Tai Chi brings out the best in people…
The job of the editor is to sort out what is worthy and what is not…well so they tell me. Actually it is a humbling experience. When fellow Renegades of the Tai Chi world contact me for a chat and to share common experiences it reminds me of why I also train in the Internal Martial Arts.
We gain so much from sharing and opening ourselves up…
So we are going to share an article written by a young man willing to as he said ‘out’ himself to the martial art world. We think his story should resonate with quite a few of you…it did with me after all these years.
A letter from…
Ramakrishna Chedumbarum Pillay
Hey mate I wrote that essay on Erle I’ll send it over and you see what you think.
Why do I do tai chi? I once asked myself this question but I found the answer was not really needed.
About a year ago I decided I was going to be the next Bruce Lee (a cliché if there ever was one.) I looked the part, I was the same size, weight, similar proportions. Body building was going great, loads of cardio, I was going to be the best. I originally started doing TKD, Tony Jaa was my idol as much as Bruce, but what especially was his extremely humble attitude.
I wanted to do ten spin kicks in the air I was going to be a stunt man. I bought all the magazines with master X Y Z telling me his art was the best. But there was still something amiss inside me. I found I was naturally drawn to the reality side of martial arts, and taking the word of those magazines instructors as gospel I started my (short I’m glad to say) journey into boxing and krav maga that “Israeli martial art,” but there was still something amiss.
Out of all these magazines it was always those articles on tai chi mentioning internal power that drew me, how this deadly art could make you unbeatable. So the first time I stepped into the KM dojo the instructor was there, about my height but at least 1.5 times wide and heavy as me so this was it. So I patiently sweated and bled (often as much as each other) every night three time a week in the dojo, the testosterone flying everywhere, the knife disarms, the lock escapes, the gun disarms (don’t laugh they took this seriously) , but there was always this belief in internal power. The first time I mentioned it to the instructor he said “I don’t believe in that stuff,” so I quietly agreed to disagree.
A few more months went by, pumping my muscles, cramming food into me, then one day my mind just pulled me up and said what are you doing? What are you afraid of? Ever since I started this journey I was becoming more and paranoid, is he dangerous? He looks big and strong be careful? Every time I went out I was afraid of being mugged of being stabbed , and with all this self defence I was just covering up my fear. I wasn’t making myself less afraid I was just isolating myself.
Each time I went to the dojo, all these muscled up men were civil … not genuine friendship. Just aggression, sweat and most importantly ego, tons of it. It was the most uncomfortable place I had ever been in my life and I was dragging myself there three time a week, but now I had had enough. Then a close friend of mine, Chris said “come and try Tai Chi with me in Leicester”.
So I went to Leicester, with no expectations, well maybe thats a lie, I always had a ‘thing’ for that martial art with internal power. Little did I know this would be a life changing experience for me. I walked into the studio in Leicester it looked amazing, bags and weapons, but more importantly it felt good, fresh , clear, friendly. In walked Nasser Butt, for some reason I could not and certainly did not want to judge the man. He shook my hand, and asking me how I was.
Nasser Butt was the kindest instructor I had ever known, I felt he meant it. No silk pyjamas, just a man. But then so was everyone there, almost unnervingly friendly, nothing I was used to. So we started, three circles, 3 minutes in and this was the most physically demanding exercise I had ever done in my life. I had never sweated so much while standing still, (or maybe I had never stood still before), then the wudang hammer, then post work, then fajing, something so alien to me …it felt awkward. Nasser then hit the pad for me, my arm seemed to vibrate as it was blown away, I had never been hit that hard before. He then took the trouble to casually uproot all my prior knowledge of martial arts.
When we finished I sat on the sofa and could hardly speak, my mind was reeling, and when we left I never thanked someone so genuinely in my life. The rest of the day I couldn’t speak, from then on I read as many of Erle’s articles, watched as many videos as I could , amazed at his teaching style, generosity with the amount of information available. In between I was going up to Leicester as much as I could craving those hours. I have to say now that Nasser is one of the people I respect the most in my life, he is not just my teacher he is something more important, my friend.
Now 11 months down the line I still have one regret and that was never getting to meet Erle. Through his teaching I have realised many things. Sure I have learned a lot about martial arts but it extends far beyond this. Just through his teaching, I know Erle was a man who was never afraid of speaking his mind, whose discipline was second to none, whose knowledge was as deep as an ocean, whose life was colourful and varied, whose humbleness, selflessness and generosity was something special that doesn’t come around very often and whose friendship extended to everyone. One of the most poignant things he said was, you don’t live for martial arts, your art lives for/through you.
The same thing Nasser has always said to me “Don’t forget to live.” Now I realise even though I never got to meet Erle in person, his teachings show me the qualities to aspire to throughout life. And by being so generous Erle lives in everyone in the WTBA (World Taiji Boxing Association), and I am grateful to belong to this family.
So what about my paranoia? I won’t be bold enough as to say it has gone, but now I realise fear is something unique. You can choose to cower and never step out your door, or you can try and build up walls and challenge the fear but it is always there, the only way to ‘escape’ fear is to observe it , until fear is nothing but a word, and there is no ‘fear’ associated with it. So when I walk down the street I say, if something happens, then my training will deal with it the best that it can and if something happens then it was going to happen, that is it, I have other things to concentrate on. So when I ask myself why I do Tai Chi, I realise I don’t need an answer I just do it, like Erle tells me to.