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The Tai Chi Netguide 
a full and comprehensive online step-by-step guides to the Yang Forms and warm-ups

Progress in Tai Chi Practice


Small children acquire knowledge quickly and naturally. You first learn sounds, then words, then how to write them, and finally you begin to understand the grammatical structure of your language. Within a few years, most people can read and write comfortably and express themselves freely. This is exactly how your education in Tai Chi should be; natural, progressive and practical.

Often you stop following a programme of exercise or eating correctly because you are not rewarded immediately. Conversely, if you feel better, you again stop because you think the problem has been solved. The most simple important factor in deriving benefit from any self-development programme is "consistency". Total time, sweat, intensity, enthusiasm, intelligence, natural ability, etc., pale in comparison to the importance of consistency. Regular training represents the natural flow (energy) of your health cycle. If you miss playing for just one day the energy will stop. You then need to use a great deal of reserved energy to restart the natural cycle. If you spend most of your time stopping and restarting, you do not get very far.

There is nothing that can replace a good concentrated workout of Tai Chi. Unfortunately, in a modern busy life there are few precious hours, even minutes, in a day when you can exercise. You should do a basic five minutes of Tai Chi routine every day, no matter what. Five minutes every day is much better than doing one hour training three times a week. Aim to achieve regular training for eight weeks - you then have created a habit for yourself. Soon you will "want" to exercise and no longer have to push yourself. However, remember that five minute regular performance is only a minimum, to avoid losing progress.

In Tai Chi three factors are of very great importance: 1) correct teaching, 2) perseverance, 3) natural talents. Correct teaching (or right method) is the most important. Without it, success will never come even if a student of high natural ability works themselves beyond human endurance. On the other hand, given the right kind of instruction, success can be achieved through perseverance even if your natural talent is below average. In essence, two of the three factors -correct teaching and perseverance - are requisites for success. Natural ability is only helpful when the other factors are also present. In Tai Chi there is no way of improving other than through hard work.

There is a fundamental difference in the teaching methods of Tai Chi between the Chinese teachers and "Western and European" teachers. The Chinese system is to start small and grow outward from the core, or seed. Build from the middle outwards! Progress does not take place until each movement is technically correct, but more importantly until each movement is thoroughly understood. This is a longer but more profound method. However, it needs a great deal of patience. The problem with people of the Western Worlds is that they always have an urgency to complete, irrelevant if it is fully understood or not. Complete and then breakdown to analyse. Work from the outside inwards. It takes a shorter time period to reach the end of the Form, but at a price of not fully understanding.

Tai Chi requires true discipline, people that have only a passing or short interest will avoid or quickly leave the system. However, the rewards will improve many elements of the student's life. You are required to be a student of life - committed to becoming a better person with each day. Mastery depends on training. Practitioners have to train their bodies, train their minds, and train their attitudes. This is the genuine way of true martial arts. It is a mistake to measure your progress in time, not training. And it is not just work, but doing it right and doing it with intelligence and the right attitude of learning. The right attitude of learning means that you must be receptive not only to the technique, but also to the logic and purpose behind the technique. Receptive students do not become bored with the reminders and repetition of training techniques. That shows the right attitude of learning.

No person can learn everything there is to know about Tai Chi, because ultimately, the depth of Tai Chi has no limit. When the limit is reached, there is no more art. And yet, Tai Chi still is not magic. The mysterious things always break down to something simple and logical.

It is better to practice five minutes with mindfulness than five hours without. Although it is said that a student can learn Tai Chi in about ten years, clearly they must have ten years of penetrating, thoughtful experience. Merely putting in training time on the Dojo floor is insufficient, although the body will get stronger. When you stop trying to understand the Form your Tai Chi will stop improving. However, in Tai Chi you can never know it all. Skills of worth can only be gained by long years of diligent practice. To achieve this level, you must have persistence, willing classmates and a knowledgeable teacher.

Tai Chi offers continuity in thought and in daily routine. In a world where material gains are so quickly changing, this traditional path of self-cultivation is increasingly pertinent and valuable to all.

In Tai Chi great attention is paid to detail in posture and gesture. This is not because what is desired is a certain precise technique; rather the teacher's correction is saying to the student "if your spirit were in the right state it would manifest in your movement, and it would be thus". What is important is the spirit. Spirit can manifest in an infinite variety of movements, but equally there are infinite movements that do not express it. Without spirit even an apparently correct external movement will miss the mark in myriad subtle ways.

Finally, to progress in Tai Chi you must have respect toward your teacher, club and community. Discipline, integrity, dedication, sincerity, patience, being humble and reserved are other characteristics that must be recognized within yourself.


attributed to Ray Wood, 7th Dan Karate, Tai Chi, exponent of Kyushindo Budo

 

 
Tai Chi requires true discipline, people that have only a passing or short interest will avoid or quickly leave the system. However, the rewards will improve many elements of the student's life. You are required to be a student of life - committed to becoming a better person with each day.
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