Ten years of tai chi blogging

This is the tenth year of blogging about taijiquan and its mysteries. Nearly 400 posts read by readers in 74 countries. Amazing. The first post on December 5, 2011 was entitled “What is Tai Chi?” Of course, tai chi is many things to many people and articulating that from the perspective of my experience has been an engaging practice. I almost quit, but I haven’t. The urge to write just happens. Like with tai chi, through the mind clutter comes insight. Like tai chi, writing extends awareness beyond self and allows you to reap knowledge sowed by efforts to learn.

By practicing taijiquan, if you wish to exceed limitations, you learn to eschew cliché and convention. Similarly, word-crafting helps to clarify the view and helps others discover and organize their own views. In my case, taijiquan and qigong have been the focal point; but it could also be other forms, such as yoga, dance, and athletics, like running, skiing, swimming, bicycling, and so on.

When you’re at your best, you’re in nearly perfect yin and yang balance, the essential dynamic of taijiquan. Without perceiving these two points of taiji, you’re wouldn’t quite be doing taiji—the supreme ultimate expression of anything. In my mind, the greatest yogi is doing taiji—expressing the ultimate expression, manifesting it, giving it form and substance. As is the most masterful practitioner of internal martial arts that originated in China.

Five years ago, I shared an invocation, which I revised and share again here.

In your practice, you have to be ready to see
something you’ve never seen before,
to do something you’ve never done before,
to feel something you’ve never felt before,
to not get too surprised or overwhelmed
by whatever may knock you off your course,
or cause you to lose the concentration
that got you where you are. You have to be
ready for what you want; what you do this for.

Tai chi and choosing a path of change

“You want to change the world? Change yourself.” My Chinese martial arts teacher, George Xu, told me that once. Of course, I already knew that, but it’s always good to be reminded. You can’t get enough reminding, especially in the midst of living under the barrage that is this world in this time. Not that I think I can change the world, but I am interested in changing myself.

I’ve read also in a wellness course I’m taking that “all change is self-change.” For me, tai chi and qigong are tools for change. I began my practice for that reason, although it wasn’t foremost in my mind. I was taking a chance that it would help to solve a health problem. It was a desperate act of hope to alter an illness. It’s that way for many practitioners—deciding on tai chi to correct an affliction or to prevent problems in the future.

It’s not always clear how to change or what to change at first, however. We can know such new and unfamiliar modalities, that really are only hearsay at first, only by doing them. We might fear that they won’t work and we will have lost time and money, but we have to trust something, so we engage them, uncertain of the outcomes.

Isn’t that true all the time anyway? You can either trust others or yourself. Doctors, healers, priests, ministers, shamans come and go, and in the end you still have yourself. All these have value if placed correctly, but tai chi and qigong give you the wheel and allow you to do something about your health for yourself. We have in the end, and in the beginning as well, only our own best judgment to go on and act on the hope for fruitful outcomes and solved problems.

Reminder: Know where your central equilibrium is. Move around it, up and down its length. Forward and back. Straight, strong, alive. Flexible, always regenerating.

New Martial Arts Film May Be More Realistic

Haven’t seen it yet, but it might have some more real forms in it and not the edited snips many martial arts films have.


It’s Tai Chi Time…If I Could Find the Time


Many people would like to do tai chi but they can’t fit it into their busy, demanding lives. Tai chi is the easy part, actually. Time, energy, desire, and volition are more difficult to come by. Ironically, doing tai chi itself is a gateway to getting all that other stuff. Funny, huh?

I do tai chi and qigong everyday, if only for a few minutes. It wasn’t always easy to “find time,” so to speak; which sounds like time is something you find laying around waiting to pick up along the way.

I eventually did “find the time” and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I realized that time wasn’t the problem. Volition was. So was lack of creative juggling of not only time, but energy. Effort. Desire. Volition.

The hardest thing to break was the routine. All I really had to do was break the habit of doing what I was used to doing. Easier than I thought.

Taiji is all about control . . . . of body, of mind, of energy, of effort, of timing and pacing. These things apply on a grander scale, the “lifescale.” How to use time efficiently, for example, or energy, in order to achieve what you aim for every day.

So what drives you in whatever direction you seem to be going? If it’s not you, then what?

Paul Tim Richard studies and writes about Chinese internal martial arts and produces instructional videos of acknowledged master practitioners. He also teaches fundamental principles of taijiquan and qigong as learned from members of his lineage and others. He lives in Durango, Colorado and travels often for study and teaching. Learn more at fourcornerstaichi.net.

A Tai Chi Visit on a Tai Chi Journey

Martial arts is a pleasurable obsession for many who choose fighting arts for a lifelong pursuit. It’s easy to see how they would. Every choice to practice is potentially life-altering. You can study and practice for lifetimes and reap unending rewards for your effort. Even if you seek moderate forms of relaxation and exercise, such as tai chi, it’s still easy to become fascinated by the subject.

Since taijiquan came to this continent nearly a century ago, dedicated disciples of a few Chinese expatriates (E.g., Cheng Man Ching, William C.C. Chen and T.T. Liang) have published a rather vast literature of knowledge gleaned from their teachers.

Many of these disciple-students are known by their works and still write and teach, having evolved experiences into their own unique expressions of their arts. Many have died (Robert W. Smith comes to mind), but luckily for us they all leave behind priceless information.

Many more accomplished practitioners don’t write at all, don’t put themselves “out there” that way. They are not well-known, or not known at all. Perhaps a few people train with them, maybe none.

These practitioners immerse themselves in thought, study, and practice of tai chi and other internal fighting arts. They read the literature incessantly. Home library shelves sag with the weight of books on techniques, methods and histories. Many neither need nor seek fighting skills. They are simply fascinated.

In my own quest to answer questions about the direction my own practice should go, I recently visited one of these multi-talented martial artists.

Although I have fairly intensively studied and practiced tai chi and other Chinese internal martial art forms for almost 20 years, I know I have only scratched the surface. I have climbed a mountain, and after finally reaching the top through years of struggle, only now do I see how far there is to go. I also see potential ways to get there.

I figured that my kung fu friend, William Johnson, a life-long student of martial arts, could help delineate potential routes. I was right. He spoke for hours, deftly demonstrating his knowledge about all kinds of martial arts. In fact, Bill is a walking, talking encyclopedia. He has the obsession. He was very open to sharing information, too. I think that he was happy to see someone take time to talk.

I went to visit him in Grand Junction, Colorado with Shifu Susan A. Matthews, who has the obsession, too. We stayed over night, not even 24 hours, and Bill talked excitedly about various martial styles and their effectiveness, and people he studied under and their approach to teaching. We conversed about techniques and applications, methods and results, about books and videos and weapons, and about qigong, a major topic of conversation, probably because he is currently studying the Fire Dragon Meridian Qigong.

Shifu Bill began Tae Kwon Do at the age of 13 and for his dedication was awarded national championship 30 years ago. His dedication to continued learning and perfecting his knowledge and skills impresses me. In his sixties, even though he teaches workshops and has private students, he is immersed in some learning project daily.

Tai chi is an art that needs regular if not constant attention in order to reap the fullest benefits. I’m not talking about working harder, rather about enjoying learning. I’m talking about bridging the gap between novice and erudite. Even if you are a novice, if you’re not at least thinking about your chosen art everyday, you’re not learning as much. This is useful to know. Many beginning students of tai chi, for example, will attend a weekly class, but do little solo practice between classes.

Shifu Bill possesses golden nuggets of knowledge that even novice practitioners can glean. He talked about his Grandmaster T. T. Liang and Waysun Liao, and many others. It was fun hearing stories of the historical martial arts figures. He brims over with information; he can’t get it out fast enough, pouring out whatever he could given time and language constraints . . . Speaking rapidly and constantly, as if needing to hear it himself, to instill into his experiences more corporeality and substantiate them in his own mind.

Most of us don’t have the time to digest so much information, but it’s good to know we still have such erudite practitioners as Bill among us still. I’m sure many others live among us, open to sharing their deep knowledge and experience, and who enjoy a good visit. . . . who deserve acknowledgement for their accomplishments.

I left Grand Junction with a renewed sense of fascination with martial arts in general and of martial artists themselves and what motivates them to be who they are and pursue their art. In fact, my visit stimulated me to write about it. The journey continues.