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Our approach to tai chi places emphasis upon physical sensitivity and awareness.
You must be totally present in order for the system to work effectively for fitness, meditation and combat.
This entails feeling every part of your body consciously as it moves.
Immersing yourself in the 'here and now' heightens your awareness and reduces the risk of injury.
Modern life involves a lot of boring activities.
People are accustomed to daydreaming or 'spacing out'.
Tai chi necessitates complete attention.
This is the challenge.
The art helps the mind to become calm and centred.
Slow motion practice encourages your mind to remain captivated by the immediacy of the moment, to feel every nuance of every movement.
This degree of awareness is very healthy.
Your mind drifts and you return.
Again and again and again.
The loose, flowing movements of tai chi are very deliberately slower than normal speed.
Gravity is maintained when you move slowly.
You can align the body to work with gravity and improve your balance.
Leaning of any kind will destabilise the body.
It is fairly easy to move quickly.
Try lifting a leg in slow motion... the leg feels very heavy and hard to move.
At first when your body submits to gravity it can feel as if you are lifting weights every time you practice the Art.
Stronger bones and muscles are developed as a consequence.
Moving slowly is quite difficult.
New students cannot sustain a slow, even movement.
The remedy to jerky movement is to practice.
Gradually, your body changes from within.
Slowing your movements entails the release of tension and the softening of the nerves.
A calm, relaxed body can move softly and evenly without effort.
If you go too slowly it can be counter-productive; instead of loosening and relaxing, you stiffen up.
This occurs because the muscles are working too hard to carry the weight of the body.
Find a pace that is slow but still smooth.
Beginners find it quite difficult to move slowly.
This is understandable.
In our class, beginners move at a comfortable, easy pace.
They are not encouraged to slow down much at first.
Skilled students are asked to slow down a bit more.
This makes the practice far more potent.
The body must work harder, and excellent balance is developed.
When you slow down, you begin to notice things.
The study of tai chi involves a refinement of awareness, in which certain qualities are allowed and cultivated.
By being slow, you can pay attention to what is happening.
Rushing is not healthy.
Fast movement is often at the expense of good body alignment and can indicate a loss of composure.
The unhurried pace of tai chi allows you time to experience life in a more complete fashion.
Faster paced training is only undertaken by tai chi students.
As a student moves deeper into the syllabus the pace accelerates as their skill increases.
Combat is not slow
Combat is typically not slow.
It necessitates an adaptive approach: the student moves at whatever pace is most appropriate.
The aim is to minimalise your movements so that they take less time to perform, are less discernable and cannot easily be predicted.
If you want to make your
movement more efficient, you have to be aware of when you are working too
hard. If you slow down and thereby increase your ability to sense
differences in muscular effort level, you increase the brainís ability to
sense and correct any potential excess and unnecessary effort. Imagine that
every time you try to extend the hip, you are at the same time slightly
contracting the hip flexors instead of relaxing them. This means that your
muscles are cross-motivated - the flexors are fighting the extensors a
little in their effort to extend the leg, making them work harder. You will
be much better able to sense and inhibit this inefficient co-contraction by
moving very slowly and easily. By contrast, if you move fast and hard, you
will never be able to sense and correct the problem.
18 March 1997
Last updated 15 December 2017