I wanted to talk today about the concept of the Tai Chi ball, or more accurately, Tai Chi sphere. While it might sound simple, I think it’s really an advanced concept because it’s taking the Tai Chi teachings out of the realm of specifics, of things like ‘relax that shoulder’, ‘move that foot’, ‘drop that elbow’, ‘align that hip’, etc…, and into the realm of concepts, which are much harder to pin down into physical details.
The Tai Chi Classics talk about Tai Chi being circular a lot. For example, it says:
“The postures should be rounded and without defect,
without deviations from the proper alignment;
in motion, your form should be continuous, without stops and starts.”
At a certain point the position of the hands and feet and other body parts in Tai Chi gets subsumed by the general sense of keeping your body and all your movement rounded, like a ball. (Newsflash: despite a thousand form corrections from seminar masters, the exact position off your hands isn’t what’s important.)
What’s important in Tai Chi is that your body is creating a ball-like structure, with ‘you’ at the centre. That’s what determines if you hands and arms are in the correct position, not angles and degrees. If you are making a sphere with your movement and body, then everything will be in the right place, and if you aren’t, it’s not.
The advantage of creating a sphere is that force can comes in and be rolled off without too much interference and muscular tension. A sphere is a Tai Chi symbol write large, in 3 dimensions.
The idea of separating empty and solid in the body goes hand in hand with creating a Tai Chi sphere. In fact, I don’t think you can do it successfully without a separation of empty and solid – or yin and yang – in the body.
But here’s the kicker. You can’t just decide one day to do this practice. You can’t go outside right now and do you form and decide to make your Tai Chi like a sphere because it will be meaningless. Instead, it’s a situation where you gradually discover, after many years of practice, that Tai Chi is like a sphere. One day you’re practicing and you suddenly notice it, and bang! Your Tai Chi will never be the same again. It’s like that famous picture that looks a bit like an old man but isn’t:
Most people are unable to see what that is actually a picture of at first glance, but once you get it, no amount of me trying to persuading you otherwise will prevent you from knowing exactly what it is.
It’s the same with the Tai Chi sphere. Your Tai Chi has always been a sphere, you just didn’t know it, until one day you did, and then it was suddenly obvious to you.