Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | July 30, 2010

Tai Chi and Correct Action

I’ve been wanting to clarify the connection between practicing a martial art like tai chi chuan kung fu and what the I Ching refers to as “correct action,” or moral behavior, or at least a well developed human being. Like yoga, many people practice tai chi just for the health benefits or just for the self defense aspects, or just as exercise or as a hobby. Like yoga, tai chi can be so much more, as many of us bloggers say, it is a way of life.

We know tai chi is intimately tied to taoist philosophy, and as such, it encorporates taoist thinking in its practice. But how does this connect a physical endeavor to things like correct behavior, the higher path, virtuous action?

I think a large part of the answer is in the holistic approach of tai chi chuan. That is, tai chi is a harmonizing of body, mind and spirit. So, there are simple examples. In tai chi, physically, we are encouraged to create and be aware of our center line, running through the center of the body, from the crown point of the head(chin slightly tucked) down the front of the spine, and out the perineum. If we are centered physically, by extension we will be centered mentally and emotionally. In tai chi, we are encouraged to become “song,” or relaxed, but lively. This teaches us to handle situations in our lives calmly and effectively. When one part moves, all parts move. Physically, we are united as one, the body generates intense power when it moves as one piece. In life, we are not scattered or erratic. We move in harmony with ourselves and with others.
Focus the mind on the dan tien. We lower our center of gravity so that we are balanced and rooted. This balance extends itself to our actions so that we have equanimity, fairness, a sense of justice, balance.

What about some more esoteric virtues such as honesty, integrity, authenticity, modesty, humility, truth? Tai chi is not a loud or boastful martial art. A tai chi martial artist learns physically to be quiet, sensitive, and develop listening jin or energy. This extends itself to qualities such as modesty. Physically, we practice with integrity and authenticity. We don’t fake ourselvs out into thinking we are doing something right when we are not. If we do, we lead ourselves to a fall. We practice diligently. We train our body, and in turn, we train our emotions, our mind, and our spirit.

A good person is already on their way to becoming an excellent martial artist. They will have the qualities necessary to understand and execute tai chi chuan kung fu. If one practices tai chi chuan kung fu the correct way, in the right spirit, they will develop those qualities and virtues of the higher path. There must be intent here. I suppose one can learn the forms of tai chi and never become a morally upright person, but I would seriously question whether it was real or effective tai chi chuan. And, this may be a bit presumptuous, but I think I would have a better chance of prevailing in a fight against a martial artist who was a scumbag as opposed to a martial artist of upright character.



  1. Good point about the holistic approach bringing harmony to mind, body, and spirit.
    Practising tai chi as a way of life requires a certain amount of discipline. I think it may be this, and the holistic aproach which produces a balanced and grounded individual, that is more likely to behave correctly.
    Is there is a better holistic life style than tai chi? … If you also include good fuel (nutrition) you have the complete package of meditation and focus, physical exercise, and spiritual awareness.
    Great post!

    • Hey Pete, thanks for commenting. I agree wholeheartedly on the nutrition thing, and let’s not forget the importance of sleep when our bodies and minds rejuvenate themselv es in a process we still don’t fully understand. By no means is tai chi the only “way.” I’m sure it’s the intent that comes along with whatever practice we are into.


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