The way of Tai Chi
There are a lot of differing ideas as to how or even what Tai Chi is, a martial art, a meditation, a health practice, even a allegory on life's journey.
With so much confusion and personal agendas tied to market forces the truth often lies hidden or obscured more so as translations have in the past been vague or poor as to Tai Chi principles and concepts how do we know the truth of what Tai Chi is? The obvious way is simply to practice, as my master pointed out on the death of his master "If Tai Chi was forgotten for a thousand years one could still practice Tai Chi because it is based on natural principles." He also added that at a certain level Tai Chi will teach you!
Tai chi is like an onion it has many layers and each layer reveals itself to you only with time and effort. Tai Chi implies change that change comes with practice and guidance. But be warned If you miss by an inch at the beginning in five years you will have missed by a mile.
So the first step in practicing Tai Chi is to find a reputable teacher.
I travelled for over an hour to train with my master and later I would travel two hundred miles each week. One of his students found this puzzling "why he asked is there no one nearer? Of course I replied but you come here to train with a Tai Chi teacher I travel all this way with a Tai Chi Master. The difference is only in perception though experience. Yet I noticed that under his guidance I cannot say that I learnt anything new more that he taught me discernment what needed emphasis and what needed refinement and kept me from wandering off in some distorted direction, the rest is up to you.
The other problem I often encountered was one of authenticity. Did you learn in China? When the reply is in the negative you see a cloud cross their face. Or...."You are wasting your time mate!" A guy accosted me whilst waiting outside the studio for my master to turn up. Why I asked "well you are not Chinese are you so you'll never really learn that stuff, they are born with it its in their blood.!"
I do not speak Chinese I decided many years ago to learn the language in order to increase my understanding of Tai Chi, and I might add I thought also in the belief that speaking Chinese would bring me a sense of authority to my teaching. My language teacher asked me to bring in some text by way of focusing my study which I duly did, she looked at the text I offered looked up at me and said I have no idea what this means. Implying that although she could translate some of the characters she was by no means clear as to there exact meaning. It dawned on me then that understanding the language would not help so I gave it up.
Tai Chi is an experiential language and that experience can only it seems be attained with practice. The songs and aphorisms that are at the heart of Tai Chi principles and concepts are not meant to teach, but act I believe as milestones to recognise you are on the right path.
So to conclude this first post I will point out there is no right or absolute way of practicing Tai Chi. A good teacher can appear from anywhere a master is a little rarer. One form or method is not intrinsically superior to another. We are all travelling our life path it is your journey. Tai Chi can help you make sense of your path. To realise this; is to truly begin your journey you then walk the way of the masters or else you have to ask yourself are you simply just performing Tai Chi.