Tai Chi: Software for the Body

It has now been over two decades since I first started my study and practice of tai chi.. Many of those years were under the guidance of my teachers. But a large portion of this time span has been self-study along with self-correction.  This path of self-study, is challenging.  The enthusiasm to continue daily practice at the absence of peer support from classmates and guidance from a teacher can decline over time.

But what is one to do should a teacher not longer be available? Stop practicing? Of course not.  I suggest to you that a deeper understanding of tai chi can be attained by anyone who cannot longer be guided by their teacher.

By way of analogy, think of tai chi as a free software application downloaded from the internet.  However, the free version of this software has only a few features that are available. If the user wishes to have access to the full version, a “key” or “code” is provided once the program has been purchased and full access is granted.

So how does one “buy” the Tai Chi Code?  Practice! Uninterrupted, concentrated practice with undivided attention. In the absence of a teacher, many stop practicing to avoid practicing wrong.  The only wrong one can do is not to practice. It is within the programming of the tai chi software to self-correct with time, prolonged practice and introspection. All the needed data is already stored within the form and our body’s database is gradually populated through usage and practice.

But, as with any software application, its usability is dependent on the user’s needs and the interaction between the program and the operator’s input. First, we should define what is the purpose or what needs are to be met through the tai chi program. A few come to mind:

  1. better health
  2. improved sleep
  3. digestion
  4. emotional balance
  5. flexibility
  6. strength
  7. martial applications
  8. meditation

Once a need is identified, the application is customized to meet the user’s needs.  Let’s take item #6. strength, as the current application for the tai chi software. A well written program would inquire from the user what interaction is to take place. For example, the software may ask the user what part of the body needs strength. The user responds by indicating the legs need strength. The software may respond by instructing the user to practice the form with the knees bent deeper and to slow down the practice. It may also suggest that more standing meditation be included in daily practice..

Let’s take item #3. digestion. The software may suggest to practice after 30 past dinner or lunch thus improving peristalsis and stomach emptying. If improved sleep, item #2 is the current need, the software may suggest to practice early in the morning and 30 minutes before retiring for the night.

And we can go on with numerous examples on how tai chi practice parallels software applications.

An Update: June 21, 2011
I like to think of the chuan in tai chi, meaning the postures, forms, shapes, etc., as apps that work with a given software application and operating system. These apps are specific to the language with which the software was developed. Attempts to use the apps with other vendor’s software is bound to fail. The language is Tai Chi… The Chuan shapes are the functions or applications.

Thus, when we see tcc players in the ring, wearing gloves, abiding by tourney rules, displaying kick boxing posturing, the tcc player gets his ass kicked. The software application and system are not congruent with the platform. A crash is inevitable..