Tai Chi Chuan is not a simple brute fighting art just like it is not a magical elixir that brings about good health. It is a deep and complex art rooted in the philosophy of Daoism. The concepts that are intrinsic to the art are the cornerstones of Chinese thinking. Yin – Yang theory is an idea made manifest in Tai Chi Chuan. The ideas of action and non-action, empty and full, light and dark, and light and heavy are central to everything we do. Every single movement in the Tai Chi Chuan forms is an example of these concepts.
Tai Chi Chuan has a reputation for being “meditation in motion” and this true to a degree. When performing the form we let go our conscious selves, stop worrying about what we’re going to have for tea and try to live in the moment. Each transition from empty to full or full to empty should be a conscious transition. Each punch should have meaning and weight, each push should be driven with the correct mechanics, each divert should be soft and gentle, each and every action should be mindful. We should not be bogged down in detail and stress ourselves but we should be aware of each error we make and the potential for correction.
Outside of general Yin – Yang theory there are general concepts and ideas that have grown up with Tai Chi Chuan. These are the Thirteen Tactics and Five Strategies. These ideas are all about the way a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner should move to be most efficient. In Tai Chi Chuan we do not train to stand and trade blows with an opponent, we move, we evade, we strike.
The Tai Chi Chuan classics take these basic ideas and develop them further. They provide instruction in how to train and how to fight. In Tai Chi Chuan we are looking for the most efficient use of force, whether we’re simply practising forms or actually sparring, and these manuals are guides on how we should be training and what we should be focussing on at any particular time.
These ideas are practical concepts that can not only be used to fight but also in everyday life. After all, what is the point of philosophy if it is not applicable to life?