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Tai chi is Wudang in origin. In Chinese folklore, the internal arts masters of the Wudang mountain range were considered to be warrior/sages.
They were skilled in the arts of combat, yet well-versed in ancient knowledge.
This peculiar balancing of combat and wisdom lies at the heart of the internal arts. Finding balance between apparent opposites and recognising harmony is a key feature of balance.
Combat/wisdom, good/bad, body/mind, strong/weak... A student of the internal arts must find a way to reconcile the discordance of combat and the compassion that arises from insight.
Soft martial art
The balance between combat and wisdom are explored in the internal arts.
Through a refined understanding of physics, biomechanics and optimal body use, the student employs the martial skill in a unique way.
Instead of aggression, machismo, cruelty and anger, the student is calm, composed and restrained. Only the most subtle degree of effort is used.
Conflict arises through resistance. When one position meets with another and yielding does not take place then conflict occurs. Opinions and beliefs are the usual source of conflict.
From argument to brawling to wars, our world is filled with disagreement. The student of tai chi seeks to resolve their inner conflict and avoid outer dispute.
To be martial requires
discipline, courage, and perseverance. It has nothing to do with killing. People
fail to look beyond this one narrow aspect of being a warrior and so overlook
all the other excellent qualities that can be gained from training. A warrior is
not a cruel murderer. A warrior is a protector of ideals, principle and honour.
A warrior is noble and heroic.
A warrior will have many opponents in a lifetime, but the ultimate opponent is the warrior's own self. Within a fighter's personality are a wide array of demons to be conquered: fear, laziness, ignorance, selfishness, egotism, and so many more. To talk of overpowering other people is inconsequential. To actually overcome one's own defects is the true nature of victory. That is why so many religions depict warriors in their iconography. These images are not symbols for dominating others. Rather, they are symbols of the ferocity and determination that we need to overcome the demons within ourselves.
Forms of violence
Not all violence is physical or overt. People are often extremely violent without realising it. Violence can take many forms. Harsh, unkind words. Derisive laughter. Sarcasm. Mockery. Insults.
Emotional hostility. Aggression. Pushing, forcing, controlling, manipulating.
Many people use violence in a sneaky, underhand way. Through gossip, malignant words, innuendo. Our culture is far from being non-violent.
How do we cope with an assailant without being violent ourselves? That is a very good question. A warrior/sage seeks to avoid confrontation and would only use their martial art reluctantly.
Tai chi fighting method
You do only what is necessary to escape the situation. Although the effect of your martial skill may indeed cause discomfort and pain, your disposition should remain composed and compassionate.
At no point would you become angry and deliberately hurt the assailant.
Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. It reaches beyond the information to see inner qualities and relationships that are not immediately apparent.
It is synonymous with awareness and care, with insight and consideration. Knowledge alone is dangerous. It must be tempered with good sense, morality and prudence.
Studying Taoist, Zen and martial arts literature will open your mind to new ideas, to possibilities you had not considered.
Authors such as Krishnamurti will significantly challenge long-held opinions and beliefs.
Serious contemplation will lead to a more resilient, flexible mind; a mind capable of spontaneously changing as the circumstances require.
Change is not easy for most people; they cling to what was or to their narrow perception of what could be.
Even a small amount of reading every day will subtly change your consciousness. You will begin to have insights, make connections and recognise associations and themes.
The expansion of consciousness will be notable over time. Besides, without a comprehensive grasp of the principles of Taoism and tai chi, how are you ever going to make the art work?
Like it or not, we all have our demons. Dealing with the rigors of life (and the doubts and fears that assail us) requires a strong heart and a resolute mind.
The fighting skills of the warrior/sage are best employed in everyday life, regardless of your profession or daily responsibilities.
Being calm, having a clear mind and a supple, responsive body is always beneficial. And, a little wisdom never harmed anybody.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023