When people begin learning something new, they often learn at a good rate. Their minds become engaged in the learning. However, when learning taiji, learning quickly is not necessarily better than learning slowly and deeply. Taiji has many subtle details that take time to learn. You have to “digest” taiji. It takes time for it to get into your body and your mind. With each lesson, it is important to practice regularly until that lesson becomes part of you. Even with deliberate practice and slow and steady learning, learners often reach a plateau where it seems that improvement is not happening.
A practitioner can seem to stay at the same level for some time until one day something new becomes obvious. This is a sudden, steep rise in growth and learning. Then the learner works at this new level for some time until something new becomes obvious.
Plateaus and steep rises are yin and yang. The plateaus are yin where energy is stored before it can be delivered in the steep rises of yang.
Some students can get bored during the necessary plateaus. This causes some students to drop out and miss out on the benefits of long-term taiji practice. It is the teacher’s responsibility to discuss this with students so that they know what to expect.
Some dedicated learners may want to work hard to get through the plateau phase. Others may get frustrated with the plateau.
However, a plateau is a necessary part of learning taiji. It's not that "nothing is happening". It may seem like little learning is happening, but a plateau happens while the lessons are trained "into the body". After the lessons have become part of the learners reflexes, new learning can begin.
Enjoy your practice during the plateaus. Know that eventually plateaus become steep rises that bring new depth and enjoyment to your practice.
© 2011 Eric Borreson