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World Peace Meditation

2012 predictions

2012 predictions

How Secret is Tai Chi?
by Elaine Waters

People have been drawn to tai chi for its health benefits, yet many people who try tai chi quit before they discover the true health benefits of tai chi. People find it difficult to learn tai chi because they cannot memorize the sequence of postures. Others who do manage to memorize, cannot figure out how to be at ease when standing in a tai chi posture. There are many things about tai chi that are done the way they are done because that is “the way it has always been done.”

Tai Chi is a secret art, known as an internal art, based on the concept of mastering the movement of chi in the body. Tai chi was considered secret due to its martial applications and potential training for power. Students often follow teachers through sequences of movement without much practical verbal instruction. It is taught that time and practice will develop the tai chi ability. The training in tai chi for health exercise and martial art have the same foundation. The alignment and principles are the same. One big secret in tai chi is to know that the information was disguised a long time ago. More tai chi students would develop a high level of skill if they knew how to look at the information as if it were in disguise.

Tai Chi students believe that the silence and repetition of a posture, over a long period of time, would bring the amazing tai chi skill. For most students however, it is difficult to make their own adjustments to tai chi postures, since students don’t know what to base the changes and adjustments on. Without a deep understanding of the philosophy on which the art is based, a student would be left to follow blindly. Many tai chi students don’t know that they are supposed to make adjustments on their own. To figure out the secret of effortless power in tai chi, a student would apply the Taoist classics and a practical sense of what naturally works.

One problem with a lack of information is that enthusiastic students can allow their tai chi to actually hurt their knees. Let’s talk about one example of common misunderstandings in tai chi instruction. “Tucking the tailbone is a commonly misunderstood tai chi concept. Those who tuck the tailbone while lowering the weight in tai chi should be aware that the knee is not meant to bear the weight of the body. The classics say to drop the weight to the root, which is the bubbling-well-point, located just behind the ball of the foot. Weighting the knee in a lowered stance and then turning the body is not good for the knee. This is not what should be done when practicing tai chi. The instruction to “tuck the tailbone” is not meant to be taken literally.

Since it has been agreed a long time ago that tai chi is a secret art, every piece of instruction can be easily obscured, and then misunderstood completely over time. The instruction to tuck the tailbone when practicing tai chi, doesn’t mean to actually tuck the tailbone. This one misunderstanding has caused many martial artists to stand in postures that are unnatural and will never bring the desired ability, no matter how many years it is practiced. If a student follows this method the body weight will be incorrectly placed in the knee and heel. Practical thinking brings us to realize that if tucking the tailbone was going to increase power, then we would do it while playing sports. Can you imagine running faster or jumping higher because you tucked your tailbone? I do not think this can be done. Tuck the tailbone has a meaning and a purpose in martial art training, but it is not instruction to tilt the pelvis forward while bending the legs. Tai chi is based on what is natural. Body movement and posture should not be an exception.

Then what is this concept all about? Tucking the tailbone is what happens when incoming force affects the practitioner in a proper tai chi stance. The incoming force compresses against the correct tai chi alignment thus causing the tailbone to tuck into the heel at that time for extra support. It is not a tucking that you do yourself, it just happens due to the opponents’ contact and force. Another way of explaining the words that are helpful for attaining the correct posture is to open the low back while lowering the weight. By opening the low back, the hips can be released and the weight can drop to the foot.

Good questions to ask about your tai chi posture is what, where, when, why and how. For example: What is this posture used for in a practical sense? Where do we find this motion in natural daily movement? When do we know that our alignment is correct? Why is this movement good for health? How can I develop on my own?

It is true that a certain amount of memorizing is necessary. However, many of the secrets can be found in every simple motion. Tai chi offers health benefits for the body through a unique way of moving, not to be confused by a certain series of postures. The postures are important only because they are the alphabet used to give structure to the information. On the outside, all the forms are different as artful expressions with martial and health benefits. Yet on the inside, the internal process which defines the art as tai chi is the same regardless of form or style.

Elaine Waters teaches tai chi classes here in Humboldt County.

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2012 paradigm shift

2012 predictions

2012 predictions

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