EVERYONE KNOWS THAT TAI CHI IS A SOFT AND GRACEFUL HEALTH PROMOTING EXERCISE THAT CAN BECOME DEADLY AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE, RIGHT?
Well, not really. The problem to a large degree is in the terminology. Tai Chi is commonly referred to as a soft art and this sets the tone for how it is not only perceived but practiced.
You see going by this perception it appears that many people are attempting to improve their health by becoming increasingly soft and in many cases limp while engaging in Tai Chi training and many others are attempting to utilize this extreme softness to fight with by yielding constantly and avoiding even the hint of hardness in their movements as they feel this hardness is contrary Tai Chi Principles.
TAI CHI CHUAN IS NOT A SOFT ART IT IS A RELAXED ART.
Although they are often confused, being soft and being relaxed is not the same thing. Being relaxed is a balanced position, a state of open readiness which is neither hard nor soft but able to become either at a moment’s notice.
It is a position of deliberate neutrality, a physical and mental state from which unlimited responses can emanate. Conversely, to seek a position of permanent softness is unbalanced, one sided and limiting. The classics state where there is up there is down, where there is light there is heavy, and where you find soft there is hard. This is the nature of things. The opposites don’t just exist they are dependent on each other. The same is true for our Tai Chi practice the hard and soft are co-dependent.
TRAINING TO BE PERPETUALLY SOFT IS AS UNPRODUCTIVE AS SEEKING TO ALWAYS BE HARD.
Independently both hard and soft have limited value in fighting as well as health promotion. Although hard and soft are extremes they are inseparably part of the Tai Chi concept and we should not attempt to make either, independently, our default state of being. It may sound strange but In Tai Chi the soft should not be valued more than hard. To do this would be like saying when riding a bicycle the releasing of one petal is more important than the pressing down of the other.
In Tai Chi Chuan we seek to remain relaxed until it is time to react then we proceed with an interplay of movements which generate both hard and soft energy. That is why it is referred to as (playing) Tai Chi. Although this interplay of hard and soft exist in all Tai Chi Styles it is generally more visible when viewing a demonstration of Chen Style Tai Chi particularly the Cannon Fist Form. Most likely this is because the Chen Style continues to recognize and place emphasis on application as well as health promotion.
Nowadays in Tai Chi with the emphasis being place more on health promotion over application it is easy to develop an unbalanced practice. Without thought of application it is difficult to see the relevance and method of intergrading the hard equally into your practice.
WHETHER YOUR TAI CHI TRAINING IS FOR HEALTH OR SELF DEFENSE THE PRINCIPLES REMAINS THE SAME.
That which improves your fighting skill is also that which promotes your health the only difference is which genre you choose to prioritize.
Remember Tai Chi Chuan is a relaxed but powerful and explosive Martial Art whose success comes from utilizing the natural interplay of opposite forces which exist everywhere in nature. The interplay of the complimentary opposites is probably the most basic of all the Tai Chi lessons; it may also be the most important.