How We Learn Tai Chi

I think there is a misconception amongst some readers as to what our Tai Chi is.

Firstly, we are not about styles nor lineage. Our focus is far simpler – how can we learn the principles of the Tai Chi Classics and use them.

Secondly, we have a progressive way of learning. We don’t begin with GM Wei Shuren’s form which is far too difficult even for people who have learned Tai Chi for a long time.

Instead, we begin with something easier, something attainable given a shorter period of learning. As Tuhon Apolo would say don’t teach what you want students to learn but teach them what they need to learn.

So I may want them to learn the best, the most advanced that I know but I know from experience that this is not gonna happen. Any student who starts with GM Wei’s Tai Chi will get stuck on Beginning Posture from the word go.

Funny thing is most students will also get stuck from the word go in our Yang Chengfu style long form. But at least they won’t get stuck as long.

I would say that learning the form is useless just like learning the Classics is useless. They have to be learned together with the idea of how to apply the movements to make sense. Copying a movement is not difficult but trying to imitate the nuances is not straight forward.

The nuances are what some people refer to as the small details. Things like the timing of the movement, how to pose the body vis a vis the opponent, when to use strength, when not to use strength, where to intercept, when to neutralize, how much to turn to neutralize, how to harmonize, etc; these are the things we learn even in our Yang Chengfu long form.

For 99.9% of students these are difficult to do properly even though they should be easy to do because they are mainly external movements rather than internal movements. But when it comes to GM Wei’s form its the other way around – its mostly internal – things going on in the mind as opposed to things happening that can be seen.

The things that we practice in our Yang Chengfu long form develops small frame characteristics as opposed to big frame flavor in other Yang Chengfu lineages. At a certain stage the student will discover that it is but the flip side to what is practiced in GM Wei’s form.

The reason why we have this approach is that given a limited amount of time to practice daily we can only practice so much per day. So it makes sense that we should not have too broad a focus if mastery is our objective.

For example, the learning of the straight sword helps the learning of the Yang Chengfu long form in that the straight sword enables the practitioner to use the techniques of the long form with the lively stepping of the straight sword. This indirectly builds the foundation for the learning of the Fast Form later.

The above is how we line up the teaching with the learning objectives. This is why if a student just want to come and learn fajing or just want to learn a particular form I would not take him on because this is not how we learn. We learn from the ground up, develop the basics, simple as they may be they must still be learned to the point where they are habitual and can be maintained when we are applying the techniques.

No one said it is easy but this is how we see it. Then at the end of it when we read the Tai Chi Classics we should not have a puzzled look any more because now we understand what the body of writing means as a whole.

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