China 2019 – Day 18, Sunday, 4th August

Last night I awoke to a banging and scratching at my door. I’ve seen enough horror films to know that I should only tentatively open my door – but there was Hotpot, who let herself in and slept on my floor for the night! Think I have got a friend! Not sure I can fit her in my luggage though, or that our cat would approve!

After a day of rest yesterday, today is a day of training and Mandarin revision.

The morning’s training was spent refining the open hand Chen form, which Master Ping has assured me that I will finish before leaving in 10 days. Then will come the lifetime of refining!

In a very hot and humid afternoon after an hour of more push hands training it was onto the broadsword, which I was very pleased to complete! It’s a physically demanding but very dynamic and fun form to perform!

We had a good dinner (as always) and it’s really nice that the school is small and nationalities mixed!

As well as lots of Chinese of course, I have met quite a few people of different nationalities here in the last two and a half weeks and after finding out name and tai chi background, the next obvious question people ask me is where I am from, often closely followed by, “So what do you think of Brexit?”

Regardless of what I think of Brexit (I think you can probably guess if you know me or my Danish girlfriend), it is clear that people I have met from other countries are a little perplexed as to what is happening in the UK. Especially when you then explain to them that as well as everything else, the country now has a leader who was essentially not voted for by the general population.

I generally avoid political discussions. I have my views and beliefs and I am grateful to live in a country where we can all have our own personal belief system, whatever it may be – as long as it’s not harming anyone else.

However, we do seem to be going through turbulent times at the moment – as do many other countries’ political systems. In fact, it often seems like the world is going a little crazy!

So, what’s this all got to do with tai chi?

Well, everything, actually.

First of all, there is actually a difference between Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan is the martial art/health practice that we all know and love.

The concept of Tai Chi is slightly different. It literally means ‘Supreme Ultimate’ and what we refer to in the West most commonly as the yin/yang symbol, is actually the Taijitu. The black and white circle, each side with the essence or seed of it’s opposite.

This is the symbol representing Tai Chi. The perfect harmony, unlimited potential, oneness, and duality which lies within all phenomena.

It symbolises the polar opposites of everything that exists, as well as their reliance upon one another. Without light there can be no dark, without female no male, without good there is no concept of bad, up defines down, happy and sad…the list goes on in perpetuity.

It also shows that when there is an excess of one side, it simply turns into its opposite – when there is an abundance of dark, it starts the light. Just as night turns into day, when we have an excess of one phenomenon, natural forces will course correct and bring balance, over and over again. It has been happening since the beginning of time.

Bring it back down to politics…we swing from left to right and back again, like a political pendulum.

What we need to find is the balance.

And it starts with us, as individuals.

At the end of the day, we can’t all be politicians and change the world from a position of political power.

What we can do is try to bring ourselves into balance.

I promote tai chi as a way of attempting to bring myself and those who choose to train with me into some semblance of balance. It’s a lifetime of training!

If we don’t start with ourselves, I don’t think we will get anywhere.

Media, social media…it all has us in uproar with shocks and scandals left, right, and centre – we’re manipulated this way and that. Everyone seems to have an opinion – and many are not afraid to voice that opinion to all and sundry.

One of my favourite lines from the Tao Te Ching is, “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?”

(I remind myself of that quite a lot…and it does seem that lessons from the 6th Century BCE have a lot to tell us about post-Brexit Britain.)

I firmly believe that change starts from within, and is a personal responsibility of us all. If I can find a balance and calm within myself, I can be a better partner, father, son, friend, teacher, colleague, be nicer to my neighbours and those in my community…and from there it creates a ripple effect which spreads far and wide.

Potentially, anyway. However, I am optimistic and we have the perfect means to create balance within ourselves and the Taijitu shows us the way – and it also tells us not to panic or buy into the sensationalism and fear that those on both the left and the right of the media use to sell their newspapers, TV programmes, or gain Likes for their social media accounts.

The pendulum will swing one way and then the other. Left to right, good to bad, light to dark… the most important thing we can do – and again this comes from the Tao Te Ching – “Hold on to the centre”.

So next time you’re furiously shouting at the news, or feeling overwhelmed by it all…breathe, do some tai chi and remember the Taijitu…and be nice to each other through these turbulent times.

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