Tag Archives: Philosophy

Change

It’s certainly cliche, but change is all around us. If you’re new to Tai Chi, perhaps change brought you to the first step on this path. If Tai Chi is “old hat” to you, then you’re many steps down a path that really has no ending, and exemplifies finding your way without needing to arrive.

Tai Chi represents change in many ways: we study changes in weight distribution forward and backward, up and down, left to right, and between ourselves and our assailant; we study the nature of our body’s movement – how the arms and legs move, how the hips/waist direct movement of the limbs; we study changes in how we perceive our surroundings as we learn the art – at first focusing close to monitor footwork and movement, and then focusing further afield to monitor our imagined adversary; we study how we breathe when we move, as we learn to visualize breath movement and seek to access the meditational levels of Tai Chi; and we seek to study how an adversary moves so that we can learn the self-defense aspects of each and every movement in this art.

Change continues outside of us as we learn Tai Chi, and it is this change perhaps to which we need to pay closer attention.  Tai Chi is hopefully teaching us to be more calm and philosophical in the face of change: the ways in which our family’s grow and adapt, the ways in which we personally grow and adapt to work and society, and the ways in which society changes to ongoing ups and downs.

We each pay attention to different arena’s of change: some have a focus on the social scene, some on politics, some on sports, some on the comedy in life situations, and some the business side of life.  Of course many people are able to blend a couple or several of these areas, in varying depths of understanding.

Looking to the business side of things, I recently heard news that in addition to increased (five-fold) foreign investment, Myanmar, a.k.a, Burma, is experiencing workers organizing for better work conditions. Adam Smith’s invisible hand generally needs help from the visible voice of concerned workers. I believe that worker organization will run its course in the Asian economies, bringing about worker-focused reform, while encouraging even more investment.

The “developing” economies of the world are in many cases are only now going through the industrial revolution and work-life revolution that the long-industrialized sectors of the globe began to work through long ago.  This is change on a huge scale, on a scary, in-person scale, to be sure, but it is change that must occur: if these economies are to catch up with their peers, they must (or should) also learn to work with their employees for the betterment of all.

Note that the binoculars of social change looks not only outward to the rest of the world, but must also look back to the long-industrialized parts of the globe.  As life is in constant flux, America for instance is not perfect: we have many labor and business issues that are in dire need of resolution, some of which are rearing their heads right here in Pittsburgh, PA as the long road from manufacturing-based employment continues to shift over to service-employment.

Does your study of Tai Chi, whatever the intensity, give you greater perspective as you move through life?

..Alex.

Age

I saw a plaque nailed to a wall the other day that read “Your Life is comprised of two dates and dash. Make the most of that dash.”  I didn’t fully comprehend at the moment what the word dash meant.  Was it that everything goes so fast, that is dashing back and forth everywhere we go on a daily basis? Or, perhaps that the life that we live follows a line, though I admit that the line is seldom straight.  Then, reality caught up with my brain: “Date – Date”, e.g., “1872 – 1925″.  Oh, that kind of dash. Everything I do or do not do is reduced to a single character representing the correlation between the year I was born and the year I died.  On a tombstone.  In a public records book.

Sobering.

What the heck? What am I doing to make the most of that dash? What part of my life, or what is it about my life that deserves expansion beyond a simple dash?

Nothing.

Well, not nothing – I have an awesome family which I love very much and am loved by – but nothing Earth-shattering.  I haven’t found a new continent, discovered a vaccine for cancer, led anyone in combat, or given millions of greenbacks to charity.

I’ve had many excellent friendships, have an amazingly loving family, have worked 9to5 jobs and have paid bills to creditors for decades. The primary thread that has developed, aside from much unproductive day-dreaming, has been a habit of studying martial arts, particularly Tai Chi.

How can merely studying a martial art lead to mention beyond a dash?  Lao Tzu and Confucius already performed the hard work of developing the underpinning philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. Countless others have commented expertly on these writings, and/or translated them into their own languages. Others have documented the biggest and smallest details of Tai Chi itself: Wen Shan Huang’s Fundamentals of Tai Chi Ch’uan, Wang Peisheng and Zeng Weiqi’s Wu Style Taijiquan, or Zhang Yun’s The Complete Taiji Dao.

My unique contribution is a positive attitude, blended with study of Tai Chi Ch’uan, and my “new” art of Tang Soo Do.  By bringing a positive attitude/outlook to the study and the teaching of these arts, I can make a difference in the lives of my family, students and community. Time will tell whether history will remember me as well as those above, but what matters today is how I interact with family, friends, teachers and students … and a positive attitude is critical to achieving positive relations with everyone. Positive attitude will embody the dash between my years.

..Alex.

Creative Destruction and Learning

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.

..Alex.