An important aspect of Tai Chi is the conservation of energy. Smaller and smaller circles lead to almost imperceptible movements – the idea being to internalize the energy flow. This internalization is one reason that we do Tai Chi rather than jog or life weights. Another aspect of the conservation of energy is flowing continuously rather than moving in a broken discontinuous fashion. The abrupt, jerky movements dissipate energy in the stopping and starting. While good for martial encounters – in that it enables a type of explosive discharge into one’s opponent, this is not a good way to save and conserve energy. This is one reason that the movements Master Ni taught were always based in circles – never in lines.
Me to him: “Are the movements ever in a straight line?”
Ni: “Only the last one.”
Me: “The knockout punch.”
He just smiled.
Circles are the best way to conserve, guard and nurture energy, while lines are the best way to issue energy outward. Notice the planets, which spin and revolve forever- no straight lines. Then observe the karate guy or boxer with their short jerky, explosive punches and jabs. Those of us, who were attracted to Master Ni’s classes, whether in our youth or old age, are more interested in nurturing or cultivating our internal energy to extend the length and quality of our lives rather than refining our martial capabilities.
Master Ni: “If need protection, use a gun.”
“Or run,” Phil, one of Master Ni’s senior students.
If a student is primarily interested in martial proficiency in terms of hand-to-hand combat, this is the wrong class. There are plenty of schools, including other Tai Chi schools, which specialize in this. However if a student wants to cultivate vitality through subtle internal body movements, our class is perfect.
Master Ni in his Breathing paper: “Everyone thinks of Taiji Quan as a martial art for defeating others. How could they know about this dark mystery that is at the center of Taiji?”