Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The point is not the "benefits" but how one gets the benefits

The march to publish more books, start more classes, develop more styles of Tai Chi is on the increase.  In these videos about Tai Chi at the Mayo clinic for instance there is talk of Tai Chi being "an internal martial art".  However, I find that I am  left to my own definition of what an "internal martial art" is and how to "get internal" is not made clear. Clinic says "Internal" Tai Chi is good for what ails you but what is the path to "Internal" Tai Chi?

The  Clinic states that: " it  incorporates Tai Chi into physical medicine and rehabilitation and it does this because it has several components such as meditation so called Chi Kung where you cultivate your energy, second component is a memorized sequence of slowly, mindfully performed movements that are a way of practicing self defense movements, then thirdly brings this all together in push hands, a sort of slow moving  dance that you do with another person to practice the movements that you have learned in situations where you might have your balance being challenged".  Essentially, it was introduced because studies suggest it is  good for what ails you because it does not raise heart rate.  Patients ask what they can do for health and Mayo suggests Tai Chi because it is holistic and might be applicable in a number of areas.  Meditative aspects can help with cultivating equanimity under stress.   How does it do this "internally", how can I learn to "internally" achieve this?

One has to think that the Tai Chi must affect our physiology in order to accomplish all these wonderful claims. When I hear "physiology" I think, ah, my blood is pumping.  Well, this is fine, but what goes on "inside", "internally" when I do  Tai Chi? My blood is pumping, my nerves connect with each other, isn't it amazing how my nerves connect back with my brain.  However, with no understanding of how this complexity does this, it is  as if to say:  "Well, I'm standing and moving with another person in this "internal" martial art called push hands with my balance being challenged, so all you nerves you need to boost up my brains understanding so I do not lose my balance".  

Media, as you know, has a byline for everything ever said or that will be said about Tai Chi.  "For hundreds of years people have practiced the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi for its many health benefits. Researchers who study Tai Chi say it can help reduce blood pressure, decrease anxiety, improve flexibility and much more. For these reasons, some doctors at Mayo Clinic have embraced Tai Chi and are teaching it to their patients."

Remember we are still talking about "internal" martial art. The "Doctor" says "very slow motion", the patient says "just the relaxation helps with aches and pains" and phrases it like a question.  The "reporter" says "Yin and Yang, it brings opposites into balance". What does that statement mean in terms of how I can learn to do that, internally?  "Balance is found through meditation, and pushing against one another." The Doctor says "what you are learning to do is to maintain central equilibrium, that center of gravity, that sense of yourself in the world and your environment". What is the significance of this in terms of how to achieve "internal"?  In addition to bringing about balance, Tai Chi can improve your health in many ways, how does one learn to  do this "internally"?  If the famous clinic is telling us of all the benefits, then are we to accept this "internal" at face value?  It seems to me that there is a complexity here about "internal" that is not being talked about.  In such complexity,  any scientific  institution or individual for that matter who talks of potential benefits should not only  explain the elements of the "internal" discipline but also explain the elements in terms of how to "internally"  achieve the benefits.  As science, what are the "rules" that each element follows?  What is the logical structure that the rules follow?  Finally, what is the calculated scientific reasoning behind the logical structure?

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