2 Seldom Discussed Rules of Tai Ji Quan

  Having finished my first big project, The Golden Thread, I am flooded with future thoughts of a book based on my experiences and views of Taijiquan.  A month ago I began to tell my students that there should be only two rules that relate to modern day taijiquan.



This is where taijiquan can be termed, “The Art of Simplicity.”  The problem that a lot of students face is that they arrive at a class that is either overly-structured, too radical for beginners, or just persists in the standard lingo of Taijiquan, implying that if you adhere to nature and “flowing like water” Taiji will be easy to learn.  The fact of the matter is, for the most part, this isn’t true… and we’re just setting those students up to fail if we continue to “sugar-coat” it.  

Taiji (to me) is a ballet.  It is a soft, therapeutic dance that takes me… and not the other way around.  Anyone who devotes time and patience into the first step [Learning To Feel] should begin to understand the sense of liberation and invigoration that Taiji is written and spoken of to give.  But sadly, Lesson#1 isn’t spoken of much in the Taiji circles I’ve been apart of (nor is it in many of the Taiji texts).  Some seem to suggest that emotion should be “thrown away” and the mind be completely empty.  Personally, I enjoy the liveliness my body feels when I can feel.  My practice profits me nothing when I cannot.

Lesson#2 is perhaps the most important lesson in order to spread the joy that taijiquan can potentially bring.  Each and every one of us participate in what we do because we find enjoyment in it.  This is an easy and obvious statement to make.  But why do I have so many beginning students (even novice ones) saying things like, “I wish I can move like you” and “I have such a hard time remembering the sequence?”  We live in a nano-second culture, and the quicker we are able to have what we want at our fingertips the less patient we become.  There is never a need to copy an instructor’s movements, but to (over time) adopt the form that resides somewhere within you.  I know that sounds very “New Age”… but that is where art comes from.  In here! not out there!  There is no formula or method but it comes about through feeling and doing, not seeing and mimicking.

We all have a natural and beautiful gift that is Taiji, it is just up to you whether you want to allow it to bloom.  The funny thing is that it wants to emerge (like a kid waiting for the closing school bell to ring) and that by allowing it to emerge you are also allowing a part of yourself to grow.  Do with it what you will, but find enjoyment in it and you’ll want the feeling to stay with you.  [As it has with me].  

Cheers.   -M.J.





~ by chencenter on September 21, 2008.

13 Responses to “2 Seldom Discussed Rules of Tai Ji Quan”

  1. Wow – you have hit a nerve with me on this one, Michael. You may or may not remember this post of mine detailing my struggle with feeling. For a very long time after I posted that, TaiChiInstructorFriend refrained from saying “THe more you relax, the more you feel”. I think that in a very real way we have to persist to get anywhere with this martial art (and arguably any) but because so much of Taiji is mental we have to feel safe to really be successful. Nothing ever comes easily to me – especially not things of a physical nature. Eventually I think he realized that I am feeling safe enough that he can say that… Stillness, the real kind, still eludes me – but I am getting there. I am very much a work in progress…

  2. aren’t we all ? (referring to last comment of, “I am very much a work in progress).

    But let me clarify something, the “feeling” that I am talking about is not the same as the “feeling” that someone else has. The “feeling” that you have is being created for you… without you willing it to happen. Our intention needs to be directed on that… the feeling. Taiji isn’t a mental process and that may be where you’re going wrong. Play taiji where you are sure no one’s watching… and DANCE the thing! Smile. Shake. Twist. Whatever! Even if your other teachers, you books, your dvds tell you not to do those things. When we sing in the shower, are we not in the state that we should be in playing Taiji? Don’t get locked into “stillness.” One of the was I’ve been able to find my stillness is through movement, i think it’s infinitely harder to start from the other way around. Hope this soothes that nerve. *namaste. -M.J.

  3. Michael:
    How wise of you to speak about this . All art begins with not copying what others are doing, but finding a new way that is your own creation.
    Staying open, feeling your vulnerabilities, embracing uncertainty, allowing yourself to listen to your inner self…..all of this is what the artist does.
    Taiji opens the gates to all of this..if we don’t rush it and simmply practice it every day, exploring how to find the balance of every move………..we will find the balance in everything we do. It is all in the center of the circle.
    Thanks for the posting!

  4. I know stillness isn’t really physical stillness – I mean a stillness of mind and spirit – and of course one can accomplish this through movement – I am only now, after several years, feeling safe enough to try it.

    That likely makes no sense at all. I can’t quite put a voice to what I am trying to say – but I think you are coming pretty close to what I am getting at. For someone like me I have to feel safe in order to “feel”.

    I feel like the more I try to explain the worse it gets, LOL – suffice it to say I agree with you. 😀

  5. Michael – You are absolutely correct because without the sensations of right-left, up-down, forward-back in the movements, the distinction between yin-yang and everything else just happens without consciousness. By enjoying the sensations of performing the movements and holding the postures, the lightness and nimbleness become palpable and it shows in our art. Humans are a combination of the terrestrial and cosmic and “supreme ultimate boxing” should have both to properly earn its title.

  6. I like best your reference to avoiding common Taiji lingo and class structure. Sometimes I’m attracted to doing those things because people seem to lean towards them. I’ve lost some of my wealthiest clients because I lack peculiar devotions to lingo and I vary class structures.

    Regarding feeling: it’s an exciting and difficult thing to teach. Sometimes we do sloppy form to exaggerate and feel each movement, big and external. Othertimes, we do it super-slow to get feeling.

    Good post again, and in the spirit of simplifying, I hope you don’t lean too much on simplifing, but (simply) come back to it when you sense that it’s necessary.

  7. I’ll have to tool around and find out more about your art. Is it similar to Tai Chi? Is it self defense.

    I teach karate…and like you I have had many students focus on the “end” which when you understand, there is no “end” only the beginning of another avenue. But I encourage them to enjoy the journey, learn from it, feel it, and improve yourself with it.

    It’s amazing how so many moving arts can seem so different, but underneath, they are nearly all the same.


  8. Very good points on a difficult subject–difficult to understand, difficult to articulate. If I think, try, or pay too much attention I seem to miss the mark. If I’m in the zone it usually means I’m out-of-touch with the rest of reality, in my own little world. The real difficulty comes when my form “feels” good to me, but my teacher(s) says otherwise. If I then try to improve, I am “trying” and out of the zone. Perhaps this is why Taiji takes a lifetime to master?

  9. Great post.., bro

  10. hola
    I can not agree with what you wrote really….
    please explain further a bit more for me 😀

    thank you

  11. @ Barry… yes, Taiji and TaiChi are the same. Some people get a little goofy about the spelling thing… I figure Taiji is more about the doing and less about the spelling… Peace… 😀

  12. I discuss this all the time… 😉 Here’s a link to an example.

  13. very intresting

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