Keanu Reeves is releasing his directorial debut next week titled Man of Tai Chi, and I’m interested in seeing how Mr. Reeves will portray our soft and subtle martial art through such a contrary medium. The trailer promises a typical Hollywood extravaganza, with super-extraordinary circumstances, breathtakingly exotic settings, and mind-boggling martial art routines. While there is a part of me that appreciates this kind of fantasy exploration from time to time, another part feels that the fantasy is simply unable to accurately communicate the most beautiful aspects of the real thing.
One example of such a disconnect can be found in the motive. Many martial arts movies, such as Man of Tai Chi, are centered on a literary trope referred to as “My Kung-Fu is Stronger Than Yours,” in which the protagonist is driven to prove he is the best fighter in the world. While this might be the reason a minute few begin training tai chi, the majority of us begin for far simpler reasons—to lose weight, to heal an injury, to learn to relax. In other words, we have very real, very attainable goals.
Many fictional characters also undergo a growth or change over the course of their adventures, but they often start out super-human, and then proceed to dazzle our eyes and minds as they accomplish even more super-human feats. Consciously, we know that this story isn’t real, but our subconscious is more impressionable. When we see these unique characters sporting their incredible talents, we might believe that such abilities are exclusive, reserved only for select individuals with specific backgrounds, training, or access to specific resources.
However, back in reality, tai chi is for everyone, regardless of age or physical condition. You might have heard that intentionality is one of its key features. Tai chi and meditation are highly effective tools used to intentionally choose the kinds of things to impress upon our subconscious mind—things like strength, balance, calm, and community. This active mental programming is the vehicle through which we, average folk, can overcome our limitations and expand our boundaries to find our own extraordinary abilities, previously believed to belong to a special select few.