Do you understand the underlying philosophy of tai chi?
Do you know about Yin Yang theory, the five elements, the Bagua trigrams?
How do these inform the way we do our tai chi?
Can you tell your Chen from your Yang? Your Wu from your Sun?
Chinese history? Which was the most successful dynasty?
During which dynasty did the soft martial art known as 'cotton fist' develop?
What are the influences of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism on tai chi?
What does the word Shaolin mean? Was the Yellow Emperor real or fictitious?
What was the effect of the Cultural Revolution on tai chi?
How's your Chinese calligraphy? What exactly is 'chi'?
What is correct tai chi posture and breathing? Qi Gong breathing?
When is a martial art not a martial art?
Well, people who attended Grandmaster Eng Chor's Annual Philosophy Lesson now have the answers to all those questions!
In just two hours, GM Eng Chor led us through the principles, types, history, development and practice of tai chi, with many other fascinating excursions along the way. Because space is limited here, let's just look at some of the general discussion of 'philosophy'.
There are many different martial arts practised today, but only a martial art that has a 'philosophy' is officially considered to be a real martial art. Tai Chi's philosophy is that of Chinese culture and tradition, based in the Taoist theories of Yin and Yang (opposites/polarity) in relation to the universe, and to our tai chi form practice, as we feel the difference between 'soft' and 'strong' in hands, legs etc.
In tai chi, our breathing should be natural and comfortable and is determined by our movements, whereas in qi gong exercise it is the opposite - the breath is used to control the movement. Qi gong is our "chi skill" and we develop our chi for the purpose of strengthening our own bodies for health.
GM Eng Chor emphasized his understanding that we practise tai chi and qi gong for health, fitness and longevity. Unlike the movies, this won't teach us to fly through the air or generate mysterious forces. There is no religious or mystical element to our practice. For our Grandmaster, tai chi is a basic philosophy of Chinese culture. And it will go wherever Chinese people go – Chinese culture and tradition, martial arts and Chinese food!
If you are sorry you missed all this, don't despair – there is always next year. The lesson is different every year, so keep coming. There is always something more to learn.
Grateful thanks to GM Eng Chor for sharing his knowledge with us, and for his generosity in answering questions about anything and everything.
Thanks also to Zenaida for providing us with a wonderful afternoon tea.
Joy Muir – Instructor