Review of Jan Kauskas’ book, Laoshi: Tai Chi, Teachers and the Pursuit of Principle
Many a tai chi student, be it novice or experienced senior, have pondered putting pen to paper in order to try and convey or share their enthusiasm for the art and the stories forged over time b their instructor. The compulsion to express via the written word some translation of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energies one feels welling up inside when learning various internal arts practices is a strong one, yet not all can easily lay bare the soul of the art in such a fashion.
Jan Kauskas takes us into the ups and downs of learning not only tai chi, but applicable life principles that arise along the way. Something my own teacher often refers to as ‘living the art’ –finding daily affirmations or recognizing the tai chi philosophies in many aspects of our lives, work, social encounters and world view.
The book is an extension of the storytelling art, and the heart to heart transmission between teacher and student. Kauskas not only discusses the technical aspects of the tai chi form, push-hands, spherical dimensions, sword mythology, coiling, structure, kicking and importance of the tan tiens; but also the more spiritual and philosophical notions of art versus fighting, force, balance, yielding, Daoism (or The Way) judgment, the eternal balance of yin and yang, learning to give up total control, the dangers of blind respect, and the rational mind versus the heart-mind.
One of my favorite quotes from Laoshi: Tai Chi, Teachers and the Pursuit of Principle is: “The more you try to control life, the more you imprison yourself. You will experience greater and greater tension and so less and less joy, happiness and love. Once you understand the only way to control the universe is to realize you can’t, there is a wonderful freedom. It takes away the pressure that goes with trying to force things to your will.”
Push-hands is more of a conversation, not a fight. Swords are about defense and are forged by removing impurities. Our own world-view impacts our judgments. We need to befriend our yang energy, lest it destroy us. Suffering is about our reactions to life, and differs from pain. The heart-mind, faith and love are the currency of internal arts. And to force control, rather than yield and relax, is to be imprisoned. Some of the many lessons learned and applied by Jan Kauskas from his many teachers.