Pattern Language and The Principles of Taijiquan

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pattern language was defined by the widely influential architect and design theorist, Emeritus Professor Christopher Alexander, and first brought to light in his book “A Pattern Language”, and subsequently in his famous work “The Nature of Order”. To give you a feel for Alexander’s thought processes one of his statements was “No one can be close to others, without also having frequent opportunities to be alone”.

Essentially, Pattern Language is the way of describing good design or patterns of useful systemization within a specific field. Alexander also used it in an attempt to express the deeper wisdom surrounding the indefinable elements of spirit or grace that make a design inherently beautiful to the human condition. He believed that in using “Pattern Language” anyone could solve large and complex project issues.

Alexander stated that a pattern must characterize the problems that it is meant to solve, the context or situation where these problems arise, and the conditions under which the proposed solutions can be recommended.

He went on to state that these problems generally arise from a conflict of different interests or ‘forces’ and that a pattern emerges as a dialogue that will then help to balance the forces and finally lead to a decision. At this point, you can start to see great similarities between Alexander’s Pattern Language concept and Taijiquan. Taijiquan is all about balancing forces to enable resolution and a return to homeostasis.

Alexander’s theory of design goes one step further, when he identifies 15 properties that accompany the presence of life in nature and that it is only through this living structure that human wellbeing can be truly supported:
1.Levels of scale
2.Contrast
3.Strong centres
4.Boundaries
5.Alternating repetitions
6.Positive space
7.Good shape
8.Local symmetries
9.Deep interlock and ambiguity
10.Gradients
11.Roughness
12.Echoes
13.The void
14.Simplicity and inner calm
15.Not-separateness
 
If you take a moment to go through the 15 properties one by one, you will notice that we recognise and respond to every one of these in our practice of Taijiquan.
 
Taijiquan is designed for human wellbeing and to solve issues surrounding the human condition. As those who practice it can testify, it is the quintessential mind-body-nature connection – a wholeness where we understand and nurture the world we live in and the people with live with, as much as we understand and nurture ourselves.
 
Taijiquan is the Pattern Language for a good life.