The Tao of Yong Jiazi

May 5, 2015 0 Comments
One of the first forms I learned was Flying Rainbow Fan

One of the first forms I learned was Flying Rainbow Fan

Today I am participating in the third week of advanced Tai Chi lessons. These are semi-private Push Hands lessons with one of the most respected Tai Chi Players in Des Moines leading two very senior Tai Chi Teacher/Players and me.  All three have twenty years or more Tai Chi experience.  They are amazing practitioners.  In this group, I am the baby, baby sister just learning to find my toes and using my hands and arms to grasp thin air as I follow along the best I can.

I’ll tell you more about the skills I am learning in another post.  For today, I’ll say that I’m learning the third pillar of Tai Chi which is Push Hands.  The first Pillar is Tai Chi Forms which I’ve practiced for three years.  The second Pillar is Meditation and I’ve meditated for a long time.  Never have I practiced Push Hands.  In fact, whenever my teacher advised me that I would never achieve my fullest Tai Chi forms potential without Push Hands,  I resisted mightily.  My resistance was fear based.  Push Hands is quite intimate.  The Players stand close together with hands touching arms, feet and legs move in synchronized flow back and forth.  The point of Push Hands is to read the other players strengths and weaknesses and to capitalize on them while learning about oneself.

So here I am, a Tai Chi Player and Teacher respected by my students, sought after as a teacher, and lover of the practice; yet, a beginner among the best.

The resistance I had when I first thought about Push Hands is still there.  Normally, I think I live a pretty bold life, or at least I put on appearances.  I havwe to admit that under my calm exterior, there are names for my afflictions, “neophobia”, fear of new;  “Atychiphobia’ fear of failing;  even a little “Faux Achievemephobia” fear of false success.  Lest you think I’m being more than a little dramatic, let’s throw in “Arachibutyrophobia”  fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.

I’ve gone through life not knowing a million things, and that never bothered me.  But knowing that I don’t know something interesting and challenging has always set me off.

I don’t have a solution for my anxiety; but in searching for answers, I’ve come up with a quote from the 70’s and some advice from a Tai Chi Master.

The quote was presented by Alan Watts in his book, ‘The Way of Zen”.  “It has been said that the highest wisdom lies in detachment, or, in words of Chuang-tzu: ‘The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep’.”

The advice comes from Master Wan Hai Jun.* ” Tai Chi Quan training has traditionally been divided into six stages, each laying down the foundation for the next. These stages are learning, practicing, correcting, smoothing, examining and dismantling the frame.  Each stage is necessary and none should be omitted.” Continuing to paraphrase Master Wan to his conclusion, “If all of these stages are complete, the student does not have to pause to think about their response, instead the most appropriate and effective reaction will naturally come out.  This level of skill is called yong jiazi.

It occurs to me that yong jiazi can also apply to a beginner in her third lesson.  Why not embrace thinking without pause, responding most appropriately, and accepting each move as the most effective, natural action for my skill level.  I think I’ll try.  -b


*You will find Master Wan’s complete article here  Six Stages of Learning Tai Chi Quan

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