Saturday

Using a sword

If you chose to use a sword to defend yourself in the 21st Century, you will most likely go to prison.
This is a simple, unequivocal fact.
Yet, people spend hours training with swords, and many even practice cutting things with a sword, as though they may one day come to use the weapon in martial contest.
What is the point?

You could spend those same hours on some more relevant.

Training a sword may enhance your self defence skills in some vague, indirect fashion, but practicing shuai jiaochin na and jing with a partner would do so much more.

Thursday

Aesthetics

Sword forms may well be beautiful to watch and entertaining. This is fine.
As such, they represent an art form. In much the same way as dance.
However, it is quite another matter to train a sword as though it represented some measure of self defence.
We are not living in the past.
Modern times require modern methods of combat.
A sword is not a viable means of defending yourself in the 21st Century.

Common

Virtually every tai chi school in the UK is teaching 'tai chi for health'.
Usually there is no real syllabus and the material is simplistic.
Some classes may advertise themselves as 'taijiquan' but are in fact teaching tai chi for health.

Wednesday

Contemporaneous

Sword forms were invented to address the needs of the 16th Century not the 21st.
Your modern urban opponent carries a baseball bat, knife, screwdriver or gun. Not a sword. 
You will not be carrying a sword either.
Swords were once the favoured combat weapon.
The martial arts which grew around swordplay were a necessary and relevant area of study.
The sword skills were literally a matter of life and death.
Not any more.

Tuesday

Finding a class

When a new starter scours the web looking for the Art they are faced with an array of approaches that are all called 'tai chi' but are often quite dissimilar.
In truth, there is often little consensus
.
It is important to find out for yourself what taijiquan really means.
There was a samurai who had a rat in his house and could not get rid of it. He acquired a superb cat, stalwart and robust. But the rat was quicker and simply made a fool of it. Then the samurai got another cat, more cunning and astute. But the rat was on his guard and hid except when the cat was asleep. Then a Zen monk from a nearby temple lent the samurai his own cat, the most ordinary-looking cat you could imagine, that spent all its time drowsing and napping and paid no attention to anything around it. The samurai shrugged and said the cat was no good, but the monk insist he keep it. So the cat stayed and slept and slept, and soon the rat grew bold again and began trotting forth right in front of the cat, which showed absolutely no interest in it. Then one day, with one swipe of its paw, it caught the rat and pinned it down. Strength of body and technical skill are nothing, without vigilance of mind!

 (Taisen Deshimaru)

Friday

Wide awake

In order to awaken your mind you simply need to be here and now
Nowhere else. 
At any given time, nothing else in the universe matters more than what you are doing right now.
The cars outside, the neighbours, the music, the humming of the computer, the smell of food are all part of the moment, and you are nowhere but here.
It is all happening at once and you are totally immersed in it.

Thursday

Impediments to meditation

• TV• Politics• The news• Alcohol• Drugs• Gossip• Egotism• Phoney behaviour• Self-promotion• Passive aggressive traits• Anger• Talking rather than doing• Hurrying• Mock humility 
• Social games/role play e.g. "I have no time" "I'm too busy"• Self-gratification• Exoticism• Fantasising/daydreaming• Lack of commitment• Insincerity

Wednesday

Alive

Taijiquan does not exist apart from you.
It is not separate - like a car.
It cannot be inked onto you - like a tattoo.

Your own body brings the Art to life and the quality of what you produce is created entirely and only by you.

Tuesday

Ability

Taijiquan is akin to playing a piano.
The Art exists to the degree that you can produce the skills using your own body.
If you cannot move in a graceful, nimble, coordinated, agile, functional and pragmatic manner... there will be no music.
The quality of the taijiquan is entirely determined by you. It cannot be bought or bullied into existence
.

Monday

  How long do I need to train? Many people have asked me. And I answer, "Until you die. " They're not very happy with that answer. In the West people want to learn fast; some people think once is enough. But the dojo is not like a university. You have to practice until you die.

(Taisen Deshimaru)

Skills

Skills are not like commodities.
They cannot be bought.
If you buy a piano it doesn't just play itself. You have to do the work yourself.
The quality
 of the music is entirely contingent upon how skilfully you personally can play that piano.