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'Grace' is not a word we hear very often in modern society. It has fallen from popular usage. The word has a variety of meanings and connotations:
Elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action
A pleasing or attractive quality or endowment
Favour or good will
Mercy; clemency; pardon (an act of grace)
An allowance of time (grace period)
The love of God
To favour or honour (grace an occasion)
Willingly; ungrudgingly (good grace)
To be so kind as to
Grace refers to a particular quality of being. A way of carrying oneself. A certain sort of presence. It is uniquely quiet, simple and subtle. There is nothing showy, loud or vulgar about grace.
Grace is elegant, understated. There is a softness to grace. An inner silence of being. It cannot be easily replicated. Or defined.
There is nothing clumsy, random or awkward about grace. It seems effortless.
Grace also refers to a particular manner of conduct. It is to be found in compassion, in consideration, in a gentle way of handling things. There is no conflict or hostility. No anger or rash action.
Grace is smooth and easy. Soft and relaxed. It allows things to come and go naturally, to find their own way. To be themselves. Instead of opposing, it finds space, it flows around, it accommodates.
It is not enough to do tai chi, you must also do it easily and comfortably. Grace can be seen in the natural, uncomplicated movements of a skilled practitioner.
There is a smoothness, a subtlety in every gesture. Enfolded within the art are layers of sophistication. Real grace appears impossibly simple and elegant. Inconsequential. Unremarkable.
It is so innocuous that your mind slides over it. There is nothing overt to cling to.
Most martial arts can be utilised in combat by a skilled practitioner. What makes tai chi different is this quality of grace.
Tai chi is not sweating, grunting, aggressive combat. It is Zen-like in its austerity and aloof in its application. The aim is to avoid a prolonged 'fight' and deal with assault calmly and expediently.
Harm is not inflicted casually or willingly.
To the untrained eye, tai chi combat is surprising subtle. There is a seldom a prolonged fight.
If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
21 May 1996
Last updated 16 June 2023