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The first step towards improved coordination is 'standing qigong'.
This training method involves no actual movement at all.
Rather than move, the student practices alignment and relaxation.
Relaxation is essential for comfortable movement because it releases muscular tension and enables the joints to move freely.
Natural, comfortable movements are explored next.
These teach basic patterns of coordinated action without actually stepping.
Mild stretches and gently challenging moves encourage greater coordination, suppleness and strength.
The Long Yang form requires the student to perform simple, natural movements without over-stretching.
By staying within a comfortable range, the student becomes adept at maintaining balance at all times.
Easy movements increase coordination.
The hands remain directly in front of the body most of the time.
Beyond the sequence
As the student becomes more adept with form they must focus on individual training concerns when doing the form.
These technical skills enable the individual to radically improve coordination, power, strength and agility.
In our syllabus there are over 40 additional form considerations beyond simply learning the actual sequence of movements.
These vary from the straightforward to the vastly complex.
By incorporating extra nuances and a higher-level of physical dexterity, the student makes the form increasingly subtle and powerful in application.
The more skilled you become, the more detailed the form gets because the more you are capable of seeing and comprehending.
Partner work improves coordination in new and unexpected ways.
Not only must you increase your awareness significantly, you must also coordinate your actions relative to the actions of somebody else.
This requires greater physical sensitivity, observation, rhythm and timing.
Weapons practice improves mobility in the joints and builds strength.
Coordinating your body with a heavy weapon in your hand is not easy.
The weapons training starts simple and builds in complexity; weapons forms, partnered sets and applications ultimately offer a bewildering range of challenges.
One of the advantages of tai chi training is the use of both sides of the body.
You cannot favour one side or one hand.
This is particularly useful.
Imagine that you are right handed and you injure your right hand...
If you are ambidextrous, this is not a major problem.
Balanced muscle use
Alternatively, think of ambidexterity in terms of muscle use.
If you give preference to your right hand, is the muscle use within your body likely to be balanced?
Are the arm and shoulder muscles of your left hand side going to be weaker?
The legs do more
In tai chi the legs do most of the hard work.
The strong muscles of the calves, thighs and buttocks coordinate with the large muscles of the back and torso in order to generate power.
Coordinating upper and lower is essential.
People often lean or
stretch too far; compromising their balance and skeletal alignment.
Tai chi partner work teaches the student to coordinate stepping with intention.
Instead of the hands reaching out, the whole torso moves closer.
The feet step automatically within range.
At all times the feet are beneath the hands.
Training tai chi as a martial art is a major coordination challenge.
The intermediate grade is quite easy, teaching the student how to use their body in a basic manner.
Advanced practice is another matter entirely, with internal power (jing) and whole-body movement (neigong) being the main concerns.
Combat and increasingly difficult forms mean that the student must become better and better at using their body well.
Combat in the internal martial arts is quite different from the mainstream martial arts.
Exertion, aggression, blocking, holding and forcing are all forbidden.
The student is required to be significantly more intelligent in their body use.
Coordinating your breath with the movements is another concern.
It is not complicated but you must avoid having a simplistic understanding.
Mind & body
Mind and body must coordinate.
Meditation will help the mind and body to work together.
Your mind drifts and you bring it back... time and time again.
In tai chi 'spirit' is seen in two ways: shen and the physical embodiment of Taoist insights.
A thorough knowledge of The Tai Chi Classics, Taoism and Zen is necessary.
The joints of the body are capable of a wide range of movement.
We encourage students to explore this range more completely and thereby gain a better workout.
If you watch an Asian dancer, the hands perform intricate shapes and minute movements which look simple but are very hard to replicate.
Tai chi does not use the hands in this way (all hand movement is eventually caused by the whole-body spiralling) but the degree of dexterity and control is similar.
Ultimately, the external movements need to begin deeper within the body.
The opening and closing of the joints, the shortening and lengthening of the muscles, and the flexing of the spine all produce kinetic energy/movement.
Tai chi aims to employ these movements in an exceptionally small way; curves, spirals, ripples and arcs propelling force from the ground, through the centre, out to the extremities and then back.
18 March 1997
Last updated 09 June 2019