How many years have you been practicing tai chi?
I started in 1990. My Taijiquan has been supplemented over the years by studying healing arts, meditation, Energy and other martial arts. The common thread is that I have been fortunate to have studied with the some of the most highly trained teachers and educators living today.
What stimulated your interest?
It is the understanding and use of Chi. The whole concept fascinates me as much now as it did then. In the old days my ideas were quite fanciful and ungrounded but experience and study have refined my consciousness to the point where Chi is a very real experience that can be experienced by anyone with an open and enquiring mind ‚’ and the correct training.
What does TCC mean to you?
I studied for many years with Christopher Pei. His explanation of Taijiquan is that it is a system that trains in health, martial arts and meditation. The glue that binds the three areas of health, martial arts and meditation is Chi. Taijiquan is a skilful method that trains the willing student to strengthen their body, mind and spirit in a way that allows them to connect with their own internal Energies and ultimately the Energies of others and that of the Universe.
What is the most important aspect?
The study of Chi. Without an understanding of Chi, it is not easy to reach the higher levels of being and consciousness that Taijiquan offers.
Do you have any personal goals?
There comes a point when the Taijiquan practitioner realises that it matters little how many different forms there are but it does matter what they do with it. As the ultimate goals of Tai Chi are spiritual, then it is my opinion that to become highly refined in the art without using it to help others is just food for the ego. My goal is then, to use Taijiquan and Energy arts to help raise other people‚’s spiritual vibrations, to create a positive influence on the world.
Who or what inspired you?
I have been inspired by and have gratitude and respect for my many teachers, fellow Taijiquan players and students. Taijiquan is a Taoist art and as such it recognises the flows and patterns of nature. This inspires me greatly.
What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?
My personal belief is that the evolutionary spirals of mankind and Taijiquan have become more fully entwined. As Taijiquan has evolved, it has transformed itself from being a martial arts discipline to something that is popularly practiced worldwide and has therefore become a part of the Universal consciousness of mankind. It offers a myriad of learning and developmental opportunities ‚’ each of which can help the practitioner to become more grounded and connected to the Universe around them. Taijiquan along with many of the other spiritual disciplines can create healing for the individual and for mankind.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
Taijiquan started as a martial art and still is a martial art. If a student really does not want to work with anything that is connected with martial arts then that is fair enough but the result is not Taijiquan. It would be Chi Gung or something similar. There is no reason that Taijiquan exercises could not be included in the coaching but I feel that it should be clear that it is not Taijiquan.
However, there is no reason to exclude anybody from Taijiquan. I have taught Taijiquan to people who have had an understanding of the martial aspects but would never consider themselves to be martial artists. This understanding gives a blueprint to getting the body positions and intent correct but does not require the student to be a martial artist ‚’ unless they want to be.
The martial aspects of Taijiquan are like a map of how Taijiquan works. I see many people who have excelled at the martial side of Taijiquan but have not investigated the more spiritual aspects. I see this as an incomplete understanding of the art. What are your views on competition?
I think that as long as the competitor is very clear about their reasons for entering that it can be a valuable spur to their training. Competition success gave me an opening to write my first book and helped me to gain confidence in my work on Taijiquan.
What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future? Taijiquan means something different for every individual player. It is important for modern instructors to determine which part of the Taijiquan spectrum their clients want to work in and let them develop that area in an open way. Taijiquan players will meet their own challenges and make their own developments that are completely different to their instructors that are completely valid. The instructor must respond to these challenges individually using their knowledge of Taijiquan and Chi to help the player meet their challenges. Taijiquan can continue to evolve and educate both the coaches and the students of the art and yet maintain respect and understanding for the tradition from which it comes.
Ray Pawlett is based in Bourne, lincolnshire and can be contacted on: 07413 620344 or at Ki Ways