Letting go is probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome in the learning of Tai Chi. In this respect I am referring to the letting go of :-
1) our past
2) our habits
3) our unnecessary strength
Firstly, letting go of our past means to let go of what we had learned before, becoming an empty glass and starting anew.
For example, I have a student who is not convinced that what I say about moving the hand first is correct. In fact, I have this feeling that he thought that I made it up. Yet, this is how I was taught to do it in Dong style and I have read before that in Chen style the second form, Cannon Fist, is to teach the hands to lead the body.
More important than all the talking is that a simple test of applying techniques would show whether the approach is sound. So in this instance, holding on to the past, refusing to let it go will only obstruct our learning. Ultimately, its not even my loss. As the saying goes you can lead a horse to water but cannot make it drink.
Secondly, as they say old habits die hard. If you cannot let go of your old habits then you cannot change. If you cannot change then you cannot really try out a new habit to see if it works better. You then become a slave to your old habits which ultimately prevents you from attaining a higher level of skill.
One of the hardest habits to change is the way we step. It takes years to undo the old habit and replace it with a new one. But one has to make a serious attempt at it and keep hammering away until change happens. Otherwise, we just keep falling back into our old set ways.
I see one of my students do the form for a while then have to do stretching to loosen up. Why is this necessary? The answer is because his old habits are preventing him from loosening internally and bearing weight in the wrong manner. Hence, the stretching is to loosen the tight and sore muscles. If he works towards getting the right habits in then this need to stretch will become a thing of the past.
Thirdly, we have to become comfortable to let go during training. During a competitive touch of hands I would understand if we dare not let go and keep the tension. But during training we must take the opportunity to learn how to let our unnecessary strength go.
If you don’t let your strength go then you are minimizing the ability of your body to listen and use the feedback to train your body how to move in conformance to the principles. Many times in training when a student encounters pressure they will automatically tense up without asking themselves whether tension is the only response or there is another way. They are too quick to assume that if they do not tense up they are unable to resist.
This is where they do not understand that using too much tension can hamper response. A good response relies on using not just the right amount of tension but other factors. But learning to utilize the principles begin by letting go. If you dare not let go then you cannot free your mind because it will then be controlled by the tension.
However, once the student lets go he is often surprised how easy Tai Chi then becomes even though a second ago it seemed difficult and impossible to master. Sometimes you just got to have faith in yourself and the method. The path to Master Tai Chi Today is clear cut, whether you can let go of the three factors above and embrace it to get on to the right path is something that is ultimately up to you. A teacher can show you the path, you have to decide if you want to walk it.
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