I notice it quite profoundly – it’s easy to mistake simple for easy, and complex for difficult, but it often doesn’t work out that way in the end.
Chin-ups are essentially simple, yet quite difficult. Tai chi is extremely complex but it’s all about the elimination of tension within the body, so once you’ve grasped that physically, your practice becomes effortless.
The thing is these days, if it’s effortless we think it won’t help us get into a smaller pair of pants, so why bother? Clearly it isn’t really about health anymore. Learning to move without tension is one of the most useful things in the world, as is learning to maximise tension.
Some things are both difficult and complex, and others are both easy and simple. In the last month, I’ve been training a lot of tai chi, I’ve been walking, and I’ve been swimming – not serious laps, just playing in the water really. It’s been awesome.
I’m used to training with a high degree of intensity (or intensiveness), and spending more time training in a relaxed capacity – not worrying about development, or mastering anything – it’s quite freeing. To move and be free. I talk about it a lot, but I keep finding that I habitually make training serious. Of course, with tai chi, this becomes problematic. As soon as you start feeling serious about it, you’ll suddenly notice there’s tension. As soon as you start worrying about whether or not it’s right, there’s tension.
You can apply tension to weightlifting, and keep adding tension and degrees of seriousness, and you’re fine. But with tai chi it’s different.
So you can work very hard at some things that are difficult and complex, but not physically demanding, and you can dedicate yourself to something fairly simple – which can get a bit boring – but you make it interesting by working really damn hard. Intensity is the enemy of boredom.
That’s the thing I find with weightlifting. It looks simple, and it kind of is, but when you’re working hard, it commands your focus. It’s too challenging to be boring, and that makes it engaging. When you’re training heavy, you need to align everything as best you can. No two reps are exactly alike. It is simple, yet difficult, and can be surprisingly complex. Internally, there is much variation. To look at, not so much.
And often when people start to practice tai chi, the legs ache, the brain gets full, the coordination gets confusing. But after a few years you’ll find you’re practicing a twenty-minute long routine, and you’re relaxed, calm and centred, and moving effortlessly the whole time.
I’m not sure I have a point, really. Other than the usual theme: all methods are valid. All processes have merit. Work hard, or easy, structured or freely, as you like.