Chan Ding ( Zazen) Tai Chi

11 10 2010

I have a new Tai Chi student, one of LZ’s buds. We had our first class the other day. Generally when I get students for Tai Chi I know what they are looking for for the most part. On this case I did not since I did not speak with her about studying before hand.

I find it is a good practice to have some type of interview with new students to see what they are expecting, their goals that sort of thing. Not just to pay the money and start training. I do not get to do that in the Park & Rec classes, the students just show up and I give them a lecture so they know what is up.

Few come to Tai Chi to learn self defense at least self defense in terms of physical combat skill. Mental and health defense/well being, yes. In my interview with the new student, Yo-San, I also got to access my own current view of Tai Chi and the teaching of it and mythology.

Back in the day it was all about physical training on being smooth, the flow the underlying applications. We would just start with the form. After training with Sisuk it shifted to more body awareness and it’s full use. Body, waist Tan Tien to move the arms. Use of the Tan Tien more, Tai Chi walk became the starting point, along with breath.

After doing Chen for the last several years, I find my starting point has again shifted. As an internal art, internal should be a deeper starting point than even telling the student focus on the Tan Tien when doing the Tai Chi walk. They need to understand, to get a feel for the Tan Tien location, beyond an intellectual location.  Meditation, Chan Ding is a better starting point, IMHO. Finding the Tan Tien, becoming aquaited with it, linking it with the mind, then the body movements. This is I feel a better path. Sitting, belly breathing, Tai Chi walk and stance is a better foundation for growing the flowering bamboo of Tai Chi. This is akin to understanding the 8 steps of Kyudo before shooting or the 8 stance drills in the Tai Chi Praying Mantis System before doing anything. Sitting Chan Ding / belly breathing / Tai Chi walk = Ashibumi, Dozukuri, Yagamae, etc.

In traditional Kung Fu, Karate, Kyudo the first things studied are the stances, grounding ( Ashibumi, Dozukuri ). I think though as Tai Chi is classed as an internal art one should start with the core of internal. Meditation and breath then expand outward to stances and movement. Kyudo even though a Border Art, meaning both internal and external, it still starts it training from an external position, at least in what I have seen from the “Renmei” side. Where as with “Shibata” style even though not formally starts with Zazen. Both systems say they are about developing the person not just the shooter. Both do lean more on one side than the other.

In the world of Tai Chi this is also true. There are schools that know nothing of the combat roots of Tai Chi, and others that stress that Combat path. Like Buddhisum I think the middle path is best… for the adverage person of this day and age. To be like the bamboo to bend in the storm, to grow and flower the roots must be deep and expansive . All the arts at some point cover the same elements. As with Feng Shui no matter the style one needs to understand the Five elements theory. In martial art it is Ki, Stance, Breath, Focus… Mind, Body, Spirit. No matter where you learn or from who, or what point on the circle you start from to be good you must have a balance of all three.

There is no duality in the arts they are all expression of the great TAO , Shin Zen Bi, flowers in a field, and as such all have the same need of balance of elements. In the Physical Arts it is mind, body and spirit. Back to my new student. Teaching her from this new base will give me a chance to refine the class curriculum for Japan as well as develop the language skill to instruct in, at least on a fundamental level, parts…ok at least a few words.