This video clip of Wu Style Grandmaster Wang Hao Da demonstrating his form shows his unique style. I’ve seen only one or two others who move like him and no one pinged opponents like he did. He was a student/disciple of the Ma Yueh Liang.
Tai chi is about changing the way you are accustomed to moving. People often work against themselves in tai chi. They provide their own resistance to their attempts to change how they move. You can describe how this is manifested in the physical movements. Though it sounds trite and cliché, we yin when we should yang, and yang when yin is a more efficient use of energy. For example, in horizontal circles or the taiji tu when shifting weight to the back leg, we often can catch ourselves pushing against the direction of the flow with the receiving leg. The yin-yang balance would be to yang out and down the front leg into the Earth and yin inward up into the back leg. A pumping motion moves each leg like a piston pumping up then down while the other receives the energy. The mind directs it and observes changes as they occur, the energy flows and the body follows. If you’re in the Durango area come by and say hello. This summer I will be leading free classes in Schneider Park on the river near 9th Street Bridge on Saturday’s at 11 am. It’s a great way to relax and meet new friends while learning a truly artful movement system. If you decide to come please let me know before you do.
Physical qi reacts to psychic or mental energy. If we resonate with what we are doing we are energized by it. We may suffer from fatigue, but we don’t know where it comes from. We sleep relatively well, we eat well, or so it seems, yet we are tired early in the day. We are sluggish, depleted. We are not doing what we truly love to do. Taiji is a useful tool to many who want to reconnect with their energetic selves. It is like an aid to reestablish that old familiar feeling of happiness and a good feeling of energy to spare, especially while we are making efforts to get back to what we love. Taiji gets in touch with your own internal pulse. It unifies your energies, connects deeply with your own sense of self and helps you to be comfortable in your own skin. Relax into yourself, do what you do, naturally.
You have to keep ploughing through to the other side of your practice to arrive at a particular level of understanding. When you do, you see why it’s worth trying in the first place. This is a magical moment that you can reach in the practice of tai chi. My favorite practitioners of taiji are so happy to be doing what they do that it is easy for them to practice everyday regardless if anyone is watching. Many of us have to get through when we don’t feel like it. Getting motivated is hard to do. Why it’s easy for some and difficult for others is a fascinating topic, but I couldn’t tell anyone why if they were to ask. All I know is that something compels some people to come to taiji class.
Many if not most people who have come to my class have never returned. I don’t really know why. Did it have to do with my teaching style or the information itself, or if they just don’t have the conviction. Some people dream of becoming healthier, to heal themselves. They try taiji perhaps to address those needs. Does anyone who quits practicing ever remember why they thought of taiji in the first place? That original spark of interest?
One thing I have concluded from my own experience is that it helps little to try convincing someone that something is good for them when they don’t accept it for themselves. They may know it’s true, but many would rather believe in something else. In my case, I acted in spite of my tendency to quit, in spite of my doubts. My thinking was that I wasn’t doing anything else worthwhile to improve my health anyway. Not an ideal line of thought, I guess; but effective.
Plus, I always admired the strength and graceful coordination of martial artists. The energetic effortlessness of their movements. They also seemed to merge healthy activities with philosophical views about the world and their place in it. Not that others don’t do that, but in martial arts I feel more like I’m thinking about my place in the world and society deliberately as part of my taiji practice. How you interact with others is not only a martial encounter. Martial training is an umbrella concept for any encounter, including peaceful. This is a more holistic approach for me.
The levels of taiji achievement are so numerous that for every one you reach another awaits discovery. Every internal martial arts system has this progression. Whatever style you study, or however many styles you study, you will find the same pattern of evolution in your practice. This is daunting for some, exhilarating for others, rewarding for everyone.
I’ve learned a lot about taiji over time. I have practiced for 13 years now. I’ve forgotten a lot, too. I have not practiced all of what I learned, so I forgot it. Early on, I forgot until I went home after class and practiced some more. I then was able to anchor my memory and really begin to learn.
I have taught taiji for half of that time. Form, basics, internal secrets as I know them; giving other learners with less experience ideas on how to practice moving energy, which for me is the ultimate activity of taiji. I would say that most of the people who have joined me to practice don’t go home and practice what was made available to them. I’m not sure they understand that home practice is key to fulfilling the very reasons why we look into taiji as a means of resolving some issue. Here is a photo of fellow practitioners who attended a seminar with Wang Ming Bo and Rose Oliver of Double Dragon Alliance and Shanti School of Taijiquan and Durango Tai Chi Instruction.
Some students don’t like explanations. They just want to do form without all the analysis. Some don’t even like visualization. Some don’t even want to do form. But that is okay in the end. Some are more interested in memory health and believe that doing taiji might be good for them as they age. Everyone is different. I call it doing a crossword puzzle with your body as compared to doing a crossword puzzle in your easy chair on a Sunday. We should be out doing body crosswords, and not just solving puzzles, but creating new ones for our selves and others to unravel.