A major principle of Tai Chi is to stay in your circle both mentally and physicaly. This allows a centered ness and balance to be maintained in both combat and daily life. As soon as you are drawn out of your circle in tai chi pushing hands you are already loosing balance and can easily be toppled, as soon as you take on too much or spend too much in everyday life then you are already skating on thin ice!
How big is the circle?
The size of your physical circle in tai chi pushing hands will vary with each individual. Your circle is defined by how far you can reach to and still not easily be pulled off balance. Learning not to reach outside your circle is a big part of tai chi pushing hands as is also learning how to entice your opponent out of their circle where they are easy prey.
In life our circle is defined by our mental physical and financial strength. Life experience teaches us not to over do it and to know when to quite while we are ahead, trying to keep up with the jones is pointless and exhausting. Tai Chi calls this moderation and balance staying in your circle or you could say knowing yourself.
The expanding and contracting circle
When we are very young part of the job of our parents is to define our circle for us. Those well defined limits, don’t play further than the end of the road and be back by six where frustrating but also reassuring at the same time, they defined the world that was safe. As we grew and first walked to school all on our own the circle was expanding, do you remember the first time after passing your test driving the car on your own? The new car driver is thrilled at having the freedom that driving gives, their circle has just expanded enormously.
Feeling old is with us for more than half our lives as it is simply the natural contraction of the ffffffhhcircle. We were probably in our twenties when we first did not really feel like going to that night club after the pub, we just did not have energy to waste anymore, yet six months before going to the night club was so important! The expansion and contraction of the circle is as natural as breathing in and out and mentally resisting the ebb and flow of the circle is futile. However within this unavoidable circle of life we can on a personal level expand our horizons and grow as people.
Extending our circle
In pushing hands we can increase our range of movement and still be balanced and comfortable by practicing Tai Chi. Stretching and learning to sink opening the hips and other joints, all this extends our circle physically. if you were to push hands with someone who had a much greater range of movement than you, a larger circle, they would feel solid and bendy at the same time. Even if this person was shorter than you their reach will probably seem greater and rather than you overextending them you would find that it is you who is overextended.
It could be loosing a lot of weight or getting more sleep, anything that increases our vitality will increase our circle regarding our energy.The opposite is also true and anything or anyone who depletes our vitality will also shrink our circle.
When we are learning something new at any age we rightly sense that in some way we are growing, our circle expands. Knowledge and experience breed confidence and this is an expansion of our circle.
How brightly do you shine?
If you imagine that you were a lamp how big a circle of light would you throw out into the dark? The circle that each one of us could light up would be different for everyone, inside our circle things would seem real but outside our circle they would seem abstract or unreal.
To someone having trouble walking even with a walking stick someone talking about hiking twenty miles would seem to be a ridiculous waste of energy. However if the person using a walking stick regained full health and was capable of walking long distances they may well see a twenty mile hike in a different, or brighter light!
Reacting at the right time
In a self defence scenario, say a person running towards you and yelling, a good martial artist will only react as the attacker enters their
circle, that is when the aggressor can no longer change their attack. This skill, to react at the right time takes a cold calmness loads of training and more cold calmness! We have all heard people saying don’t show your hand too soon but the impulse to come out with a reaction prematurely is just so strong.
In life it takes lots of practice and awareness not to over react to things, maybe on the newes, that are outside of our control and save our energy for smaller things closer to home that we can influence.
When the dog has you over and the salesman sees you coming.
What dog owner has not experienced the dropped ball near your feet but, you reflect afterwards, not that near. Those brown eyes look at you so pleadingly, there may even be a slight slow wag of the tail as further encouragement if only you would bend down pick it up and chuck it! Sometimes you may reach for that ball not even fully aware that you are doing it and just before you touch it suddenly it’s not there, snatched gone, the trap is sprung! For a game that you had little or no interest in is ant it amazing how annoying it can be?Keep your saliva covered man key ball you scowl at the laughing eyes, you have just been had! You have allowed yourself to overreach and be drawn out of your circle, it is not the first time even is it and you know annoyingly not the last? To your dog ball games, if they are his thing, are as important as football to a professional football player and they both master their art. With the same intensity the top salesman will draw you into an expensive purchase, such as a time share apartment and a day before you did not even know that you needed it or had even heard of such a thing.
The importance of routine
The jobs and things that we need to get done regularly are easier to accomplish if we are in a routine. It’s often only when a constructive routine breaks down that we realise that things had been going along quite smoothly. Even our bodies like routine, it’s not the regular but the unexpected demand that puts our back out. If we get into doing some Tai Chi daily it can be a big plus, but it’s probably only when we have slipped out of the habit of doing it that we realise just how much that we were getting from doing it. Being in a good routine gives us a balance and centered ness, you could see the routine as a circle.
The Tai Chi circle in a nut shell.
If we could not worry about the things that are outside our control or even react to them at all and be aware certainly of possible trouble in the distance but not disturbed by it, we would have little stress. Keep to a well balanced routine and when we let it slip do not beat ourselves up but just get back into it. All of this is easy to say of course and hard to do but with practice it can become as natural as any habit and staying in your circle is a habit worth having.