Today a friend expressed some interest in Tai Chi, so I sent him info about where I've been taking classes for the past eleven years.
I included links to eight blog posts I've written about Tai Chi.
After finding them via a Google search, I thought (not surprisingly), Hey, these are really interesting! I'd forgotten about most of them and was pleased to be reacquainted with my own creations.
Tai Chi is an intriguing blend of Taoist philosophy and martial arts practicality. The posts cover both bases, and then some. I've shared an excerpt from each.
But I'm three years into thrice weekly Tai Chi classes at Warren Allen's Pacific Martial Arts studio here in Salem. So I'm qualified to talk to guys like me who might have qualms about taking up Tai Chi.
By "guys like me," I mean more than 58 year old men with previous martial arts experience who are aging halfway gracefully, but want to help assure this trend continues. Maybe even more than halfway – 75%, say.
I'm using guys in the modern generic sense, just as the waitress does who comes to take our order, looks at my wife and me, and says "So what do you guys want for dinner?" (I suspect she says the same thing to a table full of women.)
So here, in no particular order, are ten macho and not-so-macho reasons for guys to like Tai Chi.
Still, Tai Chi is a martial art, as this guy discovered during a walk in the park. And as I've learned after taking up Tai Chi three years ago after thirteen years of hard style martial arts experience.
It's more difficult to apply than a hard style like karate. Tai chi is classed as an internal, rather than external, martial art. The distinction isn't absolute, of course, since every martial art is a blend of external moves and internal intentions.
Tai Chi, though, stresses emptiness, flexibility, and fluidly adjusting to an opponent's movements. Tension is a big no-no, along with relying on power and strength.
But most people aren't interested in learning Tai Chi as a movement art. The forms take a long time to learn. Even longer to feel comfortable doing. Longer still to practice (or "play") proficiently.
I've been learning Tai Chi for about nine years. I'm still a beginner. Nonetheless, I'm starting to appreciate the importance of sung, relaxation, physical and psychological movement without tension.
Everybody can benefit by letting go, relaxing, becoming like flowing water instead of rigid ice.
Taoism, the philosophical foundation of Tai Chi, doesn't see things in black and white.
The yin-yang symbol has a bit of white in the black area, and a bit of black in the white area. Yin and yang seamlessly flow into and out of each other.
Rigid dichotomies are mostly an invention of the human mind. Nature doesn't work that way. Neither should we, as natural beings.
Are you scientific or spiritual? How about both.
Are you reasonable or intuitive? How about both.
Are you mechanical or artistic? How about both.
Are you a lover or a fighter? How about both.
Are you cautious or a risk taker? How about both.
Are you generous or selfish? How about both.
Intensity, concentration, mindfulness.
These qualities shone forth in everything Leung did, whether talking or moving. Along with relaxation, flowingness, and humility. His Wing Chun is blindingly fast. Humbly, he said that he used to be a martial artist "hot stuff," but now is just "warm stuff."
Well, I can tell you that no bad guy would want to meet up with this 5' 2" slender man in a dark alley. After his presentation, Eric and I stayed to ask some questions. Eric's involved a "needle at sea bottom" application that involved a Chin Na (joint lock) move if someone grabs your wrist.
Here's one of the reasons I enjoy Tai Chi (and it's associated philosophy, Taoism) so much: a Tai Chi teacher isn't looked upon with special reverence, just respect.
After having experienced a spiritual path that places the master, or guru, up on a pedestal, it's refreshing to practice Tai Chi -- where the teacher is looked upon quite differently.
I love how Tai Chi demonstrates a hugely practical philosophy of life through physical movement. Other activities do this also -- ballroom dancing comes to mind -- but Tai Chi is unique in that it explicitly embodies philosophical Taoist principles.
Tonight, I was paired up with my Tai Chi instructor, Warren, as his class practiced the self-defense application of the Fair Lady movements (with a follow step).
Warren and I have a lot of marital arts experience -- he more than me, naturally. And his Tai Chi background is much deeper than mine. Yet both of us were surprised at what we learned after only a few practice punches that were countered by Fair Lady deflections.
After more than twenty years of martial arts training, I can confidently say that I've learned some highly effective self-defense techniques.
My favorite: run away from trouble. Second best: walk away from trouble. Third choice: defuse trouble from where you are.
These approaches, of course, aren't what most people are looking for when they join a martial arts class. Punching, kicking, grappling, throwing, submission holds -- that's what sells in the worlds of karate, aikido, judo, tae kwon do, jui-jitsu, boxing, and such.