How Yiyangmen Started

Posted on July 11, 2020Comments Off on How Yiyangmen Started

“Yiyangmen is the accumulation of 30 years of martial art and meditation practice.” That’s true, a buttoned up fact that one can honestly say at a job interview. But let’s take off the tie and talk about the truth!

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

The challenging setting

I had just achieved one of my big dreams, graduating from physical therapy graduate school and becoming a physical therapist. I opened my own practice in a peaceful town full of kind people. There were so many people to help and I wanted to help them all. I began teaching Taichi at my office after work.

Starting a business or medical practice is time consuming! I started at 8am, caring for my patients, learning how to run the office, and all the loose ends you start out with like house keeping and handyman work. I did this until 7pm and then taught my Taichi class, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Cutting corners

Photo by Zhang Kenny on Unsplash

Teaching taichi was a lot of fun. But it was also after 11 hours of work and sometimes, I’m just just quite exhausted! I don’t cut corners on teaching. My students received my attention, reflection, and guidance. But I might cut corners on myself ha ha.

My stances started to be less low. My postures became a little less firm. My concentration on all the rules of postures and alignment wavered. After a few months, I noticed something:

My taichi felt great! I didn’t feel tired or sore from practicing it. I felt more invigorated with each practice. And I felt stronger and more fluid in both my movements and during push hands.

Getting ahead of ourselves

What changed? I’ve practiced decades of Taichi and in a few months I improved more than I had in a decade. I realized it must have been the corners that were cut. I realized that in an obsession to follow the rules of perfect Taichi, I blocked myself in the journey from practitioner to master.

For example, we know how adults walk. But if we made a rule set of walking like that, and applied it to a child or a toddler, would they succeed? Probably not right? There is a journey we take, from infancy to adulthood. We start with the waddling walk of a toddler, to the wobbly walk of a young child, through the various growth stages of childhood until we are adults and walk like adults. In each state, we walk in the manner harmonious and appropriate for our body.

Photo by Jordan Christian on Unsplash

Taichi, and all other movement practices, are like that. Your body has a certain capacity for staying connected through various movements. To your current state there is a particular way of moving that promotes harmony. Forcing yourself to move in a specific way might make your posture and alignment look nice in a photography, but the movement will not be in harmony.

Finding my starting point and the path

I was not a master, but in trying to look like a master, I broke the harmony of my body. When I allowed myself to be the imperfect and tired person I am, I allowed my body to move in harmony with how it really is. I accepted and found my starting point.

And I had a single, simple intent. To show the form for my students. I stopped obsessing about me and just focused on doing the form. That luckily unified my intent and allowed my natural coordination to awaken. I had blessedly stumbled upon the genuine path to mastery.

Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

I knew then how to improve the teaching and transmission of Taichi and other holistic practices. We have to permit people the grace of being who they are. We let go of the rules and dogma. They are a compass to guide us, not railings to restrict our journey.

So let me say thank you to all my dedicated students who put up with the tired me and my less than perfect teachings. All of you provided just the right motivation and environment for all of us thrive together!

Do you have a story of how less was more? How letting go of rigidity has helped you? Please share your experience in the comments!