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Pointless struggles

Tai chi students are always encouraged to perform their movements in a soft, relaxed manner. This applies to every exercise in the curriculum.
When a person lifts a glass of water, the action is smooth, comfortable, natural and easy. When a person lifts a heavy bar-bell, they tense their muscles and struggle with the weight of it.
The former method is the tai chi way. The latter is not.


Tai chi is not weight-lifting. No exertion should take place. No straining. No forcing. If you are using force, you are doing something wrong.
The training is intended to improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.


Why move in a natural, gentle, soft way when exercising? Natural movement is by definition easy. It enables the muscles to move smoothly and the joints to open and close without impediment.
No restrictions exist. Nobody struggles to pick up a glass of water.

Beyond class

Tai chi cultivates whole-body movement and good body use. Grace, balance, natural range, comfort... The qigong exercises, form and partner work all train positive body habits.
Perform your tai chi in a comfortable, natural way. The aim is to continue this way of moving in your everyday life.

Tai chi for health

It is important to consider your motive for practicing tai chi. Students with health problems need to train in a manner that avoids putting the body under duress.
The stances need to be compact and comfortable, upright and easy. There is no point in squatting low or adopting extended stances if your shoulders have arthritis or your knees are weak.
Listen to your body. Are you experiencing any form of discomfort?

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.


Tai chi is not easy

People who desire to learn tai chi the martial art have to take this into account when training. Combat needs to be direct, simple, practical and realistic.
It needs to cost you nothing and cost the attacker everything. There is no time for flamboyant, stylised movements. Your training needs to be honed-down, stripped of all superfluity.
Reaching this level of skill will not be easy. It may indeed be the most challenging thing you have ever done.


Tai chi involves considerable difficulty. Standing qigong is hard for most new starters. It may take many years for body and mind to let-go. The exercise is physically tough if your body is tense.
The rest of the syllabus is physically challenging: getting in condition, learning coordination, subtlety and depth will tax the concentration. Students find themselves compelled to expand their perceptions.
Awareness must be cultivated.

Skills come from struggle

In Ian Leslie's book Curious the author explains that adults cease striving once they think they have learned enough. This attitude is the fast track to mental decay.
Psychologists have discovered that moderate hardship encourages deeper, richer, more meaningful learning.

Embrace hardship

Tai chi requires 'hard work'... A student of tai chi is not looking for an easy ride or a quick fix. Making time to train is inconvenient, the exercises will be tough to learn and hard to remember.
This is the whole point.

Deliberate practice

Hard work alone is not enough, though. Simply working hard will not necessarily lead to progress.
It needs to be deliberate, focused improvement designed to improve your practice by developing key skills outlined by your instructor.
The student must implement corrections, study the recommended books, undertake assignments and challenge their comfort zone.


Difficulty quotes:

Too early in the morning? Get up and train. Cold and wet outside? Go train. Weary of the whole journey and longing for a moment to stop and rest? Train.
Continue on in the spirit of perseverance.

(Dave Lowry)

To bear that which you think you cannot bear is really to bear.


I do not promise you ease. I do not promise you comfort.
But I do promise you these hardships: weariness and suffering.
And with them, I promise you victory.

(Giuseppe Garibaldi)

I don't stop when I'm tired.
I only stop when I'm done.

(Marilyn Monroe)

Olives taste bitter at first,
sweet later.
So the matter of practice:
Hard work discovering the true way.

(Loy Ching Yuen)

That which does not kill you makes you stronger.


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Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023