It has no smell, it cannot be seen. It is a palpable part of our existence. Insubstantial and substantial at the same time. But is often seen as pure hokum. I confess I found it difficult to understand too in my early years, if it wasn’t for my keen interest in other aspects of the arts I would probably have written off Tai Chi and taken up something else.
But what really convinced me that there was something here I didn’t understand was my daughter who was four years old at the time. Returning home after the weekend courses I tried the chi energy exercises with my daughter. To her it was just like, great dad is playing a game with me. She had no opinion, she just carried out the instructions I gave her and I was astounded at her ability to perform them.
I came to realise my problem was I was trying to understand what was going on intellectually. But these exercises were about how it felt. Whilst I was trying to argue with the results in my mind. My daughter just did them without any preconceived opinion as to its validity. Having persevered in my training, the credit for that persistence went to my daughter to a large extent. I slowly came to accept that Chi was something that was real and with practise, can be felt.
I now find it fascinating that people find it so easy to accept that watching say the Olympics on TV that is taking place in some far off land like China. The video of the event travelling through the ether from far away to be picked up by an arial on our roof, then transferred to our TV screen where we can watch it virtually as it happens.
Of course there is one big difference between that and Chi, and that is we can see the picture on the TV screen. We don’t need to understand how it gets there, we can just enjoy the program.
But because we cannot see Chi, it does not mean it does not exist.
Chinese medicine along with other cultures have long accepted the concept, merely giving it different names. Being opened minded to such a concept it not easy, as one risks being labeled a little unhinged, although to be fair less so today than in the past. Nevertheless it is an embarrassing subject for many Tai Chi practitioners.
Yet others drift into fantasy in any conversation about the concept. Making claims that lead others to draw the conclusion it’s all rubbish. My Tai Chi Master Chee Soo always presented it as a natural aspect of our human abilities that have become dormant over the years. I remember him saying. “Have you ever had a baby grip your finger tightly and marvelled at the power of that grip that small child had. That baby is using its Chi, but as the child grows it starts to use its muscles more and more and the Chi becomes dormant. We endeavour to re-cultivate that ability through our training in Tai Chi.” By doing so we strengthen our health and well-being beyond what we previously though possible.
This is the gift that Tai Chi bestows but it has to be earned, it awaits us at the end of much practise. It is no quick fix. And can only be achieved by those that believe it is possible. For the concept of Chi itself is hidden from those that deny its existence. Like the £10 note you may have in a pocket or drawer you have forgotten about, it can’t be used because you don’t know it’s there. And again like the concept of Chi, should something bring you to remember it’s there as you once knew long ago, then that ability can be relearnt and used and your health will certainly profit from it.
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.