All of the courses we teach at Brookline Tai Chi are based on two fundamental principles, the Taoist Water Method and the 70% Principle. These are principles for how to move as well as how to study these arts. They emphasize full effort without strain and come from a Taoist lineage of healing, meditation, and martial arts that stretches back thousands of years.
Taoist Water Method
Bruce Frantzis writes in his book, Relaxing Into Your Being, (North Atlantic Press, 2001), that:
“There are two main methods of Chinese Taoist meditation: the fire and water approaches. The fire method emphasizes force and pushing forward. It has the characteristics of flame, ever leaping forward to consume more fuel. The water method, on the other hand, believes in effort without force, in relaxation, in letting go. It displays the characteristics of water: softness and flow.
The water practices are based on a philosophical perspective that is relevant to everyday life: Whatever you do must feel comfortable. You learn to exert full effort without strained force. In order to do that, you must refine a certain edge in the mind. To employ all of your effort and yet not use force, not contravene the actual limits of the body, the mind, and the spirit, is the gentle way of Lao Tse.”
At Brookline Tai Chi we attempt to present the arts we teach in a manner consistent with the Taoist Water Method practices, also known as “the gentle way of Lao Tse”.
Lao Tse, whose name is often spelled as Lao Tzu, was the author of the famous Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching, which was written some 2,500 years ago.
The embodiment in everyday life of the Water Method approach is what we call the 70 percent principle.
70 Percent Principle
In every subject we teach we encourage you to follow what we call the 70 percent principle. In any exercise that you do with us, you try to practice at seventy percent of your maximum effort, physically, mentally, and emotionally. In this manner you “work” your mind/body system, but you do not stress, strain, or build tension into your system.
Only in unusual situations which demand “peak performance” would you exceed your normal seventy percent practice.
The theory here is that if you avoid tension and stress, your body and mind will relax and open further. So what today is seventy percent for you will become fifty percent tomorrow and your new seventy percent will be at a higher level of performance, but still without strain.
Conversely, if you constantly push yourself to 110 percent, you continually stress your system. Water-method theory says that your body and mind will close down under that stress and tension, and you will not grow.
Or as Liu Hung Chieh, our teacher’s teacher, was fond of saying, “You become what you practice.” If you practice stress and tension, you become stress and tension. If you practice relaxation, you become relaxed.
At Brookline Tai Chi, we continually encourage you to take on new challenges and learning, but urge you to “be gentle with yourself” in the process.