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World Tai Chi Day

27 Apr 2013
World Tai Chi Day was created more than fifteen years ago as a twenty-four hour event in which Tai Chi is expressed from one time zone to another, continuously, until it circles the world. It starts at the International Date Line on the fourth Saturday of each April. At 10 a.m., the groups in that time zone begin their practice of Tai Chi for one hour (in theory), until the group in the next time west can pick it up at 10 a.m., their time. So it goes each hour, around the globe, until it returns to the Date Line, like a wave line at a sporting event of worldwide proportions.

For most participants the event is all about celebrating our love of the practice of Tai Chi - for the few martial artists among us, Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan); for most health-only practitioners, Tai Chi Kung (taijigong). However, it was created by its founders as a commercial opportunity for marketing t-shirts, books, and DVDs. I observe this not as a criticism per se, but merely a recognition of the truth. Even today, the founders market these items relentlessly with a torrent of e-mails and a website.

As marketing goes, this is small potatoes. Few of us Tai Chi teachers begrudge them the right to take advantage of their great idea for showing Tai Chi to the world. Beyond that, though, I fear World Tai Chi Day is, in many places, devolving into an event for unhealthy competition and self-promotion. Because my personal experience is limited to a handful of places I must be careful about how far I generalize about what I see taking place. What follows is a discussion of personal taste in the practice and promotion of Tai Chi - and not a criticism of other tastes.

My teacher taught me that "Tai Chi is not for entertainment". This is a lesson I took to heart. Tai Chi Chuan is a deep study of self-cultivation that at its highest levels, eschews ego inflation. The minute we turn Tai Chi Chuan into a show piece we destroy its essence and its efficacy. As a martial art, efficacy is crucial to Tai Chi Chuan; if you practice merely for wellness, efficacy falls by the wayside and the essence is easily forgotten. Any time we find ourselves trying to create a "Kodak moment", as Master Hu called it, we have a picture in our mind of how it must be. At that point we are concerned with how we look, not whether our technique works. As a result that picture, even if temporarily useful, is always wrong. So it is with all preconceived notions in our lives, as I discuss in Chapter 8, Detaching the Ego, in Tai Chi In Your Life .

Unlike Nevada, where I currently reside, my native state of Texas has a large Chinese martial arts community. There are dozens of serious, active Tai Chi instructors in Houston and Austin, a few of them true masters. As a result the World Tai Chi Day events there have become massive productions that require significant planning to manage. Houston's main event, which exceeds 300, went so far this year as to schedule activities by style and time block. It has an itemized agenda that precedes the 10 o'clock event, and more activities after.

I have no criticism of my kung fu brothers who hold and participate in such events. I have certainly participated in the past. But as a whole they do not work for me. I cannot see how to encourage the flow of qi in the community by boxing it up into a lot of little competing categories. Qi just needs to flow.

So I have experimented with variations. Three years ago, while still actively teaching in Houston, I hosted a separate World Tai Chi Day event for four teachers and their students, all connected by style, teacher, or personal relationships. We attracted four dozen people, which was enough to have fun without causing scheduling and parking problems.

Last year I was on sabbatical, not teaching. I spent World Tai Chi Day - now officially up-marketed to World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, to provide a larger target audience - at a retreat at the Sanctuary of Dao in Phoenix, under the tutelage of Stuart Alve Olsen. We observed WTCQD by not observing it.

At the moment I practice Tai Chi Chuan without venue, so today I held my own one-man WTCQD in Boulder City, my newly adopted home town of 15,000 out by Hoover Dam. My sense is that most WTQCD events are smallish groups meeting together, despite some mega-urban aberrations in America and China. I started in the park outside the police station promptly at 10 am. Before the hour was up I was joined by a young man, a college student and police intern, who is learning Yang and Chen taijiquan. We practiced separately, then met and practiced together. I gave him a CD to encourage his practice of standing post meditation. So it is with the world Tai Chi community: When you take away the competition and schools and self-promotion, all you are left with is the pure enjoyment you receive from the Tai Chi Chuan practice to collect, refine, and strengthen your qi, and every joint, sinew, ligament, muscle, tendon, and organ in your body.


You may also like this related article: Tai Chi: Easy or Tough? (79)
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