A pervasive myth surrounds Tai Chi Chuan that it is either a religion or has religious overtones. This mistaken idea is gradually evaporating though, due to the current widespread practice of the art for its purely physical and psychological benefits.
A certain sense of the mystical, the metaphysical, and the unfathomable still permeates most Tai Chi classes. This is not because Tai Chi students are studying how to become spiritual. It is because, while doing the Tai Chi form, their minds are occupied, their bodies are grounded and flowing, and they are learning about balance on all levels.
This short video presents clips from the much longer Tai Chi form, as practiced at Do No Kai Martial Arts Temple.
The Roots of Tai Chi
Tai Chi originated as one of the internal martial arts. These practices were created by advanced martial artists whose goals and interests centered around the metaphysical. Some of their paths journeyed into spiritual avenues, some into formalized religious pursuits, some into the philosophical. What they all had in common is that the early Tai Chi practitioners were truth-seeking martial artists.
Isn’t Tai Chi Taoist?
While some interpret early Tai Chi teachings as revolving around Taoism, a case can be made that most similar martial and meditative teachings contain elements of Taoism, usually unintentionally. This is because the philosophy of Taoism is so simple as to be practically all-encompassing. “The Way Is the Way” is the core of Taoism as expressed by Lao Tzu in his Tao Te Ching. Its Zen-like meaning is that there are no words to define the Ultimate, because it is unimaginably bigger than words or even thought.
Tai Chi, then, is no more Taoist than breathing is Taoist… and no less. Combine the fundamental philosophy of Taoism with its principle of two polar opposites, yin and yang, united in a deeper one, (the Tao), and you have the basis for almost every internal martial art or meditative philosophy. Tai Chi, like other internal martial arts and most external ones, applies the principles of yin and yang to create balanced, functional methods of defense and attack. When opposites flow correctly, without obstacles, a cohesive whole emerges. It is from this position that the martial artist is best able not only to defend himself, but also to find enlightenment in the form of Truth.
Today’s Tai Chi – A Supple Spirituality
Today’s Tai Chi is so popular because of its astonishing pliability. It may be employed to reach both internal and external goals, from connecting with one’s true awareness to building strong muscles and fluid reactions. Whatever one’s definition of spirituality versus religion, that definition may be superimposed on the practice of Tai Chi, because Tai Chi is such a private, yet open practice. There is no need whatever to put labels on this remarkable art. Tai Chi is quite powerful enough without them. In fact, its true power comes from encouraging the practitioner to just practice, without getting cerebral about it. You might say that in Tai Chi, “the Form is the Form.” _______________________________________________________________
- Read about the esoteric benefits of the Tai Chi Ruler
- Photos and “Buy Now” buttons for Do No Kai Temple‘s beautiful Tai Chi Rulers
–by Cynthia Paul