Monday, November 22, 2010

Classical Tai Chi is systematic and conceptual

From time to time I recruit students who tell me they can attest to Tai Chi as a kind of spiritual practice which is loosely based on the New Age Movement and I quote here from Wikipedia and a definition of "New Age Movement":

"New Age movement is a spiritual and quasi-religious Western movement that developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Its central precepts revolve around "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-helpand motivational psychologyholistic healthparapsychology, consciousness research andquantum physics"[2] 

They will undoubtedly be saddened by what I write here which will  lead to the failure of their expectations:

First of all and I quote from the Classical Tai Chi Forum by Stephen Hwa:

Volume 7, December 2003

"... writings about the current practice of Tai Chi only date back about three hundred
years, with a majority of Tai Chi books published in the last seventy years in China. From
the writings I read, I have not seen any tie in between Tai Chi and Taoism aside from
those mentioned above. None of the writings cross over the boundary into metaphysical
or spiritual writing. It seems that only very recently, especially in the west, that
association between Tai Chi and Taoism and spiritualism becomes more common.
Several times when I gave a talk about Tai Chi in public, I was asked about the spiritual
side of Tai Chi. I know that my answer disappointed the questioners..."

Second, and I quote from "Uncovering the Treasure" by Stephen Hwa

Page 137

"Chinese philosophies are well known for their profound visions and eloquent ideas.  They often appear to be abstract and distant from personal practical application.  Yet in Classical Tai Chi, these philosophies are applied systematically not just conceptually, but in actual physical applications where the practitioner can personally sense and appreciate the implications of these philosophical ideas".

To sum up this systematic aspect of the philosophies of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Sun Tzu, I Ching, Kongfuzi (Confucius).  I offer the following poem from Young Wabu (Young Laoshi) who was Stephen Hwa's (Hwa Laoshi) teacher. I quote from Classical Tai Chi Forum 13, August 2005 and in Memoriam to Grandmaster Young:

"In Memory of my beloved teacher, Grandmaster Young Wabu
My teacher, Grandmaster Young Wabu passed away on April 18, 2005 at age of 101.
With his passing, we have lost a precious link to the golden age of tai chi, the period from
Yang Lu-Chan to Wu Chian-Chuan...


Lao Tse, I Ching, Confucius, Shuan Tse
Studying Tai Chi you follow all these.
Within the rules any movement is tranquility,
Outside the rules any quietude is turmoil.

Solid but not dull.
Familiar yet retaining details.
Hands never above head,
Elbows never behind waist,
Knees never beyond toes.

Square and Round, Right and Left
Large, Medium, Small and Compact
All forms follow the rules.
The Square exactly
The Round more freely, yet precise.

Hands and feet have Yin and Yang,
And segments of the 4 limbs match the 8 trigrams
In harmony with the Universe.

Mind and body return to Nature
Mind leading, movements following,
Fitness, defense and healing result.

Neither detaching from nor blocking an opponent,
Leam to yield while retaining control.
Increase in sensitivity allows use of strategy
And virtue grows along with technique.

Each moment treasure and perfect the art.
Difficult diseases will be cured,
The Tai Chi Way will be perpetuated
And all will benefit.

Recorded by Leung Chan Ying and translated by Linyi Yeung & Paul Maslin


Rick said...

I don't know about TCC as a spiritual practice; all I know is that when I'm practicing regularly, my mind is calm and clear.

I haven't found many answers, but the questions seem to fade away.

Tai Chi Tiger said...

Thank you for your post. Personally I have never understood the meaning of the word "spiritual". I have however truly enjoyed the practical applications of taoism. I.e. tai chi as a direct expression of the philosophy of yi, the i ching. And the taoist religion as very practical: if you are a good taoist you can DO.

Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo said...

There is no "new age" Tai Chi, there was however a "golden age" when all those great masters were alive. In fact, Taoist Philosophy rejects any such dichotomy between a "spiritual" life and a "physical". Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu) would ask "what makes you think there is a difference between picking your nose and "rising to heavenly heights...spiritually"? That glass of water is not "half full", nor is it "half empty" is half water and half air...completely full and fine just the way it is. That is its nature...