Continuity in T’ai Chi

One of the basic principles of T’ai Chi philosophy and movement is continuity of awareness and action. When movement has a sudden change in its spatial or temporal aspect, that means that there is a corresponding break in awareness (a lack of being in the moment). When there is a break in awareness, the present moment has gone by unobserved, so now, the practitioner is in the past and at a corresponding disadvantage. In a self-defense situation, a gap in awareness means that the practitioner is behind in following the movement of the opponent. In driving an automobile, which is analogous to a self-defense situation, losing awareness when driving for one second can cause an accident. For example, 60 miles per hour is equivalent to 88 feet per second, so losing attentiveness for only one second while driving at that speed means that the car has advanced 88 feet during that small interval of time.

In a self-defense situation involving an opponent who seeks to inflict physical harm, discontinuity of movement has two other disadvantages beyond not being in the moment:

(1) A discontinuity of movement requires the use of force to stop the movement and start it again. The exertion of such force is wasteful (it violates the principle of non-action) and causes unnecessary tension, which tends to lock up the body, preventing free, natural movement.

(2) A discontinuity in movement alerts the opponent of your intention, giving him an advantage.

At the very least, discontinuity of movement when practicing T’ai Chi forms represents the use of awkward rather than correct force read more about the differences between correct (jin) and awkward (li) force.

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