T'AI-CHI CHUAN is a Chinese martial art based on consciously aligning with the unforced balance of Yin and Yang energies that underlies all things. Whether or not you are interested in martial arts, T'ai-Chi principles of balance can be applied to any life activity to increase performance, efficiency, health and enjoyment.
T'AI-CHI FOR GENIUSES is a practice companion, not an instructional training manual. Rather than presuming that the reader is a "dummy" or "complete idiot," author Gene Burnett asserts that there is an inner "genius" within everyone. This genius is a wellspring of intuitive knowledge vastly more intelligent than our conscious minds. Burnett encourages the reader to listen to this inner genius while he breaks down the often confusing and mysterious T'ai-Chi training into four levels of work: Bone, Muscle, Energy and Spirit. Applying these levels of work to solo form training, partner work, weapons training, and daily life, Burnett shows how you can improve the quality and clarity of your practice, eventually becoming your own teacher and student.
This book is about learning to listen to and trust the genius inside you. It's about allowing your genius to function as a kind of inner compass. Your inner genius can help you set goals and directions, but it can also help you choose how to get where you’re going and who to trust along the way. Learning to trust this inner genius is not a quick and easy process. It involves trial and error and the errors are sometimes painful. Sometimes what seems like your inner genius telling you to do something is actually not. When it is not, the results you get will feel wrong. When it is your inner genius you’ve been listening to, the results you get will feel right. This is an ongoing process that never ends, since life, you, and your inner genius are in constant motion. What feels right today may not feel right tomorrow. Listening to your inner genius means maintaining an open, inquiring, and unfinished mind and body. This book is also about T’ai-Chi. T'ai-Chi is a Chinese word which has been translated as "Supreme Ultimate." T'ai-Chi Ch'uan, the art that most people call "T'ai-Chi," has been translated as "Supreme Ultimate Fist” or “Supreme Ultimate Boxing." When you hear "Supreme Ultimate Boxing" you might think that this means "The Best Boxing." The actual meaning, as I see it, is closer to "The Martial Art Based on the Underlying Supreme Ultimate Principle of the Unforced Balance of Yin and Yang Energies." Or more simply: "Balance Boxing." T’ai-Chi then, is a Chinese martial art based on the principle of harmonizing Yin (feminine, soft energy) and Yang (masculine, hard energy). It is considered a “soft style” martial art. What distinguishes so called “soft styles” of martial arts from so called “hard styles” is that in the soft styles you rely primarily on relaxation, efficiency, and technique rather than primarily on strength, speed and power. You use combinations of smaller muscles that are correctly coordinated rather that forcing things with the bigger muscles. You also rely on body position and efficient use of energy. These skills take years to learn and integrate into your body. If you want to be able to use them in serious combat situations, it takes even longer. This is one of the reasons why we train and move slowly and carefully from the inside out. We are aiming for a level of grace and total body coordination that is just not possible to rush through. So the basic training of this art is done in slow motion and is usually taught slowly as well. This training consists of “forms” which are sequences of movements that help train the body to be more balanced, strong and relaxed. One reason the forms are practiced and taught slowly is to give practitioners time to safely study and build their movement vocabulary. Another reason is that in T’ai-Chi we are looking to bring a presence or unifying consciousness to the mind and body, and this quality is more easily discovered while moving slowly. Eventually, it is possible to not only do T’ai-Chi forms with more speed and power, but also to learn many complicated movements in a single lesson. Although T’ai-Chi is a martial art, its forms are often practiced by people who are not really interested in the martial art applications of the movements. This is because the basic training itself is healthy, feels good, and contributes to better balance, which is useful in many arenas besides martial arts. There are also T’ai-Chi partner exercises, which add a deeper dimension to the training. And again there are people who practice these exercises not with fighting in mind, but simply because they enjoy them and benefit from going deeper. In my own teaching and training, I like to make a distinction between martial training and combat training. To me, “martial” means training in body protecting movements and “combat” means training to fight. Even if you are not interested in combat training, you might benefit from and enjoy martial training. Martial training includes protecting the body from disease, falling, accidents, gravity and many other sometimes hardly noticeable dangers, including psychological attacks and the effects of bad posture. The principles of T'ai-Chi can also be applied to many areas of life, so you don't even have to be a T'ai-Chi student to get value from this book. You can use T’ai-Chi principles to improve your enjoyment and skill in any art, practice, activity or endeavor you engage in. T’ai-Chi is the art of finding unforced balance, and this is helpful no matter what you’re doing. In this process of listening to my own inner genius and finding my own sense of T’ai-Chi, I presume wholeness. That is, I presume that this entire universe is actually one indivisible whole. It all seems to be made of the same mysterious stuff that can be transformed but not created or destroyed. "Separate" things exist only in our minds. If, for example, you look at a tree, it looks like a separate thing. But where exactly does the tree end and the air and dirt around it begin? How could it exist without food, water, sunlight and, more importantly, gravity? It really has no independent existence at all. And neither do we. We are part of a huge interdependent wholeness that is constantly in motion, constantly becoming something else. It's certainly helpful to see the apparent separateness of the objects around us as "real." It makes our life and survival much easier. However, I like to balance this apparent separateness with an underlying presumption of the wholeness of things. I recognize the everyday world of separate objects, but I presume an underlying wholeness, a wholeness that is always balanced within itself, a wholeness out of which my own body and sense of self has emerged. I further presume that within my body and sense of self are the keys to consciously aligning with the wholeness that created them. The inner physical sense of rightness within me is what I call my genius. Without it T'ai-Chi would not be a living, breathing experience. It would be a dead museum piece, a repeating of what other geniuses created long ago. I like museums, but most museums are about knowledge and the past, not the living moment happening now. If you believe nothing written here and insist on personal experience, T'ai-Chi will be possible for you. I’ve been studying and researching T'ai-Chi for over twenty years and I’ve learned a few things that I think are valuable. However, I can’t tell you what is right for you, what will work for you, or what the best way for you to practice is. What I’m offering here is my opinion and my experience. I invite you to keep an open mind, hear what I have to say, and then listen to your own inner genius, your own inner sense of rightness, and see what happens. My hope is that the views and information contained in this book can help you become your own teacher and your own student. T’ai-Chi, like everything else in this universe (including you), is a work in progress, an experiment in motion. It resists being pinned down and understood. Even if part of you craves certainty and absolute truth in black and white, your inner genius knows better. Trust it.
GENE BURNETT teaches T'ai-Chi in Ashland, Oregon and has been teaching since 1985. He was certified to teach T'ai-Chi by Andrew Dale of the Xin Qi Shen Dojo in Seattle, Washington. He combines traditional Chinese principles of health, balance, and self-defense, with a Western, psychological, bioenergetic approach in an on-going exploration of the mind/body connection. He is also an accomplished singer/songwriter and can be reached at www.geneburnett.com