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The situation in which something is located or operates has tremendous bearing upon its nature. Meaning is determined by context.
Context is essential; it grounds a subject by its specificity - it binds and knits together.


It is important to establish the context from the onset. Context represents a framework for the information that follows - a box within which subsequent insights may be placed.
By establishing the context, your information will be correctly associated.


The problem with context is that everybody has a different life experience. We have been educated differently and our upbringing, opinions, memories and tastes colour our perception of reality.
Establishing a base line for context can be quite a difficult task.
You need to pare the subject right down to the essentials and make no assumptions concerning the background and experience of the student.


Context narrows down the field of study. A statement such as "It is hot!" has no meaning unless you can determine what "it" is.
"It" might well be the weather, a cup of green tea, a bath...  Or the speaker may be using slang to refer to something they perceive as being impressive.
When the context is muddled, the understanding becomes twisted.


With Sifu Waller's approach to tai chi the syllabus is quite sophisticated.
It introduces a variety of fundamental tai chi principles which enable the student to build the appropriate foundation for the material to follow.
Students are invited to explore the principles solo and with a partner in order to better grasp the significance of the insights.
By spending quite a lot of time working through the underlying material, beginners develop the necessary context.
Instead of seeing tai chi in terms of karate, wing chun, kickboxing or ju jitsu - they see tai chi in terms of the Tao.


Taoism is not a religion. It is a form of physics, where the properties and power of the natural world can be observed and understood.
We learn to move with the flow rather than against it. To use softness and allowing instead of force and tension.


If you begin your tai chi training with the appropriate context, you cannot go far astray:

  1. Tai chi is a martial art
    - tai chi for health practice is not authentic
    - you must be capable of applying your tai chi against a wide variety of realistic attacks
    - combat involves much more than form applications and pushing hands


  2. Tai chi does not use muscular tension and locked joints
    - it is a soft martial art
    - the body remains loose and free at all times
    - a free body and mind are spontaneous
    - jing is employed rather than force

  3. Tai chi is about 'how' you use your body rather than 'what' you do with it
    - it is means, process-oriented
    - the unique tai chi way of moving the body is paramount
    - everything stems from neigong
    - 'form collecting' is pointless; focus on the how rather than the what


  4. Tai chi follows the principles observed by Taoism
    - Taoism identified natural ways of doing things and documented the benefits
    - The Tai Chi Classics, Tao Te Ching, I Ching and many other books have utilised this knowledge
    - a keen grasp of the Tao and Zen is necessary


  5. Tai chi is more than simply an exercise
    - it is an attitude
    - tai chi is an approach to living

This is where your context must begin. The farther you stray from these initial facts, the more twisted your training will become.
In truth, these are not the only concerns, but they are a good place to start.  Establish context.

Freedom in tai chi

A tai chi
person has tremendous liberty. They can do whatever they want providing it adheres to the central principles of tai chi.
Your tai chi
must be performed within the context of the key principles. Providing you follow these criteria, the character of your practice will be tai chi.
If you chose to move your arms independently of the torso, or employed contracted musculature, you will have lost that context and no longer be performing tai chi

Seeing the false

In everyday life people identify with celebrities, media figures or even individuals they encounter on the street or at work. They see what they want to see.
When you interact with somebody, are you seeing that person as they are or do you have an image of them, an impression?
The image we have in our heads is not reality; it is often an idealised perception of that person, a distorted view of them.

Seeing the truth

Remember context. It will help you to see the truth. To see things as they really are.
For example: The actor, celebrity, singer is simply a performance artist. They are merely another person, just like you.
They eat,
sleep, defecate, worry, live and die. Money, popularity or talent does not make them any more or less significant than anybody else.

And so he sets off on a path to mysterious destinations. He does so in spite of observations by others that such a way is na´ve, outmoded or idealistic. He goes because he knows others have gone before, because the unchanging direction of the Way attracts and calls to him.

He goes because he is compelled. He sets out on a journey of a lifetime because he senses that this way is the one to lead him to a place very much worth the going.

(Dave Lowry)

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Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated
25 May 2009