The Science of the Essence

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The essence of tai chi

When applied to tai chi, The Science of the Essence causes the student to really examine, contemplate and research the design elements that led to the creation of tai chi.
Understanding these factors enables the student to recognise the differences in tai chi styles, systems and approaches.
Why certain schools emphasise particular qualities which others discard.


By studying Taoism, The Tai Chi Classics, biomechanics and combat applications (featuring a wide variety of scenarios) a more informed, in-depth, discerning eye is cultivated.
Opinions, expectations and hearsay are replaced by a growing insight into the nature of the art.


Ultimately a student can learn what the essence of tai chi is.
Their training can be honed to accentuate these factors and draw them out.
The tai chi can become something that Yang Lu-chan would not be embarrassed by.


In some martial arts, the forms are practiced rigorously yet often discarded in application.
This seems odd.
Many tai chi classes adopt the same attitude.

Sifu Waller

Sifu Waller's approach to tai chi does not treat form in this way - if the form cannot be used in self defence, there would seem little point in practicing it.
Yet, the form is stylised and as such not suitable for self defence... so how do we use it?
Seek out the essence.
Every tai chi form movement has an intrinsic quality. You must determine what it is for each individual movement.


The essence of tai chi is the 13 methods.
13 methods are not addressed in detail until later in the syllabus, but the foundation is laid earlier.
Form represents a medium for the manifestation of 13 methods; 13 combinations of power (jing).
The movements are designed to generate energy release.
To use the tai chi form in combat, you must find the unique physical signature for each movement.


Every movement has its own characteristic and this is not just the placement of the hands.
By moving the torso, shifting the weight, spiralling the body, flexing the spine and adjusting the limbs - you create a movement.
What is the essence of 'single whip'?
To produce the movement, you must move the body in a certain way.
Once you can feel the essence of each movement, you can generate the jing and this is what you use in combat.


For every form movement you must consider what it can be used to counter.
Imagine attacks: what angle of approach is your opponent using and which limb?
Employ the physics; see the arc of the attacking limb relative to the movement of the movement.
Ensure that the two are in accord.
Make no assumptions about the attacker.
Do not distort the essence of the movement to accommodate an attack.
If the movement is unsuitable, use another rather than change its essence to fit the application.
You should feel comfortable applying the movement; it should be easy and natural, and adhere to the tai chi principles.

Zen was often opposed to the precepts of orthodox Buddhism. To the transcendental insight of the Zen, words were but an encumbrance to thought; the whole sway of Buddhist scriptures only commentaries on personal speculation. The followers of Zen aimed at direct communication with the inner nature of things, regarding their outward accessories only as impediments to a clear perception of truth.

(Kakuzo Okakura)

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023