The Personal Web Site of Carl Pearson

Lee Style T’ai Chi


The Personal Web Site of Carl Pearson

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The Future of Lee Style T’ai Chi

Whatever the history of Lee Style Tai Chi we have to accept we know as much about its practice now as we are ever going to know. What Chee Soo passed on to Tony Swanson, Desmond Murray, and Howard Gibbon, plus the teaching he gave to Peter Warr and his own daughter Lavinia is about the limit of the transmission. The first task must be to preserve the practice and pass it on so that it continues to be available to others. The DVD’s and other resource material now available is an excellent way to do this, but much of the teaching is still only past directly from teacher to student.

The essence of  T’ai Chi is the inter-play of mind and body and the awareness gained of subtle energy through proper practice. As we master ourselves our energy helps us stay centred and in control in whatever situation we find ourselves. Practicing the martial side of the arts lets us experience that control and ability to use our energy to be physically confident even when we are physically confronted or attacked. Similarly as we become more centred greater mental clarity must follow, stress is reduced and we are better able to go forward following the Tao of our lives. Chee Soo is very clear that the Lee Style is a Taoist Art and is therefore about following the way of the Tao.

The Tao is a way not a final destination. In recent years much new material has become available about the practice of the Taoist arts in China. Lee Style Tai Chi practice is an excellent place to start from in exploring these arts. Bruce Frantzis has put into public domain the water method of developing energy awareness a fascinating alternative to the more usual fire method teaching, the micro-cosmic orbit. Mantak Chia has produced a whole library of books describing Taoist based internal energy arts. His book, The Inner Structure of Tai Chi, is an excellent guide to good T’ai Chi structure, posture and practice.

Not all the material around is useful, but some of it is proving valuable to Lee Style Practitioners looking to connect with the wider community of people who are seeking to draw on the heritage of the Taoist health arts. This material is then often included in their own practice  and teaching. We are almost bound to see more of this in the future and it should be welcomed as a good thing. It helps keep the arts alive and fresh as the material is used alongside practices and techniques that we already know to be valuable. Properly used it can help contribute to the unfolding future path of these arts. To hold that they are already the whole of the truth and that they must be ossified and kept in isolation from the wider community of Taoist practitioners would be a great mistake. We should share our insights and also be ready to learn from others. In this way the Lee Style arts can continue to retain a distinctive place in the future development of the Taoist tradition.

In the spirit of the above sentiments I welcome the way Tony Swanson has developed a new dimension to the Lee Style Arts by the creation of competition forms and the training of elite athletic tai chi players who can compete in competition at the highest level.

It is also important to remember that good tai chi is not just good choreography and physical callisthenics. T’ai Chi is not ballet. Balanced developed must root the development of the individuals practice and skills in an understanding of breath, the control of attention, emotion and a wider appreciation of the Taoist ideas and traditions from which T’ai Chi emerges.

In other words centring is not just a means to physical excellence, learning to become centred and extending from that centre into the world in all dimensions is one of the great learning's available through this tradition. To grasp this requires going beyond attention to the physical form. For me, tai chi is in the end a journey of personal development open to all, not a competitive striving for the perfectly executed physical form.

As in all things Taoist I look for an active dynamic flow in which balance is found in motion. Here I don’t just mean motion on a physical level, I also mean a balance that includes mental, emotional, health and even spiritual development. This takes practice, learning to reflect, and experience of applying the arts in life as well as the gym.

I hope the information and opinions offered here helps your own journey.