Introduction by Margaret Olmsted
Pat Gorman wrote this article for the Tai Chi Press, Vol. II, No. IV. In that version, she left out a paragraph she had written elsewhere about Repulse Monkey and a line about Four Corners which I have included here.
Each time you take a journey through the form it can be different, from completely missing the journey to having the best tai chi round ever. Sometimes the journey is taken alone and sometimes with others. Does that change it for you? Remember to enjoy the journey!
A round of tai chi chuan is nothing less than a journey. It takes us through the aspects, or forms, of chi, from the dense to the refined, by working the lower body intensively and deeply, while the upper body and arms go lightly along for the ride.
The first third of the form, which Professor Cheng called “The Human Level,” restores qi. The basic pattern of the human being – jing — is nourished. If you are ill and do a “healing third,” you are doing the part of the form that most supports your essence.
The second third of the form, which Professor Cheng called “The Earth Level,” cultivates the qi as it moves through the joints and up to the top of the head. The story of the journey of the tiger begins at birth as consciousness enters the world to seek the spirit path. When you Embrace the Tiger, you embrace your limited self in its human incarnation and set off for the mountain, a place to become enlightened by merging with The Divine.
As we Repulse the Monkey, we conquer our mind, conquer our distractions. During Cloud Hands, the qi has reached the top of the head, we have reached the top of the mountain (in the clouds) and we can now truly learn. During the Kicks (Earth-Metal-Wood-Fire) we have dominion over the elements in balance.
The third part of the form is the “Heaven Level” of perfect awareness. In the Four Corners, we are centered in the maelstrom of chaos. Turning in the Lotus Kick, the qi exits from the top of the head and returns to the Heavens. When you look down to see the Eyes of the Tiger, you are seeing your limited self. However, you are no longer identified with a limited self because Riding the Tiger you now have control over your limited self. There is perfect balance between the spirit and the Tiger because you have dominion over your incarnation. When you Shoot the Tiger you are seeing – from a place that is unlimited – that which is limited; you don’t need the limited anymore because you are no longer identified with it; though it is part of you, it isn’t you. At the end of the form everything is gathered back in as you enter the Tao.
By taking us through human, Earth and Heaven levels, the form provides a path towards enlightenment while also addressing the body’s energy. Therefore, tai chi can be seen as cultivating all aspects of qi, and therefore rightly merits its name, “Supreme Ultimate.”
The Journey of the Tiger in the form, formulated and expressed by Patrick Watson, the founder of the School of Tai Chi Chuan, was first presented publicly by Pat Gorman at the School of Tai Chi Chuan’s Winter Training program for teachers, January 1, 1995.
Photo by ewastudio