Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tai-Chi, Opposite Extremes Part 1

[Path to Mastery 2/10/10 – Wk22 D3 (Str 9.12.09)(Ph2 11.15.09)]

Sang’s World:

Tai-Chi, Opposite Extremes
The philosophy that guides Tai-Chi is for the practitioner to consciously consider both sides of the extreme in order to find balance.
The etimology of Tai-Chi demonstrates this. Tai-Chi literally means Opposite Extremes. Tai means great or grand. Chi means extremes or opposite ends. In short, it means Great Opposites, or Opposite Extremes.
2 simple analogies will illustrate why this concept is so powerful.
First, imagine you are about to walk a tight rope. You are given the choice to walk across the rope with either a short stick to help you with the balance, or a long one. Which would you choose? The answer is the long one. The longer the pole, the less you have to work on your balance because the weight on either side keeps you centered. In the same manner, a Tai-Chi practitioner will consider opposite extremes of a situation to get a broader perspective on the issue and thus is able to make a more balanced choice.
Second, imagine you are throwing a stone to hit a target and consistently your aim is off to the left. What would you do to correct it? The answer is to aim to the right side of the target. In Tai-Chi when the opponent is hard, you become soft. If the opponent is soft, you become hard. You balance the situation. Since you consider both yin and yang, you are not caught up in either, and thus transcend the tyranny of the opposites. Truth is that which bridges seemingly opposite concepts. This is because truth encompasses both opposites because it is bigger than either one of the extremes. Only when you see both extremes will you see the big picture.
If you have an issue, consider both opposite extremes of the situation. You will probably get some new perspective on it.

Continuing our Tai-Chi Journey:

8 Type Pushing Hands
1. Ting Tui-Shou (Covered on 2/2)
2. Da-Lu Tui-Shou (Covered on 2/3)
3. O-Nu Bu Tui-Shou (Covered on 2/4)
4. Chuan-Jang Tui-Shou (Grasp the Bird's Tail) (Covered on 2/5)
5. Pi-Shou Tui-Shou (Covered on 2/8)
6. Chin-Na Tui-Shou (Covered on 2/9)

Currently we are covering the Pushing Hands in our system. All Pushing Hand exercises loop back in a continuous cycle . This allows people to most effectively hone their skills through constant repetition and it gives them direct feedback if their technique and the principles (BARS) of Tai-chi are correct. We have finished the 4 type pushing hands, and now we are on #7 of the 8 Type Pushing Hands.

Today’s Lesson:

7. Left side Tui-Shou
Left side Tui-Shou, is not another Tui-Shou set, but learning how to do the previous 6 Tui-Shou sets on the left side.
Teaching yourself to do the Tui-Shou on the other side gives you the opportunity to get to know yourself much more intimately, which is vital to self understanding. To quote Sun-Zu’s Art of War:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
- Sun Tzu
Before you can know someone else, you need to get to know yourself better. As you get to know yourself better, you will have more sympathy for others and that will naturally improve your understanding of others.
Practicing to do the form on the left side is a popular Tai-Chi practice. Traditionally you learn the right side and then you have to teach yourself the left side. When you start practicing your left side, which is typically not as coordinated, things don’t just happen naturally as they did on the right side. So, you cannot skip any part of the learning and the whole process becomes much more conscious. Since you have to put a conscious effort to learn the whole thing you get to understand the techniques and your body more intimately. By the end of it, your left side becomes much more intelligent and your energy is much more balanced between your left and right side.
Most importantly, you start having a relationship with yourself. The process is very much like teaching another part of yourself, because you are. As you use your left side, the right side of your brain is used more, and you have to learn to be patient with yourself. You will find it a highly fascinating process.
Left side Tui-Shou is the true beginning of 8 Type Tui-Shou mastery.


  1. It occurs to me that knowing opposite extremes is the gateway to freedom. When we know the extremes, we can go where we need to go in any moment. Otherwise, we are limited. For example, someone who always wants to be nice will not be able to come up with the proper response when toughness is required. If you are willing to see the opposite extremes, you can make better decisions based in reality. Opposite extremes defines reality. When we can have the extremes in our world, we don't have to be forceful. We can be appropriate because we are making decisions based on how things are, not the way we want them to be. Of course this takes practice, and we must continually test our understanding of reality, but as I said before, the end result is more and more freedom as we expand the extremes.

  2. Studying both ends has great application, not just for Tai Chi but for mediation and conflict resolution. I am becoming more aware of this through school, every person has a story and that story has more than one side so both in counseling and Tai Chi one looks for both extremes.

    Practicing the form on the left sounds like a great goal for the Path to Mastery.