Recently, I was asked by Florence Waters of The Telegraph to comment on tai chi as an antidote to stress germane to living in a digital age. When I explain to people that I healed my body from a serious motorcycle accident with nei gong and meditation alone, it often conjures notions of disbelief. However, I’m just one of millions of people throughout the ages who has not only found a path to healing, but also sustained and even amplified that healthy state of being throughout their lifetime from dedicated Tao arts training.
The very fabric of Tao arts is weaved from nei gong threads that intertwine to create the internal structures and external forms of qi gong, tai chi and bagua. The exact same nei gong threads can be weaved in very different ways to generate radically different arts and training results.
However, the nei gong system itself is split into two categories, which yields eight yang and eight yin methods. That is to say each nei gong component naturally develops either the yang or yin qi of the body and, as a whole, every thread contributes to an intimate and delicately balanced lattice.
Although both tai chi and bagua develop softness and strength, each individual student is typically drawn to one side. Most people are either more yin or more yang in their personalities and approach to life. In the West, we naturally gravitate towards our strengths, which means we tend to develop that which is dominant in us and leave behind anything that is lacking or weak. This can create further imbalance—the opposite of what tai chi and bagua practice aims to achieve. Training tai chi helps you develop softness inside bagua, while training bagua helps create more flexibility in tai chi. In turn, greater flexibility from bagua further allows you to access a softer operation of tai chi, while a softer execution of tai chi allows you to generate more strength in bagua. This positive feedback loop continues on many levels throughout your practice over years and decades as you refine and hone your skills on ever-deeper layers.
I am a senior Energy Arts tai chi teacher (Level 2) and have taught Wu style tai chi since 1996 with gratitude to and the encouragement of my teacher, Wu and Yang Style Tai Chi Lineage Holder Bruce Frantzis.
Over the last two decades or so in the tai chi game, I’ve noticed that many practitioners have unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve in short timeframes. Many times, students seek to learn a form and gain a high level of skill within a period of a few months, which of course is impossible unless you’re a rare genius in mind-body-chi. The irony is that those who let go of these expectations are usually the students who advance more quickly and, more importantly, experience the deeper health and healing benefits for which tai chi is renowned.