The Matrix and Tai Chi

The Matrix and Tai Chi, wondered what it is all about? Read on to this article by Nicola on how to get an exquisite sense of self control and balance…

You know that scene in the Matrix, when Neo (Keanu Reeves) finally is able to control the computer reality he’s inside? He flexes, and reality warps around him. Then Agent Smith, the terrifying Agent Smith, the unstoppable nightmarish Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), attacks Neo. Smith rains down blows in a frothing rage. Fists flying. Faster than ever before. And faster still.

And Neo stops him with lazy ease. As if he’s not even trying. As if Agent Smith at his furious finest is little more than dust in the wind.

That was what performing the Li routine felt like. Effortless. Centered. Graceful. Flowing. Powerful.

The Matrix and Tai ChiWe were a small group who gathered over three weeks to learn the Li Routine, which had been passed on to Golden Lion from Master Wu Bin himself during the Academy’s last trip to China. (see the previous edition of the Lion’s Roar for more information). We were fortunate enough to almost have a 1:1 student:instructor ratio which meant an intense pace of learning, with someone always present to provide guidance and encouragement.

The routine begins with large arm movements, both arms moving either in symmetry or in perfectly balanced opposites. When the hands meet, they end up forming a peaceful pose. You might be forgiven for thinking this isn’t Tai Chi; for where in Tai Chi do we spend time just whirling our arms about (no matter how slowly)? But then the next few moves come into play and you realise that the opening moves were there to gather the chi, to build up energy and coil it in like a spring, to be unleashed in the following slow and controlled, but powerful moves.

I’ve never quite been able to grasp before how the idea of “peng” or “warding off” could possibly apply anywhere other than through my arms. For surely that was where my intent was: that was where I was protecting myself, out in front. But the Li routine has ample opportunity to extend that sense of peng through the back as well as the front, and even in the legs. My warded personal space felt like it was expanding in a bubble beyond my body.

It is an amazing routine. It manages to embody perfectly all the fundamentals of Tai Chi: yin and yang, the ten principles, the eight directions. Which is not to say that other routines don’t also do this, but the Li routine manages to make it so that when you do it right, it feels amazing, and when you get the it wrong, you immediately feel awkward and disconnected.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to dodge bullets like Neo does, but the Li routine helps to give you an exquisite sense of self control and balance. Perhaps even enough inner calm to ward off the disruptive influences of the Agent Smiths in our lives: work stress, social pressures, anxiety, depression or illness. Welcome to the Matrix. You can control your reality.

Nicola Nye


Nicola Nye, Tai Chi Rowville