Tai Chi Chuan (“great boundless fist”) is now the most popular trend of the Chinese martial arts, although there has been virtually no knowledge of it up until early twentieth century. Presently, it is the most theoretically substantiated kung fu style in the world. Paradoxically, today’s notion about tai chi is almost as limited as back in early 1900s. The fault lies with the lightweight and totally superficial approach to studying this art. Most people nowadays practice not tai chi, but a tai chi-style gymnastics hoping it would give them some kind of result. They cannot say what kind of result they are expecting since they have never seen one. At the same time, they would talk excitedly about the principles of this fine art and how it improves a person’s living if applied correctly. The key words here are “if applied correctly”. Commonly, it never comes to that.
A passion for strictly theoretical perception of life can kill the life itself and there are millions of examples to it. It never ceases to amaze how everybody talks about tai chi circular and fluid movements and about this great effect of wellness. Let me ask, where is this effect? Most of these self-proclaimed tai chi masters do not look particularly healthy and that is to put it mildly. A significant amount of extra weight; lack of flexibility, coordination, and stamina; and failure to apply their claims in practice - you have to agree, this should not describe a person practicing tai chi. If you only have a purely theoretical idea of how to turn a piece of meat into a good steak, you have a fair chance to end up starving. Because knowing is not enough, you need to act – by the way, these are the words of Bruce Lee, the great master of martial arts. If anyone, you can trust him. In fact, most people today equate tai chi to a beautiful exotic dance, at best, and do not take this exercise seriously, considering it totally impractical. How else would you explain why those who are into karate tend to have condescending grins on their faces every time the conversation comes to use of tai chi in the real world? It is the same problem all over again: using tai chi as relaxation gymnastics without putting all of its inherent applications into practice leads to abstract theorizing and brings zero results.
Fortunately, there is another side to it. Anybody who has tried to practice traditional tai chi at least once understands that it is not a simple relaxation exercise, but a great practical art, the study of which aids a man in finding his own self, revealing his potential, and reaching self-fulfillment in his life. The ability to stand up for oneself is a positive side effect of tai chi practice that will show itself immediately once the matter is taken seriously.
In combat, tai chi offers different standards than other types of martial arts focused on use of muscle power. Instead of blocks and strikes, it studies the principles of motion and methods of effort application. Roundness of movements is another feature that singles tai chi out among other martial arts. This is precisely the form of action that facilitates natural expression of strength in a human body.
Tai chi practice takes years of training and lengthy mastering of basic principles. It is nothing like fitness: it requires total concentration of attention in every training session, dedication, hard work, and lots of patience. Because of this, one must understand clearly that this martial art is quite complex and to master it requires a competent mentor. Though, please remember that, no matter how good your teacher is, a shallow attitude will not bring you any results! Do it consciously and always stay in the present moment.