|The road less travelled
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Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal workout for modern people.
If this sounds like a lot of exercise, why not chop it up into smaller increments spaced throughout the day? How many people watch 90 minutes of TV every day?
How many people exercise?
Consider all the people you know. Do many of them exercise? Of all the people in the world, how many actually exercise?
Humans are pretty lazy and the invention of cars, televisions and computers have made things far worse.
How many people study a fighting art?
Out of those people that exercise, how many choose to study a fighting art? Not many. Sport is far more popular than martial arts training. Running, football, the gym, yoga... these more widely practiced.
Not many people study the martial arts these days.
How many people learn an internal art?
The internal martial arts are the hardest of the martial arts to learn. They involve a lot more patience and take longer to yield their results.
A would-be martial artist could learn judo or wing chun far easier than they could learn tai chi.
How many people train the art correctly?
Although tai chi is widely practiced and fairly popular, not many students are learning tai chi as a martial art. Most students are training tai chi for health, or as a performance art.
Very few people are engaged in learning the internal arts properly. Some tai chi people externalise the art in order to make it easier to learn. But this does not succeed.
Instead, it creates a new art: an external hybrid based upon the idea of tai chi.
Training an internal art correctly - using the principles of the art fully and faithfully - is relatively rare these days. It requires a lot of hard work, exploration, study, patience and practice.
How many people are committed?
Out of the internal martial artists who are adhering to the key precepts of their art, and faithfully perpetuating the essence, how many people are training it fully?
It is not enough to be training the right thing. You must also practice frequently enough for the skills to emerge, grow and reach fruition.
To do any internal art justice, daily training is necessary. The amount of time each day required depends upon your own individual grade.
Essentially, you need to practice what you know. And the more you know, the more you must practice. Yang Lu-chun trained his sons so hard that they ran away from home.
Thank you for giving me the strength and the conviction to complete the task you entrusted to me.
Thank you for guiding me straight and true through the many obstacles in my path.
And for keeping me resolute when all around seemed lost.
Thank you for your protection and your many signs along the Way.
Thank you for any good that I may have done, I'm so sorry about the bad.
Thank you for the friend I made.
Please watch over her as you watched over me.
Thank you for finally allowing me to rest.
I'm so very tired, but I go now to my rest at peace.
I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.
(Book of Eli)
Be honest with yourself
It is good to be honest with yourself about just how serious you are... Some people are casual students, whilst for others it is simply a hobby.
A few individuals are committed. Not many people are serious. There is nothing wrong with approaching the art in the way that best suits you. Your own level of interest and commitment are your affair.
What you get out of the art will be directly relative to what you put into it.
If you are studying an internal art, then you are not the average member of the public. You have chosen to learn one of the more challenging martial arts. This is not what most people do with their time.
Not for everyone
Your curiosity had led you on a journey that is not for everyone. It requires a steady commitment, patience, enthusiasm, money and time.
In order to make progress you will have to make choices, face doubts and be criticised by your peers.
Hardly anyone is truly dedicated. For the most earnest of students, the art has become part of their life. It is a vocation, a calling.
Why bother learning tai chi?
There is more to life than buying goods, eating, sleeping, drinking alcohol and watching TV. You are more than this.
The martial arts train both body and mind to move in a graceful, precise, functional way.
Strength, flexibility, vitality and good humour typically emerge. Greater harmony and balance is found. You look at life a little differently.
The internal arts require the student to explore Taoism and Zen. Contemplation, meditation, settled emotions and calmness of mind are all wonderful additions to your life.
Instead of becoming the violent brute people often associate with the martial arts, you become relaxed and comfortable with yourself, and with those around you.
Taoism embraces all sides of our character; recognising that people are both good/bad, strong/weak and so on.
We cannot be one without the other. The key is to find balance. A harmony of apparent opposites.
Martial arts training inspiration
It can be inspiring to read the experiences of other martial artists:
Moving Zen by C W Nicol
Waking Dragons by Goran Powell
Angry White Pyjamas by Robert Twigger
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
The Sword Polisher's Record by Adam Hsu
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 14 August 2023