Tai chi is usually performed so slowly and with such grace and flow, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it began as a martial art instead of a dance. Today, rather than perform the motions with fluidity, I tried performing them in a jerky or start-and-stop sort of way. While these can disrupt the flow of chi, according to traditional literature, it’s also the case that it felt darned good to break out of the usual mold a little and try something quite different.
The punches and blocks were the most satisfying to perform in a jerky way. It was easy to imagine my hand connecting with someone’s line of gravity and pushing them away. Twists and spins and kicks were next most satisfying, because there was a sense that I’d connected with something; that I’d made something go crunch or pop. There was a power in these moves that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
But. Just because it feels powerful doesn’t mean it is powerful. Just because the motions are satisfying in an empty room doesn’t make it the right way to practice regularly. The fluidity, the stretch, the movement of the fascia… these are the keys to tai chi, and they’re the critically important toolset for managing one’s relationship with this art form; or at least that’s what it feels like.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t open up the valves from time to time and practice the movements in a slightly different way. My movements today suggest that valuing the occasional movement day that uses force and sudden stops can have its own usefulness.