I recently had 2 elderly people express so much interest in taking Classical Taiji that they were willing to pay double to take a class. This was up until I asked if they had seen a video of what we do and I directed them to “Tao of Martial Applications” and other videos at Parea10. I’m reasonably sure they decided not to start based on what they saw of a student being hit with a one inch punch.
I can hear the conversation now: “Why do you want to go to this, I don’t want to fight?” or, “this is not Tai Chi, these people are fighting with one another”, etc., etc. Needless to say, they did not turn up for the Tuesday class, nor did I get “double the tuition”. I assume that they had heard Tai Chi was loaded with health benefits and also based on that “introductory Tai Chi” class they had taken before, they were ready to wade right in. I do not like to fight as well but that never stopped anyone from mugging me. So, don’t fight, run away at top speed from muggers but just remember that Tai Chi is a martial art and the health benefits are inextricably linked with the martial aspect.
What does this mean “linked with the martial aspect”? Quite frankly, there is just one, I repeat, just one method to get health benefits: One has to practice with meticulous attention to all of the details, “the fine print” of Taiji’s martial aspect. One has to practice in this manner and only in this manner in order to reap the most from its treasure trove of health benefits. I like to think of it another way: An imbalance will result If I do not balance my health concerns based on martial details, thus providing the ideal template for practice.
There is nuance upon nuance in doing Classical Taiji and such layers of nuance are found in all the nook and crannies of the body. Why so much nuance? Well, for one thing, we want the internal energy to circulate continuously throughout the body during the entirety of our Quan Jia, our Taiji form. If the practitioner does not train to continuously circulate the energy and instead has disconnections of movement, what happens to them when they are pushing hands, sparring, etc.? Won't the opponent be able to find a "seam" a gap in our energy to attack? If we learn to continuously circulate the energy, will we not be able to counterattack in a split second?
Practice as though you were surrounded by opponents, pay attention to all those martial details of movement, all the nuance. Seemingly meaningless details no matter how small that are often overlooked can cause problems later. What a good practice it is to take care of the small things, since it will lessen the risks of surprise from health or opponent. It will be gratifying to get a nice surprise from our practice as we find insight after insight or see our health improve. Leave the pratfalls (trouble that befalls us) and realize that they are preventable by remembering that the “devil is in the details” (when we pay attention to the details beforehand, we do not reap a “devil of a time” later).
It is time to do our Quan Jia like we mean it, not just an “oh, now I got to do my exercises…”