“Okay….. Let’s warm down with a bit of tai chi….. the Yang 108 form first section….” This was quite usual in our class, it helped us to work on the internal aspects of our training plus the posture breathing and relaxation required to source our power properly.
“Mol gik….” Everyone stood correcting their posture, making their breathing deeper, softening and stretching to make the ‘greater heavenly cycle’ of chi function more efficiently. This was an excellent form of standing meditation, often called ‘wu chi’, an experience of ‘everything and nothing’ at the same time.
“Tai gik.” Everyone prepared for movement as ‘tai chi arrived’ within them.
“Tai chi che shih” The beginning of tai chi, we all raised hands, circled our arms to the left, held the ball and took the first single handed ‘peng’ position. Many years ago these beginning movements were often called ‘lazily ties coat’ as they were the movements that a practitioner used to tie the long coat worn in China in those days and to describe how they presented their ‘bridge’ (arm) to the opponent before a match would commence.
“Lan Chiao Wei!” ‘Grasp Sparrows Tail’ is the sequence encompassing the four techniques ‘peng, lu, chi. and an’ and was the name used in a different way to mean ‘lazily ties coat’ – the meaning was altered as a result of the story of Yang Lu Sim who, when challenged, called a sparrow to land on his palm and stopped it from taking off again by using the skill of ‘softening his palm’ every time it tried to push its feet against his hand to lift off.
“Peng, lu, chi, an.” We worked our clumsy ‘karatefied’ way through the sequence under Sensei’s (or as it’s Chinese I should probably say ‘Sifu’s’) watchful eye, I couldn’t help feeling that if any of the ‘ancestors’ were watching us, there’d be a tear in their eye….
“Okay guys, rest…..” Actually, I think I could see a tear in sensei’s eye as well…..
“You just didn’t feel beautiful did you?” Everyone laughed.
“To be honest Sensei I felt incredibly clumsy having to move slowly and carefully, it’s an alien concept to me!” Graham is an ex rugby player and prone to be a bit ‘heavy’ in everything he does.
“You’ll not really move forward until you master this concept Graham, in fact you’ll hit a level of competence that relies on muscular strength and fitness that will then fade as you age, and will probably damage your health as you try to ‘recapture your youth’ with movements that require that ‘younger’ type of fitness..”
“And an overweight lady like myself can never feel ‘beautiful either!” Jane was a 35yrs old ‘averagely’ built lady who had joined the class to get fit and learn to defend herself.
“Jane…….” Sensei sometimes had a way to make his gaze ‘sticky’ it sort of lingered as if searching your soul to bring out the best in you… Jane reddened slightly feeling that she had revealed more of herself than she intended.
“Tai chi is often described as being like a great river; you immerse yourself in it as a single droplet of water and cease to be individual, joining the current and flowing with it. You ‘become’ tai chi, exactly as droplets of water become the river, losing your individuality and becoming the thing of great beauty that is tai chi, joining the ancestors and all that have practised the same form through countless generations. If you immerse yourself, you have to become beautiful.”
There was a look of scepticism in Jane’s eye.
“I understand that look, you are bombarded by the media and businesses to look like their almost impossible anorexic childlike ideal that makes them a fortune in product sales, but believe me Jane, beauty really does come from inside.”
“That’s all right for you to say sensei, but you’re a man and don’t come under the same pressure that women do.”
“That’s true Jane, but we’re talking about a timeless kind of beauty, tai chi is sensual, not necessarily in a sexual way, but in the way that you move, like a tiger, snake and/or crane. The powerful method of stretching the body and meridians empowers the flow of vital energy through the body engendering good health, and a kind of vigour that encourages you to live a healthier, happier life. The alchemy that takes place teaches you to ‘intuit’ your way through life and listen to your inner self and not be led by the exploitation of your weaknesses. Tai chi really is a powerful tool!
And after all said and done, an unhealthy, weak minded bag o’ bones is hardly going to be the ideal of an intelligent and powerful man!”
“But I don’t want to be beautiful Boss, I wanna be mean and menacing..” said ‘rugger’ Graham
“A man only becomes powerful when he exploits his feminine side,” said sensei.
“I’m sure you guys do that in your communal bath after rugby training” said one comedian.
“Oi!…” Said Graham giving his best menacing look.
“Guys…. Graham, surely you can see that your real power will only be unleashed when you master the smooth, fluid, uninterrupted movements; developing grace in your technique gives you a deadly quality that no masculinity can match. Tai chi also gives you feminine strategies of ‘luring’ your opponent into a weakened position and then being deadly in your technique. Generally, physically smaller and weaker, females of most species have to develop survival strategies that martial artists can only admire. The male of the species tend to fight for ‘sexual preening’ and employ brute strength and techniques to ‘look good’. Females have to protect the nest or home and the young, often against bigger and stronger enemies.
Be careful to not be deceived by words like ‘feminine’ ‘grace’ beauty’ and so on, for the male of the species, these are the qualities that give him power, for the female, (he looked at Jane) these are the qualities that belong to ALL women, don’t let others take them away from you.
Remember that to be a good martial artist, you must love yourself to be able to love others, you must be kind to yourself to be able to be kind to others, you must be patient with yourself to be able to be patient towards others. Recognition of beauty starts from within and then spreads outwards. Joining the ‘great river of tai chi’ is a good way of enabling this.
Okay guys…. go find your feminine side…. but no cross dressing!”