Tai Chi And The Five Integrities

by Kenneth van Sickle


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The Ping Pong Ball

It is much harder to submerge a floating Ping Pong ball with the tip of one finger than it is to push a person. However, some parallels do exist.

Its buoyancy is due to the fact that it contains air, (Chi). The sphere contains more, relative to its surface, than any other shape.

Its ability to move quickly is due to its lightness (relaxation), and its ability to seek the surface so directly is due to its roundness (alignment).

The pushing finger must go in a straight line towards the ball’s center, as with the Tai Chi push, and the ball rotates towards the direction of least resistance like a good neutralization.

The Cup Returns

If you have ever tried to blow the dust out of a cup, you will recall that you were unpleasantly surprised to find that the dust blew right back in your face.

The cup borrowed your energy and returned it to you.

If you blew into the right side of the cup, the air went to the bottom, picked up the dust and returned from the left side. If you blew into the top, it returned from the lower side, etc. If you were advanced enough to blow into the very center of the cup, the cup would become as advanced and return t you from all sides at once.

—“The flywheel turns, but the mind does not turn” In defense, the waist turns to neutralize the push of the opponent, but the mind stays still and continues to address the opponent, center to center.

The feeling you get when you push someone, and they neutralize it with a simultaneous return, would be as if you threw a medicine ball, and the instant it left your fingers, it hit you in the back.

“Differentiate between the substantial and the insubstantial”. Feel the root, the support, in the full leg along with the opposite hand,...and feel the emptiness, the relaxation in the empty leg along with the opposite hand.

The Five Integrities

Relating to efficiency and reality in doing Tai Chi form and Push hands, personally, physically, morally, martially, and spiritually.

Integrity n 1:State or quality of being complete, undivided or unbroken, unimpaired, unmarred, sound, pure.
2: Free from corrupting influence, strict in the fulfillment of contracts, soundness, honesty.

Personal Integrity

On a personal level, you must be true to yourself, in the beginning, when learning the form, do not compare yourself to others. Many students worry about not getting it fast enough, or appearing clumsy. These concerns show up as tension in the mind and the body.

Others, who learn choreography easily, think that they are progressing faster than the others and begin to form an attitude. So, if you compare, you will seem to be inferior or superior, neither of which have anything to do with reality, and only serve to create tension and divert the student from real progress.

You are as you are, you have your own assets and liabilities and you must work with and from them.

People will start out with much different abilities in memory, suppleness, tension and spatial awareness. All these seem to equalize themselves, and in the long run, it turns out that positive thinking,perseverance, and thoughtfulness, produce the best results.

Give yourself a break, learn at your speed, enjoy the experience, lighten up. 

Physical Integrity

Be heavy and rooted on the bottom, light and supple on top. Don’t move the arms separately form the body, move as one unit, flowing and uninterrupted….No hollows or protrusions, weight down form the coccyx and up from the top of the head. Stretching the spine…tongue touching the roof of the mouth near the top teeth. Relax, relax, breathe, breathe, breathe….

How many times have we heard these and other principles of Tai Chi? How many times do we hear people saying: Why doesn’t Tai Chi work? Or, why aren’t I improving?

Tai Chi isn’t ballroom dancing or flying airplanes. If you forget a few basics of dancing you may look a little clumsy, or at worst step on a few toes. If you forget a few basics of aeronautics you might crash. Tai Chi falls somewhere in the middle. When you forget a few in Tai Chi, you are not doing Tai Chi. You’re sailing in the mud, surfing in the soup, and if you try to use Tai Chi to fight with, without adhering to the principles, you are jogging in a minefield.

Do it right, do it completely, it’s easy, because there’s no rush, there’s no due date.

The classics, the principles, the axioms, in short, the rules of Tai Chi, are readily available in many translations. And there are many, increasingly, good instructors around who will be willing to advise you.

Link each movement to the next without pausing. Link each movement to the next without hesitation or change of speed. 

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