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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 29-Nov-05


Monday 28-Nov-05

The Tao of Conflict

On my travels though life, I studied Tai Chi for 15 years and ended up teaching it until irregular job demands prevented regular lessons. Now I integrate much of its movements, breathing and philosophy into everyday life.

Tai Chi, in my view, is not about mystery and magical forces. I'm an engineer by original training and psychologist by more recent studies, so sought to understand the physical forces and mental states that make it perhaps the most effective of martial arts, although many of its practitioners never go near the martial side. I find this a shame, as to gain the full health benefits, you must be competent at the martial side.

I started to write a book once called 'The Tao of Conflict' that married the principles of Tai Chi to managing conflict and difficult situations. Here are a few thoughts from that unfinished road.

Tai Chi is stuffed full of 'secrets' that are, very largely, very simple. Here are a couple of core ones.

The deepest secret of Tai Chi and perhaps the hardest skill to develop is sensitivity. A Tai Chi master can feel another person with the lightest of touches. They can sense the tensions in their body and the dynamic vectors of force, and hence with further light touch can redirect the other person in a way that seems little short of miraculous.

In working with other people if you are sensitive to the slightest change in their moods, attitudes and emotions, then you have the upper hand in that you are on the first step to moving them somewhere else. The best listeners and persuaders are also highly emotionally intelligent.

The second simple secret is that physical force goes in one direction, whilst we live in three dimensions. Thus a skilled defender always has twice the advantage of the attacker. If you push forward at me, I can easily deflect you with minimal force. To oppose my deflection, you must push sideways, giving me further advantage.

In verbal conflict, the aggressor often takes a single direction, whilst you have far more than the dimensional two directions you can take. Most effectively, you can avoid direct opposition, deflecting their arguments with distraction and other lateral moves that  let you confuse and slide through defenses.

If you can, go try Tai Chi. It is a patient and soft art that will, if you persist, help you become more skilled at persuasion, both physically and in other ways.

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