For the longest time nobody had a clue about Tai Chi Chuan, it used to be my “get out of jail free” card when I didn’t feel like engaging in small talk during social gatherings, if I said I fought, that always seemed to ignite curiosities that weren’t much more than skin deep. Granted, I was usually at black tie events, in a gown of some sort, with hair done up to there and dress that either flowed everywhere, or clung to everything. Not your typical look of a fighter, but I don’t dress like that on training days and present company at black tie gatherings could never really seem to understand that, it was perhaps the depth of the type of people I had been subjected to for so long. They tend to swim on the shallower end of a pool which didn’t seem to offer very challenging depths. However, the company I preferred avoiding with empty chatter could never seem to make the connection between the two and during the times I was “outed” by someone or just was so sick of the gossip and talk of shoes and make-up, I would drop the bomb somewhat like this:
Gossip 1: “Did you see what she’s wearing?”
Gossip 2: “I just bought these today”
Gossip 3: “I was gonna buy those, but I think they are so last season”
Gossip 4: “My boyfriend insisted on buying it for me”
Me: “That’s wonderful, well, I teach Tai Chi, so I don’t have a deep enough understanding for what you guys are discussing” and I would just walk away as they look as empty as their conversations with only their labels to define them.
Saying I taught Tai Chi was always something that created an escape for me, because most people don’t really care about what Tai Chi is actually about, even many of the people who come in seeking to learn their idea of it, which I’ve come to also observe, people who have come for their own vanity of being able to say they’ve study or met Grandmaster William CC Chen or people who have just come to do Tai Chi for the vanity of their need to tell people about how “deep” they are, without saying how “deep” they are. It’s a curious thing to observe and it’s always as fascinating as it is immediately boring for me to observe again, and for those who come in, for the vanity of it all.
It’s an interesting thing growing up Tai Chi.
I remember as a young child this authenticity of almost everyone who came in. They were all weird, because they were authentic and original and entirely comfortable in their own skins, thirsting to discover more about Tai Chi and more about themselves. As the years have gone by and perhaps it is too my age, I have noticed the “creepy” kind.
The “creepy” kinds are the inauthentic, entirely about themselves and the vanity of what they feel saying they do Tai Chi makes them sound like. I can write about them, cause none of them ever come back. They are the kind of weird that’s unsettling, because they are inauthentic. You know that feeling when you just can’t put your finger on it, the person seems a little to open, too receptive, too accepting, too nice and then one day they catch you off guard by doing something passive aggressive and just simply, nasty?
There’s a difference between searching for a deeper understanding and searching to appear to have greater depth for the sake of showing off to others. Tai Chi has now become an incredible magnet for both.
Now I find those same people at those Black Tie gatherings ending up at our school. You can always spot them, there’s a feel and way about how they have such a manicured looked and way. They are always deceptively humble and warm. But the minute they realize our pool offers depths unsafe for individuals of their caliber, instead of embracing the dive, they return to the safety of their shallower shores.