Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Understanding Self through Tai-Chi

[Path to Mastery 2/17/10 – Wk23 D3 (Str 9.12.09)(Ph2 11.15.09)]

Sang’s World

Tai-Chi is a great tool for self understanding.  Practicing Tai-Chi is exploring how your mind and body is interwoven in ways you haven’t before.

When you practice Tai-Chi, you get to know a part of you that was hidden but that you have been looking for all your life:  The power and potential that your body and mind are really capable of.  This is because Tai-Chi is a small universe contained in one art-form.  As you learn Chi-Gong (Energy Cultivation), you learn about energy, the power that is not seen but operates all of life.  As you learn the form, you learn about your anatomical body, what it means to let go and feel freedom within yourself.  As you learn how to fight, you learn how to interact with others without compromising yourself.  Practicing Tai-Chi allows you to experience life in its full richness so that this experience spreads through the rest of your life, like a pebble thrown in a pond.

As you practices Tai-Chi, you get a better sense of reality.  For instance, through pushing hands training you learn to see the world in a non-reactive calm way.  When you do pushing hands, you practice listening to the pushes and pulls of your partner.  When you first start, you learn quickly how you are responding to what you “think” is happening.  With more practice you learn to listen carefully and you stop making assumptions.  When we want to see clearly to the bottom of the water, the surface must be calm.

It is between this richness of experience of exploring oneself and the clarity of mind that allows you to find a more accurate and complete self. 

Continuing our Tai-Chi Journey:

So far, we have covered the following:

8 Type Pushing Hands (Covered from 2/2 ~ 2/11)
San-Shou (Covered from 2/12 ~ 2/15)
Ba-Gua.(Covering from 2/16 ~ )

Today we will continue on Ba-Gua and the theories behind it.

Ba-Gua Part 2: Ying-Yang Theory
If Tai-Chi operates under yin-yang concepts, Ba-Gua operates under the philosophy of I-Ching.  I-Ching is the book of Changes.  Now this is where it gets really sticky and confusing.  

The truth is that both martial arts have been influenced by the Taoist concept of Yin-Yang, I-Ching and 5 elements.  Tai-Chi is called the martial art of 13 movements, 8 postures and 5 directions.  The eight postures represent the eight trigrams and the 5 directions represent the 5 elements.  Ba-Gua, Eight Trigram Palm, as the name indicates is a martial art based on the Eight Trigrams.  So as you can see it is not so clear cut.  So, it’s not that one has something and the other doesn’t, but more on how these principles were interpreted and applied to each martial art.

To help understanding I will give a simple overview of some of these philosophies.

The Yin-Yang theory in principle is not so difficult to understand.  This is just the Chinese way of explaining binary theory.  All this is saying is that to every phenomenon in the universe there is an opposite reaction to that phenomenon.  So, according to this theory, if there is a magnet, you won’t be able to find one that just has a positive pole.    

Sometimes people confuse Tai-Chi and Yin-Yang as being the same. Tai-Chi means great extremes, or great opposites.  So, it describes the separation of 2 opposites.  Yin-Yang describes how the 2 opposite energies keep balance.  You can see this in the Tai-Chi symbol versus the Yin-Yang symbol.  In the Tai-Chi symbol, you see white and black spiraling out from the center.  In a Yin-Yang symbol, you see the a black and white fish like shape with a dot of the opposite color at its center.     

According to Yin-Yang theory, Tai-Chi comes from Wu-Ji.  Wu-Ji means no opposites, or no extremes.  This is the state before the division of positive and negative, 1 and 0.  Then once Tai-Chi happens, the balance of the universe is described in the Yin-Yang symbol.  

Now, I would like to caution here that Yin-Yang is non-judgmental.  Positive does not have the connotation of good, and negative does not have the connotation of bad.  It is used to describe good and bad, but that is all.  It is used to describe.  In essence it is not supposed to be used to label but to examine a condition.  This is because Yin-Yang theory is used to understand the balance of things and how to bring about that balance.  For example, if you have a fever, you are considered to have too much Yang energy in your body.  Yang energy in itself is not bad. If you don’t have enough Yang energy then you will not have life or heat.  But if it is in excess of course that is bad.  So, you eat things that would bring more Yin energy to your body, or you drain your Yang energy until your body has balance.  Having balance is good.  Not having balance is bad.  But Yin and Yang, by itself is neither good nor bad.

We will continue on the concepts tomorrow.


  1. Sang when you wrote
    "you learn quickly how you are responding to what you “think” is happening. With more practice you learn to listen carefully and you stop making assumptions."

    You gave me a goal to work on for the foreseeable future. Or as Joe put it as the responsible exploration or reality. There is the choice between accepting reality or letting your ego get hurt. I have found something to work on!

    I did not that there existed something called Wu-Ji or a Tai Chi symbol, thanks for the info.

  2. The thing that makes Tai-Chi so fruitful to me is that the physical side incorporates the metaphysical principals of Yin-Yang, etc so that those principles become real and practical. In order to improve, I must discover how those principles really work and how to apply them. This can only be done in a physical system or else it is just in my head. When I expand my knowledge of my physical body, I become more and more present to the miracle of life and the beauty of God in a real way as opposed to a mental idea.