Each year, Grand Master Eng Chor Khor conducts a philosophy lesson. These are always fascinating and entertaining, and this year’s session was no exception.
The lesson began with an explanation of the meaning of many Chinese characters, including TaiChi, QiQong and Wushu. There are no simple translations for these characters, hence there are often many different spellings and subsequent definitions.
One important distinction that we learnt is that the “chi” part of “tai chi” is not the same as the “chi” in “chi kung” (or QiQong – there are many ways of spelling this). The “chi” in tai chi means 'indefinite', or 'no ending', hence contributing to tai chi meaning the “grand ultimate universe”. The “chi” part of QiQong means energy, so QiQong means 'energy and skill', where the skill is in remembering the movements. (I think many of us felt our brain was doing great exercise in trying to understand this!). A few extra insights that we learned include:
- Tai Chi is a martial art. All movements can be applied for self defense. Qigong is simple breathing exercises that are designed to enhance health and fitness.
- Martial arts, or Wushu, are known as external arts, where Tai Chi is an internal art and therefore designed to build up energy and health.
- Back in historical times, martial arts were only practiced by refined people of good character, by controlled and cultured people.
- Kung Fu is a very loose term for martial arts that came from the time when Bruce Lee movies were popular.
- Each Tai Chi form has its own character, so new forms were created for the purposes of competition. These are the Beijing 24, 42 and 48 forms.
The practice of pushing hands demonstrates the philosophy of Tai Chi. Movements are smooth and circular, never square, so that an opponent cannot detect your weak point. It is a deceptive art: you come and go, and move round in circles in an evasive fashion. This philosophy of movement is commonly used in Chinese culture. There is a saying known to those who have practiced Tai Chi for a long time and truly understand its philosophy: “Don’t play tai chi with me.” This means that you know a person is beating around the bush and you would like them to be straight and speak directly. (Many of us were delighted by this term and immediately thought about how we could use it.) There is much to reflect upon when extending your Tai Chi practice into your “way of life”.
The above is only a small portion of the wisdom that Eng Chor shared with us. I highly recommend attending the next philosophy lesson.
Assistant Instructor, Eltham and Camberwell Centres