The Method of Practice
by Cheng Tin-Hung and Dan Docherty
In order to derive maximum benefit from the practice of Tai Chi Chuan, we must first learn the correct method of practicing. The execution of each movement requires patient concentration.
Before beginning we must first relax and think of nothing else. Our movements should be slow and we should breath naturally. We must avoid tension. If we can do this our every action will become smooth and easy, our waist will turn freely and we will feel relaxed and comfortable.
Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise which aims at producing harmony of body and mind. To achieve this and to avoid the application of brute force, we must let our thoughts guide our actions. Constant practice can make this a habit with us.
It is not enough to concentrate on the correct slow execution of individual movements such as raising and lowering the hands. Both our concentration and our movements must continue in harmony throughout the form. This will make our breathing deeper and help strengthen our body.
At first it is difficult for a beginner to judge whether the styles and individual movements he performs are correct or not. In some cases beginners will find styles which are particularly difficult for them to master. However, there are some general principles to be understood and adopted which will help produce correct styles and movements.
- Throughout the movements our head should remain in line with our spinal column and not move up and down If we can do this our neck muscles will become relaxed;
- We should not hunch our shoulders or fully straighten our arms when we extend them.
- When we retract our arms, the elbows should be kept close to the body and not allowed to jut out at all angles.
- We must keep our arms and shoulders relaxed in order to move smoothly. If we fail to do so our movements will be stiff and awkward.
- We must relax our whole body and avoid stiffening the chest. If we can do this our breathing will become deep and natural and our movements alert;
If our waist is stiff and tense we will find it difficult to move in any direction and our co-ordination will be affected as we will be unable to transmit power from the waist to the actions of our arms and hands.
Also If the waist is stiff, our bottom will jut out, making our balance unstable and preventing our movements from being graceful. Relaxation of the waist is essential;
With certain exceptions, most postures in the Hand Form require us to rest most of our weight on one leg, making it easy to move the other leg to change posture, and to shift the weight from one leg to the other as we practice.
Advice for the Future:
Try to practice daily to derive maximum benefit from the art;
Watch the instructor when he is teaching others and watch others perform so that by comparing techniques, good points can be adopted and bad ones corrected;
Think about and analyse the styles after learning them properly;
Ask the instructor questions about the styles to clear up any doubts or ambiguities.