Intermediate Level Learning

The Kai-He (Open-Close) form is the intermediate level training routine in our Tai Chi syllabus.

It is designed to further internalize outer movements learned at the basic level from the Yang style 108 form. This is achieved in Kai-He by the use of simple abstract movements to conceal one’s intent to achieve a clear separation between intent and movement.

The use of intent is also paramount in the control of balance, aligning the body internally to move through the use of small circles and spirals, and controlling the 5 bows to generate power.

The simpler outer movements make Kai-He look like an easier form to learn. However, it is actually more difficult to learn because the use of unadorned movements require a heightened sense of qualia to feel the coordination between intent and movement.

On my student’s first lesson I covered three movements of the long form namely :-

1) Lazy to Tie Coat (left)
2) Lazy to Tie Coat (right)
3) Single Whip

On the second lesson I added two movements :-

1) Lift Hands
2) White Crane Spreads Its Wings

Below is the video I took to show my student what he not doing properly. Outwardly, he has remembered the movements, however, we are after the essence of Tai Chi rather than external appearances.

Sometimes I think he is a human rubber band because no matter how I try to shape him he would inadvertently spring back to his original shape. I think it is easier to forge a sword. At least, with iron once you hammer into shape it stays in shape.

But with rubber forget it. It literally takes a ton of patience to keep at it until the rubber changes and retains the new shape. This is why the proper transmission of Tai Chi requires literally hands-on teaching in that the student needs to be corrected, bent into shape, then have his posture subject to pressure so that he gets feedback on what wrong and right feels like.

Lucky us, its early days yet and there is a long journey ahead. As long as he keeps at it then by golly we will forge rubber. This is why my teacher said easy to learn, difficult to train. Its not even eat bitter in the sense of train till your muscles ache.

On the contrary, to seek comfort is our objective which in mechanical engineering parlance means to set up a machine train and its attendant machines to run with minimal mechanical problems such as misalignment, imbalance, looseness and so on.

I did the following demo to show my student. Certain sub-movements have been exaggerated to make it clearer to see and to emphasize certain points.

The main points I wanted to highlight were :-

1) No flowery movements; every movement has a reason for being

2) Strict control of balance, alignment and position

3) Strong and constant awareness of intent and movements governing usage and power

Learning Tai Chi is like climbing a high mountain. With Mount Everest at least we know where the peak is. With Tai Chi the peak is somewhere up there. The challenge is there for the Tai Chi Adventurer.

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