In our Taichi classes, we talk a lot about following and flow. What do those really mean?
In the beginning, we follow our instructor. We follow a Taichi video. We follow directions for how to move – where our feet go, how high we should lift our arms.
But beyond following our instructor from form to form, or following a pre-set long-form sequence as they do in other styles, at some point we will be able to feel our own Chi and learn to follow that feeling. It’s at that point when we can really flow.
When you can feel and follow your own feeling of life energy, single-form practice really pays off. You won’t need to stick to a hard and fast list of forms like other styles (i.e.”Taichi Stance must follow Raised Hands Stance which must follow Inward and Outward form.”). Instead, you can flow from one form to any other single form smoothly and seamlessly based on how the energy flow feels to you in that moment.
After all, when you think of any martial art situation, you’d better have that skill! After all, you won’t always know in advance where your opponent is striking from — you’ll need the ability to feel and sense where they are going and respond accurately and powerfully in the moment.
We do have a list of single forms that each student should try to learn. Yet the list is not a prescribed order for your own practice sessions. Our list is merely an index of forms you can learn. (It’s also why you can jump into our 8 pages of single forms and learn any single form in any order once you have a good foundation of Taichi practice principles.) When you practice, you can combine single Taichi forms into any sequence you like — a long sequence, a short sequence, repeating some forms, or omitting others altogether.
The amazing thing is that this is truly when your Chi power can come out: When you let go and feel, follow and flow with your Chi rather than pushing, forcing or enforcing your own agenda or following a rote list of Taichi forms by mental or muscle memory alone!
The other amazing thing is that what we learn in Taichi can also serve us well in our daily lives. That’s why the Tao Te Ching, too, talks about flow and the virtue of non-action power. Non-action is part of flow, and flow is part of non-action.
A river always makes it to the ocean precisely because it never takes any “action.” Imagine if a river could set its own agenda: stop whenever it wanted, divert itself to avoid rocks or falls, flow away from a dirty river it didn’t like, or decide it would rather stay in the mountains for the summer. It might never make it!
Most streams and rivers follow a predictable course But that’s not always the case. They always have the freedom of flow. If there is more rain, a blockage, a hot summer, or a snowy winter, that same river can surge over its boundaries or change course altogether. It responds to conditions, following the rules of its nature to always run toward the lowest spot. It follows and adapts as it flows – it doesn’t “act.”
But have no doubt, it always gets where it’s going.
The only principle that makes our whole entire living planet work is that water just flows and doesn’t act. But even though it doesn’t act, and just flows and follows its nature, it is the most powerful thing on earth!
We, too, can be just like those streams and rivers that make it to the ocean. We can end up right where we are supposed to be – and can get there even faster by learning the wisdom of feeling, following, and flowing.
And that’s why Taichi practice is so valuable. It helps us become more like that river, even if that’s not necessarily our goal.
How does Taichi do that?
Taichi practice helps us learn to stay in the moment and respond in the moment. We learn to feel and notice more of everything – both inside and outside of ourselves. We learn the skill of letting go, relaxing, and yielding. We learn that we have power and an internal sense of direction inside of us that will never let us down and can inform us where and how to move and what to do. We become more like a river or a stream, always changing, flowing and moving, always finding a way to harmonize our situation with the needs of our original nature. Furthermore, that kinesthetic experience in our practice wordlessly brings all those lessons home to our body, mind, and spirit.
Like a river and a river bed, Taichi wisdom and Tao wisdom are inseparable. The lessons of flow and non-action power are just a small example. We hope you enjoy your practice and all of the rich treasures it has to offer!
Taichi Foundations and Fundamental Forms Course
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