Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


Archive for March, 2014

Tai Chi Chuan and Your Flawed Partner

Posted By Tom Daly on March 17th, 2014

Tai Chi Chuan and Your Flawed Partner

I’ve been thinking a lot about, again, how we work with each other.  This is crucial because we depend upon each other for our mutual growth.

It is not fun for me to lack a challenge; it is not good for you to be constantly overwhelmed.

It is not helpful for me to be the wise one who always wins, dispensing my wisdom to those in need. 

It is useless for me to judge what I do not like in someone’s practice. 

As a teacher, I need beginners to verify my thinking and my approach.  I need to see them “get it”.  They come to learn. 

As a partner, however, I need to allow myself lots of time and space to make mistakes; I need to allow others the time and space to make lots of mistakes.  Learning from our mistakes is invaluable.

So here are some ideas that I think strengthen the foundation of building a partnering relationship.

Don’t teach.

Don’t take advantage of every opportunity to “win”.

Don’t criticize or judge flaws – your own or the partner’s flaws.

Give your partner lots of time to be wrong without correcting it.

Play with your point of failure and be sure your partner doesn’t fix you.

Give advice when asked for.  Maybe.

Ask for advice if you have run out of options.  Maybe.

Don’t ask for advice if you have run out of options.  Think about it for a while.

Don’t scoff at what you see as flawed or inferior.

Don’t be a tai chi sports newscaster, calling out each and every play.  Unless they want it for some odd reason.  (This is a great way to kill the “us” and create a superior one and an inferior one.)

But don’t we learn from the observations of others?  Isn’t feedback required?  Yes, absolutely.  But you won’t hear a thing if the messenger feels overbearing and authoritarian.  You will learn less about Push Hands and more about who is delivering your “lesson”.

I was pushing hands with someone who had less experience than me.  He had many flaws.  I was simply letting him be and I wasn’t taking every opportunity to use his flaws to my own advantage.  But another senior student came over and told me I should be correcting him.  He eagerly agreed!  She then proceeded to “correct” him with a list of items that he needed to address.  As she left us, his only comment to me was, “She’s bossy.”  So much for the Good News!

I think it is good to fail and not be fixed.  You will learn a significant amount if left to your own experience, even if you can’t solve the push in front of you.  Mostly, we rush too quickly to solve the situation before we have a good idea of what we are doing in the situation.

“You are too hard!” really means, “I can’t deal with that push in a way that sticks to principle.”

“That was a lousy push!” really means, “I am superior since I can call you out on it!”

Two words to throw away:  1. Bad, and 2. Wrong.  It is never Bad or Wrong.  It is always, “We can do better.”  Secondarily they are never too hard; they never use too much force.  It is, “I need to improve my skills.”  (Technically speaking, if they are hard, they should be the one defeated because “the soft will overcome the hard”.)

It is always gratifying to be the one who knows.  Teaching is ego gratifying.  But if that were the point, I’d never want to teach again.  The point is not to be right or superior.  The point is to have all of us grow in our skills.  This is an endless process, right?  I love it when someone gets it right and then I am the one that has to solve the problem!

In general, I will ask more advanced partners if they want my suggestion.   They often want it, but I have no deep need to solve the problem at hand.  I think it is wonderful to sit with the problem and not fix it!  To let it simmer.

If they do want a suggestion, I don’t give them the entire bible – everything I know.  I try to give ONE basic idea to address.  Too much information never helps.  This is mostly a slow, one step at a time process.

At some point, you have to play a game not hampered by right and wrong.  You try your best and if and when you fail, it should be OK for both of us (short of actually hurting your partner).  From time to time, playing a sloppy game will show you quickly where you need to focus next.  Criticizing a sloppy game kills it in its tracks.  DOA!  See the sloppy game for what it is: a game that is beyond your reach.  There are few more instructive places to be.

Of course, should you encounter someone with a great push, it is instructive to be pushed and pushed and pushed.  The lesson may not be apparent in the moment, but in time, you will have gained great experience.

I’d rather have a good learning relationship with my partners than be feared, revered or avoided.  I need them, they need me.  How you work together will move the process with greater benefit.  Slinging out advice left and right is a dead end.  It is a skill to know when, if and how to intervene.  Truly, I turn red thinking of my past errors in this regard.  Like, just last week!

I’m not holier than thou.  I’ve learned this through experience.  The learning process here is too tough to be an excuse for ego creation.  Most of us are struggling.  It is better to struggle with the skill at hand than with your partner’s personality.

It’s true: I break all of these rules.  But don’t think for a moment that I’m not looking at my actions.

And of course we all need feedback.  But before you enter that quagmire, know that feedback can be brutal and damaging.  It may not help.  Giving feedback always feeds your ego so check in with that.  Your ego will always be there, but the point is not one-upsmanship.  The point is growth.

Alternatively, NOT asking for suggestions can be an ego trip.  “I’m going to figure this out all by myself.  (I don’t need your advice.)”  Maybe so, but few of us get anywhere without suggestions and external advice.

Push Hands has to be fun.  Fun in the sense of satisfying, welcome, interesting, delightful, an adventure in learning, an adventure in change.  For those that enter it in this way, it is an endless source of joy!  You will laugh every push of the way.

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