Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why is tai-chi so interesting?

For those who are not familiar with any internal martial art form or Taoist meditation (Neidan), tai-chi seems a boring "soft-exercise" for the elderly.  Actually they are not completely wrong, there are many older folks who practice tai-chi just taking it as a "soft-exercise" to mildly exercise their body and mind. Which is not bad at all, but THAT is not what make tai-chi interesting!

In Hong Kong, marathons are organized annually for the local and international athletes. And every year there were athletes who got into serious medical conditions. The following is taken from Hong Kong Standard (7 Feb 2012):

"The condition of a female runner has improved, but a man remains seriously ill a day after they collapsed at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

Cheung Wai-yi, 24, and the 26-year- old man were taken to the intensive care unit of Ruttonjee Hospital on Sunday.

A hospital spokesman said both their conditions improved to stable yesterday morning.

In the evening, however, the man's condition took a turn for the worse.

A record 59,175 runners took part in the marathon, which suffered its first fatality since 2006 when a 26-year-old man died after competing in the half- marathon.

Lau Chek-lun collapsed about 40 meters after crossing the finish line.

He was pronounced dead at Ruttonjee Hospital shortly after.

A total of 38 runners were taken to hospital for various injuries, with 35 of them discharged on the same day."

From a tai-chi or Taoist perspective, the marathon is a very inefficient way to generate chi - which is vital in keeping our health and immune system running well (to use a modern terminology here). With concentrated mindfulness, a slight change at, say, one's point of mind focus, chi-generation can be massively increased! For a seasoned practitioner, this constitutes one of the many excitements and "causes for celebration". Well, we don't need to run an extra mile; instead we did it simply by our own experimentation with our own body (sometimes with insights gained from our teachers, friends or books).

An example: recently in doing Taoist meditation, I "discovered" that through mindfully focusing my mind at the end of my middle finger (i.e. the joint joining it with my palm), I can generate massive chi. Some time later I read the book "Theory of Tai-chi Nei Gong", and the author said that focusing at exactly the same points is essential to do the authentic tai-chi form with good chi-generation!

The point is, I'm not saying that I'm smart or anything like that. My point is that each person has his or her own unique path of discovery in the practice. It is interesting to travel this unique road to self-discovery, and to benefit from it, at the same time knowing that one is achieving what one is achieving with minimum waste of energy, i.e. one doesn't need to risk one's life to run the marathon for similar results!

Hong Kong Marathon


  1. Very interesting, yes, I always felt sorry for people who run a lot, I thought it might be too exhausting, but like to ride a mountaine bike quite intensively, what actually is pretty simillar. Well, anyone needs to walk his middle path, I guess, and a great deal of meditation plus a bit of intensive mountaine biking is a perfect solution to me. But I've also heard that some people can achieve a great meditation experience through running practice only. Maybe their chi feels good while running. Thank you anyway for an interesting article :-)

  2. Indeed, the "easiest" way to generate chi is through stationery meditation (either seated or standing). When one is moving slowly it is more difficult (like doing tai-chi form and like walking). The most difficult one is moving at (reasonable) speed (like doing "friendly" tai-chi pushing hands and aikido practice (demonstration). Competitive contact sports will be out-of-the-question. From this perspective, solitary jogging and mountain biking is possible to generate chi as in stationery meditation. But of course, one needs to be totally relaxed and focused, plus well-trained in the art of chi-generation through meditation.


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