Tai Chi – globalisation and the effect of cultural niches in the social multiverse


Seen world-wide it is observable that special interest groups have their own mores, practices, language (jargon) and social norms which are often quite foreign to outsiders who occasionally enter them, either out of need or curiosity. We see this in our interactions with the professions of medicine, teaching, law and so forth – when visited at need these micro-cultural schools of expertise justify high fees often sustained by this very separateness and the enforced barriers to understanding which they promote.

Elsewhere, we see a similar situation with areas of personal interest – clearly the one considered here is that of martial arts.

Once we understand Tai Chi/martial arts as a specialist niche culture like the professions, then we can begin to expect some challenging issues in comparison to mainstream culture. Certain practices for example, or ways of perceiving human interaction are just as “foreign” as any medical training (complete with dissections, intimate examinations, drug ingestion, etc) or legal conversation replete with tortuous thought experiments and Latin notation.

Compare for example with dance and its suppressed sexuality (a vertical expression of a horizontal desire), its intellectualised definition of physical expression and its pre-linguistic emotional expression through wholly committed physical action. Consider also the physical, psychological and linguistic worth of sports.

So, when you join a Tai Chi class consider that you have entered a very old sub-culture based on millennia-old ideas and practices, many once common but today lost except to some specialist areas. Perhaps consider what it means to join such a group and allow for the fact that you are the (albeit welcome) outsider who needs to make allowances for the conflicts which may come about from your own expectations. Even for those of us with many years as part of this sub-culture we continue to find that the thinking and habits we were brought up with continue to hold us back in developing our Tai Chi skill set.

So we are all beginners and all seeking to find our place in this world of multiple sub-cultures.

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