#8 Match up Inner and Outer


The 10 essentials are as follows:

1 – Empty, lively, pushing up and energetic

2 – Hold in the chest, pull up the back

3 – Relax the waist

4 – Separate empty and full

5 – Sink the shoulders and droop the elbows

6 – Use intent rather than force

7 – Synchronize upper and lower body

8 – Match up inner and outer

9 – Continuous, without interruption

10 – Seek the stillness in motion


#8 Match up inner and outer

The tai chi forms are so much more than choreographed movement that help people increase their balance. In fact I keep saying to my students that the tai chi and qigong forms themselves only represent 10% of what is really going on.

Matching up inner and outer can be looked at from the five ways we progress in tai chi, physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually.

From a physical perspective the student must learn to listen (ting jin) to what is happening inside the body. Try to comprehend what I am saying here. There are just a handful of art forms where one is required to go deeply into their physiological self to gain the benefit of doing so. This is part and parcel of what makes tai chi so awesome.

I insist that my students learn the applications of the forms as this would represent the “outer” part of the 8th essential and then it is a matter of self-study to really slow things down (1 becomes 10 and 10 becomes 100) to listen to what is happening on a physical perspective. When you have reconciled every weight shift and every movement between the form and the intent, only then have you matched up inner and outer.

From an emotional/mental perspective we look to taiji not taijiquan. Taiji is a philosophy while taijiquan is the martial art that incorporates the teachings of taiji. The philosophy of taiji explains that taiji comes from wuji meaning that the one created the two. The “two” represents the dualistic nature of our reality, the yin and yang, good/evil, male/female etc. The taiji philosophy teaches lessons that are so deep that the student’s emotional interactions will be changed due to the understanding of these teachings. In fact this is exactly what happened this week when one student told me about her emotional ties to an action that see had taken during the week. So I related to her the story of “who knows what is good and who knows what is bad,” where we learn that everything happens for a reason and we must look at all events from a neutral perspective if we want to live our lives in clarity as opposed to a filtered and probably incorrect reality. Taiji teaches us to be the hub of the wheel where we look out and see the world around us spinning faster and faster, yet we remain centered and peaceful. Eventually we learn that contentment is our natural state! And then it is fairly easy to feel ourselves slip out of that balanced state whenever we are upset or fearful or just not content in any way, during practice and in daily life.

Energetically we learn to match up inner and outer by first feeling energy from either within the body or perhaps from outside of our body and then starting to play and learn. We learn to absorb, we learn to throw energy, we learn to listen to, stick to and follow energy. Ultimately we learn that all energies are just drops from the same ocean and this relates back to the taiji lesson, from the one comes the two.

Now the BIG lesson comes from really understanding what this means and then just because you can comprehend this understanding I bet it will take you years of slow development to live it.

Spiritually, matching up inner and outer means to learn the lessons of taijiquan and taiji and live them day in and day out. After all, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience,

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