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The situation in which something is located or operates has tremendous bearing upon its nature. Meaning is determined by context.
Context is essential; it grounds a subject by its specificity - it binds and knits together.
It is important to establish the context from the onset. Context represents a framework for the information that follows - a box within which subsequent insights may be placed.
By establishing the context, your information will be correctly associated.
The problem with context is that everybody has a different life experience. We have been educated differently and our upbringing, opinions, memories and tastes colour our perception of reality.
Establishing a base line for context can be quite a difficult task.
You need to pare the subject right down to the essentials and make no assumptions concerning the background and experience of the student.
Context narrows down the field of study. A statement such as "It is hot!" has no meaning unless you can determine what "it" is.
"It" might well be the weather, a cup of green tea, a bath... Or the speaker may be using slang to refer to something they perceive as being impressive.
When the context is muddled, the understanding becomes twisted.
With Sifu Waller's approach to taijiquan the syllabus is quite sophisticated.
It introduces a variety of fundamental tai chi principles which enable the student to build the appropriate foundation for the material to follow.
Students are invited to explore the principles solo and with a partner in order to better grasp the significance of the insights.
By spending quite a lot of time working through the underlying material, beginners develop the necessary context.
Instead of seeing taijiquan in terms of karate, wing chun, kickboxing or ju jitsu - they see taijiquan in terms of the Tao.
Taoism is not a religion. It is a form of physics, where the properties and power of the natural world can be observed and understood.
We learn to move with the flow rather than against it. To use softness and allowing instead of force and tension.
If you begin your tai chi training with the appropriate context, you cannot go far astray:
Taijiquan is a
- tai chi for health practice is not authentic
- you must be capable of applying your taijiquan against a wide variety of realistic attacks
- combat involves much more than form applications and pushing hands
Taijiquan does not
use muscular tension and
- it is a soft martial art
- the body remains loose and free at all times
- a free body and mind are spontaneous
- jing is employed rather than force
Taijiquan is about
'how' you use your body rather than 'what' you
do with it
- it is means, process-oriented
- the unique taijiquan way of moving the body is paramount
- everything stems from neigong
- 'form collecting' is pointless; focus on the how rather than the what
the principles observed by Taoism
- Taoism identified natural ways of doing things and documented the benefits
- The Tai Chi Classics, Tao Te Ching, I Ching and many other books have utilised this knowledge
- a keen grasp of the Tao and Zen is necessary
more than simply an
- it is an attitude
- taijiquan is an approach to living
This is where your context must
The farther you stray from these initial facts, the more twisted your
training will become.
In truth, these are not the only concerns, but they are a good place to start. Establish context.
Freedom in tai chi
A tai chi person has tremendous liberty. They can do whatever they want providing it adheres to the central principles of tai chi.
Your tai chi must be performed within the context of the key principles. Providing you follow these criteria, the character of your practice will be tai chi.
If you chose to move your arms independently of the torso, or employed contracted musculature, you will have lost that context and no longer be performing tai chi.
Seeing the false
In everyday life people identify with celebrities, media figures or even individuals they encounter on the street or at work. They see what they want to see.
When you interact with somebody, are you seeing that person as they are or do you have an image of them, an impression?
The image we have in our heads is not reality; it is often an idealised perception of that person, a distorted view of them.
Seeing the truth
Remember context. It will help you to see the truth. o see things as they really are.
For example: The actor, celebrity, singer is simply a performance artist. They are merely another person, just like you.
They eat, sleep, defecate, worry, live and die. Money, popularity or talent does not make them any more or less significant than anybody else.
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.
18 March 1997
Last updated 10 April 2019