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Tai Chi and Balance

By NYC-based Tai Chi instructor, Thomas Malone

From a safety and balance perspective, Tai Chi principle has come through for me on multiple occasions, from having to navigate slippery surfaces or dodge projectiles to avoiding fights and riding crowd currents at concerts or in subways.

For example, on one occasion when I was 23, I was crossing an intersection on foot. I walked in front of a stopped car and saw the driver was looking down at something. I kept my awareness on the driver because I could feel something was about to happen. Sure enough, right as I was in front of his car, he started driving forward into me without looking up to check to see if he had a clear path.

Without having time to think, my body simply reacted to the incoming force of the vehicle and used that force to spin myself 360 degrees off to the side of the car, where I landed softly on my feet. The driver then belatedly slammed on the brakes and, from a state of shock, asked me if I were okay. I smiled and waved at him affirmatively and went on my way. It was actually an enjoyable feeling, because there was no tension, fear, or panic, and I never felt any impact from the car or when landing on my feet. It all felt smooth and seamless, and I felt a calm sense of being in control throughout.

There are many examples like this in the lives of the students and apprentices in our school. In fact, Patrick Watson described this sort of Tai Chi response in everyday life, as reported by his students, as proof to him that the teaching method in our school is working, because it is the transmission of Tai Chi principle that is the most important result. If you are practicing principle in your daily Tai Chi practice, hen it will be there for you when you need it.

Professor Cheng even went so far as to say that one can be practicing Tai Chi principle 24 hours a day. Even while sitting, and especially under times of duress, you can practice the tai chi diaphragmatic breathing, while staying focused in the tantien. At night you can sleep in the so-called “sleeping Buddha” posture that Professor Cheng Man-ching recommended, and which we teach to our upper-level push hands students.   

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