At each stage of learning tai chi, we encounter different types of challenges. At first, we start by learning tai chi basics. The primary challenge during this introductory course is to keep our posture aligned while learning new ways of moving our body and limbs. After learning the tai chi basics for a semester, we now have a sense of basic moves so we can begin to learn one of the forms where we start to apply this new found knowledge.
As we start to learn forms, the biggest challenge for most people is remembering the moves and the sequences. This challenge may seem to be difficult. But, with repetition and diligent practice, people of all ages are able to learn and remember entire forms of around 100 moves. Some people remember it as a sequence of dance moves, others remember the names of the movements, others attend twice a week so they reinforce the muscle memory of movements and still others decide to repeat one or more levels so they can take their time to learn and remember the movements.
Once we have learned all the moves, we start to apply advanced tai chi movement concepts. When we start to learn and apply advanced concepts, repetition alone is often not enough to continuously raise our skill level. Instead, a deeper understanding of principles and using effective training methods combined with the correct mindset is necessary to get beyond the first learning plateau which many tai chi students reach before being able to start acquiring advanced tai chi competencies.
Letting Go (Relax 放鬆 fàngsōng)
Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.
– Bruce Lee
Letting go is a difficult thing to do as our brain prefers to associate new things with old habits and experiences. This is often why learning how to move differently or how to move in a relaxed way can be difficult to accomplish.
Tai chi is an internal martial art. All movement starts from the inside (core) to affect movement on the outside (body & limbs). This is easier to say than it is to do. Most people would not know what to do if asked to move from their core or dantian.
For most people, this is a completely new skill without any past point of reference or experience. In order to learn this new skill, most people would need to let go of what they know in order to start learning how to initiate movement from their core or dantian. We start by relaxing our body and limbs while maintaining a good posture and then, initiate the movement with the dantian.
Almost all other sports, activities and martial arts are externally focused. This means that the movements are initiated by the body and limbs. Then, the internal core muscles are engaged to enhance the power and speed of the movement which follows. This is what many people know to do in various sports, dance and other movement focused activities.
In tai chi, we learn to move with ease. We know that the body moves more efficiently when the internal core moves the relaxed external body. As a new movement concept, it takes a tremendous amount of focus and trust to resist moving our arms and legs on their own and to start all movement from the dantian.
Learning internal movement is typically more exhausting mentally than physically. To practice, you need to be fully present, aware of every part of the body and intentional in how movements are performed. It may not be possible to achieve the desired results all at once or with consistency in the beginning.
Keep practicing with your full attention and intention to increase the frequency and consistency of tai chi movements initiated by the dantian.
Starting the Advanced Tai Chi Skills Journey
If you have been wondering about what draws people to tai chi, learning the movements is only the beginning. Without knowing the basics and movements, it is difficult to focus on more advanced skills and making that switch both mentally as well as physically.
If these explanations help you gain a better understanding of what makes tai chi such an intriguing journey to health, wellness and improved movement then sign up for our newsletter and join our tai chi studio to learn more about how challenging it is for us to let go of what we know so we can finally engage our core or dantian.
In the coming months, we will review the other 2 key challenges to advanced tai chi skills in the upcoming months. We look forward to your visit to this blog next month.