|A living art|
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We live in a world where people are used to buying things. If you want a tattoo, you pay someone to ink it for you. If you want a flashy car, you go out and buy one.
The drawback with this is that people mistakenly believe that buying something means more than it does...
People love to show off their tattoos. Why? Did they design them? Did they ink them? Unlikely. They simply purchased them. The artist may deserve credit, but not the consumer.
The same would be true if you bought a 'prestige car' - Did you design it? Build it?
It is absurd to think you are going to get anywhere by
giving only an hour a week to your practice or that you can regularly skip
Martial arts is not like a bridge club, where you drop in when you have nothing better to do. Martial arts will always make greater demands on your time than would most hobbies or avocations.
Skills are not like commodities. They cannot be bought. If you buy a piano it doesn't just play itself. You have to do the work yourself.
The quality of the music is entirely contingent upon how skilfully you personally can play that piano.
Tai chi is akin to playing a piano. The art exists to the degree that you can produce the skills using your own body.
If you cannot move in a graceful, nimble, coordinated, agile, functional and pragmatic manner... there will be no music.
The quality of the tai chi is entirely determined by you. It cannot be bought or bullied into existence.
The quality of your tai chi is directly proportionate to the degree to which you invest in the art. If you are a 'toe dipper' - a tourist - then you will not get very far.
Attending class is not the same as training the art. Only by plunging fully into the training can you hope to gain real skill.
A physical grasp of tai chi requires commitment, sincerity, humility and a lifetime of practice.
Tai chi does not exist apart from you. It is not separate - like a car. It cannot be inked onto you - like a tattoo.
Your own body brings the art to life and the quality of what you produce is created entirely and only by you.
You are the art
The nature of your tai chi is entirely determined by you. If you have put everything into your art, then it will be rich, powerful, exciting, vibrant, fascinating and strong.
If you are just a poseur; then it will be reflected in your tai chi.
It cannot be forced
It is common for people to begin tai chi training with hyperbolic ambitions, only to falter and stop. Others become adept beginners but fail to climb any higher.
The failing is in the mind.
Strong mind, strong spirit
Tai chi does not require willpower. Instead you need: humour, patience, composure, integrity, faith, a critical mind and tenacity.
A willingness to do rather than simply talk. Quiet, humble, sustained resolve and daily practice will yield results.
As with all Tao and Zen-related arts, tai chi requires the individual to sublimate their ego, to allow their chattering mind to quieten and to immerse themselves in the moment.
When the mind is still, body and art become one.
The 'self'/ego get in the way. To move without self-consciousness and respond without contrivance: these are the goals of tai chi. It then becomes an artless art.
What is the point?
People buy a fancy car or purchase a tattoo in order to feel special or different or unusual. Yet, the very buying of these commodities simply affirms their ordinariness.
Becoming a true artist involves walking a path that few will ever take, to a destination hardly anyone will ever reach. It means a truly extraordinary life; a journey into the the unknown.
Upon reaching what is perceived as an ideal goal, the artist
discovers something entirely different. The artist is suddenly confronted
with the fact that what was thought of as perfection of technique was merely
the introduction to it.
An entirely new vista has opened. The artist must be prepared to turn his
gaze from the heights that have so recently been gained, and prepare for the
ascent of the peak suddenly found beyond them.
And so he sets off on a path to mysterious destinations. He does so in spite of observations by others that such a way is na´ve, outmoded or idealistic. He goes because he knows others have gone before, because the unchanging direction of the Way attracts and calls to him.
He goes because he is compelled. He sets out on a journey of a lifetime because he senses that this way is the one to lead him to a place very much worth the going.
1 July 2001
Last updated 13 January 2020