In many ways Tai Chi is about trust. First and foremost, you must trust your teacher. This is not the blind ‘leap of faith’ trust that can lead to being misled or ripped off. Rather, is your teacher knowledgeable, committed to teaching you the art as well as they can, and with your best interests at heart? Do they share the art willingly, not reserving ‘secret’ techniques and practices? If you don’t believe so, find a new teacher.

Once you trust your teacher, you have to trust the art. There is so much to learn and it often seems confusing or impossible. Relax everything, even most of this leg that feels like it’s on fire? Is that even possible? Spend time holding postures so I can build the endurance to relax? Will that even work? Stand in Wu Chi trying to grow my internal awareness while ten thousand thoughts bubble up from my unconscious? Will I ever gain any internal awareness at all? Do push hands with someone without using hard strength? How do I do that? “In the curve seek the straight, store, then discharge.”* What does that mean? You have a teacher you can trust to help you. Trusting the art opens up the chance to invest and so make progress.

Once you trust the art, you have to trust yourself. For many of us, this can be the hardest thing. Don’t demand perfection from yourself. Instead of “I’ll never be able to…”, accept where you are and go from there. But also don’t shirk investment: put in the effort. Instead of dreading it, let go of your fear and accept it, embracing it and doing your best while accepting your current limitations. Fear is tension, the opposite of relax (sung/sōng), and reduces your ability to invest, slowing or even blocking your progress. Trust yourself, believing that relaxing is the path forward and with perseverance comes progress. It will come, sometimes in small increments you see and feel. Sometimes it will come after a long time when nothing seemed to change, because you didn’t perceive the progress you were making. It will come at different times to different aspects of your Tai Chi, in a complex, interwoven pattern unique to you.

Trust your teacher, your art, and yourself. Do the practice, and the art will unfold over time like a blossoming flower.

* The Essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan - The Literary Tradition; Annotated Edition; page 58
† If you have questions about Chinese terms used, you may find About Chinese Terms helpful.

This is part of Thoughts on Tai Chi, a collection of writings exploring various aspects of Tai Chi. If you know someone who would enjoy reading it, please forward it to them.

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