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Taichi: endlessly fascinating - or frustrating 

by Chua Thai Keong

Tai Chi is endlessly fascinating or frustrating, depending on one's attitude. Like an onion, it has many layers to be uncovered, perhaps bringing tears to some along the way. Let's start from the outside.

The first layer is the physical exercise. It is different from "Western" training which emphasizes speed and strength, especially "secondary" muscles on the limbs. Tai Chi is more about exercising the "primary" muscles around the center of gravity of a person, and then working out from there. To me, it is more like learning to use the body as a whip, and not as a club. It is also about strength too. But strength comes from flexibiliy, not force. Anyway, at its most basic, Tai Chi is about having a good exercise that is safe and sweaty.

The second layer is the science of Tai Chi. It is in tune with nature and in line with natural laws. First is the law of gravity. Second is the law of motion. Third is the law required by the human skeletal construction, along with related muscles and tissues. We are not required to make unnatural movements and risk harm to our body.

The third layer is about Chi. For me it is difficult to prove or disprove. Students have to discover for themselves. I do not know if it exists, but I so feel better after each exercise.

There are other layers like fellowship which may matter more or less to some students. There may also be other layers buried deep inside and yet to be discovered.

There are many and different ways of teaching and learning Tai Chi. Herein lies the frustration. We cannot master it from books and videos alone. Ultimately we need teachers. Some teach too fast, others too slow. Some say do it this way one day, and that way another day. Everyone has to find out who works. In my case, Master Chong and his disciples are the only teachers I have.

September 2013


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