Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | January 9, 2012

The Sublime Practice of Tai Chi Chuan Kung Fu

I suppose it’s no personal secret I prefer wu style tai chi to yang style, but I love both long forms. Wu style is more compact, seemingly more martial(although many tenchniques I would use in a fight are from yang). But the last two days I have done yang form, and as always, it seems to be more healthful, more energy producing.Performed in a flowing manner with no apparent stops, you begin to feel energy all around you. It becomes the quintessential tai chi experience, and offers one anecdotal evidence that all this talk about chi is real(It is amazing how many charlatans are out there, bending spears with their throats and bouncing students away for miles).

The I Ching encourages us, and Tai Chi teaches us to be gentle, simple, calm, aware, innocent, pure, honest, act with integrity, adapt to change, persevere. I was reflecting on the idea of innocence last night to come to terms with what it really means. It does not mean naivete. It means acting with a pure heart, not acting out of the motivations of the ego, not trying to manipulate situations or other people. It means being genuine. Society is a lesson in innocence lost. We see it at work, in relationships. If you like someone, tell them. If you have made a good product, sell it for a fair price.

Practicing tai chi, in a secret way, teaches you these things. It connects you to the numenous, you become aware of the divine, of your own call to holiness, of the way of things. It provides a practice of union with all things. The answer to life’s questions are present in a well performed brush knee twist step, in the cyclical turning of Fair Maiden Works the Shuttles.

You know, I wonder how many people are still praccticing their tai chi one by one to go, that is, hitting a posture and holding it, then moving on. This is very important practice, and should be done often and diligently and postures should be precise. But we must go further, turning the 108 moves into one move, one long flowing river, rounded, soft, smooth, gentle. Focus on the transitions between the moves. I wonder how many people stop practicing because they have not moved up to this level and are not getting the true essence of tai chi in their practice.

And remember that the way of things is spontaneous and creative. In tai chi, we never act spontaneously or creatively. We practice the forms as handed down from generation to generation. The only time one might become creative and spontaneous is in a fight. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A blues musician can know three chords and a scale of five notes and write 100 songs. A tai chi player can take some fundamental movements, using tai chi stepping techniques, some fundamental moves like grasp the spwarrow’s tale, brush knee twist step, some kicks, and create his or her own tai chi symphony.



  1. I practice Yang style. One of the most valuable lessons i’ve learned is that mistakes can be funny – giggle at them and move on. The form is, after all, a safe place to mess things up, and even the most accomplished master is (probably) going to forget which Single Whip they just did once in awhile. Just do a Grasp Sparrow’s Tail and move on!

  2. Thanks for reading Kirin. Do you practice wu or yang? It’s funny how section 3 gets us all now and then! One of the better lessons I learned in tai chi was when I first got the videos of my teacher, a lineage holder in eagle claw kung fu and doing wu for like 40 years, and in his tape, he makes a mistake and had the modesty to leave it in.

  3. There are few things like rolling through the 108, it’s body, mind, and environment all coming together into something amazing.
    When I don’t mess up somewhere during section three…

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