The Darker Side of Taichi
A GLOBAL BACKDROP
All of this is understandable in light of the unstoppable expansion of the the economic order, globalisation, the hegemony of the market place and the parallel collapse of any alternative vision from the progressive movements. The cult of individualism refined supreme, finally breaking out on a national scale when Britains voted to go it alone, and Trump promised to make America great again - by building a wall.
Tai Chi in the west has not been immune to these changes. It has, on the contrary played its part in propping up such tendencies. Initially embraced as part of the alternative culture, Tai chi in the 60,s and 70s promised not just personal change but offered the potential for collective good. It’s deep philosophical roots were entangled and entwined with the world. It sought not to withdraw but to engage with it, not retreating from it but actively changing it.
But these concepts and practices were left on the sidewalk of the 60’s and 70's. Politics had proven an unworthy companion, and meanwhile there were better, catchier slogans to embrace a new movement:
Be the change you wish to see
All change starts from within
Become who you are
Start with yourself.
If you can’t stop the waves, learn to ride them.
It all smacked of the old arguments from the ancien régime - the lame trickle down economy get-out clauses that always brought tax cuts for the wealthy but little for anyone else. So we all retreated inwards. Settling for a life of achieving little else but our own personal ends. Just do it.
But movements are never constructed by talking to yourself. The suffragettes didn't retire after convincing themselves of the need for universal suffrage. Nor the Black Lives Matter movement. At some point we have to talk to someone else.
I know, this is difficult these days, as we leap consciously and enthusiastically into our own echo chambers, abandoning the politics of the street for an online petition.
At present, Tai Chi does very little to counter this tendency.
Cyclical Debates on the practicality of pugilism versus the practicality of living well, drives us back into the realms of individualism again, styles and masters and grandmasters and schools, prowess, skills-sets, internal strength, internal energy emissions, challenges, slogans, Trump’s red-buttons, the length of a Steven Seagal pony-tail, colour of a silk suits….
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
So what could we do, where could we go with this art if not up own own back-sides, bobbing inanely on the flotsam and jetsam of a Facebook timeline?
Well, heres a few ideas, but don't get too excited, they’re not for everyone…
Whats yours, where do you find the purpose in what you do, the challenges in what you learn, the currents that run agains this age of complacency. How do you engage with something more than your own self, the reverb of your thoughts? How do you touch and change the world around you through your art? Leave a comment on the FB page, web site, or on twitter and lets talk. ( This article is available from the 10th of Feb as a podcast here)
Whilst You Are Here...
You'll never guess what!
Like everyone else and their dog, I've created a Patreon Page. YUP, shiver my timbers the rumours are true!
What does all that mean? Well...what it means for you is that instead of lounging about in your dressing-gown awaiting the odd podcast, live video or article, YOU can now play an active role in producing it. If you’ve enjoyed the previous 2 series then now is your time to disrobe, fling the dressing gown of passivity into the bin and step boldly forward with a pledge to support the monk throughout 2018.
This will now be my 3rd podcast series I’d really like to do something more with it, develop it in new directions and go further with the aims and ideas that underpin its content.
Go visit patron.com/teapotmok and see what an amazing year it could turn out to be and check out the intro video below:
Contrary to popular belief, the teapotmOnk (paul read) is neither a mOnk nor a teapOt. He is, however, a writer on Tai Chi, speaker, course-creator & teacher with more than 25 years of experience. He can be found wandering between Andalucia (Spain) & Devon (Uk). More here.
Contact him here or keep in touch, subscribe for some great Tai Chi stuff delivered to your inbox.