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We train a Chinese martial art but we embrace Zen sensibilities.
Zen grew from Taoism; the Chinese exploration of the natural way of things.
Zen finds beauty in everyday things, in simplicity, in imperfection, in the subtle.
This also feels to be more Taoist too.
Real taijiquan always smacks
of hearth and home. Deep down, commercial taijiquan is essentially shallow.
Rustic can be defined as:
Of, pertaining to, or living in the country, as distinguished from towns or cities; rural
Simple, artless, or unsophisticated
Lacking refinement or elegance; coarse
Made of unfinished or roughly finished wood: rustic furniture
Having a rough or
textured appearance; rusticated. Used of masonry
Zen cultivates a taste for natural things.
Instead of glossy, flamboyant, outward show, it turns the attention inward.
You begin to notice the small, the seemingly insignificant, and you see the wonder of the ordinary.
This way of looking at things seems most appropriate for a martial art that conceals its power so skilfully.
The taijiquan is not ornate.
It is simple, direct, flowing and natural.
Within the slow spirals, curves and gentle steps can be found a grace that is difficult to articulate.
People who live close to the earth have an affinity for it.
They spend a lot of time outdoors, using their bodies, working with the land.
Tai chi echoes the humble, rustic movements of the agricultural life.
It trains the body to draw in, release, bend and straighten.
Everything occurs naturally and easily, like the flowing of the seasons.
When we lose track of our origins, we miss the essence.
There is nothing in nature that needs a coat of paint. You cannot improve a leaf by adding frills to it.
Natural things are already beautiful.
We do not need to change them, we simply need to see them and appreciate their perfection.
At every turn he aimed to pare away everything that was not strictly necessary to leave only the more austere and sublimely refined.
Zen art can be seen in 'wabi sabi', in the love of the transient, the impermanent.
Our lives are fleeting, and we suffer greatly, either through ill health or other hardships.
This may cause sadness but the beauty of life can only be appreciated in contrast with the difficulties and sorrow we experience.
The symbol for the samurai is the cherry blossom. It is a beautiful flower. Yet it falls at its peak of glory.
In our superficial era, it is tempting to follow the crowd and pine for everlasting youth.
It is tempting to coat things in a veneer, a gloss.
It is tempting to embrace the superficial, to lie, to excuse and pretend.
We must not apply modern trends, fashions and perceptions to tai chi.
See the Art as it is, in all its simplicity, with its strengths and its flaws. Without adornment, costumes, traditions and rituals.
It may look coarser, more rough around the edges. But it is real. It is what it was meant to be.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 15 December 2017