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Tai Chi And The Five Integrities

by Kenneth van Sickle


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In the Western world, and most of the Eastern one also, we are more and more into immediate gratification, “I WANT IT NOW”, “WHERE CAN I BUY IT”, “LIFE, MADE EASY”. Tai chi doesn’t lend itself to that attitude. Tai Chi is slow, gradual and thoughtful, precisely because that, is what relaxes and vitalizes.

Tai Chi doesn’t “DO IT” for you, you do Tai Chi, and the more you do it, the more you benefit.

Once you do the form, in the morning, just after arising and, just before retiring, you are doing Tai Chi, you are generating health and vitality. If you miss doing the form even just 3 or 4 times a week, you are merely playing and perhaps maintaining a status quo.

After 5 or 10 or 20 years, (as long as it takes), when you have truly relaxed and your chi is flowing perfectly, you may no longer need to do the form as often because every move you make, follows the principles of Tai Chi, and the generator is always working.

Cheng M’an Ch’ing shortened the form from 105 moves to 36 moves. He was both lauded and criticized for doing this. He told us that the form was too long. If people must do a 20-30 minutes form twice a day, they are a lot less likely to do it than a 5-10 minute form.

For those who need or want more of a workout, the “Short Form” can be repeated 2 or 3 times and one will get the same benefit that you do from the long form.

Professor Cheng left out only 9 or 10 moves, most of the shortening came from leaving out repetitions.

The moves that he did leave out were mainly martial and since he was a doctor and his highest priority for Tai Chi was health, he wouldn’t have left out any moves that had any health benefits that other moves didn’t cover.

Some masters say “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” in order to inspire their students to do the form every day. I really think that most of the pain comes from the thought of doing the form, let’s say at 1 A.M., when you are tired and sore. As soon as you start to do the form you begin to relax and feel better, so that by the time you hit the bed you will sleep sooner and deeper.

The form cannot be done simply mechanically, like let’s say painting walls. It must be done with sensitivity and depth, like painting a portrait, then it will develop deeply and permeate the rest of your life.

After completing the form, it takes 6 months to a year and a half to learn the form so that one does not have to think about the choreography, the student is ready to begin “PUSH-HANDS”. Having learned to relax while doing the movements and under no stress other than the rigors of remembering, one advances into the next stage and introduced to “CONTROLLED STRESS”

Push hands is a physical dialogue wherein the two“partners” take turns trying to break down the very things the student has worked on all that time.

Student#1 “YANG” tries, (softly and slowly) to misalign, to unbalance, to find the center and to uproot student #2 “YIN”, who without using muscular strength, tries to neutralize the “PROBE” of “YANG”. Once the probe has been neutralized (yielded to), the students automatically change roles. “YANG” becomes “YIN” and the one who neutralized, now “PROBES” (pushes) toward the one who before was the aggressive one.

This continuous changing of roles is something like 2 man sawing. It gives both the “PLAYERS”, a chance to experience both sides of the game, active “YANG” and passive “YIN”.

Push hands works in several ways, if you are pushed 1000 times the same way, and you try to neutralize it correctly each time, you will probably succeed,....if your pushed over and over by a more advance player, she/he will point out the possible neutralizations, and you can practice them.

Tai Chi is Taoist in nature, it doesn’t clash, it yields, it follows the natural path, it “Rides the horse in the direction its going”. It gently leads the strength that seeks to topple it, off balance, off center, so that it topples itself.

“Man, born tender and yielding
Stiffens and hardens in death
All living growth is pliant until death transfixes it.
Thus men who have hardened are “KIN OF DEATH”
And men who stay gentle are “KIN OF LIFE”
A hard hearted army is doomed to lose
A tree hard fleshed is cut down
Down goes the tough and big
Up jumps the tender sprig.”

“Lao Tzu” #76 (Trans. Witter Bynner)  600 B.C.

In push hands you learn that the principles you learned while doing the form do work. All you need to do is keep relaxed, aligned, centered, balanced, rooted and aware of the space you’re working in.

After you have gotten the basics of Push hands down, and you no longer need to think about the moves, you begin to notice that you automatically/spontaneously do moves from the form. You “discover” the self defense application on your own. In this way you really get the idea—then practice.

Most find that any psychological/social problems show up as soon as they start Push hands, and that it is a compact safe condition in which to work them out.

As you advance farther into Push hands you begin to develop more and more sensitivity t the other person’s energy (Listening to energy), to the point that you can tell just how someone is going to move any part of their body by being in contact with one small point on their body, (Interpreting energy).

This sensitivity transmits itself to your occupation, sports and your social life.

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