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Modern people want an easy life. They want to sit back and let other people do the work.
People are lazy and complacent; unwilling to commit the necessary effort required to gain any real skill in any endeavour. Instead of working hard, they settle for less



In order to ensure that students make the necessary degree of effort, the syllabus needs obstacles and challenges for the student to surmount. If insufficient effort is applied, the obstacle remains.
Only by stepping out of their 'comfort zone' can the student get past the obstacle

The beginnerís enthusiasm is such that he cannot imagine what blocks could lie ahead to halt his progress. If some decisive challenge to his continuing on does occur at this early stage, he will likely abandon his practice altogether.

(Dave Lowry)

The process

People who overcome obstacles do so because they put in more time and commit to greater practice than other people do.
By deliberately working their way around an impediment, the student actually learns something valuable. Think of this as a process.
A process involves a series of steps taken in order to attain a goal/result.


Tai chi students need to mirror every exercise, drill, form and application they learn. Without exception.
Mirroring will quite literally change your brain. But it won't be easy. In fact, it may prove to be vastly harder than you expect.

Why bother?

Mirroring exposes all manner of shortcomings, including:

  1. Unequal use of the limbs/muscles

  2. Favouring one side e.g. right handed

  3. False sensory appreciation

  4. Imbalance

  5. Muscular tension

  6. Poor kinaesthetic awareness (knowing where your limbs are positioned without needing to look)

  7. Poor proprioception (relative position of body parts/awareness of how much strength is being applied)

  8. Poor stances

  9. Inaccurate form practice

  10. Misconceptions concerning 'familiar' form movements


How good does the mirrored version need to be?

The same as the regular version. They should be indistinguishable. A student should be capable of switching from regular to mirrored without any need for consideration.

An obstacle of your own devising

Mirroring represents a definitive stumbling block for many students.


People may be able to cram their way through a grading or copy other students during form practice, but these bad habits won't help them in mirroring the form.
There's no way to cheat yourself this time.

One solution

There is only one way to mirror the form and that is to commit to home practice. Daily. Corrections in class will highlight what needs to be worked on, but only mindful daily training will produce results

Regular then mirror

For each form movement, perform the movement in the regular direction first. Then mirror that one movement a few times.
Afterwards, start the form from the beginning and mirror as far as you can in one go. Analyse where you faltered and why.

Use a mirror

As obvious as it sounds, using a mirror can help you to mirror the form. You may even notice previously unseen mistakes in your regular form.


The clearer your 'mental representation' of the form is, the easier it will be to mirror the sequence. Lie on the floor with your eyes closed and visualise yourself doing section 1.
Now, do the same with the mirrored version. Imagine how your body feels doing the movements, where you are looking, which way you are turning and stepping...

Hard work pays off

If this sounds dubious, read Grit, Smarter Faster Better, 5 Elements of Effective Thinking and Peak... IQ isn't the factor when it comes to results. Effort and tenacity are far more important.

More than hard work

r. K. Anders Ericsson pointed out that hard work may not be enough... A 'tried and tested' method may no longer work. Doing the same thing again and again will not lead to progress.
Improvement is necessary and that necessitates change.

Adapt, change and improvise

Often students will need to figure out new ways to approach things and reconsider their practice continually. They must adapt to the new challenge they are facing.
The benefits of doing this extend far beyond tai chi.

Get stronger

Mirroring builds new and valuable skills:

  1. Improved skeletal alignment

  2. Optimal body use

  3. Better coordination

  4. Stronger stances

  5. Better biomechanical use of the body

  6. Ambidextrous use of the limbs

  7. A deeper sense of what each individual movement constitutes

  8. The ability to employ applications to the left or right side without needing to think about it

Instant results?

Mirroring isn't going to be easy. If you are not used to doing it, then patience is necessary. This is a new ability and as such requires much practice and time.
The climb will be steep but once you can mirror section 1 with competence, the prospect of mirroring everything else in the syllabus will not be quite as daunting.


We learn by doing. If you desire to master the principles you are studying, do something about them. Apply these rules at every opportunity. If you don't, you will forget them quickly. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.

You are attempting to form new habits. You are attempting a new way of life. That will require time and persistence and daily application.

(Dale Carnegie)

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Page created 18 April 2005
Last updated 16 June 2023