Another correlation between the physical expression of Tai Chi and philosophical ideas of Taoism is the ubiquitous existence of paradoxes in both. There are contradictory answers to many questions, and at the same time, the answers are very simple (a paradox in itself).
An example from Tai Chi is the posture of the p’eng shape. If you’re too stiff, you can be pushed over easily. If you’re too relaxed, you can be collapsed easily. People make the mistake of thinking that you have to be one or the either — that you’re either resisting a force or letting it move you — without understanding that there exists a “somewhere in between”. It’s difficult to explain how something can be structured and relaxed at the same time.
A Taoist example is the idea of wu wei, or “action without action”. Practically speaking, it’s the concept that you don’t do anything that isn’t necessary, and by remaining reactionary you let nature (or the interaction of Heaven and Earth, as Taoists romantically say) run it’s course. In doing so, “nothing is done yet nothing is left undone”.
Last class, my teacher said “Tai Chi is easy, that’s why so few people do it well.” His words reminded me of verse 70 of the Tao Te Ching.
My teachings are very easy to understand
and very easy to teach
yet so few in this world understand
and so few are able to practice
The answers remain elusive and difficult to explain because they must be felt, as in Tai Chi, or experienced, as in Taoism, a characteristic of the paradoxical nature of both the ancient Chinese martial art and philosophy.