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.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Death, and the online tai chi phenomenon...

Like it or not, the martial arts are about death. The thing about death is its inevitability, and what this means is, sooner or later we all lose to the Great Foe. Whatever Promethean or Faustian finesse we are in possession of, it will eventually come to nought. In our culture, death is the failure to end all failures, given the heroism of Jesus: we should all be aiming for his conquering attitude to death, I supppose. Our attitude to death has long held it at arm's length, such that many people die alone and unheeded right amidst an otherwise civilised society. There is another way to see death, a way enshrined in our practice of tai chi, and that consists of getting really up close and personal with it. In the martial arts we die a thousand times and more at the hands of our friends, and maybe in this way we could come to see death (or Death) as the latest in a life-long line of training partners, albeit one that we can't "beat" in the usual way. If tai chi teaches anything, it is that categories such as "winning" and "losing", "leading" and "following" simply aren't the cut and dried  certainties we assumed them to be. Could it then be the same for life/death? If death is anything, it is the great loss; but as tai chi practitioners, we invest in loss and welcome it as part of a whole, without which our art cannot become apparent.

Much as we shy away from death, we now appear to be shying away from real human contact in learning our martial arts. There is a proliferation of online tai chi courses, and some days ago I wrote and published a blog post about these, which I then removed. I removed it because it seemed rather a rant, and after all, who am I to tell people how to practice? I'll just say this: really great tai chi is about contact, about making your sense of touch into something fantastic and artful, and you won't ever get that online. Try online stuff, and then find a teacher. That is my advice.

You see, there was a link between the two...

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