On his website Tai Chi Master, Bruce Franzis asks his readership what it is that will move Tai Chi into the public consciousness like Yoga, Kung Fu and Karate in the past. Certainly we’ve heard of it’s relaxation, arthritis and balance benefits… but is Tai Chi firmly in the public consciousness as a life-extending art, or just as fringe medicine.
Franzis asks in “Tai Chi Tipping Point: Will Tai Chi Go Viral?” if it will take the weight of a Hollywood superstar to push Tai Chi into the limelight…and presumably students more readily to teacher’s doorsteps. Tai Chi has somewhat been in the US public ken for the past 40 years, but has not risen to the levels of Yoga or Karate/Kung Fu. This presence in the public’s mind has happened, he points out, with Jane Fonda promoting Yoga and separately with David Carradine promoting Kung Fu. He does not mention Karate’s surfacing due to the Karate Kid franchise, but perhaps he does not need to.
The real question, though, is that beyond celebrity, what ideas in Tai Chi will benefit those who seek it? Is it sexy? Does it provide relaxation? Can you get a cardio workout from it? Can you train an army with it? Will you prolong your life by doing it? These of course can be applied to any endeavor, and with Tai Chi as any healthy activity the answer is “it depends on how you apply it.” If you blend it with less smoking, a better diet, a kinder outlook and other types of exercise, then the answer will be that Tai Chi will probably benefit you.
My personal track record for “being present” has not always been stellar, and in those situations in which I was not always present, my results suffered. But, in those situations in which I was full on, always present, my results improved.
While providing caddying services for golfers as a teenager, I found that by being available even when all the other caddies had decided the sun was too hot or a milkshake was a cool thing to go get enabled me to snag a job when it presented itself. While working for a landscaping company, winter lay-offs were de rigueur. But when I asked not to be layed off during my second winter, odd jobs suddenly appeared that kept me busy for 30+ hrs per week (sometimes 80 hrs if the snow kept falling).
In later years, I grew complacent, thinking that my roles, when I did them well, were very necessary. When I did not do them well, I knew that time was short, but not how to properly change direction. While quitting is not optimal, at times you do need to change direction, so that opportunity cost does not outweigh your current gains. My last fulltime employer let me know in no uncertain terms that my complacency, or habits of not being present while being present, was getting the best of me. At his request, I changed direction.
While the change in direction was in parts painful, it was vastly necessary. My outlook on life has changed, my health has vastly improved for the better, for the long haul, and I’m interacting with a whole new cast of characters. Are you similarly less than present in aspects of your life? Will you need a change in direction to refocus your goals?
“Hello, World” is a traditional first computer programming program output message. As this post is Playing Tai Chi’s first blog post, drafted, hosted and viewed by computers, it’s only fitting that it serve as the first output here.
Yesterday my brother asked “Why use the word ‘Playing’ as part of the name for your website and your upcoming ebook?”
I love my brother because he comes up with the best, to-the-point questions.
The word “playing” I said to him has a positive flavor to it. When you play, you throw all your effort into doing something fun, with a light-hearted but highly concentrated intent. Tai Chi requires hard work to learn and to maintain, and ideally it requires working with other people to get the full flavor of both the movement and the martial applications. But Tai Chi should not be drudgery – it should be energizing, exciting – therefore “playing”.