Is Tai Chi a hill to climb?

Where effort, struggle and hardships are necessary to reach the pinnacle of Tai Chi attainment? Or is Tai Chi a journey of discovery where every now and then you pause to look and reflect on your achievement?

Like most things in Tai Chi the answer is not straight forward, perhaps a little story from my own experience will be helpful.

Some time ago I went to the Lake District, Keswick actually. Whilst enjoying the view near the lake I turned round and looked at the hill behind me. I pondered on how much better the view would be if I was on top off that hill looking at the view from that vantage point. So enthused did I become that I felt compelled to climb it to see. So off I went and being a hot and windless day I was soon sweating and out of breath. But I had started and was not about to give up.

Eventually I reached the top and turned to see my prize, the view. And I was not disappointed, it was magnificent. Sitting on a rock, I relaxed and gazed at the scenery in total wonderment at the beauty and diversity of our wonderful world.

Sometime passed, how much I will never know, for at such times as the beholder of such splendour I find time somehow becomes obsolete. On days such as these whilst enjoying a little rest and relaxation I like to leave my watch behind so as not to be influenced by. Seeing the sun was getting lower in the sky so aware that perhaps I should be moving on I glanced backwards and was surprised to see another hill bigger than the one I had just climbed. The sight of this had been unavailable to me from my original vantage point down by the lake. I pondered again what the view from this one would look like. Oh! What the heck. Off I went to climb this one too, soon dripping with sweat again and panting heavily.

As I reached the top in the distance I saw yet another hill, again higher than the one I just climbed. As I stared at this sight for a minute or so I was felt irritated, was there no end to this struggle to reach the best position. My wish to arrive at this place to see what others who shunned the effort could not. This effort, my struggle had yielded nothing more than the knowledge that there is more, always more, requiring more movement, more endeavour necessary to reach a higher understanding.

In my disappointment I turned and was again struck, almost violently, with the magnificence of the vision before me. This achievement had rewarded me with a prize unsurpassed by my previous view, the result of that first effort from the foot of the hill near the lake. Had I chosen to stop at there, this standpoint would have been hidden from me.

So I sat there basking in that glorious spectacle. The sun shinning down on me from the beautiful blue sky above, as I enjoyed my prized view, I suddenly realised the commonality of this experience to my training in Tai Chi. At the outset of my training in Tai Chi I had no idea of the multitude of benefits I would receive. My health and general wellbeing had improved in leaps and bounds.

Remembering a conversation with a fellow Tai Chi practitioner, who had many more years to his credit than I, during my very first advanced training day in Dunstable near London way back in 1976. I had been practising Tai Chi for three years and this was my first day training at the special class held by my Master Chee Soo for his personally invited students, a real honour. He recognised my enthusiasm and gave me some advice. He told me that this was a special art and it would take me around 15 years before I would be proficient. On my way home back to Yorkshire at the end of the training day I was rather depressed. 15 years before I would be any good, a lifetime or so it seemed at that time. Fortunately for me I continued with my studies and I have been rewarded beyond my expectations.

Before setting out on my journey I could have never known what benefits laid ahead, nothing from my previous experience could have hinted at the brilliance it would add to my life. Like no one could have described the revelation I now gazed upon, the direct experience had no comparison. Feeling a part of nature, feeling being in tune with the world, feeling I was in the right place, following my personal path.

Was its effort worth it, oh, yes! Was I pleased I had made that effort, oh, yes. Did its majesty enthral me, OH! YES!! Am I talking about the view from the hill or the benefits of Tai Chi? Both!

I do my best to enthusiastically encourage others to make the effort to experience this beauty I have found in my life. But only they can make the journey. They need to want to know more. To make the effort to arrive at this place, this panoramic view that is laid bare before me, my reward. Its splendour can only be discussed with others who have made this or similarly journeys themselves. Tai Chi is not a goal to be attained but a never ending journey to be experienced, and that experience will enhance the lives of all those who practice it.

I wish you all I wish for myself.


© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

About the Author Howard Gibbon

Howard, who was a student of the late Grand Master Chee Soo for 21 years has been practicing and teaching the Lee Style of Tai Chi and related arts since 1973.

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