When I teach students how to do the form there are certain placements that they need to get correct. However, sometimes I wonder what they really think of the strict requirements. Do they think its overboard?
For me, the requirements are to ensure conformance and compliance to the principles of the Tai Chi Classics. So there’s no real room to wiggle out of it and say that a student should not have to try too hard just because they are unable to at a early stage.
Today I read an article in The Sunday Times entitled 24 cm Above the Floor by Janice Tay. The article talks about the author’s learning of the Japanese tea ceremony. I like the part below in particular :-
But the difficulty of executing one intensely perscribed motion after another makes you slow down and pay attention to everything that you would otherwise sleepwalk through.
Does this sound remarkably like how we do our Tai Chi? Earlier in the article Janice had written :-
An almost inconceivable amount of thought has gone into determining how each movement should be carried out. Nothing is too small for choreography.
Perhaps now students can appreciate why our approach to Tai Chi is the way it is. Because every little movement matters.
The last part of the article tells us how to reconcile exactness with inexactness :-
After almost five months of lessons, I thought I knew at least how to open the door. But at the end of one class, Sensei pointed out that my hand was too low when I slid the fusuma aisde. “It should be 24 cm above the ground,” she said.
She must have seen my face and the bubble over my head that said : “Twenty-four centimetres…..?”, because she added : “Well, it doesn’t have to be 24 cm exactly but …..”
Whether the hand has to be 24.0 cm above the floor or 23.4 cm is also acceptable doesn’t seem like the point though. It came as a reminder of how fast the unfamiliar can become routine and overlooked.
And I am reminded once again to take the tea room into all the other rooms I know and, no matter what kind of doors is in front of me, to look first for where the hand must go and, measuring out 24 cm with the eye, take deliberate hold.
I hope that reading the extract above will help students to see the point for being precise. If you don’t care about being precise then you would be wasting time trying to learn our Tai Chi because it is through precision that we learn to Master Tai Chi Today. However, once you have mastered the principles you can express it more freely.
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