Sometimes I ask myself about the reason to why I still practice T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Taijiquan). Or at least I ask myself why I still want to practice. The only quick answer I can give myself without thinking too much or reaching too deep is just: I forgot.
Yeah, I am not sure why I continue to practice Tai Chi anymore. I might have some kind of fuzzy idea about it: ”Because the art fascinates me” or ”because I love it”. Such an answer might be a reason enough to explain things, but it still doesn’t give me a good or satisfactory answer. It might have to do with the same reason a person plays chess or practice some sport. That person might not be able to come up with a good reason as well. Maybe they were taught in a very early age, maybe from their father or from some other person who was close to them. Maybe they were raised in a family who had that interest, so it’s just the most natural thing to do?
Who knows? But even if I forgot why I keep on struggling, I still know why I started practice Tai Chi. The very reason was just because martial arts fascinated me. It was not really a need to learn self-defence or fighting, but I already loved Asian culture and its mystique. Why I continued is another one. Sure, practicing the art has given me a lot, helped me through life. I was only eleven years old, so I guess you can say that in some respects, I was raised with Tai Chi. Even if it was about 25 years ago, I remember my first class as it was yesterday. My father took me there, to a private teacher he had found. This teacher didn’t have a class, which meant that I was his very first student. I also remember how excited I was on the bus back home, how I spoke with my dad about this very first meeting with the art.
I was blown away but my teacher’s skill and what he did. Of course, now when I’m looking through the rearview mirror, reaching back to the past, I realize that it might not have been very hard for my teacher to play around with me, or whooping any eleven year old kid’s but. But there was something about how subtle he did it, how precise his movements were, and how calm he was… He let me do anything I wanted, punch and kick at him. But I was left feeling completely out of control. In fact, I had never felt so helpless and so small in my whole life. And on top of that, when he deflected or directed my movements like a puppet on a string, he hardly even moved. It all blew me away.
But there is something else I remember. And I do remember this very clearly. I made myself a promise that day. Before leaving him for that first class, I knew I was coming back. In fact, I promised myself that I will never stop practicing Tai Chi until I can become as good as him. I was going to become good and better, even if it was going to take me 20 years.
And so it did. Almost at least. For more than 5 years ago, I visited my first teacher’s class for the last time. I had studied with some other teachers as well during the years, but I always returned to my first teacher. He never became anything like a father to me or a tutor. All those years, practicing with him was all about Tai Chi and nothing else. But still, he was the only one who could make me really relax and only in his class my mind was truly calm. I liked myself when I studied for him. And I have always liked the direction he took my Tai Chi. But then, after almost 20 years of practice this art, I understood that I wanted to take my Tai Chi further and in another direction. I had well surpassed my teacher as he was back then and I was not less skilled than he was now.
Until that moment I knew exactly why I had practiced Tai Chi all of these years. I still continue to practice the art with the same commitment, but I can’t really verbalize the reasons anymore. The art has just become a natural part of my life. Even in those periods when I am extremely busy and although sometimes I don’t get much time to practice, I still think about this art a lot, I read texts on Tai Chi and it’s sister Neijia arts, try to understand it better, contemplate on recent discoveries, write thoughts down and more. Sometimes I think about how deep this art is and how rewarding the practice has been. And still, there is so much left to discover.