Tai chi teaches the Mind and Body, your instructor must know the whole story so they can translate for you.
Tai chi is one of those activities you can float across the surface or dive deep, plucking the treasures from the bottom. The wave is symbolic yet at the same time is literal…if you have ever braved the crashing waves of the open beach you will understand…if you haven’t all you need to do is close your eyes, imagine the roar of the surf, the smell of salt upon the breeze and you are there, even if you have never set foot upon the sands…the ocean like Tai chi is within us all.
Today the beach was rough, the waves were pounding the shore…sparkling deep blue, the colour of those eyes you would get lost in…the invitation was there so she walked in. The first wave assaulted her, she struggled for balance…just standing there as the next set came rolling in. The lesson had begun…we watched to see what sort of Tai chi student she would make.
Frozen in place awaiting the next onslaught, her partner rushed to the rescue, he was only a few shades more skilful but the arrogance of youth gave him the courage…we decided stick around to make sure they survived the experience. The young lady was taking her plunge in un-patrolled, unprotected waters with a teacher that had just learnt to swim. The world is full of teachers that dive in with all good intentions…the Tai chi world is no different.
Tai chi and swimming in a raging ocean have the same survival principle…
“If you don’t move forward into the assault you will be driven into the sand”
Before anyone who has trained in Tai chi pipes up that we do move backwards in the Tai chi form…here is my reply…in the Old Yang Tai chi form we are always moving forward into the “assault”, even when we are moving backwards…just watch the eyes of an advanced student of Tai chi…think about it. If this isn’t true for all Tai chi styles we apologise, it may explain though why we practice the Old Yang Tai chi forms and not others.
Back to the surf…from our superior vantage point it was easy to see that waves come in patterns or sets and it would be simple to dive under the wave, catch your breath to dive under the next. Why was she standing there being pummelled…fighting for breath, spitting sound out as she surfaced only to be hit again. The instructor was laughing at her clumsiness, most likely she would have the last laugh when the lesson ended and he resumed his role as boyfriend. Our virtual Tai chi student was not having fun.
We wanted to swim out and tell her the secret…she was like so many of us in the beginning, struggling, trying to follow poor instruction. What was her mistake? It is deeply embedded in many of us from early childhood. It is drummed in…it is polite…it is good manners, this habit though may get you hurt some day.
When something as relentless as a wave comes crashing towards you…Don’t wait your turn, move forward.
We know about crashing waves in Tai chi and the danger of waiting your turn…it is in the entire form but sadly our surfer girl had not studied Tai chi. She was exhausted, it was time to get out of the water before she got into difficulty and happily she listened to our silent prayers. By the look of her she may never go back in again, her self image was shattered…the damage was done, she was now frightened of the waves. If this was a Tai chi class, run so poorly, you would not expect her to go back.
The Ocean is a dangerous place to learn Tai chi with a poor instructor. He should have taken her to calmer waters…taught her the patterns…taught her to move forward. Tai chi and the Ocean teach you how to deal with problems…rarely is the solution behind you or even in the same place you are now. The lessons you learn are for a lifetime…they will crash into you time and time again until you move forward. So many instructors confuse you with the wrong message…telling you to yield or move backwards.
Life is a wave…the mind and body are linked…if you are taught physically to wait your turn, the mind will follow. Moving forward into life as into a wave presents you with less resistance…giving you the waves stored energy to do with as you please. The faceless ones that hold the upper hand grind into you…wait your turn…wait your turn they scream, they know the truth and use it against you.
So when the wave looms above, before it roars down, it takes a breath…you may hear a whisper on the salt breeze…”Don’t wait, move forward”…this is your time, don’t wait your turn for it may never come.
Tai chi classes will teach you the pattern of the waves and it is OK to use what you learn in every part of your life. The wave is a pattern or a habit, it is not attached to you so it doesn’t mind if you…just move forward.
Ciao for Now
Colin the Tai chi foot Dr