Tai chi is an internal martial art that combines philosophy, martial arts, well-being and self-awareness. It is known for its slow, graceful movements and health benefits. If you are interested in getting started with tai chi, here are a few suggestions.
Find a school or instructor
Tai chi is best learned with the guidance of a qualified instructor. Look for a school or instructor that can offer different levels of instruction, from beginner to advance. Visit the premises, talk to the students and instructor, ask for a complimentary trial class to experience first hand whether the class is suitable for you or not.
If you are unable to find any such classes in your neighbourhood, the next best option is to try virtual classes. Although virtual classes are not ideal, it is still better than simply watching youtube videos, because you can receive guidance in real time from the instructor.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes
Tai chi involves slow movements where you have to squat down, lift your leg to step or kick, and lift your arms overhead, etc. Choose loose, comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely.
If wearing shoes, it is important to have the right kind of shoes. Pick shoes with thin, flexible soles with enough support on the top so your foot does not wobble around. When practicing tai chi, your feet will also expand a little bit, so make sure there is some room in front of the toes.
For beginners not used to practicing tai chi, the muscles on your feet may feel strained, do wear whatever shoe support that you need.
Start with the basics
When watching a tai chi performance, you will see a series of slow, controlled movements flowing from one move to the next without stopping until the entire sequence of moves have been completed. No different from watching a ballet performance or a piano recital. No one starting to learn ballet or play the piano would begin by learning the ballet routine or the piano piece. You always start by learning the fundamentals of whatever discipline that you are learning. Tai chi is the same, it is important to learn the fundamentals of posture, footwork and basic tai chi principles. Then you have to follow up with diligent practice of these basics before proceeding to the next level.
Regardless of the art or sport that you choose to pursue, having a good foundation is critical to your development and progress. Even at the highest levels of achievement, you always come back to the basics and start from there.
Practice regularly and slowly
This applies to almost everything that we do; “Practice makes perfect”. It is best to practice at least 2-3 times a week, for about 30 – 60 minutes each session. If you are really rushed for time, even a 15 minute practice is better than no practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable and proficient you will become, and the moves will start to feel easier.
The art of tai chi is in its slow, mindful practice. Even if you are short on time, make an effort to practice the moves slowly. It is better to practice once slowly than to practice twice quickly. The secret to the “slow” practice is to pay attention to your body and how you feel as you perform the moves.
Be patient and enjoy the moment
Tai chi is a discipline that requires patience and persistence. It is an unending journey of learning and self discovery, where you want to enjoy the moment instead of rushing through it.
Diligent, persistent and mindful practice will eventually lead to enlightenment of the tai chi principles and its applications. Do not be discouraged by a lack of progress, the cumulative effect of your practice will take time to show itself. The higher the level you go, the more intriguing it gets. So just enjoy the moment and enjoy the tai chi journey.