About Tai Chi

  


 Tai Chi is on the surface a straightforward study of how to use the body in an integrated way to perform movements which are martial in origin and intent. 

 

While our habituated use of strength and weight will involve a few major muscles tensing for structural rigidity while a few more move a limb, Tai Chi's approach to movement is to persuade almost all  of the muscles to contribute equally to every change of position. We couple this with the in/out cycle of our breathing, allowing the flux between activity and rest to reveal the inbuilt rhythm  of the sequence of movements, or Form.

 

Tai Chi has in recent decades moved all around the world and been adapted by teachers with many personal preferences. Tai Chi for health, longevity, meditation, competition, as well as sparring  or self defense are on offer everywhere. The Art offers, or should offer, all these things and more, so should not be narrowed down to a single function or idea. Thus it grows with time, like any genuine art.

 

It is described as a Taoist* art, meaning it follows precepts central to Taoist philosophy, such as following a natural course without resistance, adapting completely to circumstance, and  avoiding mindless habit, while choosing direct perception and observation over fixed belief.

 

                 

*Taoism does not refer here to the Taoist religion, but to the profound philosophy of body and mind from which the religion borrows the name.


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I went to my first Tai Chi class in September 1980, on the recommendation of a friend, and stayed with that teacher until her death in 2001.

Rose Li ( Li Xiao Chiang )  was born and brought up in Beijing, China, and studied the Internal martial arts from the age of eight, principally with Deng Yun Feng.

She moved from China in the late 40's to the US, and finally to the UK during the 1970's. By 1980 she had been teaching in London for about three years, as I recall. 

 

She claimed her teaching approach was highly modified to suit the Western mindset, however most of us found the experience profoundly different to being taught by a westerner. Her accuracy of observation, often startling insight, and unshakeable love of and loyalty to her Art affected every student who stayed, and raised in us a desire to aspire to those standards.

 

I made progress in a series of  ascents and plateaux, as it were. Also a lot of descents too! Miss Li's patience and fierce defence of the Art against nonchalance or distortion gave us continual reassurance as we delved deeper. Her knowledge and skill had nothing superficial about them, so leading us to look for the same  qualities in our own practise.

 

This all meant that we did not learn fast. We did, though, learn to swim in deeper waters.

For some, many years of resistance at an unconscious level finally gave way to fluidity and body knowledge. For others, an ability to embrace the study wholeheartedly came soon. Everyone at their own pace.

 

Miss Li offered introductory classes regularly for many years, until 1999. Thousands of people came to see if it was for them, dozens remained for tens of years, a few of whom presently offer classes themselves.

 

Tai Chi is not for everyone, but the variety in its practitioners is pretty huge. A true Art expands with time, and an honest student looks inward to allow that expansion, as well as outward to see what others have found.

 


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