The Tai Chi Classics
The Tai Chi Classics are a collection of sayings from Tai Chi Masters, the most famous being the Treatise of Master Chang San-Feng and the Treatises by Master Wang Tsung-Yueh and Master Wu Yu-Xiang.
It is from these texts that we discover the accepted Tai Chi principles.
These masters passed on a gift to us by explaining the art of Tai Chi in the form of a series of striking metaphors. Tai Chi involves some very subtle skills and qualities which are extremely difficult to put into words or to understand intellectually with our logical, left-brain reasoning. The right hemisphere of the brain, however, absorbs concepts intuitively and therefore some complex aspects of the art can be absorbed on a very deep level by just hearing a description that works for you.
Whether you think of Tai Chi as "flowing like a river" or "an ocean rolling ceaselessly", or "connected like a string of pearls", you can gain a sense of the smoothness and whole-body power available when you practice Tai Chi.
Whether you become like "an eagle gliding serenly on the wind" or a person upon whom "even the mosquito finds nowhere to land", you will gradually become aware of an increased sensitivity and responsiveness.
You will learn to stand with your posture "balanced like a scale" and to move with the controlled power and alertness of "the placid cat, ready to pounce on the scurrying mouse" and you will develop the resiliance and elasticty of "an accordion, folding and unfolding."
The classics are most helpful when they are read many times while continuing to practice Tai Chi regularly. At first they will seem to be very esoteric and baffling but gradually, as your skills increase, some of these sayings will begin to make more and more sense to you until eventually you will feel that they are so obvious that you could have written them yourself, because they simply describe what is within you.
A would-be pianist can't learn to play the piano by reading lots of sheet music and never touching a piano, but a combination of studying sheet music and regular practice at the keyboard can allow the development of a great pianist, especially if a good teacher is around to correct any errors and offer advice. It's the same with Tai Chi. You can't master it just by reading the classics or by copying forms but if you have a good teacher and you practice the sequences patiently while also studying the classics and thinking deeply about them, this combination can eventually lead you to mastery.
Tai Chi Classics, Waysun Liao, Shambhala 0-87773-531-X
Cheng Tzu’s 13 Treatises on Tai Chi Chuan, Cheng Man-Ching. North Atlantic Books 0-938190-45-8
Tai Chi Chuan for Health & Self Defense, Master T.T. Liang, Vintage 0-394-72461-5
Wile, Doug, "Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions" (Sweet Ch'i Press 1983)
Wile, Doug, "Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty" (Albany: SUNY, 1996)
There are also some good sources of information on the internet, such as: