It struck me, in reading the I Ching yesterday, that #48, Ching / The Well, is followed intentionally by #49, Ko / Revolution, signifying the need for both strong fundamental structures and periodic tearing down of those structures. Schumpeter’s creative destruction of capitalism is the modern embodiment.
When you are learning an art as complex as Tai Chi / Taiji, the structure of the series of exercises must be broken down into elemental portions, just as to learn to apply the quadratic equation, you must start with addition and subtraction. Once you get to the level of putting the elemental parts together, you have to destroy your concept of what the Tai Chi movements mean. Instead of being a series of distinct exercises, the Tai Chi forms or patterns are now a vehicle for several higher functions: meditation via breathing, self-defense via applications, and a basis for weapon and two-person activities.
Where does the added function of Qi come into play? Is it in the exercises, in the self-defense applications, in the meditation, or in the weapons/two-person forms? The answer is all, and none of the above. The Qi must be “found” by the Tai Chi player as he/she learns to weave everything together. The player builds the foundation, the superstructure of the forms/patterns, and as fluidity improves, knowledge of how the body moves coupled with how the body interacts with other bodies allows the player to begin to see what expression of Qi actually means.
Once you get to a very high level, it is very instructive to step back and see how to teach all this to a total beginner. Only if the player is successful in that translation exercise will he/she be able to destroy the foundation previously built so that the true value of Tai Chi can be found. Hint: the true value is different for every single player, which as it turns out is true for most of life’s endeavors.