfect. It accentuates the curves; adding contour and shading.
In Asia not wearing hosiery would be seen as selling yourself short; akin to not washing/styling your hair or going without shoes.


The use of sheer fabric to emphasise and accentuate femininity goes right back to biblical times. The 'dance of the seven veils'? Sheer fabric serves to both reveal and conceal; a nice ambiguity?


There is an Asian saying
"Only a monkey shows it's feet"... It means that whilst bare feet are quite natural, they are not refined/elegant to look at.
An Asian woman recognises that bare feet with bulging veins and dry skin are exceedingly ugly/uncouth.
That thin layer of fabric transforms ugliness into beauty.
I once watched the film Memoirs of a Geisha and was pleased to hear a very elegant lady quote the Japanese version of the 'monkey feet' maxim mentioned above.

Why don't many Western women wear tights?

That's easy... TV.
In the late 1990's Ally McBeal, Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives all featured bare legged American women living the 'baby boomer' lifestyle e.g. drinking red wine from large glasses.
Ironically, hosiery was used to promote Desperate Housewives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RAdATu-uNQ & https://i.pinimg.com/564x/00/be/41/00be413d2618c0411fad0fc6ac79d630.jpg)
This look caught on and the fashion of not wearing hosiery took off.

A beautiful woman, no matter how lovely her skin, would be considered indecent were she to show her feet in the presence of others.

(Junichiro Tanizaki)


Considering that few women are living in LA or Miami and the weather in the UK is rather chilly, it seems implausible that women would stop wearing hosiery. But they did. 
In the last decade most women have returned to wearing tights but a few people still cling to 1990's fashion influences.

Asia & Europe

Asian and European women were not influenced by Ally McBeal, Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives and to this day purchase more pairs of tights and stockings than anywhere else in the world.
This is not a fetish. It is purely practical and pragmatic. Wearing hosiery is seen as no different to wearing a bra or indeed shoes.


Stockings are great providing you invest in a good quality suspender belt. Nicola by stockingirl is the best I've ever come across. Super comfortable.


Subtlety is a by-product of simplicity. When your style and mannerisms become subtle, few will appreciate your wit because it is too slight to be noticed.
Folded within your conduct, it is manifest only in the smallest detail. Devoid of glamour and extremes, it will look easy and effortless: nothing remarkable at all.


'Elegance' is a misunderstood term. It is the art of loss; paring away everything that can be removed until only the absolute essence remains.
The trick is to accentuate the female without being coarse or blunt.


Speech can be a way to share good feeling and humour. But it is not always positive. Speech can be used to dominate a situation. It can make someone the centre of attention.
Talk can also hide insecurities. Often people talk when they really have nothing to say.


Telling people everything about yourself is unnecessary. Firstly, people do not care. They have their own lives and their own concerns.
Secondly, it can make you seem mundane. Sharing every vulgar aspect of your life is not alluring.
Cultivating some degree of mystery can help to keep you interesting. Sharing is good. But withholding is also prudent.

Selling yourself cheap

Telling people about yourself or revealing information without prudence can lead people to undervalue your worth. When you share things without caution, others will take you for granted.
Be aloof. Only reveal what you want to reveal to those you want to share it with. Do not be an exhibitionist.

Pearls before swine?

Sharing information is only worthwhile if your audience possesses the wherewithal to comprehend the significance of what is being revealed.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.



Items of quality should not be offered to those who are not cultured enough to appreciate them.


In Japan the term 'shy' refers to women who are intelligent. It does not mean insecure or nervous.
Demure, subtle, refined behaviour is seen as being smart. The shy woman watches and learns; she is reserved and patient.
Silence is the ultimate mystique. Not the quietude of insolence, but rather the wit of the unspoken, the omitted.
A subtle facial expression or change in poise can reveal far more than a paragraph of words.

Bad emotions

Many modern women are angry. They see it as being powerful. It is not. Venting your anger may offer a short-term feeling of gratification but in the long run it is unhealthy.
Anger is a dangerous emotion. Toxic. It narrows the consciousness and limits your perception of things. Anger warps your sense of perspective.

Emotional balance

Learning how to let-go of negativity and forgive others is an incredibly challenging task. Setting aside the burden of bitterness and anger may seem unsatisfying.
Yet it will free you from the responsibility of carrying it with you for the rest of your life.
Look directly at a situation that upsets you and consider it fully. Be honest about how it makes you feel. Now, seek to find the good parts, and reflect upon them.
Aim to be generous and honest about how and why they were good. Then move on...


Some women have difficulty coping with the reality of freedom. They want reassurance, support and guidance. This is 'learned helplessness'.
Freedom is not a reaction or response to something. It is not a rejection of the rules, it is not rebellion.
It is a realisation. Freedom is knowing that you are a part of everything else; it is an understanding that all of the conditioning and barriers built throughout your life mean nothing.

Cultural values

Your response to events is a learned, conditioned one. Not all cultures think as we do. For example: the Japanese attitude towards guilt is fundamentally different to the English one.
Shinto (the Japanese native religion) has no concept of guilt. Do not be too hard on yourself. There is no universal standard. Being human is OK.


Men are strong in the upper body, and proportionately weaker in the lower body, like an upside-down pyramid.
Women are the opposite, with most of the strength residing in the hips, buttocks and legs: a regular pyramid.
Chinese martial arts usually encourage men to emulate women by focussing on the use of the lower body. It gives a strong foundation and balances out their strength.


Women need to avoid using the upper body for strength, and cultivate movement that comes from their lower half. Ideally, the arms and shoulders should do very little.

Leg strength

A woman cannot reasonably hope for success when she uses her upper body for strength against a male opponent.
Biology is against you. You need to think about your lower body, in particular your legs.
When you measure the size of leg muscles relative to arms, you find that the leg muscles are significantly larger and can produce vastly more power.
Connect your arms to your back, and use your legs to drive your movements.

Lower body

Ensure that the legs are responsible for power. Imagine that you are pulling or pushing using your waist and legs as a starting point.
Moving your hips will cause the torso to move. The centre of gravity is in the intestines because they contain the largest volume of water in the body.
When the lower body leads the action, everything else follows.


What can you do with your feet? Feet are tactile, and can be used to great advantage. When the focus in our culture is so often on the hands, the use of the feet is unexpected.

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Page created 26 November 2007
Last updated 09 March 2020