On Tai Chi and Being the Best

I often encounter people who tell me that tai chi is the best martial art (I often encounter people who say, "Tai chi is a martial art?!?!" but that's a post for another time). It was a common topic of discussion where I trained. People just love the idea that you can spend time training in this apparently slow, gentle form and suddenly transform into a martial arts beast if you're confronted.

On one level, I will say yes, I think tai chi is the best. Obviously I do, as does anyone who spends hours every week practicing it. If I thought otherwise, I would be off learning karate or kung fu. No doy. (Although I do not practice solely for self defense...any martial artist will tell you that is not the only or even the primary benefit of martial arts training.)

In reality, whether tai chi is "the best martial art" is really a weird kind of statement if you think about it. Martial arts are not what does the fighting should you sign up for a competition or be unlucky enough to get into a confrontation on the street. People do the fighting, and people come in all formats: well trained, with tons of experience; untrained, with tons of experience; well trained, with no real fighting experience; belligerent windbags who won't throw a punch; silent but deadly types who will literally stab you in the back. Not to mention the vast majority who just won't bother getting into any type of fight.

What I can say for sure is that tai chi is an amazing way to learn how to deal with the energy of others, including, when you're ready, physical confrontation. If you want to see what it looks like when a guy with a lot of tai chi training demonstrates his skills against a mixed martial artist, go straight to the video below, featuring a tai chi demo and commentary by Ian Sinclair of Sinclair Martial Arts in Orillia.

If you want to know what really makes someone the best, though, listen to the audio commentary Ian Sinclair has laid over the video. You might want to especially prick up your ears at 3 minutes. Here I'll help you with a little transcription:

In order to master martial arts, you need to master yourself. This is not just an idealistic principle. This is a very practical thing. Every time there is a thought there is an emotion. Every time there is an emotion there is a physical response. So people who master martial arts have to work through their own stuff. There is no room for fear, hatred, anger, ego or anything on the floor.... The better the martial arts school - the nicer the people. The higher the level of skill - the nicer the personalities of the instructors.    

You get this, right? Not: the higher the level of skill, the faster they'll wipe the floor with you. Not: the higher the level of skill, the more they'll boast about their level of skill. Not: the higher the level of skill, the less they'll have the time of day for you when you walk in the door to check out the class. Niceness is a good metric because anyone who has learned well should have learned mastery over themselves and therefore should be able to help you feel accepted and comfortable from your first day. That really is the best.

Qigong Workshop, Sunday, August 11, 2013, 1-4pm

I'm offering a qigong workshop at the Regent Health Centre on Locke Street South on Sunday, August 11 from 1-4pm. The workshop is open to practitioners of all levels, including beginners. No prerequisite or previous experience with qigong is required. If you have taken qigong before or are a regular participant in my classes, you'll find exciting new material here.

This workshop will focus on Chinese five-element theory. According to traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, all matter is made up of five elements: fire, earth, metal / air (they're considered the same element), water, and wood. These five elements work together in a constructive cycle, pictured below.

In qigong, each exercise works with a different element, and corresponds to a different organ system in the body. You don't need to deliberately draw qi or meditate on the element you're trying to work with. Simply moving the body in the unique fashion required by each exercise will do that for you. By the time you've completed a cycle of five exercises, one for each element, you'll have performed a complete internal workout.

At the workshop I'll be introducing six exercises (one to align the body systems, and one for each element) and teaching qigong standing meditation. By the end of the afternoon, you'll have a short routine that you can use to refresh your energy or stretch and relax tight muscles any time you need. I'll be showing you how to make each of the movements more or less challenging to your muscles, and how to adapt the routine to fit the amount of time you have.

The fee for this workshop is $60.

Contact Melissa at smithmk2@gmail.com or (905) 521-0043 for more information or to register.

Advanced Tai Chi Workshop, Sunday, June 23rd, 2013, 1-5pm

I'm offering a workshop for tai chi practitioners who have completed the 108-form tai chi set (Taoist style) on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 from 1-5pm.

The focus of the workshop will be technique, with an emphasis on individual corrections to help take your practice to your next level. We will be working on improving the push from the foot and correct spinal alignment, in addition to any questions participants may wish to address.

I also plan to show participants how to work with a transformative self-healing visualization - a form of guided meditation - to release stale energies that may prevent you from moving forward in your practice. The workshop will include qigong meditation also.

I'm posting this information here on the blog in case you're reading this but you're not familiar with my regular classes.

Let's say you're part of a certain popular tai chi organization, maybe calling itself a society or academy, that is Taoist in its focus. It may be that you are finding that you would like to take your practice to the next level, or you're looking for an alternative to the tai chi instruction offered at a certain popular society or academy. It may be that you're looking for an instructor who has been trained in a more in-depth fashion than what is offered at those fine institutions. I in no way intend to oppose myself to the good people who teach there, since I think they do have a place, but I at the same time I want to let those who wish to go further know that there is more to learn. From my experience, I have more to offer and would love to share it with anyone who is interested.

If you want to check out my regular classes, please see the "Class Schedule and Fees" tab at the top of the page.

The workshop fee is $75. Contact me at smithmk2@gmail.com or (905) 521-0043 for more information, to sign up, or for details on the workshop's location.