Which Form Should We Trust?

Master Moy often said, “Trust the Form.”  Which form?  There’s Tai Chi, Lok Hup, and Hsing-I in the Taoist Arts as well as weapon forms, sitting, standing and sleeping meditation.  There are other forms in the Taoist Arts more subtle in nature.  As I watch my kids learn Tae Kwon-Do, I question what is the form to trust there.  There’s other martial arts and health benefiting activities.  What about those forms?

When I was practicing and teaching within the crucible of the Taoist Tai Chi Society, I didn’t question much.  I took the teachings at face value for the most part and was very diligent in practicing all that I was shown.  Over time, I was able to perform a particular set one way and then an entirely different way.  Now that I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts focusing on family life, I’m left questioning what form to trust.  When I’ve gone back to class here and there over the last few years, I’ve noticed my form can fit in with the current practice.  There’s some nuances I don’t have with the current instructions touted as “advanced,” but I find I’m able to move just as easily and fall into the rhythm of the current teachings.  This leads me to believe there’s a form underneath of the nuances and different manners by which we can practice and cultivate our art forms.

Maintaining strength, flexibility, openness and health is about learning the form within the different appearances that come and go over a lifetime of practice and cultivating health.  I’m finding the form Mr. Moy was telling us to trust is deeper than the movements and corrections given by this or that instructor.  It’s deeper than the “advanced” instructions and more akin to that first movement as a beginner when we are thrilled to learn, open to all instructions and observations.  That spirit of wanting to learn and trying different things to see what works for our body is a form we can follow throughout our lives.  The form we need to trust is where all parts are moving, connected and open.  It is movement without judgement while grounded to what’s needed in ourselves and within the environment around us.  This form is adaptable to whatever external movement we take part in and bodily changes occurring throughout our lives.  This form connects us with the essence of ourselves and the practice we engage in no matter what it’s appearance or name is.  This form is the expression of who we are in what we do.

Observe the form within the movements and direct yourself from there.
Observe the form within the movements and direct yourself from there.

Self Control

Self-control is fundamental in martial arts.  Any martial arts class will work on this even if it’s not directly addressed.  Sometimes in classes for 4-8 year olds it is necessary to not only focus on the topic but dedicate exercises that develop it.  One of the exercises used in my son’s class is to stand for a specified time at attention without moving, talking or fidgeting.  It’s amazing how difficult it is for kids to do this and I argue many adults I know as well.

This simple activity or rather lack of activity is a form of meditation.  It uses a standing posture and guidance to help students develop the ability to focus and let go of distractions.  For kids the distractions are over-abundance of energy, itchy noses, noises, and talking to name a few.  It sets the stage for the kids to focus on the instructions that follow.  It gathers their energy which is critical to later stages of learning.

How can we use this simple exercise in our daily activities as adults?  Before entering a room where we have to present to an audience we can stand quietly for a moment or two.  We can stand quietly while waiting in line at the store or the airport.   We can suspend judgement and sit without moving during conversations which helps us listen with intent.   It’s up to us to find opportunities to use what we learn in our martial arts classes.  It’s up to us to exercise our self-control like the muscle it is.

Exercise the opportunities to calm yourself.
Exercise the opportunities to calm yourself.