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Caught up

In situations involving emotions, there is a tendency for people to get caught up in the event. Rash decisions are made, words are chosen badly and adverse consequences ensue.
This is not the Way. We must be composed at all times. Our composure is not the product of some conceit. Being phoney is simply a mask covering the emotions.
It is important to be genuinely detached and unbothered.


When a family member places their hand on your shoulder, there is no adverse reaction on your part. You do not flinch or become upset.
When a stranger performs the exact same action, you flinch and your emotional state alters. Typically, you tense your muscles and feel the need to object.
What is the difference between these two scenarios?
The physical action itself is the same. It is our response that differs. It is our perception that differs. We are bothered by a stranger touching us.

No reaction

In combat, it is necessary to move past a point where you care whether somebody touches you or not. Contact provokes no adverse reaction.
You feel the touch, you listen (with your body), gauge the pressure, direction, positioning and you wait.

Heat of the moment

For a student there can be no heat of the moment.
A person who is clumsy, competitive, emotionally unstable, aggressive or malicious is not fit to be entrusted with the martial arsenal of the tai chi system.
You must temper your emotions and calm the mind. Refining the character matters more than technique.

Remain centred

Sun Tzu writes a whole section in The Art of War about how you should goad and bait a person who lacks centre.
He is teaching you to see how vulnerable you become when emotions are permitted to run astray. Losing our centre is very dangerous in combat.
Central equilibrium must be maintained at all times. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Read Chuang Tzu's Fighting Cock story.

The state of mind should remain the same as normal...
let there be no change at all - with the mind open and direct,
neither tense nor relax,
centering the mind so that there is no imbalance,
calmly relax your mind,
and savour this moment of ease thoroughly,
so that the relaxation does not stop its relaxation for even an instant.

 (Miyamoto Musashi)


Neutral state

Instead of getting ready, you remain neutral. You wait and see what will happen, and flow with the moment of the event.
Instead of resisting, you yield. Instead of holding, you let go. Instead of worrying, you relax.
This is how you can put I Ching into practice in your tai chi; responding to the needs of each situation, working through the moment by being adaptive, responsive and appropriate. You never react.


In our tai chi class you must be responsible for your own conduct and for the wellbeing of others. Do not fall into the modern game of pretending that you are blameless.
People make things happen. With their actions and their reactions. Do not shirk responsibility. If you are careless and awkward in our class, you make it difficult for people to train with you.
Nobody wants to be injured by clumsy movements and inconsiderate behaviour.

Keep a cool head

Melee situations test your capacity to remain composed under pressure. Your emotions need to be cool, your thoughts calm, your body relaxed and your breathing steady.
The heat of combat surrounds you but you are not upset or anxious. You do not tense up or become aggressive. You are one with the moment and at peace.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023