Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight: Tai Chi’s general attitudeNotes on Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System I

When we are at ease, relaxed in a normal everyday mental and physical condition, we are said to be in a ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ mode; or, a ‘Walk or Talk’ mode. If we are attacked or for whatever reason are afraid or insecure, we will probably assume another mode, in which we will breathe in the chest, our adrenaline will increase, our blood will prepare to clot and our large muscles will tense up in preparation for violence. This is a ‘sympathetic nervous system’ mode, referred to as ‘Fight or Flight’.

Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System
Notes on Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System

…and Tai Chi

If we are ‘doing’ Tai Chi (the forms, push hands or fencing) in the fight or flight mode, we are NOT ‘doing’ Cheng Man Cheng Tai Chi.
Tai Chi only works when we are in a tranquil mode. Any angst or stress, any effort or struggle obviates it. If we are relaxed and calm, we have the ‘time’ to respond.

*nervous system* – note to self!

Author: Ken van Sickle
Images: Ken van Sickle

German version of the article series

Notes on Cheng Man Ching’s Tai Chi System

  • Tai Chi’s general attitude (fight or flight),
  • the serious effort to make Chinese visual language practically meaningful (swimming in the air),
  • the interpretation of relaxation as something requiring hard work (On (mis)alignment),
  • the intense study of single postures (Roll back),
  • the need to practically reconnect one’s own form to the original meaning of Taiji (The Cheng Man Ching 37 Form),
  • the ultimate art in life (Tai Chi’s Role),
  • the relation to the Other (Push Hands),
  • the principle of going with the flow (Ride the horse),
  • and – ultimately – the artful combination of energy and direction (momentum).
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