Begin the Journey Already

A perennial question came up the other day from someone interested to learn Tai Chi. This 60-year old chap wanted to know how fast he can master the art. I said that would be a question for him and how much time he is willing to put in daily for practice. He said that practicing an hour a day should not be a problem.

My students would know my philosophy to practice is anything less than an hour is just exercise. If you want to really master an art, any art, not just Tai Chi be prepared to put in at least 2 hours a day. Otherwise, all bets are off.

However, this chap was also reluctant to put in more hours per day because he didn’t want to practice the wrong thing. Therein lies the paradox. If you don’t take the first step or a few more steps you don’t know whether you are practicing wrongly or how much off course you.

For example, I got lost last week in a place where I should not get lost. On the map the place seemed easy to get to, at least by walking where its a straight line from the MRT exit. But by driving, where certain roads are one way I soon found myself going round and round. After 10 minutes of doing this and no nearer my destination the one thing I came away with was that I had a better sense of the area.

Then I decided since I had missed the appointed time I would drive around the area once more and keep going in one direction to see where I would end up. Soon I came to a junction and had to decide whether to turn left or turn right.

I filtered onto the lane to turn right only to regret it because from where I stopped the buildings on the right didn’t look familiar. I was wrong. Once I had turned right and drove on a bit I saw the name of a familiar columbarium. I knew where I was.

From there I drove back to the area that I was originally headed to. However, I was now on the main road and soon saw the road. If only I had turned right one traffic light down earlier when I was on the opposite of the road then I would not have gotten lost. In retrospect it was easy to know this. If I had not decided to come back to take another look I would not have known how near I really was yet turned out to be too far even though I was on the right track, or seemingly so.

In learning Tai Chi if you are a beginner you would not really know if you are learning the better or lesser method even if you are learning the best method. It is only through practice and testing that you would know where you stand. Scientists refer to this as building a baseline. Without a baseline, a reference to compare against you cannot make an informed assessment. It goes without saying that if you practice too little your baseline would not be representative of the norm and any assessment you make will also not be a good one.

A while back I asked a new student what principles he had learned that is in compliant to the art’s requirements. He said turn the waist. I smiled. If only it was so simple. This much was apparent when I saw the stuck out elbows, the absence of power lines, the lack of true coordination. If he didn’t know it then he would soon when I pointed them out and let him test his current structure in simple test of power issuance.

The next lesson we revisited these bad habits again. Some improvements but a lot more to work on. Some of these habits will take a while to eradicate and replace them with new ones. As always, the tests of structure plus application will reveal the advantages of doing things in a certain manner.

The first step in our journey to Master Tai Chi Today is only the beginning. We have to keep walking towards our objective to get there however far it may be. Whenever my students say the way I do something looks easy I always tell them that I have at least 10 years of practice so of course it would look effortless. They only have to keep walking forward and not worry too much about arriving at the destination and before they know it the effort put in would have been in the past and beginning to pay dividends today.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

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