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Tai Chi
Hiding it

9 Mar 2011
The problem with demonstrating Tai Chi Chuan is that the highest level expression of its movements hides all the goodies. The more that is shown, the less worthy is the showing: the best demonstrations show the least on the outside. Tai Chi Chuan is first and foremost an internal art.

As a result, merely watching the demonstration of a grandmaster can be a lesson unto itself.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to revisit this lesson while watching a public demonstration by my long-time teacher, Grandmaster George Ling Hu, at the Lone Star Kung Fu Championships.

Demonstrating Tai Chi Chuan at a primarily Kung Fu event is an ego challenge. Kung Fu is external - big, flashy, fast. Many demonstrations are with groups as well. As a result Tai Chi Chuan looks small and insubstantial to anyone who does not know what to look for.

Knowing this, many Tai Chi demonstrators feel the need to make a big, flashy demonstrations of their own, lest they look inadequate. This is the ego challenge the Grandmaster Hu taught me to avoid. What is more important, showing the true expression of Tai Chi Chuan, or impressing spectators by displaying Tai Chi as if it were really Kung Fu?

Grandmaster Hu's demonstration hid all the goodies. He hid them so well that even his style was indistinguishable to all but a handful of spectators, mainly his senior students. How many others knew that those hands flowing with the grace of a gentle wind, can also break rocks with the power of a tsunami? Not many, because he did not show it; but the ability is there.

Which brings us to an interesting dilemma I face as I teach. Because newer students cannot see the hidden goodies, and because I want them to at least form a concept of what those hidden goodies are, there is a constant temptation to draw out the essence of a movement by making it big. Only problem is, making it bigger makes it worse, a lesser expression of what Tai Chi Chuan should be.

In Tai Chi Chuan you can only draw out the essence of a movement by making it small. A primary reason we practice slowly is because it is easier to examine the essence of such a small movement. The more we allow fear, self-doubt or ego attachments to creep into our practice of Tai Chi Chuan, the longer it will take to achieve the goal. So don't do that!


You may also like this related article: Practicing While Not Practicing (137)
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