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Adjust when necessary to maintain biomechanical advantage. Rely on sensitivity, jing, balance and centre rather than force. Avoid extremes, over-stretching and excess.
In combat moderation is a vital concern. Tai chi is circular and requires the student to remain mobile, nimble, changeable and agile. Extremes of commitment leave the body vulnerable and exposed.
The opponent is encouraged to exhaust themselves, over-commit, lose balance and centre. Since there is no emotional content to the art, the attacker is defeated without anger, aggression or animosity.
Legally... 'reasonable force' is all about moderation.
There are no stretches or deep stances, no awkward moves or challenging positions. Good body use looks compact but not 'closed'.
Natural, easy, comfortable and light. Walk like a cat? Stepping is necessary and strategic. There is no striding or reaching.
Lao Tzu on moderation
Being moderate in tai chi conforms to the Taoist approach of not too much, not too little:
Softness overcomes hardness;
The formless is greater than form.
In the cold of winter,
In the heat of summer,
Only those who know
when enough is enough
Will ever have enough.
Less is better than more.
The course of least
is closest to most.
are easiest to break.
The best fighters are never angry.
When force is not used,
people do not resist.
What is not resisted,
cannot be opposed.
Soft and bending are the way of the living;
Hard and brittle are the way of the dying.
The sage returns
to the natural balance.
Those who bend
endure long after the unbending have
Those who stand on tiptoe
cannot maintain their balance.
If one is striding, he becomes tired.
Because the sage does not struggle
with the world,
The world does not resist.
The sage rarely uses force.
Because high winds and heavy rains
last only a short while.
Those who use force
soon exhaust themselves.
And what can be accomplished
with exhaustion and struggle?
Favour is given to the left hand
Rather than the right hand
Knowing when to stop
is the best way of avoiding trouble.
Avoiding extremes can keep you from:
Arguing with people
Eating too much
Eating a bad diet
Drinking too much
Having health issues
Losing your temper
Making poor choices
Spending too much time doing unproductive activities
Forgetting to rest
Loss of manual dexterity in the fingers
Reduced sex drive
Diminished brain activity
Sarcopenia (muscle loss with aging)
Reduced joint function
Imbalanced body use
Bad poise and posture
Lack of ambidexterity
Tai chi is all about finding balance between action & inaction, activity & rest, doing & not doing, mobility & stability, work & play, self & other.
27 June 1998
Last updated 16 June 2023