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Tai chi classes can seem quite boring initially to people seeking novelty and wonder. After the acrobatic martial arts seen in the movies, a real-life class is otherworldly in its lack of excitement.
Our class follows a Zen path and encourages the student to find wonder in the ordinary, not in novelty. Simplicity and awareness are the key.
We keep our students grounded in the real.
Beginners are shown beginners skills, and then taught how to perform the same thing themselves.
The science of the exercise is explained carefully, and then re-considered later from a different perspective. The syllabus is self-reinforcing, with the material spiralling around.
Learn then revise
A topic is introduced and explored, then a different topic is covered. Eventually, you return to the initial topic and see it now with different eyes - wiser and more informed.
Students learn how to follow their natural inclinations, understand things for themselves and find the simplest route.
The syllabus is like a jigsaw. The lower grades build the foundation, the edge of the picture.
The more experienced students fill in the middle and the advanced people work to understand the composite product and its potential. This process takes a lot of time, with years of practice necessary.
There are amazing skills to be found in tai chi... but you must persevere if you hope to be taught them. Do not expect anything showy. The abilities are small and subtle, innocuous and unexpected.
Taijiquan skill does produce incredible striking power (with and without fa jing), along with the capacity to escape and counter in ways that differ radically from the mainstream martial arts.
It also makes you feel good: relaxed, dreamy, happy and strong. Your body moves comfortably and easily.
As you work through the martial syllabus you find that you can do more using less effort, move less without losing power, be softer and feel harder.
These apparent contradictions pile up, and you either stop resisting them and accept, or you quit in frustration because reality does not fit your ideas.
Once you stop fighting with yourself, the conflict dissipates and you move in accord with the material - and your skills grow rapidly.
You can perform powerful strikes and improbable escapes without effort and the apparently amazing becomes commonplace.
Literally doing it
Lao Tzu commented that his words were easy to read and understand, but nobody would put them into practice.
This is one barrier facing you in tai chi: you must apply the principles in reality if you want them to work. 'Having a go' is not enough - you cannot merely try - you must lose yourself entirely in the doing.
Can you set aside preconceptions and previous experience in the martial arts? Is it possible to remain composed? Will you earnestly yield? Are you prepared to be soft at all times and never tense up?
Unless you earnestly start doing the tai chi - every movement and every response imbued with the principles - you will remain a beginner indefinitely.
When a student 'gets it', they usually laugh out loud in wonder. They are privy to some inexplicable insight that cannot easily be articulated. Student remarks:
"It all seems so obvious."
"I can see you do it but I just can't believe it."
"I never would have thought of it, yet how else could it be done?"
"It is counter-intuitive, but somehow utterly logical."
"This is so easy and so natural."
"It is a kind of physics, isn't it?"
"But I felt like I'd done nothing."
"My opponent has to be faking it."
"You don't look to be doing anything."
The student is astounded
by the art.
After months of regular practice, the
misconceptions and stubbornness have begun to fall away - and they start to
It is a moment of awakening - the first of many - and they see the syllabus in a whole new way. Exercises and drills that once seemed pointless are now laden with meaning and potential.
They see the wonder of it all.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 29 September 2019