Since human beings are incredibly complex, it naturally follows that the human beings who practice Tai Chi Chuan will have a lot of different definitions about what T’ai Chi is. This is particularly apparent in this issue.
For Zibin Guo, who has a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology, T’ai Chi has very broad implications as a martial art and as a way of life. He helps explain some of the cultural aspects of T’ai Chi as it is practiced in China and how the culture aspects manifests even among people who do not practice the art. He applies that cultural approach even to the martial art aspects, particularly to push hands.
Zibin Guo was trained as a martial artist, and he was a martial arts teacher in China before coming to the U.S. to earn advanced academic degrees.
Regardless of what your own purpose is in training in T’ai Chi Ch’uan, if you are serious about the practice, it will change your approach to the art and to life, and will help you to gain new insights. If not, you should really consider what you are really learning.
There is some controversy about the virtue of strength training in T’ai Chi. Tu-Ky Lam of New Zealand, who has studied with Ma Hong, an advocate of strength training, makes the case for using certain kinds of strength training to improve internal strength.
Standing exercises at trees are popular in China. The idea is to absorb strong, healthy, stabilizing energy from trees, which exemplify strength derived from strong roots, healthy energy passing through the truck, and tree tops that absorb sunlight and oxygen.
Jiang Jian-ye tells of a variety of practices that can be done with trees. Some people report positive energy feedback from trees after doing these kinds of exercises.
Push hands is one of the most exciting aspects of T’ai Chi practice, although many people avoid it. Rick Barrett of New York City discusses methods of improving skill by consciously slowing down, to become more aware of your own energy as well as that of your partners.
Too often people just see the external aspect of push hands. They see people pushing each other off-balance, and sometimes that’s all they are doing. They do not perceive the sensitivity required. The result is that people imitate the external pushing without any inner skill. It becomes only a physical or athletic effort, where muscle strength and reflexes dominate.
Rick Barrett is the winner of numerous push hands championships, including 1997 national titles in both middleweight and super heavyweight divisions.
A practitioner’s progress is often measured in terms of how well he or she understands basic theory and principles and the ability to implement them. Alan Ludmer writes about some of these principles to help practitioners achieve a better understanding of them.
Often understanding the principles depends on understanding the vocabulary that is used. More than that, it is understanding our own personal vocabularies that we create from our T’ai Chi experience. The more we practice with the intent to learn better, the richer those vocabularies become.
Mark Shaw of the UK applied Tai Chi to his business and finds it that it works well. He puts the principles to work by creating positive energy in his business and with clients. He convinces his staff of the need to coordinate their efforts in the same way that T’ai Chi movements are coordinated – with a center and with connected movement.
Stephen Hwa of Upstate New York, a longtime Wu stylist, discusses principles of internal movement and energy. His emphasis is on the torso and how its muscles are properly used to coordinate the rest of the body’s movement.
Do you know what is going on under your feet? Gregg St. Clair wants you to know and has written an article about important aspects of the foot and how it affects you Tai Chi practice.
John Barrett of Somerville, MA presents as approach to the benefits of T’ai Chi Ch’uan as a martial art with partner practice essential for higher level development.