My Tai Chi practice has brought me much satisfaction over the years. The practicing has been a source of inspiration. I began by learning a portion of the 108 posture form. I practiced it alongside of my harder style practicing. As I learned the ‘entire’ long form, I still had needed to soften so as to truly experience ‘the energy’. I received instruction to not try so hard and to feel my grounding in the practice. I began to practice push hands and learned that softness can be firmness and that firmness can be softness: this helped me to deepen my root (grounding). I still practice the harder style techniques but there is growing sensitivity to the accompanying softness and grounding. I continue to discover deeper energies by bringing the more of the internal focus to the fore.
I had been aware of ‘tai chi’ since the 1970’s yet I never came across any practitioners / teachers. As I began practicing Tae Kwon Do (early 80’s), I came across the gentleman who remains my ‘Sifu’ to this day. He taught me the beginning of the 108 posture form. This beginning sequence is also the beginning of the 24 posture form. It was basic but I thought that I was really ‘doing something’. I was doing something . . . . . as opposed to doing ‘nothing’ . . . . . therein lies the crux of the dilemma of tai chi: learning the essence of ‘doing nothing’!
My harder style practice continued but I never let go of the ‘tai chi’. I moved away from my home and I found a volume on tai chi. It contained the entire ‘108 posture form’ which I taught to myself. I worked to deepen the breath and, in doing so, made the 108 form longer. It took me an 50 to 60 minutes to finish the form. I found myself making the form harder over the years. I started to deepen the stances. Although totally counter-productive, I continued along these lines. I did enjoy the depth that I attained during this phase of my practice. Mind you, I had not seen my instructor for quite some time.
Eventually, I moved back to my home state. I got an audience with my ‘sifu’. I showed him my form . . . what I had been practicing over the years. He observed . . . as instructors (are want to) do. I was not expecting praise, I realize that in the practices . . . just as there is ‘always a higher mountain’ (to climb towards), there is ‘always a deeper valley’ (from which to extricate one’s self). He asked me from where I learned the form. I told him that I taught myself from a book. He then said that I should deepen my root by making my stances higher. I surmise that he saw that I was forcing myself to go deep which was making my root shallow. He also instructed me to make my form slower (I’d not told him that I had already learned that aspect of the practice). I took the pointers and applied them.
At length, I landed in Austin, Texas. I continued to practice the pointers that were subscribed to me by my ‘sifu’ In attending a tai chi basics workshop, the presenter directed my to the Austin, Texas Push Hands Group. This is where I began to ‘feel my practice’. The learning curve was . . . fun??? Yes, it was fun. Although attitudes had to be sifted through, the majority of the guys were really focused on helping the group to develop the depth of their practices and at the same time deepen their own practices. I got pushed around. I had to learn softening, rooting, sensing. I began to do my own ‘pushing around. My lineage is Yang style but my pushing went up against a good number of Chen stylist. I even m et a visiting ‘Wu style’ master. He gave me some pointers on my ‘hip movement’. This was / has been an immense help to my practice.
I really don’t hold to any one style, any one thing . . . . I take what works and practice it. I am a hard stylist at heart. Yet, I have come to see and understand the value of softening. Over the years, although injuries and challenges have come to light, I am still able to do the hard stuff, to a good degree. In the practicing (of the hard stuff, I and finding that soften the techniques is of great importance. The feeling of the energy, actually, allows the (hard style) techniques to flow of their own accord. This is not to say that they just happen. There has to be mental input Yi Dao, Qi Dao (Eee Dow, Zhee Dow) – Where the Mind goes, Energy follows. So, I am continuing, through the practice of tai chi, to experience the flow of energy and the ability to do less in the experiencing of it. It is challenging to really learn to soften. The benefits that come from attaining that level in the practice can be applied to many areas in one’s life.
From knowing nothing to beginning the practice to developing the practice to trying to doing the practice to developing internals of the practice to finally ‘doing nothing’ . . . . My practice continues. So as my older brother form the Austin, Texas Push Hands Group often says, I am practicing T’ai Chi so that I will be 19 y.o. by the time I am 90 y.o.. . . . . seriously!!! That is what he says . . . . . . . and he is a spry 79 y.o.. He is a good resource and I like to chat with him. It is people like him, who practice T’ai Chi from the energetic and the application standpoint, that prod me in the direction of continuing my practice . . . and I will do just that.