|Written by Rachel|
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The Star Wars films and animated TV series (Clone Wars & Rebels) offer a lightweight introduction to abstract-seeming concepts that exist at the root of taijiquan and Taoism.
Going with the flow, trusting your feelings, letting go - are all explored in the Star Wars stories.
Even a child can follow the events in Star Wars, so this is an ideal way to softly open your mind and use fantasy creatively.
It can also encourage you not to take yourself too seriously...
If you found the Star Wars movies a little disappointing, why not take a look at the Star Wars cartoons?
The Clone Wars (2008) and Rebels (2014) are particularly entertaining. They have terrific stories, great dialogue and humour. They are much better than most of the Star Wars movies.
Knights in shining armour?
Star Wars harks back to the feudal era. It is reminiscent of King Arthur, the round table, Merlin, chivalry, jousting, monsters and mystics.
There are hints of Lord of the Rings, Flash Gordon and Japanese samurai warriors too...
The Empire Strikes Back is particularly relevant to taijiquan students. When Luke Skywalker trains with Yoda, a variety of Taoist, Zen and taijiquan concerns are mentioned.
You do not need to be a fan of the film or an enthusiast to gain some insight.
A Jedi is calm, peaceful, contemplative, kind, helpful and compassionate. They practice emotional control and seek to serve 'the greater good'.
Neither soldier nor warrior, they see themselves as being peacekeepers, diplomats, counsellors, teachers and negotiators.
Sith embrace the full spectrum of emotion; including aggression, anger and wrath. They are more warrior-like than the Jedi and usually serve their own interests.
Instead of striking openly, they prefer secrecy and deception; inducing others to act of their behalf.
Back in the 1970's, everyone who liked Star Wars wanted to be a Jedi Knight. Darth Vader was the villain. The devil. There was no doubting his status in the film.
This century, people want to be a Sith Lord and embrace the Dark Side. What has changed?
Cruel is cool?
There have been many examples on the TV, in politics, news and cinema over the last couple of decades in which people are seen as being cool for being cruel.
Humourless sarcasm is mistaken for wit. Torture is deemed necessary in order to get the job done. Taking away another person's dignity is considered just fine. People are entertained by suffering and pain.
Very few people in real life actually have ANY martial arts skills. After all, it is far, far easier to talk big than to act.
Gaining skill in any martial art requires untold years of training, practice, study, discipline and sacrifice. Not many people are up to the task.
Jedi Knights are held to a strict code. They must maintain a Bushido-like stoicism in the face of adversity, seek harmony and peace, fight only when they have to and remain patient.
In the 21st Century, these are not common values. Many people want instant gratification, to be served, prestige, fame, fortune, popularity... By today's standards, Jedi Knights are profoundly uncool.
Sith Lords sound appealing because they don't appear to follow any rules. They are bad and get away with being bad. But this is not accurate.
In Star Wars, becoming a Sith Lord is no easier than being a Jedi Knight. Dark Lords must do the bidding of their masters and prove themselves to be fearless, disciplined and focussed, or die.
But beware of the dark side.
Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they
flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path,
forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will... If you choose
the quick and easy path - you will become an agent of evil.
As far fetched as Star Wars may seem, the very same differences in character, skills and emotional control can be seen in taijiquan.
People of different ability levels embody significantly different degrees of emotional awareness.
Some are disciplined, resolute, powerful and knowledgeable. Others are aggressive, forceful and egotistical. Not quite a galaxy far, far away?
A serious mind
Now for the crux of the matter...
To gain power and skill in any endeavour, there must be commitment, teaching, sustained practice, focus, on-going improvement, refinement, corrections and a lot of hard work.
Self-discipline is a must. A taijiquan student cannot wield a blade or engage in combat successfully if their body is a mess and their mind is scattered.
What you started with
When people first come to class, their bodies are normally undisciplined; poorly coordinated, immobile, insensitive, clumsy and not in any way graceful, nimble or agile.
Their minds are often awry and anxious. They have unrealistic ambitions that neither their body nor mind can fulfil.
We teach qigong, form and partner work in order to impose order on chaos.
Be honest now...
How good is your taijiquan? Is it sensitive, alert, powerful and lively? Do you demonstrate agile, strong movement, excellent poise, high energy levels and a feeling of vigour? Cat-like grace?
Fans of Star Wars often favour the 'baddies' because their task looks easier. Similarly, many would-be martial artists favour easier-seeming martial arts opportunities.
A lot of modern martial arts are perfectly effective in combat, but victory comes with a price: aggression, anger, muscular tension, anxiety, poor body usage, fatigue, injury.
There is no spiritual development, meditation, harmony or quashing of the ego. Seeking a more patient, intelligent, balanced approach is bound to be less popular.
Strong mental attitude
George Lucas incorporated values, attitudes and insights from Taoism, Zen and Bushido into his Jedi Knights.
If you watch the 2008 Clone Wars TV series you will discover the Jedi Masters demonstrating many behavioural traits that are the same as those employed in the correct practice of taijiquan:
Dealing with the real rather than the imagined
Sense of humour
Willing to change
The Dark Side?
The Sith employ negative emotions in order to tap The Dark Side and fuel their actions. By contrast, Jedi Knights stay emotionally neutral.
Taijiquan and baguazhang do something different... As with The Sith, emotion is used. But not anger, aggression or upset.
Rather, it is emotional energy. Every taijiquan action requires 'emotional content'. This is called 'shen'.
How serious are you?
The Jedi Knights commit everything to become skilled. How much are you prepared to give to become adept with taijiquan?
The person who only attends once a week will probably get a restful break from the everyday toil, but very little development in martial skill. They are essentially a tai chi for health student.
A student who trains daily will make far better progress. Ultimately, you decide what will take place, how far you will go and what matters to you. Just remember: there is no short-cut, no easy path.
If you want to be successful in a
particular field, perseverance is one of the key qualities.
3 December 2009
Last updated 21 February 2018