Friday, 17 January 2020
The Truth About Tai Chi
I've been doing tai chi for a year and half now. It's been an eye-opening experience, I must say.
When I started, I was under the naive impression that tai chi was a meditative experience promoting love, peace and zen. Who knows where that idea came from? Probably from watching tai chi's slow and deliberate movements.
This view was reinforced by the charming and seemingly spiritual names for some of tai chi's forms (movements) -- "White crane spreads its wings" -- "Part the wild horse's mane" -- "Fair lady works at shuttle" -- "Step back, ride the tiger" -- "Wave hands like clouds" -- "Playing the lute."
Imagine my surprise to learn that tai chi is nothing of the sort. It is firmly rooted in martial arts. Every form is a fighting move, either defensive or offensive in nature. Like other Asian martial arts, the weapons used are hands and feet. Swords are also used in some tai chi routines. Fans, too. Weaponized fans.
This unexpectedly violent truth was brought home to me when I was learning a tai chi sword routine. I wasn't lifting my sword high enough in one particular form. The teacher grabbed my wrist and forcefully thrust my sword upwards.
"Higher, higher!" she said. "This is a throat slash!"
Now I know why gentle and meditative tai chi is sometimes called "how to kill someone in slow motion."