Reading the Taichi Classics
An important part of your training is reading the Taichi Classics. In order to get the most out of your practice, you must not only read these quotes, but also be able to correctly interpret what you are reading. Many people who read the Classics incorrectly interpret what they are reading, and this can lead to improper practice, which will slow the student’s progress. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some concepts that will help avoid this.
First, remember that any accurate translation from one language into another is difficult at best. This is doubly true for translating Chinese into English. This means that you have to spend time meditating on the meaning of each word to try and get the real intent. When the first Classic talks about being light and limber, you have to figure out what is meant by the word light. How do you make the body light? What is limber? These quotes are very terse, yet loaded with meaning, so you have to spend a lot of time on each one. It is easy to read these very quickly, but you must spend a lot of time meditating on each one.
Next, on what level are these Masters speaking? A huge mistake many students make is to interpret these quotes on the physical level. If you want to be able to truly understand these quotes, you have to interpret them on the energetic level. What is being discussed is how to flow and broadcast your energy, For instance, when you read that your form must be perfect, many students, (and often instructors), interpret this to mean that you have to have a physically perfect form, and spend far too much time on physical details. While good posture is important, your prime concern should be flow. If your form is physically perfect, but you don’t feel any flow, then you missed the point. One thing I was taught that really stuck was that you have to adapt the body to the energy, not the other way around.
This energetic interpretation is the single most important point to understand. All the terminology, yin, yang, substantial, insubstantial, light, heavy, all of these are referring to energy and how it flows. When you hear things like continuous, allowing no interruption, you are hearing about how to flow in your forms. This is not referring to staying in constant physical motion. Just because you are not moving does not mean you are not flowing. Remember, motion in stillness, stillness in motion. Look at every quote from this viewpoint, and you will begin to see the real meaning behind these very short, but very meaningful quotes.
Try as much as possible each day to work the concepts that you learn into your practice. For instance, every day for a month, read the same quote each morning and try and put one aspect of that quote into your practice that day. The next month, move on to the next quote. Really focus on each quote in this manner and make it a part of you, not just a passage you are reading. Feel it in your practice, first using imagination, until the feeling is real and spontaneous. Don’t forget to apply it in your Two Person practice as well.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive study of the Classics, but rather an introduction to how to begin your study. If you can apply the ideas here, you will be well on your way to correctly interpreting the Classics in a more accurate manner, and this will start showing up in the quality of your practice. This study will take years, and each time you go back and read each quote again, you will gain a deeper understanding of what is being said, which will make your practice stronger and even more meaningful.