Richard Farmer
RDTC Principal Instructor

What inspired me to learn Tai Chi?
What gives life to the Tai Chi I teach?

What inspired me to learn Tai Chi
A friend, knowing I was looking for something, suggested I go to a class he was attending.  I was in some pain at the time and knew that I needed help, anything would have done, but Tai Chi beckoned so I followed. I decided that if it did not work I would quit after the first term, but then I reckoned how would I know if it worked or not if I did not really give it a go?  I decided to give 100% for 10 weeks, practicing everyday and attending one class a week.  I knew then that if it did not work it was not my fault.  

I have continued ever since and that was in 1977. I remember once being struck by terror and blind panic right in the middle of a class.  It must have been about 1 1/2 years in and I was realy dedicated and assisting my teacher when it hit me, like a bolt from the blue.  I was completetly terriffied, my chest contracted my knees went weak and shook and I wanted to run right out of there.  Some part of me knew that if I ran I would not come back so I sat down, right against the wall, in the middle of the class, like I was a sack of potatoes. My teacher enquired what was wrong and I just about menaged to speak, I needed to sit.  He left me be, and I sat and sat, just breathing and trying not to run.  Trying to calm down, trying to soften and trying to relax.  My heart was pounding and my breathing was shallow.  I sat there for most of the evening classes.  Eventually I felt I could walk and eventually went home wondering what it was all about.

I continued my training but every now and again the thought would come to me, what was that all about and I would shake my head and continue.  It was like a koan I could not answer.  Then one day it came like it had done many times over the years and I realised I had been afraid of where this art was taking me.  I was afraid of the changes that would have to come.  The part that wanted to remain the same was totally terrified of the me I would become.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don't etc.  As I looked, I realised that bizarrly I was frightened of becoming who I am.  More simple, more happy, and yes, perhaps a little wiser too.  

As I looked I realised that deep down that I was still a little afraid of who I might become and where I might be going and in the knowlege of that first fright and this current understanding I began to relax.  That process is still continuing and will continue although I am no longer afraid of the future.  I have learned to profoundly trust the process and I know the universe is friendly and that I have to pay joyfull attention, moment by moment as time passes.

What gives life to the Tai Chi I teach?
What illumines the Tai Chi I teach?  I have no interest in developing Tai Chi Chuan for its own sake.  In other words if I cannot use it in my day to day life then I am not interested.  I know of teachers in many different methods, some in Tai Chi Chuan, who are excellent at their art but not very nice people.  How can this be, if the art is, as I know it to be, a truly profound path of self realisation? What are these people doing or not doing?

This has been my quest, what really makes a difference, what makes an art into a path of self improvement.  With this realisation, you can make a pot of tea and it is pure Tai Chi.  Tai Chi Chuan, Chuan, the way or method which allows us to discover Tai Chi, the supreme ultimate.  I used to think that was really arrogant but slowly I have come to realise that the translation of supreme ultimate does not apply to the method but to being in harmony, the supreme ultimate state of being - a human being.  

There is a saying "As above so below", and another, "to be in the world but not of it", to truly live, not just survive life.  To be able to move without hinderance, to flow without giving oneself up, to stand like a tree and really listen.  The art of Tai Chi allows us to explore these principles and through the understanding that comes of this the "Kung Fu" of living increases until it is greater than the fear of failure.  Then our fundamental basis for breathing is to live each day, not just to survive each day.

All these things can be seen in the body, Tai Chi Chuan is an exquisite mirror, it's all there to be seen, all the Tigers are there to be Embraced and in so doing, the Return to Mountain.  All these principles that illumine the Chuan can be practised and perfected. In some ways in order to become a master we all need to journey back to the moment when the Tai Chi is discovered as though for the first time.  We return to the original moment and when we do we no longer have to ride another's back, the Tai Chi has become the teacher.  All good teachers want to become obselete.

I am not there, but I am on the path, no different than any other student of Tai Chi Chuan, we are all on the path, equally.  I wish you a life full of living.


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