Tai chi humility

Tai chi can be humbling.

Today I completed my tai chi instructor’s course. I started practising tai chi in 1995, and the instructor’s course just under two years ago. That should be enough to stoke my ego and more importantly, I should be pretty good by now, right?

Not really. In the last month or so I’ve made some startling revelations about my tai chi, and how far I still have to go.

I’ve been struggling with a number of moves, mostly to do with sinking on the front leg. In some, my back foot tends to get stuck, and my leg either buckles, leaving the foot behind, or I lose my posture and have to physically drag my foot into position. I was watching a tai chi video on Youtube – there are some fantastic videos there, if you can sort through the dreck. I noticed that the master I was watching didn’t seem to move his back foot at all. Thinking this through, I realised what separated him from others I’ve seen, and this led me to realise that I wasn’t even sinking properly on the back leg either. My back leg was twisting slightly.

It’s humbling in a number of ways. First, at how long I’ve taken even to recognise certain errors. I’ve been happily making the same mistakes over and over again for years, hearing the same corrections being made by my teacher without really understanding. More humbling is that now that I recognise them, I can’t easily correct them. My body struggles to do what is needed. I can’t sink well enough. I’m not flexible enough, not rooted enough. I feel like a complete beginner, having to go back to the absolute basics in order to do anything. Each realisation leads me to another, earlier realisation. And more mistakes!

I really do know nothing, and I’m learning more than ever because of it 🙂

But making breakthroughs after ten years is nothing much. I’ve just read a piece by Cheng Man-Chi’ng, saying that he only started to understand relaxing after 48 years of tai chi 🙂

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  1. well congrats on finishing the course. After 12 years of school and 4 years of varsity, I realised lately that I know nothing too 😉 scary and liberating at the same time!

  2. I think the most important realisation in Tai Chi is that we are always beginners .. so much more is learned when the ego leaves and we come to this conclusion .. I have a similar problem with sinking in my back leg .. I have come to know it is because of holding in my ankle .. knee .. hip .. and that to soften and to let go is the only way forward ..

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