In live situations, and similarly in martial arts, we learn by repetition and mileage, repeating the task again and again. Try to recall how difficult the first attempt to ride a bicycle was.
More than a decade ago I was introduced to Tai Chi. How difficult it was to understand the concepts that are so far away from our (Western) ones. On top of it my body coordination ability was proving difficult, remembering the sequences was even harder. Grasping the idea took some time, and so on. But, just like the process of learning to drive a car, where at the beginning simultaneously completing the tasks seems so difficult, patience is the key. The improvement is gradual and within time the steps are deeply ingrained in you. With no effort you drive a car, ride a bike or perform Tai Chi with calm and relaxed mind.
The beginner of one of five major styles of Tai Chi, the Yang style, was Yang Lu Chan (end of the 18th century – 1872). In his youth he had learned another Tai Chi style still in use today from the Chen family. At those times, the knowledge of the art was kept in the families not to be revealed to others and carefully transferred only within family. Yang was an outside apprentice, for which he was treated unfairly. But, being persistent he stayed and persevered in his practice. A story tells that one night, he was awakened by the sounds of hen and ha in the distance. He got up and traced the sound to an ancient house. Peeking through the broken wall, he saw his master Chen teaching the techniques of grasp, control, and emitting jīng to his sons in coordination with the sounds henand ha. This knowledge gave young Yang a new perspective to control and to steer the opponent with great success.
As in the story above, one has to learn not to resist in accepting new and repeating attempts. Although it is very good to see different things differently. Through pushing hands (tuī shǒu) Tai Chi teaches that resistance is futile and so you have to learn how to “undo” your personal and natural instinct to resist force with force: the body should yield to a force and, without losing balance, redirect it. Pushing hands enables to learn how to respond to external stimuli and how to develop a listening jīng (tīng jīng), the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner’s intention and finally how to redirect it. To feel what the opponent is trying or thinking to do.
Jīng training is a very important part of all Chinese martial arts and I am not talking only of Tai Chi. There are supposedly two styles of practicing it. One is hard, as in Tiger Claw, as opposed to White Crane and Bā Guà that are softer ones. Tai Chi is the softest. For Tai Chi or other martial arts practitioners that do not use jīng, in China they are considered weak as a flower and soft as brocade. In our culture we would say that they just dance and not really perform martial arts. Although there are many types of jīng one thing they all have in common: they direct the flow of energy.
An outstanding leader in a company has to feel all the energy that flows throughout the company and also outside it. A leader is not supposed to go against those flows. But he is supposed to control, deviate or even better said to steer all the upcoming forces. Like a matador that deviates the bull’s attention and steers it away, a good leader should do alike: steering with no fast and hard movements – like pushing hands in Tai Chi.