Tai Chi And The Five Integrities

by Kenneth van Sickle


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Martial Integrity

Each move in the form has multiple martial functions. As you are doing the moves, make sure that these principles are kept in mind along with the others.

If you are following the basic principles of Tai Chi, you are practicing the martial aspect correctly, and at a certain point in your studies, you can begin to address this aspect more directly.

If you are working on the martial aspect, certain elements need particular attention paid to them.

Imagine an opponent in front of you and begin to focus and issue energy to the center of that opponent. Broaden your awareness of the space around you, and other energy sources.

Pay particular attention to the substantial and to the insubstantial in relation to the issue of energy, and to the neutralization of force.

Don’t get caught up in the dance. Keep your spontaneity and flexibility at all times. Don’t anticipate or plan moves ahead of time, unless practicing a particular point.

Don’t sacrifice the integrity of your position, alignment or balance to achieve some “GOAL”. This is particularly applicable to people who brace to be able to push someone. If you brace, you are double weighted for a moment, and even though you are doing Push hands, you must stay aware that in that position you can be kicked easily where you would least enjoy it.

If you lean in with your head, you can be butted by the opponent’s forehead. If you lose consciousness of the shifting of weight, the opponent may kick you

Always remain aware and sensitive, spontaneous and flexible. 

Moral Integrity

It is possible to study Tai Chi for a while, learn many techniques, use many or most of the principles and use strength to become very good at Pushing hands.

Usually, people who do this, have winning as their highest priority. Two things, at least, result from this condition: One is that the practitioner never reaches the highest level. And the other is that this person’s relative success tends to impress others and invalidate the true principles of Tai Chi.

It takes a lot of faith to continue to lose day after day to people you know you can beat if you use your strength.

—If you believe that softness overcomes hardness
—If you believe the yielding wins over clashing
—If you believe that rooting stands above bracing, then faith is exactly what we are talking about.

If you really do not believe these axioms, you should change your martial art. Because, believe me, any Sumo wrestler will be able to push you, when you use muscle strength to push with.

Many of the female Tai Chi players I have talked to, have expressed a fear to really try and push the males. They say that when they occasionally get a push in, the men get upset and push them back very hard. Sometimes hurting them.

This is male ego in one of its nastier manifestations. You would think that every Tai Chi player would be happy to see a validation of the principle of the weak overcoming the strong. Yet, when it happens, most of the strong men become children.

We must take care of our partners in Push hands. Its purpose is to learn, teach, practice; not win, the winning is in the learning.

It is a pleasure to see two people working together in Push hands, going over and over a move to again an understanding of it. Just as it is a drag to watch two people grappling, wrestling and shoving.

Don’t play over the head of your partner and discourage them. And don’t allow others to do it to you.

You learned from others, it’s your turn to teach others.

Never use your abilities in Tai chi as a threat to anyone. And certainly never use it to actually fight until you have exhausted talking, bluffing, threatening and running first. Move and then do as little damage as possible.

Don’t put down other styles, masters or forms that you are not familiar with, and even if you are.

If you are doing very well pushing because of double weighting, bracing the legs, this will not translate into fighting. Tai Chi doesn’t work in the horse stance. At close quarters it leaves one vulnerable.

You can push someone if that’s all you want to do. By abandoning all your defensive integrity to get the push, you will not reach the highest level that way.

If the player who gets pushed over and over, by others who use their strength, continues to practice using the principles of yielding and returning, she/he will sooner of later pass the “strong” one in ability.

It goes without saying that when one uses muscle strength in Tai Chi, one doesn’t get the health/relaxation benefits. (If you use external force you will get external benefits. If you use internal energy, you will get internal benefits).

The tactic agreement in Push hands is that you will both do fixed step, choreographed, (Push, Roll back, Press, Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, etc.) slow movements. If you want to accelerate or upgrade the action, introduce the idea slowly, or tell the other player. Don’t just suddenly kick or jab someone in the throat.

Any level can be played if it is agreed on. 

Spiritual Integrity

At some point, you may want to explore meditation in movement. You cannot meditate while you are thinking of the moves or what you are going to do later.

Simplify, think of a light bulb, your “Tan Tien”, your spirit or preferably of nothing.

If you can get through the form without knowing you are doing it, you are on the way to your goal.

It helps to do the form slowly. It may seem too difficult to take an hour to do your form, so just start by doing the form at a speed that would take an hour if you did it all. Stop when you must, but that way you will begin to get the feeling, and perhaps you’ll find yourself going farther than you thought.

Listen to your breath.

Watch yourself do the form from above.

Some like to listen to music when they do the form. Either meditation music, space music or any slow mellow music that soothes the mind.

Some Logic

A freely falling body doesn’t feel the effect of gravity. A standing body feels the effect of gravity as it resists it. A force can only be received if it is resisted.

Inertia is a form of resistance

The lighter /smaller/ less attached a body is, the less effect a force moving against it will have..(Silk and water, get out of the way of a moving force)

The heavier /more attached/ larger a body is, the more effect a force moving against it will have.

Therefore, if a fist crashes into a hand, the hand will jump away undamaged.

If a fist crashes into a large /heavy. static body, (the inertia of that body causing it to tend to stay still), it will tend to cause damage, since the fist hits a small area of the body, focusing all of its force there.

A body that is tense, is attached and static. A body that is relaxed, is unattached and flexible.

When a fist meets a small part of a large body that is unattached, resilient and flexible (meets no resistance), it causes no damage.

Ken Van Sickle

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