Awareness is important when training Tai Chi. Many know this.
But did you know you need to train yourself to be aware?
If you think this sounds silly, it is.
You would think what’s so difficult about awareness. You tell the trainee to take note of something he’s not doing properly and that’s it.
Except it does not work out quite this way in real life. 99% of the time I would point out to a student something he is doing wrong, get him to correct it and in the next instant he goes back to doing the movement the same old, wrong way.
Maybe a solo movement is too conceptual and the student catches no ball, to use a local phrase for someone not getting a point. So I would use examples of application to explain – what makes a good application, what the principles are, how the application fits in with the solo movement, how the application can fail, how to vary the application, etc. Can’t get any clearer, right?
Turned my head for a second and its back to the same problem, like the last few minutes did not happen. Or perhaps it did but in the Twilight Zone.
Mastering Tai Chi is not easy but it is not impossible, at least not if you apply yourself to studying it and of course, with tons of awareness as to what is really happening with the way you move.
Just thinking that you are doing it correctly does not make it right. You have to know what you are really doing. And it goes without saying that awareness comes with the territory.
As my teacher said easy to learn, difficult to master. Some of my better students are those who think nothing of doing the same movement over and over again though I prefer if they do the repetition at home. This is because though its good to see them take the learning seriously, however, they need the time to digest what they have learned as there are many things to take note of when playing the form.
The key is to go for a minor permanent correction rather than try to correct too many things at once. Get one thing right, then the next and the next and before you know it you have made a lot of headway. But try to get everything right and you may end up getting little right.
Tai Chi can be an exacting and demanding mistress. You need to put in time daily to practice, lots of it. You need to be dedicated to improving what you do, a bit at a time. If you are overly ambitious, wanting to progress fast then chances are you end up making little headway and become frustrated instead.
Learning Tai Chi is not simply a matter of studying it linearly. Many times the learning is non-linear. You get many bits and pieces. As you learn you store the knowledge in your mind, then sort them to build up a picture of the art, until you can see what it is about though the reality is that many things will never really be clear until you can really do it. Kinda chicken and egg issue.
The form is actually a useful tool for putting together our learning by providing a common point of reference. You can think of it as a book with a title to which you use to organize your content. For example, the 108 form can be a book about Tai Chi principles. Or it can be a book about the techniques. Or a book about the tools for doing push hands. It can also be a book about leverage. And so on.
Being aware is actually an easier, less frustrating way to master Tai Chi. Don’t rush, take your time, practice to get things right rather than to become a master. Put the expectations aside and your efforts will take care of the mastery. Step by step, persistently, single-mindedly and we will get there eventually.