Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Friday 21 October 2011

Not being there

Sun-Tzu says "Just don't be there, man."
Amongst our tai chi band, it is held that to "not be there" is the highest technique of all, much like ol' Mr Lee when he tricks the fellow into the rowboat and cuts him adrift. Of course, normally we speak of this at a purely physical, spatial level. Not being somewhere means not being present when violence occurs, whether that's avoiding a certain street or not provoking someone verbally. As a "technique", Not Being There means our  use of footwork, evasion and relaxation to avoid what may be coming to us.
It struck me that Not Being There also has a spiritual/psychological component, whereby we are not making some hairtrigger personality or ego for someone to bump up against. Obviously, we all have our sticking points and our flashpoints. But in tai chi we can learn to minimise these. So, when the wide-shouldered youth barges into you in the street you don't become a slave to your own anger.
Having slated the practice of Fixed Step Pushing Hands in a soon-to- be- released article for the TCUGB magazine, I'd like to say here and now that it can be useful for seeing the ego in full effect (we just don't need to make a competition out of it...) and thus lessening our reactivity. The Buddhists have the parable of the empty rowboat. If a boat full of people bumps into you, you may become angry and full of blame. But if the rowboat is empty, you simply nudge it away with your oar and forget it. So tai chi chuan can help us to see more empty rowboats where before they were fully inhabited, and really bloody irritating.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Do tai chi!

I happily type away, from week to week, blithely pretending that words can somehow explain, or capture some essence of tai chi chuan and the martial arts. To some extent, they can. But there's a good reason that there isn't a huge selection of literature concerning the martial arts (apart from the surfeit of those books full of technique sequences...), and that's because it's inherently experiential and orally/physically transmitted. Really. I don't think I've ever learnt anything about the practice of tai chi from a book. I've learnt about theories and perspectives on tai chi, but nothing that helped me to do it. Maybe I could say I've drawn inspiration from reading, but not much more.
Every time that I have had an "Aha!" moment, it's come from training or discussion with Ian or others in the class.. On occasion, on checking a book or the Classics, I have found them to match my experience. So the literature can add weight to our findings, perhaps.
I haven't attended any tai chi seminars for a little while, but I am told that the fashion now is to record everything either by filming it or writing it down. Writing notes at a tai chi seminar is not doing tai chi. "Collecting" applications on film is not doing tai chi. Reading about tai chi is not doing tai chi. Certainly, writing about tai chi is not doing tai chi. I hope that this blog is mere entertainment between training sessions, just a bit of inspiration for your practice. I really would rather you were doing tai chi chuan than reading this blog. So go and train will you!