What I’ve Learned from Tai Chi

Sharon Davis

Sharon Davis is a T’ai Chi student and teacher and a journalist. She teaches Chi Kung and the traditional Yang style (Yang Cheng-Fu); in between writing and studying other traditional martial arts (Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu; Wu-Shin Chi-Dao). She has had the privilege of spending the past six years living and training with her partner at the Wu-Shin Chi-Dao International Martial Arts College, in Durban, South Africa. She regularly travels overseas to further her knowledge and study in T’ai Chi and other arts.

LESSONS TO FOLLOW:

  • Be present in the now – the only moment in time that exists is
  • the present
  • The earth experience is one of duality – of good and bad; yin
  • and yang
  • Going with the flow – be flexible, yet centred
  • There is power in softness – yielding
  • Fast does not mean better – avoiding the rat race
  • Embrace Tiger – facing your fears
  • Never be double-weighted – the intelligence of not opposing
  • force with force
  • Ride the Tiger – embracing a weakness and turning it into a
  • strength
  • Meditation in motion – mindful movement and body awareness
  • Non-confrontational, yet effective – using your adversary’s
  • force against him
  • The stillness at the centre of the circle
  • Wu-Wei – not doing, but being done
  • Monkey mind – quietening the chatter
  • Maintaining balance and perspective
  • Breath deeply
  • Poise and posture – avoiding unnecessary strain and fatigue
  • The cyclical nature of life

So often, it is those apparently insignificant things that can be important – like a smile from a stranger or a compliment from a friend – that little ingredient that can brighten a day… In the same vein, it is often the seemingly little lessons that can be gained from the study of T’ai Chi that makes all the difference to how one views the world, and more importantly to how one responds to it. With this in mind, I’d like to share some of the little, but fundamentally important, lessons that I have learned from my journey along the T’ai Chi path.

Don’t be taken in by appearances – look beneath the surface: Probably the first lesson we learn from T’ai Chi is: not to take things at face value; we learn to look beneath the surface…

This lesson is learned through a simple examination of the yin and yang nature of T’ai Chi. By embracing and understanding its fundamental underlying concept of duality – that T’ai Chi is both for health and relaxation, and for self-defence; both passive and violent.

How many people are initially surprised, if not disappointed, to discover that the root and function of these slow, flowing, gentle movements of relaxation are deeply grounded in civil combat and self-protection? I have had prospective students walk out of a trial class in total disgust at being told that part of the Brush Knee involved a strike to the face Who would suspect that the graceful dance-like movements, both aesthetically pleasing and calming, could be a devastating code of selfdefence moves – in effect a long and graceful kata?

By accepting that T’ai Chi is outwardly apparently very yin but contains the possibility of extreme yang, we learn to see a deeper significance in T’ai Chi – and by extrapolation, we can learn to see a deeper significance in the world around us.

We learn not to assess people by outward appearances – their physical appearance, their clothes, or even what they have to say. We learn to look deeper, into the heart and soul of the person; and if we choose to judge at all, we judge them by their actions. What they do to make the world a better place. Clothing and fashion statements are irrelevant. We learn to look past that outward projection of ‘self’ until that projection becomes like the emperor’s new clothes. We learn that a fancy car is nice, but not important. That a smart new suit looks good, but holds no more promise of honesty or reliable service than a well worn, out-moded suit.