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Begin with a clear idea

Every exercise, drill or form pattern of movement has a simple purpose. Determine what this is and start from there. Many drills are training a wide variety of
fighting skills simultaneously.
Do not be put-off by this. Focus on the most basic, simple concern and work on that. If in doubt, ask the teacher for clarification.

Key factors/basics

Learn what the key factors are and apply these - as best you can - to every activity in class.

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

(Michael Gelb)

Slow down

If you rush, you will make a mess of things. Tai chi is synonymous with slowness; keep this in mind when you practice. Being slow enables you to notice things.

Go easy with yourself

Your body will not adjust to new activities as quickly as you would like it to. It is necessary to give yourself time, to be patient. You cannot force an outcome.


It is common to see beginners attempting to jump ahead: trying out more complex fighting skills prematurely. This may be the result of enthusiasm. Or it may be impatience.
Whatever the cause it usually results in failure.


Skills take time to cultivate, explore and understand. There are no quick fixes, no shortcuts, no sudden enlightenment.
The danger with ignoring the step-by-step learning process is that you begin to follow the dictates of your own
ego, rather than the direction of the instructor. You are imposing your own agenda.
What you value and regard as being important is unlikely to coincide with the values of your instructor.


Be simple and methodical. Follow every exercise and drill step-by-step. Do not deviate. Do not add or remove anything from the instructions provided by your instructor.
If you were capable of doing a more complex application, you would have been shown it in detail.

Form is not easy

Tai chi form is often portrayed as being easy to learn. This is a common misconception. It is important not to think of tai chi form in terms of external kata.
Kata and form are ultimately not the same thing. Form teaches 'a way of moving'. A style of using your body. A habit.

Kata is crude

A kata is considered 'correct' if it looks accurate and crisp. This is not the case with a tai chi form. A form must be performed in a relaxed manner, with attention to how the power is being generated.
Every movement must contain peng, and would be completely useless without it. A comprehensive understanding of how to apply every nuance of form is necessary for true understanding.

Review your performance

It can be quite challenging to look at your own performance and ask whether or not is was any good. Many students can be quite harsh on themselves and demonstrate unrealistic expectations.
Others have the impression that they are already skilled and are looking for confirmation of this.

We all make mistakes

Recognise that are no doubt making countless mistakes. Accept this. It is OK.

Give it time

Even if the instructor were to offer a list of corrections, you may not yet be capable of addressing the points listed. This is to be expected. Understanding takes time. Go easy on yourself.

Address the big problems

You need to look at your performance in simple terms. Note obvious errors. Correct these as well as you can.


There is no need to be judgemental or overly critical. You are where you are. You are only as good as you are.


Attention is very different from what is usually called concentration.

Concentration is usually associated with a state of over-tension manifested by a furrowed brow and interference with breathing, almost as though one were trying to hold everything in place so as to be able to focus totally on a certain aspect of one's surroundings.

(Michael Gelb)

Internal concerns

In order to perform any given activity correctly, you need to unite mind, body and emotions. Consider:

  1. Balance

  2. Reach

  3. Alignment

  4. Relaxation

  5. Composure

Are you moving in the internal way? Gaining the ability to move correctly is very difficult, but attainable if you are patient and show tenacity. Take the time to be present.
Make the best of every opportunity to learn.

Practice, patience, presence

Three things hamper students:

  1. Failure to practice

  2. Lack of patience

  3. Poor concentration

How much you practice is your concern. Everyone is different. Just be aware that class attendance, home training and taking advantage of all training opportunities will affect progress.
Patience is an underrated virtue in modern society. However, you cannot suddenly become skilled at anything complex without long-term study and commitment.
The steady, patient student makes strong progress and feels the rewards of their practice. Concentration enables a deeper level of focus.


We offer a lot of training opportunities for students. There are also various resources on offer. If you are struggling, then watch the form, exercise or drill on DVD. Read the website.
Study the books on the reading list.

I went on to find that the solution to many seemingly difficult tasks is not to 'try harder' but to leave oneself alone.

(Michael Gelb)


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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023