eat bitter? no thanks.

May 7th, 2012 by Jan

Reflecting on the passing of several of our Great Elders in the Martial Arts. Were does that leave us, the next generation(s)? Life is too easy now. The Great Ones had a hard life. Digging water out of mud holes, deeply corrupt governments that persecuted them, famines. Still, they perservered. Now, so many weak excuses for not training. I cut my finger, I have to iron tonight, my muscles are sore. What is really being said is, “I don’t care enough.” Why? Life is too easy, its too damn easy to not care. Salute to the Great Ones who cared enough to not make excuses in the face of a life we will never know.
The above was not written by me. A very skilled and respected Tai Chi teacher posted it. It sparked discussion, has me thinking, and it make me uneasy.

I also salute the grand masters of the art and acknowledge with gratitude the hard road they travelled. Because they worked hard, my lessons are easier to come by and certainly easier to understand. I know very well how deep my own teacher digs and how very generous he is. It is because of his strong legs, that I have been able to be on and off this path over the years.  I’ve also seen a lot of amazing people join in and drop out of this passing parade. I cannot and will not say that those who are not willing to “eat bitter” just don’t care. No one can say how easy one persons life is over another.

Nowadays… in my world, Tai Chi is personal.

I have spent most of my adult life studying Tai Chi. I have trained hard, made sacrifices and no one could say I didn’t care; but what I care about, and how much I care is not for others to say.

Life is different for us today. I am grateful it is. My life is indeed easier than most who have gone before me. That’s a good thing.  No one beats me if I don’t practice. And just as some parents want more for their children, I believe most teachers want their students to excel and surpass them. They studied hard for themselves and in doing so they make it easier for us.

For the most part Tai Chi is a recreational art, and even for the many die hards who chose to dig deep, most of us crackers are in it for love — not duty. We don’t need to eat bitter. Certainly I have the luxury of leisure interest.

Unlike a few great grand masters and elders in the martial arts I do not practice or learn because of family honour or tradition. My skill is not dependent on defending my community or country. What I do and don’t do is for joy and for personal growth.

I have chosen to trained hard and slack off over the years, I’ve skipped practice, and still gone to the pot lucks and parties. I’ve taught in more than one empty room. I’ve quit teachers and found new ones. I’ve had breakdowns and breakthroughs over the years. And because of my easy and privileged life, certainly not in spite of those who have gone before me, I am able to care about other things in my practice.

In other words, my sweet practice is mine.

6 thoughts on “eat bitter? no thanks.

  1. Dorian

    Well said! I salute you. I wonder, too sometimes how much of our current ideas about ‘past masters’ are just that – ideas. Ideas that we create to measure ourselves against. And those ideas serve us sometimes, and sometimes they hinder us. I too know, that others have different and perhaps more difficult challenges than I, but then again, maybe the comparison is all wrong. I do suspect that no one has ever had to be me before!

  2. Jim

    If you have the title of great one or great elder I bet you understand that digging for water, governments, and famines are all superficial bullshit. I would also bet they understood that martial arts training is no more or less important than ironing, building a kayak, or watching the wind move through the trees on a beautiful spring day.

    You think life is easier for one than another? Really?

  3. Ken

    Chop wood, carry water, live a stress free life.
    Turn thermostat, open faucet, work at a stressful, dead end job.
    Whose life is harder?
    Only those who live them get to vote.

  4. Kim Ivy

    Hi! Since it was my FB post that stimulated such a lively discussion I thought I’d also chime in. First of all – wow! I’m always amazed that people even read my stuff to stimulate debate. Secondly its so nice that there are alternate platforms – fb only has the like button. What if you dont like! Maybe we need a YOUR POST SUCKS button on FB! LOL. Anyway, since we also don’t have a campfire & tea (scotch) to sip as we discuss this, I wanted to put my post into the context within which I intended it. I had just heard of Feng Zhiqiang’s passing. Master Yeung passed away a few weeks ago, my first teacher (White, US) is 91. Several other non-taiji elders have passed. So, it does cause me reflection. I do appreciate that these people, compared to my cushy 3 device life appear to have had it more difficult in many ways. I would say and I do stand by that. Chen Xiao Xing, Chen Xiao Wang sit around the table and just chat about their lives that included digging water out of mudholes, supression during the CR, etc. etc. (I’m sure they didn’t think I would post about it during a FB morning!) Does that mean they think my assessment of their life’s circumstances is bullshit? Probably. (And maybe I’ll ask CXX when he is here later this month). But, I still have that view. Does it mean that my or someone else’s modern life is not difficult, no of course not. Several people I know have just dropped dead at 45 -50 years old of stress related heart attacks. Does that mean that the old China life was easier by compare? Sure, why not. CXX, CB etc. hate to travel. The Chen Village is (used to be) a very simple place. They like it. So of course that is relative and I am not saying or glamorizing one over the other. (And I am certainly not glamorizing the Old Heirerarchical Paradigm). What I am saying is that I appreciate the fortitude these people had to continue to stick with what they did so that I/we can study it now. Feng created an entire new approach to Taiji! He did have a much different life. I’m glad he stayed steady on.

    And I DO feel people make a lot of excuses that undermine what they say their intention is. Its not just Taiji and I’m not talking about choosing to practice or not. I’m talking about a mind that chooses to not show up. What does that mean? Something different for everyone, of course. So, I’m saying I’m grateful and I RESPECT people, like the Elders (who I call Great because I do feel that way about them, but certainly not in exclusion of the homeless guy down the street), who perserve rather than not in the face of whatever.

    Thanks Jan & all for the fireside chat!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *