Movements in Sequence- Soft Like a Flower
In the beginning your body is not used to the movements and finds them difficult. For this reason the traditional admonition regarding practice is, “At first open up, then be precise.” In other words, you must first learn to open up the body; only then can you work out the details of the movement. If you are serious about learning the art of Tai Chi, it is better to do a set and feel clumsy, because you are conscious of what you are doing, than it is to do a set where you feel great but are not conscious of what you are doing.
Sometimes when you are practicing a thought comes and will not go away. Usually if you lower your stance the thought will vanish. But if it stubbornly remains breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth; blow the thought away.
if you are fully aware and breathing properly as you move, everything is connected and moving together, then practice helps your insides to function in great harmony. You will still be able to do this when you are very old: you can still have some skill even though your body movements may be limited to old age.
When you practice you should be relaxed, not tense or stiff. There is a major misconception among many teachers and students that “relaxed” means limp and sagging. This is not so. “Relaxed” means no excess tensions or anxiety, yet being alert and vibrant, like a cat moving or a bird in flight. You need to find out how to be soft, use minimum power, yet keep everything spirited and alive, like new buds shooting up.
Learn to be relaxed yet alive and alert.
Sometimes the name of the move suggests the nature or function of that move, other times it does not. The names now used for the moves differ from those used in the past.
In the old days printing was difficult and expensive; books were comparatively few. Also, many martial arts teachers did not have a literacy education, so they could not read the classics. Hence the names of the moves were transmitted orally.
Many people taught and did Tai Chi sequences. Some added new moves and named them, others ran moves together and gave the combined move a name. Also different Chinese dialects pronounce the names differently, thus students sometimes re-interpreted the name pronounced by the teacher. All this led to changes in the names for the moves.
The first know books for Tai Chi Chuan were published in the early 1900s. This was also the first time the names for the moves were published. After that many books about Tai Chi Chuan appeared.
More people learned to read in the Twentieth Century than formally, and more books were published. Better-educated people often thought the orally transmitted names were to mundane, and altered them to sound more poetic.
Originally there was no name for the preparatory time in the set, and none for the ending time. But now to make the names complete the beginning is called “Origin of Tai Chi,”and the ending is called “Back to Tai Chi.”
“Origin of Tai Chi,” and “Back to Tais Chi,” refer to Ultimate Origin, Non-Origin, a highly symbolic way of indicating that all is complete and new.
But do not be trapped by all theses words. A name is merely a name. Forget language, practice and understand.
Level 1: Paraphrasing-
When you start to practice you will find it hard to move since you do not know how to move. The classic lecture about practicing Tai Chi is that you need to first open your body before you can think about doing the moves correctly. You have to have an open mind and open body before you can change how you move. To honestly master Tai Chi, with artistry, begin by paying attention to how awkward your moves are. Mindlessly going through the movements to feel better is not Tai Chi.
As you practice Tai Chi, thoughts will occasionally enter your mind and not leave. When these thoughts appear sink down in your Tai chi position to get rid of them. If the thought is still there, breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Blow your thoughts away!
When your movements flow together as one, with awareness on your breath, you help your organs flow together as one. No matter what age, you can still practice the art of Tai Chi.
Be loose during your practice not tight and rigid. Being loose does not mean drooping down. You need to be balanced, not loose, tight, or uptight. Seek the middle way physically and emotionally. Flow like a bird flying or a cat stretching. Discover how to be soft, yet vibrantly alive, with the least amount of energy possible. Be a flower bud rising in the warm light.
Practice with soft intensity and loving awareness.
The names of the moves occasionally describe the purpose of the move and other times it doesn’t. The names have changed over time.
Before the Industrial Revolution there were few books on Tai Chi. There were a very few classic books but many Wushu teachers could not read. As a result, the names of the moves were passed on by word of mouth.
Tai Chi courses began to be taught by a lot of people. New moves were developed and named. Old moves were mixed together to create new moves with new names. The use of different Chinese dialects caused confusion when different teachers stated the names of the moves. As a result the names of the moves changed.
The first Tai Chi books we know of came to light in the early 20th Century. This was the first time the moves names were put into print. Later many books were written on Tai Chi.
As more books were published in the early 1900’s, more people learned how to read. Many in this new cultivated population thought the word of mouth names were to ordinary. So they changed the sound of the names to be more in rhythm with nature.
In the beginning there was no name for how you started and how you ended your Tai Chi practice. The beginning of practice is now called “Origin of Tai Chi,” and the end of practice is called “Back to Tai Chi.”
“Origin of Tai Chi,” is the Ultimate Origin, or what is original. “Back to Tai Chi,” is the Non-Origin, or what is new.
Don’t get attached to the verbiage. A name just labels something. Talk is cheap. Practice to uncover understanding.
Level 2: Explicating-
- State the main point.
- Reading and talking about Tai Chi is an effective way to introduce yourself to what Tai Chi is and where it came from. However, to know Tai Chi you must practice Tai Chi with soft intensity and loving awareness.
- In other words….
- Talking and reading about Tai Chi is not learning Tai Chi. Practice Tai Chi, with feather artistry, to master Tai Chi.
- For example…
- You can read and talk about something all day long, but unless you practice doing something, you will not master anything.
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