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Archives pour novembre 2012

A few words on Learning Tai Chi by Fu Nengbin

Tai Chi Boxing of Zhang Sanfeng

Q. How do you instruct Tai chi beginners who don’t have any basics to learn Tai Chi well in a short time?

Q. How can you help middle-level Tai Chi practitioners improve quickly?

These two questions not only reflect the wish of many Tai Chi lovers, but also become a realistic problem that Tai Chi instructors need to solve.

Nowadays, Tai Chi is already recognised as part of modern life and many people love and support it. There are sources showing that the number of people who practice Tai Chi is over one hundred million worldwide. Over the years, the ways to teach Tai Chi and the ways to practice it have varied from person to person. There is no one fixed mode up to now. It sounds daunting for beginners if we tell them that the traditional way of learning is “Ten days one move, Three years a small success”. Therefore, in order to adapt to the demands of modern life, we must teach and practice Tai Chi in a scientific, handy, and flexible way.

According to the experience that I have gained from my learning and practicing Tai Chi for over ten years, from searching for teachers and visiting friends, from communicating and competing with others and from teaching and training students, I can offer some practical ways to solve the opening questions.

Here, I’m going to talk about it briefly.

1. Combine the theory and the practice.

First of all, we need to know the history of the different schools of Tai chi. We also need to learn the basic requirements, style, characteristics, rule of movements, techniques, and moves in the school of Tai Chi we practice. Each school has an individual system including the requirements for moving, the form arrangement, style and characteristics. There exists similarities between schools, and also obvious differences. Therefore, it’s necessary to clearly understand the requirements and rules of hands, legs, body, and energy according to the Tai Chi we practice. For example, the palm in Chen-style is “Walong Palm” and the heel touches the ground first during stepping. However, the other styles have different requirements. After you know these rules, it becomes easier to learn them. Of course, you still need to frequently practice by yourself. Some people are too shy to practice because they feel they are not doing it well or cannot remember the movements. They should know that it’s easier to watch Tai Chi than to do it well. To improve they just need to imitate the instructor boldly, follow, practice, and think frequently. After you become adept in the form, you will become more confident in Tai Chi and in life.

 

2. Practice basics, form, and pushing hands simultaneously.

The basics include joint movements, stretching, basic hand and leg movements, stepping, meditation, single movement, and the combination of a series of movements. It’s very helpful to improve your overall Tai Chi if you arrange some time to do basic practice, as the old saying goes “You will achieve nothing when you get old, if you only practice the fist form and ignore the internal skills”.

Apart from the basics, it’s important to practice the form. The students should first learn the short and simple introductory form, and then learn the longer traditional form. This way makes it easy for the students to handle the form and also saves their time. It’s beneficial to teach the students pushing hands at the same time as they learn the form. In fact, many people hold the opinion that the students can only learn pushing hands after they are able to do the form very well. However, this opinion is quite conservative and unscientific. Actually, doing the form is a process of knowing oneself, and doing pushing hands is the process of knowing other people. Both processes move from a shallow into a deep level. Practicing the form and practicing pushing hands are interdependent, part of a system within which they promote each other.

 

3. Round after square, low after high, and complicated after simple.

It’s inevitable that when beginners first practice Tai Chi, their hands and arms cannot do perfect arcs and that they pause every now and then. They cannot make the smooth and round circles, that Tai Chi requires, so the instructor doesn’t have to be very strict on that, just make sure that the students get the general route and directions. After they get familiar with these, the instructor can require the students to generally make the circles more rounded and living.

In Tai Chi, the stance can be divided into high, middle, and low level. The students choose how high they stand according to their age, different health condition, how long they have been practicing, and how deep their Kungfu is. For the beginners, the ones whose health is weak, and the ones who cannot do the basics very well, it’s more suitable to employ high or middle stance. As the practitioners’ postures improve, the strength of the legs increases, and their health is improved, they can gradually change into low stance. It’s easy to move flexibly if standing high, and it’s helpful to improve your level if standing low. However, no matter which stance they choose, they still need to open their body and keep their body straight. How high one stands should be correspond to how wide one steps, which means high stance corresponds to small steps, and low stance corresponds to wide steps. It’s a common mistake that one stands low with a small step. That’s because as one keeps on practicing, he is able to stand low but forgets to step wide. Other than that, the instructor needs to arrange for how long and how strongly the students practice.

The so-called simple means to get the correct palm shape, stepping stance, route, and direction requires students to take things one step at a time. For example the beginning posture, it’s fine once the student’s stepping is parallel, two palms follow the forward and upward route, the palm direction faces downward and rise up until shoulder level and should wide. After the student gets familiar with the hand and leg movements and is able to do them right, he can co-ordinate waist-turning, eyes, breathing, and rhythm with the movements in the form one by one. However, some people want to do all these aspects well at the beginning. They spend so much time thinking about every movement that they hesitate when they do the form. Consequently, their speed of learning is slow and their method is not beneficial to the learning and memorising of the form.

 

4. Learn it separately, and then put them together; learn the outside before the inside.

It’s very hard to learn every aspect of Tai Chi at the same time. It is no easy matter to memorise the movements or to find the feeling inside the body in one go. Instead, we can take the whole thing apart and practice each part one by one. Our body can be divided into four parts: head, upper limb, torso, and lower limb. After we master every individual part, we combine two or three of them and practice it together. At last, we take the whole thing to practice and to find the inside feeling.

Other than that, we can divide one form into the outside shape and movements, the meaning of attacking and defending, the employment of energy, the co-ordination of breathing, and the usage of eyes. The method involves the integration of all of these aspects only after practicing and getting each of them separately correct. In terms of time management, we can make a plan and decide which part to practice in one week, one month, or one season.

In Tai Chi, the difference between inside and outside is very important. The outside is the expression of specific postures and movements; the inside is the change of consciousness and mindset, and the feeling of operation of “qi” within the body. Both of these aspects are indispensable in Tai Chi. For the beginners, the outside shape is the key. Some people are obsessed to pursuit inside “qi” at the very beginning, and linger on the search for the feeling of subtle energy inside, which is fruitless and unprofitable. As the old saying goes, “a tiny lapse can lead to a huge mistake”, without the proper form, it’s very difficult to find the inside change that comes from practicing Tai Chi. Only when you get the postures and movements right, and the whole body can move in co-ordination, can you find the right way of moving the inside energy.

Once you obtain a good outward shape, you’ve accomplished the most important part of outside practice. However, if you stop here, what you will obtain is only a boring and empty frame. We still need to experience and improve from inside. At the beginning stage, once we enter the inside practice, our aim is to seek and experience the inside energy and “qi”. During this process, what we need to find is the feeling in some parts or the whole of our body, instead of feeling it in one certain meridian or one acupuncture point. We first practice sinking the “qi” down to “dantian”. Afterwards, we further experience the relaxation and sinking of energy vertically, the opening of the body and the unifying of the energy, as it is collected, stored and then emitted by the “dantian”. In this way, we are moving from shallow to deep. The outside frame is settled and the inside energy is fulfilled.

 

5. Work on the mouth, ears, eyes, body, and brain.

Work on the mouth means we should talk about our thoughts and experience of practice with the instructor and classmates. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask these whose level is lower than yours, and stay modest when you ask the teachers. Work on eyes means we should observe the outside world carefully, read the theories and watch other people practice. Work on the body means we should spend time training; “You gain one day work if you practice one day; you lose ten days work if you don’t practice one day”. Keep practicing, it is is essential for improvement. Work on the brain means we should think frequently, open your mind, know where you are, consider our practice from multiple aspects and think about every movement patiently. Everybody feels lazy at times, but you need to overcome it if you want to practice well.

Good methods can help people loose bad habits and also help them gain skill in the half the time. The points above are my own opinions. If they can give some Tai Chi lovers any help, that’s enough.

Fu Nengbin 2012
fu_nengbin@yahoo.com.cn
http://www.masterfu.net

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