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Essentials of T’ai Chi and Qigong, Part 18, “Using the Mind—Inner Organizing Principles”

By Frank Simons

What makes T’ai chi unique in the world of martial arts and fitness are the principles that guide how the movements are done and what the player is thinking about. In this lecture, you will learn about five of the most fundamental and traditional principles: yin/yang, empty/full, softness/hardness, alignment, and mind/not strength.

Video Presentation
Essentials of T’ai Chi and Qigong, Part 18, “Using the Mind—Inner Organizing Principles”
Thu, Sep 29, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted

These principles are set down in the T’ai chi classics and in the oral tradition passing from teachers to students. These are the core assumptions explaining the mechanism behind a phenomenon or experience. For example, gravity is the primary organizing principle of matter in the universe. Natural selection is the basic organizing principle of species diversity. T’ai chi principles are the foundation of what makes T’ai chi work. They are never-ending. Even if you could capture all the principles in a book, you could still spend a lifetime exploring the depth of their meaning.


The first and most fundamental is combining yin and yang. These two concepts represent mirror images as aspects of just about anything we can imagine. The philosophy of T’ai chi looks at all the problems of our lives as an imbalance of yin and yang. Therefore, the practice is meant to establish, maintain, or restore the balance of yin and yang, like giving each equal time. When you allow this to happen, you start to feel the harmony.

The second most unique principle is that of empty and full. Although another pairing like yin and yang, this case refers to the presence or absence of something. The classic example in relation to the body is weight bearing. When you stand on your right foot, it is bearing all your weight, and would be the “full” foot, while the left is “empty.” There are degrees of emptiness and fullness. A simple movement like walking is actually a process of emptying and filling as you walk and transfer weight. The principle of empty/full is used to become aware of where we are in the process of weight transfer at all times.

The next classical principle is that “softness overcomes hardness,” which may have come from Taoist philosophy, seeing water as an example of a good way to live. T’ai chi asserts that force against force is ultimately a losing strategy, merely perpetuating a cycle of conflict. You should approach conflict with the idea of redirecting energy and force instead of resisting it. The phrase to use is “four ounces to move a thousand pounds.” This principle follows the original principle of balancing yin and yang and makes it consistent as a philosophy.

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.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.


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