Embodiment Of The Butterfly
Three years ago I asked a question of dozens of martial artists within my circle & social networks. The question I asked was, “Within your martial art, what (if any) animal/spirit/creature/etc do you associate yourself with?” The responses were numerous and surprisingly varied. But the connection that I made, several years ago, was with the butterfly. Here’s the original article. Enjoy!
Before I get into the fillet of the article, I’d like to say that previously I worked with “the dragon.” Historically, the dragon is the juggernaut of the martial world. The dragon spews bellows of fire, claws at his prey and whips his tail unexpectedly. The dragon is definitely the pinnacle of yang energy and leaves all the others… “how should I say… lacking.” But it occurs to me, being so dramatically yang OR embracing the spirit of the dragon does not correspond to the natural and quintessential aspect of Taijiquan. If one is to do the taijiquan form, the spirit must be above the form… we must be quick and evasive, yet resilient and rooted when needed.
I don’t know how it came to me. But after thinking for a moment on said question (of “What do WE/TAIJIQUAN Embody?”)… I remembered being in a butterfly farm. This was quite a few years ago and I hardly remember the experience, but it DID make an impression. Just like the first time I went snorkeling, the experience of having several butterflies land on my arm gave me an instant connection with nature. Besides the new-found love for these delicate creatures, I remember the impression it left.
Funny that it never crossed my mind before… but you can’t tell when a butterfly lands on your sleeve (at least I couldn’t). There is no weight. When you move your arm (obviously this depends on the shyness of these butterflies, but I was at a butterfly farm for pete sake) their legs have a sufficient hold that naturally adheres, without having to grip. The wings, which you would think would be like an umbrella in the wind, actually adjusts to your movement (as long as the disturbance isn’t a violent shake). But as it flies.. it eludes you with such lightness, and fluttering quickness. You need a net to catch one. Has anyone caught a healthy, wild butterfly with their bare hand (one that didn’t want to get caught)? I would think it would be a tremendous task.
Taijiquan has the reputation of being boringly slow. However, the truth is that Taijiquan should be as spritely and lively as a dancing butterfly. That is just my opinion. There are probably some classic taiji players that would disagree with me… but I can truly relate to this “dance.” I don’t know anyone who has seen a real-life dragon, so for me… it would be quite a stretch of the imagination to be one of those. Plus, dragons are quite the carnivore. And I’m desperately trying to separate myself from that. At least as much as I can.