Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | November 9, 2010

Taking A Stand

There is a misconception about the tai chi way, sometimes people practice it for years, that it is always about being passive, being “non action,” allowing oneself to become a doormat when confronted with aggressive behavior. It is difficult to learn the lesson of yielding as opposed to just giving up or allowing oneself to be abused. Of course, I am talking here both in the martial context and when we apply these lessons in our social interactions.

There are five elements to tai chi, not just one. Earth, water, fire, metal, and wood represent the various actions one takes when confronted with one of the same elements. Many tai chi players think the only action would be earth, standing firm, or water, always giving. But we also have to recognize when wood, fire, and metal come into play in our lives, when they are the right course of action to take.

The other wisdom to this is also knowing how to use the more “agressive” elements naturally as opposed to forcing them. It is sometimes easy to try to fight fire with fire, or to try to force a move, or to try to affect a situation or resolve a problem by forcing it through. But there are times when the moment calls for fire or metal and it will be the natural, flowing thing to do in a given moment. These are the distinctions we work on throughhout our learning process and practice.

Throughout our day, every moment is an opportunity to practice the tai chi way, to practice right action and correct behavior. It seems to me that it is not proper for us practitioners of tai chi to allow others to pursue a course of wrong behavior either against our selves or others. I remember a great line by David Carradine in Kung Fu the Legend Continues when he matter of factly tells a bad guy thast he could not let him do what he was about to do. It was as if he almost had no choice. He had to stop the bad guy, and he said it with a shrug of the shoulders.

So, in our daily lives, we look for the wisdom to know what to do(the definition of kung fu is knowing what to do), when it is proper to stand like a mountain, when it is proper to yield and evade like water, when it is proper to step back like wood, when it is proper to advance and strike like metal, when it is proper to dance and strike like fire. We do no favors allowing someone to take advantage of us, to abuse us, to act like idiots around us, to harm us. Even a tai chi player must take a stand, must stand up and say no, but it will be the natural thing to do, the right thing to do.

It is not when we are fed up and can’t take it anymore and lose it. It is all within the flow of things and at the right time.

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