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Reading the Tai Chi

By Frank Simons

In this lecture you will be introduced to the classics, and you will learn how they influence how tai chi chuan is practiced. Since ancient times, the philosophy, principles, and techniques of tai chi chuan have been handed down from teacher to student in an oral tradition. These oral teachings were gathered into the written tai chi classics, which are the repository of true principles attributed to legendary masters.

Video Presentation
Essentials of Tai Chi and Qigong, Part 14, “Reading the
Tai Chi Classics”
Thu, Sep 1, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted

The classics are like a book of essays reflecting the insight of the author. It is not recommended to read straight through but, rather, a chapter at a time, using the classics to evaluate skill or understand the flow of energy during practice. The classics show the wide variety of aspects of tai chi. Each focuses on a particular aspect, such as the flow of energy and how to attain it in the movements. Others focus on the practical fighting aspects and stress the use of softness over hardness. They track the influences of Chinese culture on tai chi. One begins with several lines about the nature of the universe, which is the original context of the phrase “tai chi.”

T’ai Chi (Supreme Ultimate) comes from Wu Chi (Formless Void) and is the mother of yin and yang. In motion T’ai Chi separates, in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to Wu Chi.

It is interesting to note how the language changes over time. Earlier chapters are very poetic, metaphorical, and abstract. The more recent chapters are more literal and direct. The most recent classic, The Classic of Yang Chen-fu, is basically a list of bullet points for correct posture and motion. It took one of Yang’s students to add a commentary to explain in detail. A footnote appended to the classic by Yang Lu-ch’an reads: “This treatise was left by the patriarch Chan San-feng of Wu Tang Mountain, with a desire toward helping able people everywhere achieve longevity, and not merely as a means to martial skill.”

David-Dorian Ross, the founder and CEO of Taijifit, leads the course. He has a BA in Human Movement Studies from San Francisco State University and has trained in China with championship martial arts coaches. Mr. Ross is the host of the PBS series T’ai Chi: Health and Happiness and the author of five books on health and wellness, including Exercising the Soul.


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