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Chen Style Ethics in Tai Chi

April 21, 2016

In Chen style Tai Chi form there are ten moral codes to guide students.  Since the Yang family form developed from the Chen form, these moral codes are relevant to the Yang practitioner and other forms practiced as well.  They are timeless and unlimited in their application.

1.  Choose a Teacher
To choose a teacher requires patience, discernment, commitment, dedication and perseverance from a student. The skills required to find the right teacher are the same skills required to learn the martial art of Tai Chi.  It is essential that the student accepts the responsibility to choose the teacher best able to guide his or her learning.  If the student/teacher relationship is compromised, the degradation of the martial art quickly follows.

2.  The Virtue of Faith
The student must have faith in the art being practiced, as well as faith in the teacher that has been selected.  This faith is anchored in unwavering belief and trust.

3,  Virtue of Respect
Respect, like faith, is a reciprocal relationship that begins with respecting oneself.  If we do not respect our self, how can we even begin to give it out to others?

  "When you are content to be simply yourself, and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you."  Lao Tzu

"Respect your efforts respect yourself.  Self-respect leads to self discipline.  When you have both firmly under your belt, that is real power."  Clint Eastwood

4.  Virtue of Devotion
Devotion goes beyond commitment and also includes passion and love for the practice.  This is a requisite for progressing in Tai Chi.  It includes devotion to practice, to the teacher, and to the heritage.

"Go one day without practice and teacher notices  Go two days without practice and students notice.  Go three days without practice and everyone notices."  Chinese saying

5.  Virtue of Praise
It is known that receiving loving praise from individuals we respect helps us to grow and advance.  This is true for the teacher and the student.  The survival and advancement of this art form over the years is embedded in praise for those in the past and in the present who have committed to preserving and sharing the traditions and heritage.

6.  Virtue of the Hand
The strength acquired in any martial art, including Tai Chi, must never be used to harm others.  Brutality and violence are not martial.  Everyone knows how to hit and kick and do harm.  It is much harder to learn judgment and restraint.  Even violence in the name of good can do irreperrable harm.  Virtue of hand tempers a desire for power.  When we learn to master our self, we have all the knowledge we will need to stay safe.

"He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still"  Lao Tzu

7. Virtue of the Heart
Advancement in Tai Chi practice brings a strong level of compassion for our self and for others.  It stems in part from experiencing the frustrations and disappointments on the learning pathway, feelings that are shared by all who study.  This is part of our individual growth in self understanding.  It is also an indication of moving more internally into our practice.  This is when our practice becomes an experience of the heart.

8.  The Virtue of Humility
This comes when we have achieved the other virtues and are ready to open up to deeper learning.   A true appreciation of the history, tradition, and values of Tai Chi, and the challenges in learning the art, and pregress and growth in self mastery bring us to humility.  This will open up infinite potential for new learning, without obstructions and judgments in our thinking.  It is a deeper kind of surrender when the art of Tai Chi begins to teach the student.

Without humility, we can get stuck in tunnel vision, and trying to force our mind and body and heart to progress.  The fundamental tenet "Do not use Force" becomes more real and personal as we transcend frustration and disappointment.  These are the gifts of the virtue of humility.  we leave focus on self behind and instead focus on spreading Tai Chi and sharing it with the world.

9.  Virtue of  Perseverance
Once we have moved beyond ego and competition we can get complacent and slack off in our learning and growth.  Perseverance comes from a continued desire to learn and improve, as heart and mind work harmoniously together.  It is deeper self awareness and insight into our thoughts and feelings.  It is finding joy in failing 19 times before succeeding once.  It is knowing what is meant by Cheng Man Ching when he says "Invest in loss."  It is seeing the sun through the clouds and noticing that difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish right before our eyes.

10.  Virtue of Social Responsibility
Any success we achieve in Tai Chi practice gives us a responsibility to make the world a better place by sharing the beauty of the art.  Our focus is to help others to advance peace and calm, balance and harmony.  The cycle of the ten virtues begins anew and is revitalized generation after generation.  This is our long term responsibility, to preserve the art that is Tai Chi.  Without these ten virtures Tai Chi would have fallen to the wayside a long time ago.