Yesterday (and today), for the first time in about 9 years I practiced Tai Chi. My old tai chi teacher sent out a mailer saying he was doing zoom classes with Ba Gua and I asked him for a Tai Chi refresher. I did Ba Gua in the past and I enjoyed it but it did not speak to me. It felt off in my body and did not vibe with my inner vitality. Tai Chi however I loved. I preferred it to Kung Fu. I also loved Qi Kung. But I loved and still love Tai Chi.
I love the dance of tai chi, the precision, the angles of the body, the role each party of the body plays, but I also love the martial aspect. The story is… and I might have already written about this, but that the Shaolin monks would fall asleep while meditating, and a Buddhist yogi one day came to the temple and taught the monks yoga and this was the beginning of their physical practice. So they could stay awake while meditating, or working on their inner life. I am not sure where the martial aspect was introduced but this is key for me.
When practicing tai chi you it is important where you are looking, where your energy is coming from and how your hands are positioned because you are theoretically engaged in combat. I mean they are important because it is important to do things well, but this doing well has to do with sparring with an opponent.
This is a critical aspect to Tai Chi, that I value, that does not exist in other inner arts like Qi Gung or Yoga. What does it mean to be martial. When I think about sparing I think about refining my ideas, testing myself against the world, interacting with the world. This interaction can be a dance, it can be a fight, it can probably be a number of other things. With the martial aspect you are defending yourself, you are preserving yourself. You are not merging with a dance partner but asserting your own sovereignty in opposition to another.
What are other martial symbols? Sagittarius with the bow and Arrow, Diana the huntress, Mars/Tyr and Tuesday (Tyr is the norse god of war). Some sports are more martial than others, like boxing. Fencing or archery could be construed a western martial art. I am not sure what my own Jewish tradition would be considered martial historically, but now there is Krag Maga.
When I imagine the archer, I imagine someone with a goal. I imagine a crystallization of will. The will flows from the body, from the inside, and is tested against the world in the martial art. So I may never fight someone in the street, but that is not why one should practice a martial art. It is to practice testing oneself against the world and asserting sovereignty.
Also – this is technology,,,