Connecting the Dots-Tai chi as an expression of Self
The first thing I have to confess is that my ego has taken a battering, and it all started at Summer Camp 2011…
It was my first WTBA Summer Camp, after only a couple of months of hard training, it had dawned on me that this was real martial arts… I was just determined to go there and have some fun. This was also the first time I would be instructed by Eli Montaigue (Chief Instructor WTBA ) so I was eager to see him in action. So there we were on the first day doing some of the Bagua power sets, with Eli pulling them off seamlessly, and as you would expect I as well as many others were all over the place. Things went on as usual we were all enjoying ourselves the weather was beautiful , all just one big family. At the end of the camp my mind inevitably stumbled upon one of the most dangerous feelings, can anyone guess what it was?
Comparison… Upon seeing a man who was only a couple of years older than me appear decades ahead of me… seeing how far I had still to go was a shock. I was in a daze, how would I ever be that good? Would I ever be able to get to that level?
… my mind was an endless maze of self doubt, bouncing… endlessly looping. I had some searching to do, I had to confront my demons.
For a while I just pushed it away but each and every time I trained there it was again. I confessed this to one person who went through the same problem as me, and they came back with this…
“look at your life what else has it ever been about but comparison. Can you blame yourself for the way you feel”?
This was the trigger I needed. Every single day of my life has been about comparison, from the time I attended school we were divided up into groups, which in itself is fine, not everyone is the same. When we played sports naturally the people who were better were picked first, and the people who were not so good tried as desperately as they could not to show up or found something which they were good at, but this is fine, not everyone is the same. If it was fine…why was I having so much trouble?
My most recent example was job interviews, you are chosen on the basis of how another set of people judge your abilities, and this is what really hammered things home for me. I’m sure that everyone at some point in their lives has experienced that sinking feeling after they have been told by someone else that they just are not good enough.
Maybe it has always been so,maybe it is an expression of our Modern society… comparison and judgement. Segregating an organic living breathing individual into something as impersonal as a set of abilities… endless competition.
For me things really didn’t settle down for my tai chi until a good friend saw a video of me practicing a drill, the first thing they said was, “I am actually worried for you, it looks like when you do fa-jing your going to rip yourself apart from tension.” After the camp I had spent all my time trying to get power from my strikes, trying to do fa-jing… pulling a lot of muscles in the process, so when I was told this I thought to myself what am I doing?
What I was doing with my Taiji wasn’t working…things needed to change.
I started down a different road… doing Qi gong, the Yang Lu Chan (Old Yang) Tai chi form without the fa-jing movements, the “Post” exercise. Everything else was done slowly, including the Wudang Hammer, just keeping the wrist in the centre and moving the body as one unit.
Now things really started happening, and I realised that over time I just had to stop fighting with my biggest enemy, myself. All the time it was me stopping my training progressing, I was allowing my ego to compare myself, I was looking down on myself from the perfection I wanted to achieve. I remember reading Erle Montaigue’s articles about how Qi…
“Qi is like a shy girl peeking at you from behind a tree, you try to catch a glimpse and you never can but when your stop trying to look, there it is…”
…in other words when you seek power it will never come to you only when you accept yourself and live in the moment and just do it, without thinking does the power over yourself come, accepting your weaknesses and your strengths and all those minute little things that come together uniquely to create you. The ability to accept yourself as you are is real power, as I mentioned not everyone one is the same, everyone is beautifully unique. And the best thing is that even though we have weaknesses, we also have to realise that the world does not revolve around ourselves. The one thing that has helped me on this journey so far are my friends who point out my mistakes, in this way the people we know make up for our weaknesses, wouldn’t perfection be a lonely place? Tai chi has taught me so much already, because I have had to confront myself over something that means so much to me, and I have started to discover that life is not about competition, with other people or with yourself. The trick is to let yourself be, it reminds me of another of Erle’s sayings…
“when you do Tai chi it eventually becomes your art and yours alone because everyone is different, Tai chi is a true art as its expression is totally unique to every person. Go and make it your own”.