Reflections on Tai Chi
by Jie An
by Jie An
I have always taken an interest in martial arts since young. Of the many forms of martial arts that exist in the world today, some people would then ask, ‘Why Tai Chi?’ Let me explain myself.
In the few years that I had contact with martial arts, I have learnt various forms of martial arts, from Chinese martial arts to Karate and Taekwondo. Through these contacts and interactions, I realized that martial arts, like people, have character. Ultimately, martial arts are created by people and the different forms that we see today are due to the mindsets and character of these great grandmasters. An obvious example is the different forms of Tai Chi we see today. Every different grandmaster have different understanding and take of the same set of motions, and as such apply different amounts of aggressiveness to the routine set, giving the different forms of Tai Chi that we know of. The same also applies to the other forms of martial arts.
I settled for Tai Chi after years of searching for the martial art that is suitable for me. Because of my soft spoken character, I was looking for a relatively ‘softer’ form of martial art-- one whose outward appearance is not too aggressive. Tai Chi is the key. It is not an old man sport. One should not be fooled by its slow nature of practice. If practiced correctly, it is indeed strenuous. While slow, every turn and movement is an opportunity for an attack. The practicality of the routine is tested out in ‘pushing hands’, providing real life applications of the routine learnt. Of course, all this would have been lost on me if not for Master Chong, who guided us patiently.
Two years under Master Chong learning Tai Chi also made me realize why I prefer this martial art as compared to others. Tai Chi, other than a martial art, is also an intellectual discovery about oneself. Externally, the positioning of a joint for stability, the contraction of a particular muscle for maximum power or the use of skeleton structure for support, all these lends support from Newton’s three laws of motion and principles from pulley systems. In fact, understanding every part of your body and what they are capable of doing is crucial in performing the routine well. Internally, the mind and body must be of one. To focus your mind on your slow movements requires intense concentration. This is why I say learning Tai Chi is an intellectual discovery about oneself. You learn about the different parts of your body and how to use them efficiently, and at the same time train your mental faculty and concentration.
To be able to practice Tai Chi well requires constant learning and understanding; it is a never ending journey. There is so much to learn. It will be a long and arduous road, but I am happy to have embarked on it.