What is Tai Chi? An Exploration

Tai Chi is an interesting mixture of sometimes contradictory elements. It is an exercise that is performed slowly and gets better the more relaxed you are. It is a martial art that is non-aggressive and heals as you perform it. And, possibly the most intriguing, it is a very private, inward-turning form of meditation that is frequently practiced in groups. Much of your tai chi practice time will be spent in private moments where you are turning inward and becoming fully self-absorbed. However, to get to that point it is helpful to work with a teacher and attend classes, at least occasionally.

When you look at Tai Chi in practice, it can appear to be deceptively simple. Merely a lot of slow motion movements and arm waving. One of the blessings of Tai Chi is that the slow movements are very relaxing, non-taxing and easy to perform comfortably, but they also have to be done properly to gain the most benefit. While the movements are slow, proper posture and balance must be maintained throughout, and those waving arms are actually the torso turning with the arms moving as a result. In Tai Chi nothing moves in isolation. Everything is moving as a result of something else that is moving with a purpose.

These subtleties can make Tai Chi difficult to learn correctly without the benefit of a teacher. A Tai Chi form consists of a series of “postures” with connecting moves between. These movements are done slowly and precisely with little or no pause once the posture has been attained. While the postures themselves can be fairly straightforward, the movements between have many subtleties of weight transfer between the legs, the positioning of the head, the positioning of the feet and the movements of the trunk. Not to mention the importance of breathing. Without an experienced teacher to guide you and make corrections it’s very easy to get into bad habits while doing your form. If at all possible, especially at the beginning, even if you are taking most of your instruction from a video, it would helpful to have a teacher or someone else who is more experienced in Tai Chi, who can review your progress at various times.

This is not to say that videos are not valuable. Indeed, they can be tremendously helpful. Especially for those who aren’t sure whether Tai Chi is really their cup of tea. I actually started learning Tai Chi from video before deciding that I really wanted to attend a class to be sure I was doing things correctly. After taking classes I felt more comfortable continuing to work with videos, knowing I had a foundation to work with. It’s always helpful, to go back to an occasional class to have an expert look at your form to help eliminate bad habits.

Depending on where you live, finding a teacher may (or may not) be as easy as opening the phone book. However, that’s a subject for another article. Which, by shear coincidence, I’ve already written. You can find it on this site under the title: How to find a Tai Chi Class or Teacher.

Pete Glaze is the creator, webmaster and principal author of the website http://www.taichistudent.com, a site written for tai chi students (and potential students).

(c) Copyright – Peter E. Glaze. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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