Taiji is a martial art at its roots. That means that you are learning to engage with an opponent. But since we are not living in times of warfare as those times during which taiji came into being the meaning of “opponent” has new meanings that perhaps it didn’t used to have. If you are going to learn technique and applications, you will be able to apply them to an physical opponent in battle. In my journey we have learned to see opponent in new ways. One for example is to see yourself as opponent. Your weaknesses. To stalk yourself. To be observant and listen to yourself while you move. To learn to move from a point and return to it. To expand and shrink, yang yin yang. To lead the chi with the yi and the physical with chi. To pull the silk, not push it. To find wuqi even in the midst of movement. The opponent is the resistance to these things in taiji.
Pouring water from a measuring cup into tea pot. If you hesitate the water backs off. This is hesitation in tai chi. Listening to the dripping of a leaking water faucet at night while you lie in bed. You can’t sleep. You await the next plop, then the next. This is anticipation in tai chi. Standing on one leg and moving in the form unable to maintain your balance, your muscles quiver and you must fall out of form. This is using muscles rather than going deeper to move from a source within. The mind must concentrate more fully in these cases. You must be in the present moment, without hesitation, without anticipation, without clenching and quivering. Tai chi is the resolution of these superficial restraints.