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Allowing time

Tai chi has an exciting, complex syllabus that cannot be summed-up in a few words or a 90 minute class.
If you start a new class, open your mind and accept that you have only experienced a fragment of the Art.
To truly understand tai chi for yourself takes time.
Few things in life yield their treasures quickly or easily; you need commitment, sincerity and patience when studying tai chi.


Substantial

Our tai chi has not been simplified or watered-down to accommodate Western students.
It remains sophisticated and intricate.
Most of the detail is too subtle for a new starter to grasp.
You must learn to notice small things in others and in yourself.


Arrogance


It is quite common for people to attend a tai chi class and never return.
This is alright; tai chi is not for everyone.
New starters also imagine that they can gauge the instructor's ability and understand the syllabus after just one lesson.
This is absurdly naive and somewhat arrogant.
In truth, the student sees no further than their own preconceptions.


Pre-judging

Imagine watching a movie for the first time...
If you switched it off during the title sequence, could you honestly claim to have the remotest grasp of the film?
You need to see it through to the very end to do that.


Understanding

Having watched an entire movie, you may understand the plot but can you say how it was made, why it worked and be capable of making a movie yourself?
Watch the end credits and see just how many people were involved in making that film.
There is clearly much more to a film than the final product that you see onscreen.

Tai chi is the same.
A syllabus is a complex journey of physical practice and psychological change, and only the most dedicated student will ever reach a stage where it makes sense to them.


Comparison

Sometimes people have studied a similar system before and use this as a benchmark for comparison; rather than The Tai Chi Classics.
Comparison has some potential flaws: the first is you and your ability to correctly interpret what you are seeing.
With tai chi, what you see is not usually what you get - the whole point of the system is to hide the substance.
If you base your comparison on what you were taught; was the tai chi taught correctly and did you understand what you were taught?


Context

As a beginner you will be shown what you need to see and told what you need to hear.
This will not be the full measure of the syllabus.
You are taught in accordance with your ability to learn.


Experiential

Karate, wing chun, tai chi and every other system has its own inherent feel; and this unique sense of the Art takes time to unfold.
Questions will not give you meaningful answers because the Art can only be understood in terms of itself.
Learning a martial art involves a certain process that is not exclusive to tai chi:

  1. Unlearning bad habits

  2. Conditioning the body

  3. Learning new habits/responses

It takes months of weekly lessons to make headway with these three concerns.
Progress is steady, notable and ongoing.


Unlearning bad habits

We teach an 'internal' martial art and follow the teachings of The Tai Chi Classics.
In order to start learning the system, a student must begin by letting-go of postural tension and the desire to use clenched muscles for strength.
For some people this is a gargantuan task because they rely on their arms for strength and do not really want to let-go.
The problem is attitude, as much as body.
Being open-minded and receptive is not easy.
This style of taijiquan is a 'soft' martial art.
It maintains a loose connection throughout the body at all times and the muscles never tense.


Conditioning the body

We can address balance and connection once the muscles soften, the joints relax and the body opens.
The spine needs to lengthen naturally; this will aid in strengthening the body without tension, as well as providing stability.
Qigong and neigong serve to internally work and support the body as you perform tai chi.
From this foundation, you learn how to move in a tai chi way.
Form and partnered training exercises explore this unique way of moving.
Each new exercise offers an opportunity for you to increase your physical awareness.
It is an inward journey of subtlety and relationship.
The conditioning and awareness training encourages your mind to soften and your body to grow in new ways.


Learning new habits/responses

Once your body has begun to lose the old habits, it is ready for something new.
Neigong is concerned with instilling physical patterns that strengthen the body from the inside out.
Partner work examines the relationship between your body and someone else's.
The challenge is to maintain good body use and composure whilst performing complex activities.
This encourages your body to take the skills into your daily life.


Partial artists

As an instructor, it is disappointing when students start a martial art and never get past the preliminaries.
There is not a lot of beginner's material to learn.
Virtually anyone can pass the grade if they commit the time and effort to the task.
 

Barry was telling us a story about the woman who always cut the end of the ham and somebody asked her why she did it. She said, "Well I don't know, my mother always did it that way." And they asked her mother and she said, "I don't know, my mother always did it." And they asked grandma, and she said, "Well, I did it because otherwise it wouldn't fit into my biggest pot."

(Chungliang Al Huang)

 


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Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated 07 November 2018