left biblioblography: TAI CHI CHUAN AND ATHEISM

Friday, January 27, 2006


There will be perhaps some atheists who blink their eyes, and say, “What?”

Others who’ll shrug, and say, “Hey, it’s just an exercise kinda like calisthenics.”

And yet others who’ll ask, “What is that?” For this group, I gently direct them to here: http://www.answers.com/tai%20chi - for a better definition.

For the second group, it is most assuredly NOT just an exercise: it’s a combination of mental and physical disciplines.

For the first group, there’s going to be something of a response along the lines of, “Hey, you’re an atheist, how can you invest in such a bunch of mumbo jumbo?”

The reason for that response alone is based on a number of misconceptions. Tai Chi (herein referred to as TCC) is based primarily on Taoist philosophy (Taoism in it’s purer form was emphatically not a religion). TCC is based on Eastern concepts, such as ‘Chi’, ‘Shen’, ‘Jing’, and such. We all have Hollyweird to blame, in re: the ridiculous stereotypes accorded to any martial art whatsoever. It’s this marketing ploy, this effort to drape any and all MA(martial arts)  in mystical crap of some sort, to bring in a few extra bucks.

I don’t do TCC (or ‘play’ it, as the terminology puts it) because I believe that it will turn me into some foolish metaphysical superhero that one sees in an overdone movie.  I don’t do it because it elevates me in any way above my fellow humans.

I do it because I’ve felt the results, completely divorced from the mumbo-jumbo draping the MA in this country. It has direct, observable results for the practitioner. Completely free of any religious trappings, denominational underpinnings: in short, it works.

For the skeptic, I invite him/her to investigate that second sentence, and get back to me.

I began back in 1986, purely by chance, having read Robert W. Smith’s Chinese Boxing: master and methods years prior, was intrigued, thinking I’d have to travel to China to learn the damned thing, shrugging and saying, “Oh well.” Rode by a little plaza tucked away on the side of Main St. in Pleasanton, and deciding to ‘give myself a birthday gift’ by taking classes. The rest is, as they say, is history.

For eight years, I practiced. Religiously, you could say. Dropped out for six years. Came back to it. Full barrel, gung-ho again.

Now, I was indeed a semi-theist at the time. I sorta believed in some half-baked deity, but didn’t really pay it much heed.

Now, I encountered (and still do, to this day), results that impact me from the consistent practice of said art. I’m pretty spry and flexible for a man of 47 years. My responses to external confrontations are very relaxed. It keeps me calm and focused.

I had a brief email exchange with one Ron Rhodes, at letusreason.org, as I protested his portrayal of any internal MA as ‘supernatural invocations’ (or somesuch thing). The standard line in some theistic circles, is that the practitioner is relying on some external ‘force’ (read: the devil), citing some truly ridiculous and specious nonsensical anecdotes (for instance, people busting bricks against their bodies, which BTW is an external martial art: us internal stylists don’t do that kind of crap, normally). Also, that the practice of said arts is thoroughly grounded in Eastern philosophical/religious mindsets.

All poppycock, I assure you.

The actual practice of TCC, any internal MA, or Qigong, will have wonderful effects on the mind as well as the body. No real philosophy is necessary. (There will be some discourse, of course: Relax is the main point. Some correction, as no one gets it right the first time.)

Proof’s in the pudding, I always say.

And I can cite anecdotal evidence. For instance, even to this day, if I go out to the park, even on a very cold day, by the time I’m done with my third short form, my hands have warmed up tremendously. Kinda hard to chalk that up to an exercise done in slo-mo, I’d say. When I went to China in 2003, I trained with Chen Xiaoxin, headmaster for the Chen TCC school in Chenjiagou (where it originated). He would put us all into a single posture, mold our bodies in specific ways, correct them, and these tremendous feelings of energy flow would just blossom (at least in my body). I wasn’t directed to feel this way (he spoke absolutely no English). It just happened.

As to it being a real MA, I will gladly get on the matt with anyone, and test it out. It helps that I was a bit of a brawler before I started practicing. Or that I had some background in sparring  (unofficially).  I’ve sparred with external stylists (karate, Shaolin, etc.), and come out about even (or on top). “But you do it so slowly, how does that equate in real life?” you may ask. Well, it relaxes the player. The saying in TCC is that “If you can’t do it slowly, you can’t really do it.” It improves the reflexes. The only negative here, is that it takes a long time normally to be able to use it. Once you get there, though, you can even amaze yourself (yeah, don’t that sound like a commercial ad?).

Now, my fellow atheists will likely point out that the word ‘Chi’ is used in TCC, and is somewhat of a mystic goal to be achieved. More misconceptions. ‘Chi’, translated loosely from the Chinese, means ‘breath’, or energy. Basically, you got it already. As one of my sifu’s put it: “No Chi? Then you’re dead!” It’s what one is born with. Simplistically put, it’s just the resources the individual has already. TCC is one of the arts that enables you to refine those resources already extant.

And no, it’s not easy. Frontis nulla fides: “Do not trust appearances.”

So, in summation: yes, I do TCC. I teach TCC as a sideline. But if you decide to investigate, and you start getting the ‘mystical mumbo jumbo’ crap, likelihood is good that it’s simply a marketing ploy.  It’s better to watch the teacher. And here’s the clue: if the instructor is truly high-level, then it will appear more the dance than the standard MA. It will be soft: it will appear to be as substantive as a fluttering leaf, graceful as a swan. Frontis nulla fides.  Play hands with the instructor. If he/she can’t bounce you off the wall, or at least send you skittering backwards, chances are you’ve got an amateur. If you hear a bunch of vacuous psychobabble, don’t go back. If you hear, “It’s perfect the way you’re doing it,” or somesuch thing, don’t go back.

But most of all: DO THE RESEARCH. Watch various people doing it. An old TCC saying: “The player should practice as a lady dancing, but in combat be fierce as a tiger.”

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Matt Whyndham said...

Great description to throw at sceptics. If any come at me huffing and puffing, I shall henceforth lead them to emptiness with this.

say no to christ said...

Hey there RA, sorry it has been a couple of days before getting back to your site. My husband has had to do a lot of homework online lately and of course I have been trying to finish reading Saharasia. It is a big book full of archaeological goodies. :) I am going to read a little more on you sight here. Looks like a lot of good stuff to read about here. :)

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hey Matt. Thanks for the input. Nice to hear from a fellow player.
What style(s) do you do?

udonman said...

hey ra i was thinking getting in to tai chi and just went back to your blog and guess what tai chi if i didnt know better i would say there is divine inter hahaha sorry couldnt even type it with out laughing

Krystalline Apostate said...

It just shows that we think alike, is all.
Lemmee know if you need any advice if you find a teacher.

HairlessMonkeyDK said...

I'll kick your worthless ass regardless.
Elohim, my chop will sever your arteries!
Do I live up to your negative stereotypes?

Krystalline Apostate said...

What did Duke Nuke'em say?
Oh yeah. 'Bring it on, baby!'
I always maintain that old age & treachery will overcome youth & skill.
& I'm a treacherous old shit.
So don't count your eggs before the chicken does the nasty w/the rooster, ey?;)

say no to christ said...

Ok, I lost my patience with some folks over on the other blog and got tired of repeating myself. Some people just dont get what life energy is and how it can be channeled and used to improve the body and mind. I completely get and understand what you get out of TCC. Believe it or not overcoming dog behavior problems is based on the same concept. Watch the 'dog whisperer' on National Geographic channel and you will see there is a lot of similarities.

For people who doubt chi, I would like to know what they think makes us function? Without it we are truely dead. and thats no shit! Chi exists in all life and atmosphere. Without it our world would not exist. And thats no shit as well.

I wish I would have read this thread a while back. I tend to over look stuff on MA although I have wanted to take Tai Chi for some time now, its just that Im a better hands on learner than a read and learner.

Good way to discribe it! :)

Krystalline Apostate said...

Well, at the risk of sounding theistic, chi roughly translates to 'breath', or 'energy'.
In TCM, there's the concept of 'pre-' & post-natal chi.
Pre-natal means the amount of energy derived from your parents, & post-natal is everything after that, i.e., breathing, drinking, eating, etc.
TCM tends to view the body as a garden, which means weeding, pruning, general maintenance, etc.
TCM = Traditional Chinese Medicine, BTW.

say no to christ said...

That is the basics of Wilhem Reichs work as well. I dont see how it can be misconstrude as supernatural. To me its just part of the natural world. We are all made of energy and energy exists every where. MAybe it is just too simple for most people to comprehend?