Kaile T'ai Chi: About


About the Author and Kaile T'ai Chi

I rarely teach T'ai Chi, and do not have a school, so these essays* stand on their own. If they make sense, and help you, then keep reading, and welcome to them.
    (*In the spirit of Montaigne, from the French "essai" – a try, an analysis, an excursion into new thoughts. Never heard of Montaigne? Most people haven't. That's because – unlike most philosophers – his thoughts were human-sized, not over your head. So unlike other philosophers, his once-controversial ideas have been absorbed into Western thought, and now seem obvious. I hope my essays are as obvious as his.)

There are legitimate questions before reading, such as:

Q: Who were your teachers?
A: My primary teachers were Robert W. Smith and Benjamin Lo (Lo Pan Jeng).
    (Mr. Smith read a few of my essays – some of them were his "homework assignments" – but rarely made any comments. As far as I know, Mr. Lo never saw any of them.)

Q: How long have you been practicing T'ai Chi?
A: I started in Spring of 1978.

Q: What makes this worth reading?
A: That depends on you; thoughts are useless unless your mind is ready for them, and sometimes priceless when your mind is ready. What makes it different is that I have been practicing alone for 20-plus years, outdoors, with the sky for my roof and the Earth for my floor. Since I had no partners, I learned by "shadow-pushing" with the ghosts of the legendary masters – figuring that the old masters could potentially do anything that a human body could possibly do. Sometimes I practiced with trees and bushes, and occasionally with instructors or students from schools like aikido and escrima, and some of the hard styles. Since I had no physical human teachers during those years, I followed the classic idea that "The form is your teacher." I spent a lot of time inside my mind and body, and breaking down the form into its individual elements, and practicing in fields and forests, or on hillsides or snow or ice.

QUESTIONS? If there is an unfinished page in the Index that you would like to read ... send me an email or use the contact form, and that should inspire me to finish and post it. If you have some other question that interests me, that may prompt me to write another web page. If it's a new subject, consider including your phone number, since an interesting question often leads me to ask more questions.

Nicholas Carson

The Rest of the Story: Credit Where Credit Is Due

Source of these ideas: I doubt there is anything entirely new in this website. I am fascinated with neurobiology and exercise physiology, and try to keep up with new discoveries, so I was struck by the uncanny hypotheses made from the 1980s onwards, one of them seeming to precede the discovery of mirror cells, those brain cells that "mirror" other animals' motions. But the old masters may have noticed the same thing. People were not stupid a thousand years ago. They had less information overload, and more time to think. So most or all of these thoughts may be rediscoveries, because before television and computers, people had the time and focus to concentrate on an idea. As philosopher Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by looking." Or listening. And then thinking.

I incorporated more from two very good Qigong teachers, and a tremendous amount by working on translations of the Taoist Canon, particularly scriptures concerned with physical and mental well-being. Some of them are online at ("DZ" is academic shorthand for "DàoZàng" or "Dàozàng," as Taoist Canon is written in Pinyin). In the Chinese translations I am indebted to Norman Goundry, core translator of the website, who has spent hours clarifying phrases as superficially simple as kung fu kao sheng for me (very roughly, proficiency achieved from the lowest to the highest).

And then of course there was the foundation: classes – with good teachers. And reading the classics of Chinese internal boxing.

Lineage: It is hard to establish a "lineage" when most of the first 20 years of practice were in my back yard, and the last 20 with no classes at all. I studied with several of the masters of the 1900s – a few still teaching – and pushed with them, and had lunch with them. The only one whose home door was regularly open to me was Mr. Smith, with his wife Alice. It is enough to say: Yang lineage, wandering back to the great Yang Lu Ch'an.

Quotations: I quote several of my teachers – and their teachers, and the old masters. Often I add notes in an effort to clarify translations that do not seem to reflect the realities of T'ai Chi Chuan, physiology, or neurobiology. Where possible my clarifications should be weighed against other versions; in fact many of my own clarifications are extracted/balanced from as many as a half-dozen versions of a given quote.

Romanization of Chinese characters: I use the Wade-Giles romanizations, because Pinyin did not exist when I first studied Chinese characters. Accented Pinyin romanizations are welcome additions if the reader cares to email them to me. (Note: Wade-Giles is sometimes described as a romanization of "Mandarin Chinese"; more correctly it is a romanization of the Beijing dialect, or in Wade-Giles format, "Peking-ese.")