The essence of the art

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Tai Chi Classics

There are certain things that every tai chi student should know. This knowledge and ability will enable the student to follow the teachings outlined in The Tai Chi Classics.
Strict adhesion to the Classics assures correct practice of tai chi, regardless of what style you practice.

The essence of the art

Every tai chi student in the world should be working towards acquiring these abilities and knowledge:

  1. 4 ounces of pressure

  2. 5 centres

  3. 6 balanced pairs

  4. 13 methods

  5. Accord

  6. Blending

  7. Central equilibrium

  8. Chin na (seizing): misplacing the bones, dividing the muscles, sealing the breath & cavity press

  9. Close-range combat

  10. Composure

  11. Connection

  12. Conservation of energy

  13. Double weightedness (avoidance of)

  14. Fa jing

  15. Filing

  16. Folding

  17. Form

  18. Freeform triangle

  19. Groundpath

  20. How to apply every form movement martially
    - at least 7 different ways
    - in a thorough & convincing manner
    - using shuai jiao, chin na & jing
    - in keeping with The Tai Chi Classics

  21. Invest in loss

  22. Jing

  23. Lead into emptiness

  24. Listening

  25. The meaning and application of The Tai Chi Classics

  26. The meaning and application of the martial Classics
    - The Art of War
    - The Book of Five Rings
    - 36 Strategies

  27. The meaning and application of the Taoist Classics
    - The Way and Its Power
    - The Way of Chuang Tzu
    - The Book of Changes

  28. Metacognition

  29. Mindfulness

  30. Moving from the centre

  31. Mushin

  32. Mutual arising

  33. Opening & closing

  34. Optimal use of alignment and structure

  35. Peng

  36. Practical applications of yielding

  37. Pushing hands

  38. Reeling silk

  39. Reverse breathing

  40. Shen

  41. Shuai jiao (take downs)

  42. Sinking & rooting

  43. Small circle movement

  44. Spontaneity

  45. Stickiness

  46. Strategy & tactics

  47. Substantial & insubstantial

  48. Sung

  49. Tzu-jan (of itself so)

  50. Uniting upper & lower

  51. Using the mind instead of force

  52. Weaponry

  53. Whole-body movement

  54. Wu nien (not preparing)

  55. Wu wei (not forcing)

  56. Yin/yang

This list is not comprehensive or exhaustive; it merely serves as an illustration. Many more skills might have been included. Other tai chi schools might consider additional skills to be equally important.

If you can't do it, you don't know it.

(Mike Sigman) 

Actual ability

It does not matter how many forms, drills or applications you know. Your skill in tai chi comes down to the essence of the art and how well you can express it.

Calculate your ability level

Go carefully down the list mentioned above. Add up the number of items you fully understand. This is your actual ability level in tai chi. Would your instructor agree with your estimate?

Page created 29 May 1996
Last updated 16 June 2023