How does a physical practice involving people interacting survive a world on lockdown?
Welcome to The Water Method; thoughts and theories on Tai Chi in the modern world. In today’s post, I’ll be musing about the current Covid 19 lockdown and some of it’s knock on effects in the world of martial arts. How do we keep up the training when we can’t interact, and can solo forms save the day?
It’s a crazy world out there right now, as I’m sure you’re aware of and agree. Six out of the seven continents on the face of the planet are reacting to the sudden wave of Coronavirus that has led to countless people facing a life or death struggle, and despite initial comments, not all of them had pre-existing medical conditions before contracting the virus. As martial artists, we are lucky in that our training should hold us in good stead for any ailments that come our way. Hopefully, our dedication, discipline and hard work will pay off and help us protect ourselves like it should whether it’s a mugger on the street or a disease in the air.
Learning ancient Silk Reeling techniques might not seem that important when family and friends are in danger from something that we can’t strike.
So the main thing – that we as people come through this – is something that we can plan for, and react accordingly to, but what about the martial arts themselves? Can Tai Chi survive when it’s instructors and masters are separated from their students? What happens when information cannot be passed on from one person to another, and time is lost while waiting for this pandemic to be beaten? On top of these problems, another one is the fact that some people may not focus on their training, and turn away from the art. To some of us that may seem shocking; a devotion to the martial way can give you a strong definition of your own character, but to others, learning ancient Silk Reeling techniques might not seem that important when family and friends are in danger from something that we can’t strike.
What this means is that Tai Chi needs to be communicated and transmitted in a different way, embracing modern practices and techniques that some practitioners may find antithetical to the ancient art itself. On the other hand, others may find that this new way of thinking actually embodies the ever changing, ever adapting way of Tao. What would those masters in China all those years ago think to online Zoom classes and Face Time Q&A sessions? I’d like to think that most of them would think this is a brilliant way of keeping the flame alight. In their time, after all, Tai Chi would be the most advanced and up to date fighting system that they were using, much in the same way that MMA fighters view their own styles today – everything was new at some point or another!
And the underlying principles of Tai Chi, coming from it’s Taoist roots, should encourage the ever-changing and adapting; this is survival of the fittest in a strange way. Having taken part in pre-recorded classes for Tai Chi and online Zoom lessons for Kickboxing, I can say that the Tai Chi classes offered a more consistent, recognisable version of a normal lesson. This shouldn’t have been as surprising to me as it was; after all, there was no way that I was going to be able to do any sparring in the Kickboxing class, but rehearsing and improving on a solo Chen form was a typical part of class before the Covid 19 lockdown.
To keep ourselves focused and pushing forward with our training, there are still resources available to those of us with an internet connection and some room to practice. We keep on working on the exercises and forms that we were studying in class, even the ones that we don’t want to – in fact, especially those ones that we don’t want to! It is not uncommon to realise that we shy away from certain aspects of training because they are harder for us to perfect than other routines, which is actually highlighting a potential weakness that we have. So, while it’s certainly fun to just drop into a few relaxing forms every day, running through a 88 move set, or a particularly strenuous Qigong exercise may not be appealing but is in truth what we should be doing.
We’re doing our bit for the local community, for ourselves, and for the art itself.
And in a way, this is what is going to help keep Tai Chi alive during these very troubled times. Helping ourselves by staying in shape, and continuing to train, will leave us in a better position to help others when the time comes. That can mean volunteering to help such as the NHS Responders program here in the UK, or taking part in regular classes online to help support your Tai Chi club, or simply demonstrating some basic moves to friends via social media if they need some kind of regular exercise or way of relieving stress. In that sense, we’re doing our bit for the local community, for ourselves, and for the art itself. Who knows what the world is going to be like in just one year’s time, but we do know ways of staying calm and collected during trying times; we just need to keep practising.
That brings us to the end of the post; I hope you’ve enjoyed The Water Method and will join me next time for another discussion about the martial arts in the modern world. So until then, be like water, and stay safe.