Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Kinds of Movement in Tai Chi

There are two kinds of movement in tai chi. The first kind of movement is the external. Beginning students tend to move from their hands and feet. The students watch the teacher and try to mimic the movement. Their minds are engaged in the external movements happening at the edge of their space. The students lack an awareness of center, so the movements are all external and full of effort. The students think that this is tai chi.

The second kind of movement is from the center. If the students work hard, practice, study, and listen to their teacher, they may some day become experts. Experts move from the center. Force comes from the ground and spirals up the legs and is manifested as the body moves from the dan tien. The hands no longer lead the movement. They express, or amplify, the movement that began at the center.

It is not easy to do, but it is important to make the transition from externally generated movements to movements generated at the center. When we move from the center, we use much less energy to deliver more power, or force. It almost feels like there is a release of power instead of the use of energy. There is less tension and more song, or relax and loosen.

With more and more practice, we can start to develop the ability where the movement can be generated from anywhere, freely and instinctively. The responsiveness to external forces becomes almost unbelievable to beginners. When I get close to this feeling, I'll let you know.

What do you think? Where are you in your development? Leave a comment.

© 2012 Eric Borreson

Friday, February 10, 2012

What I Wish I Had Known at the Beginning

There are a few things that I wish I had known when I started my tai chi training. I would have learned faster and easier. Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

1. Relinquish your attachment to perfection.
All beginners want to move perfectly and match the teacher's movements. Get over it as quickly as you can. Your teacher has years of practice to learn how to move correctly. Just keep practicing with the goal of making progress. You don't have to be perfect.

2. The movements are important, but what counts is the principles.
I used to think that the movements of the forms was what made tai chi what it is. I was on a journey to learn more and more tai chi forms. I was so wrong! Pay attention when your teacher talks about the principles of tai chi. That's what counts.

3. There's more than one way to do tai chi.
Many people are certain that their style, or school, or method is the best. If you are meeting your goals, what you are doing is the good for you. If you want to practice tai chi as a martial art, that's great. If you want to practice tai chi for health, that's great, too.

4. It takes time to see results.
Whatever your goals are, you won't reach them right away. Tai chi takes time to learn. It will seem like nothing is happening for a long time. Keep a record of your training, practice, and how you feel so you can go back and see if you are making progress. Expect that you will start to see results after about 10 to 12 weeks of lessons and practice.

5. Practice, practice, practice.
Tai chi is an experiential process. You need to move through the plateaus as your muscles learn the movements and as you learn the principles. Every once in a while, you will have an "aha!" moment as you finally understand something your teacher has been telling you.

What's your list of things you wish you had known? Leave a comment.

© 2012 Eric Borreson

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Is the Best Tai Chi Style for You?

There are several main styles of tai chi. How do you decide which one is for you? The most common styles of tai chi are Chen (the oldest and most martial), Yang (the best known around the world), Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun (the newest -- very appropriate for Tai Chi for Health programs).

The first consideration is the availability of teachers and workshops. You can't learn tai chi in depth without a teacher. If you live in or near a large city, you may have several teachers to choose from. If you live in a small town or rural area, you will be lucky to find any teachers at all. If this is you, plan on traveling to workshops. Videos and books can supplement what your teacher says, but they cannot replace a teacher.

Take a little time to visit each potential teacher and observe a class. If you call ahead and the teacher will not allow a visit, it is the wrong teacher for you. Here are few other things to look for:
  • Ask the teacher about his/her experience teaching people of your age and physical condition. Is the style of tai chi appropriate for you?
  • Talk to the students. Observe the interactions between the teacher and students. Do they work well together in a way that matches your learning style?
  • Ask about class schedules, costs, etc. Do you have the time and can you afford it? Remember that you are asking for time from a highly trained professional. It will not be free.
  • Ask the teacher his/her opinion of other teachers in the area. The teacher is showing arrogance by saying negative things about others. Be careful about working with this teacher.
  • Ask the teacher about any training in injury prevention. Some styles of tai chi have a significant potential for causing injury.
  • What is the teacher's teaching style. Does the teacher understand how to teach to different learning styles? If it is only "follow me", you may have difficulty learning.

 In the end, it's pretty simple. The best style of tai chi is the one that you enjoy and will practice every day.

What is your style? Leave a comment.

© 2012 Eric Borreson