Tai chi basics

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New students often fail to make progress. Typically they falter before they have even really started. How come?

Everything is new

Yes, the novelty is initially exciting. But this passes and the student is left with the intimidating realisation that they don't really know anything.

Qigong & tai chi

All students commence training studying qigong & tai chi. The student only moves from the qigong & tai chi training onto tai chi once they have passed the qigong ticksheet.

Not so easy

A new student must learn all manner of skills that are unfamiliar to them:

  1. Qigong exercises

  2. Form

  3. Partner work

  4. Assignments

Their previous knowledge and life experience is often irrelevant. Or worse; it is an actual impediment to progress.

Most people quit

The sad truth is that most students quit before they've even got going. They give up at the onset. It is easy to talk about challenges but far harder to endure them

In order to function beyond the use of ordinary strength, you must study what seems inconvenient and then work to make it efficient.

(Kuo Lien-Ying)


The answer is to work hard until the new is no longer new.


Once a student is adept at section 1 of the form, it is far easier to learn section 2. The same applies to qigong, partner work, assignments and applications. Yes, there are new and intimidating things to learn. There always will be. But much of the syllabus is merely a variation on a theme.

Get used to it

Once you get used to doing something, it no longer seems like work. It actually feels easy. e.g. a student who learns the entire pattern of the Long Yang form normally has no difficulty mirroring the sequence or learning a weapons form. At some point, the student gets the knack of doing it.

A rut

People who don't quit usually settle into a comfortable rut. They attend class, have a good time and feel great. They are resigned to the fact that they are unlikely to really penetrate the mysteries of the art


The advantage of working through the basics and lower grades as quickly as possible is that once climbed, the hurdle is gone. There are always challenges but the newness of tai chi is long forgotten. Variations, permutations, possibilities and options are fascinating rather than intimidating. Anything unfamiliar is embraced rather than rejected because the foundation training enables the student to cope with the challenge.


Climbing over the hurdle has to be the priority during the early stages of the syllabus. Aim to set time aside - regularly - between classes in order to practice qigong, form and read the books for the assignments. This will ensure strong, steady progress.

Concentrated practice in the early stages of an endeavour dramatically improves the value of future practice.

(Michael Gelb)


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Page created 21 May 2007
Last updated 30 November 2023