|Square form (2)|
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New starters are given a qigong ticksheet designed to assist learning. Step 1 is to gain familiarity with the name and pattern of each exercise.
Step 2 is to become aware of their body, the relationship of different body parts and how it all fits together. This degree of study takes place at the experienced-level.
Peng is the main emphasis.
Step 3 qigong is concerned with roundedness and flow. The exercises are so familiar and accurate that the student no longer looks robotic. Every movement is integrated, connected, relaxed and powerful.
Jing emerges. Reeling silk is present. This is advanced-level training.
Students often struggle to get section 1 of the form right. We are not expecting perfection. However, the students is woefully underestimating how hard the form is to learn.
Without daily practice, progress is very slow.
Until a student cannot perform each and every section 1 movement to a reasonable degree of accuracy there is little point in learning any new movements.
If the existing movements are already proving too great a challenge, adding more is fruitless.
Poor form means that the form offers virtually no fitness or martial benefits.
Form every day
Tai chi form was never intended to be a once-a-week exercise. It was designed for daily practice.
Ideally, 15-20 minutes should be set aside for form because the complete sequence takes that long to perform.
A beginner may only have 2 movements to train or a 2 minute sequence, but they should still consider committing up to 15 minutes practice to what they have learned.
If an intermediate student knows the entire sequence and can mirror it, this will take at least 30 minutes to do.
People frequently complain that they have no time to practice tai chi at home. A beginner only learns section 1 of the form and that section takes 2 minutes to perform.
Is there anyone on the planet who cannot set aside 2 minutes of their day for something useful and productive? It is all a matter of priority.
Gym & other martial arts
Tai chi is not like gym work or other martial arts. Once a week training at your local karate class may result in a black belt in a few years, but this approach will not work for tai chi.
We are looking to move instinctively and naturally - without forethought or hesitation - and this entails regular practice of the form sequence.
If you have trouble remembering the form, then take one movement home with you from class and drill that posture every day until the next lesson.
The following week, take home two movements, and so on... Pretty soon, you will have an entire sequence.
The form DVDs feature the Long Yang form at its most basic. There are no neigong incorporated and the stepping is simplistic.
A new student lacks the groin flexibility to walk like a cat. They must just step in whatever manner their body allows. This is usually quite limited.
The steps are not nimble or agile. More like a shuffle than a cat step.
Agility is the outcome of heavy practice and repetition. Particularly with the standing post exercise.
A good way to incorporate the standing post skill into form is to look at the 'cat stepping' exercises. These are offered during the beginners syllabus.
Each step requires the student to balance completely without wobbling. The principle steps used in the Long Yang form are trained separately from the form in order to improve balance.
There are many other practice methods introduced throughout the syllabus (such as turning finger strikes into fists or holding the balance at certain points).
Cat stepping is simply the first approach you will encounter.
With a significant commitment to practice over a number of years, your form will eventually look slow, smooth, fluid, alive, primal, martially viable and strong.
Every movement will have substance and meaning. You understand the applications thoroughly. Each twist, turn and step is deliberate, methodical and stealthy.
Your form looks like tai chi. It looks animalistic in nature yet human in structure. Coiled. Ready. Alert. Present. Composed. Predatory. Shen.
4 July 1995
Last updated 07 November 2018