Have you ever rented a car or driven a car belonging to someone else? Even if it is a model you have never driven before, you still know how to drive it. How do you know how? It seems like a silly question because we never think about. It just happens. We know the principles of driving a car and we just do it.
Tai chi has principles, too. The movements may look a little different in Chen than in Yang style, but the same principles are present. Once you understand the principles, you can easily learn the application in other styles. Without an understand of the tai chi principles, it doesn't matter what style you are practicing. You are just going through the motions.
The principles of tai chi have been written about many times by many masters. I'm not going to explain these principles in detail here. Yang Chen Fu wrote about his 10 principles. Others have written books about the principles. In general, all of the principles are related to awareness of movement and body, qi, and mind-body connection. I have summarized the principles and stages of development here.
Your teacher can help you develop an understanding of these principles. However, reading about them and hearing about them isn't enough. You have to do it. You have practice them until they become part of you. Practice your forms with intent. Thousands of times.
© 2012 Eric Borreson