21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Ideas to bridge the space between thought and action
Tai Chi Articles from the teapotmonk
Martial Arts and The Establishment
But there are other ways to learn, other ways to think and other ways to practice with others. And if we wish to see the debate evolve, we must sharpen out tools so that we can more comfortably question, prod, and debate how things could be done differently.
Taoism as a tool to question the existing order
One of the key themes in my work is to challenge the top-down methods of instruction eagerly embraced and duplicated in schools across the world. When deference and adherence to such structures drown out the voices for change, social justice and equality, then we need to speak out. Yes, I trivialise at times these debates by mocking the art on its uniforms and certificates, and the symbols of power and rigidity. But this is not just being controversial for controversy sake, but a reminder that such ancient approaches to learning are at best quaint and colourful, at worse, ingenious devices to maintain control in what Alan Watts has termed: "a wiggly world".
Inter-School Politics, Rivalry and Language
We seem to have collectively forgotten that Taoism teaches that true strength is directed to helping each other up, not knocking each other down.
Not convinced? Just try posting a video on your average tai Chi forum and then step back! For one style to be better, another must be worse. For one school to claim it is the “real thing”, implies all others are false. Have we conveniently forgotten that true strength is directed to helping each other up, not knocking each other down
In this search for the carved steps that lead to perfection, we forget that perfection is found in doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. it is found in facilitating the tremendous plurality that students can bring to the arts, with their potential for evolution, their ripe tendency for tolerance and the coexistence of opposing ideas. Instead we enforce a rigid repetition of order, with a subtle, but strong condemnation for those that do not walk the same path.
Taoism gives us the tools for doing better. And we can do better.
The Tao Te Ching shows us there is not, and there never has been a uniformity of perspective. Those that advertise most extensively, that shout loudest, that claim they possess the one truth, the correct lineage, the one true transmission - display an inflexibility at exactly the moment we need diversity and plurality.
Chuang Tzu: The many-v-the Few
In the writings of Chuang Tzu (Inner Chapters) we see a clear political affinity with the lowlands rather than the high peaks for it is there, we are told, that the Tao dwells, in the bottom of the valleys and in the streets rather than the embellished and righteous courts of the Confucians. In the 99% as David Graeber reminded us. Amongst the many, rather than the very, very few.
And so to politics and the abysmal electoral system that effectively gags all but two remarkably similar voices in a world full of variety and diversity and colour and energy.
Without plurality, diversity and multiple forms of representation - we foster the unhealthy belief in the one single path, the single political body, the one religion, the one form of democracy, the one tai chi authentic form (ha ha), the single cake recipe, the one unique sandwich filling, that leads - as always - to competition, violence and war. Okay, maybe not over sandwiches but you get my point.
The Interplay of Taoism and Anarchism
So what organisations can reflect ideals of flexibility, simplicity and plurality? Are there any organisational forms that foster the dust-free path, where not only is the exploitation of man by man opposed, but the dominion of man over man too?
Well, certainly there are seeds to be found in the collective ideals within the voluntary simplicity movement, there are interesting ideas in the downsizing movement, the occupation movement and of course - now hold on to your incense sticks here - the Anarchist movement. And before you call out the counter-terrorist police and issue them with my phone number, first look up something of anarchist history. Or, explore the history in a subtle and entertaining way here.
Anarchism has a rather fascinating and extremely rich, creative history with pragmatic well organised proposals for a possible future. And this is not just an academic discussion - look at the Spanish experiment in 1936, recorded by George Orwell and later espoused eloquently by Noam Chomsky Or check out the Tao Te Ching version by Ursula Le Guin.)
4 Books on Taoism and Anarchism
So, to my point. Well, society has always been evolved through challenges to old ways. History has been forged by people who learnt from it, but were not chained to it. Have you read the surreal and Time travelling account of the history of the martial arts? We just forget it in our rush to revere the past masters, methods and rituals. Don't get me wrong, Taoism is great for bite-sized quotes, cloud watching commentaries and observations on nature, but lets not forget it also has an organisational side that, unless balanced, leans in these market-driven times to an individualistic and less cooperative politics.
So what do you think? Are these writers wildly wrong? Have they misunderstood the Tao Te Ching and the role of past masters? Are we liberated from or chained to past ideals? Whatever you decide, take a look at the video and book links below. Leave a comment here, on twitter or FB and I'll get back to you. Oh, and yes I Know that traditionally Anarchists don't believe in voting, but thats not necessarily true. Times necessitate, and all that.
Watch the video on A Revolution for Every generation
Read the Best Books on Tai Chi and Taoism.
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