What I have learnt on my Tai Chi journey

How time flies. It has been nearly 9 years since I started my Tai Chi. I have enjoyed it and benefited from it. It has been a slow learning curve but the journey continues. Starting initially as a novice, there is always the temptation to want to learn more and more. There are different School of Tai Chi (Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, Hao), different versions of the same style (eg long form, short form, 24, 42) weapons (sword, pole) Qigong exercises etc etc. Can get pretty confusing at times. I don’t think I can ever remember all the steps. Like the saying goes, its better to practice the same move 1000 times then 10,000 moves once.

Even in the same style there is a myriad of hidden treasures and knowledge to be discovered. It’s a never ending journey of discovery. The learning never stops. For me it’s a self challenge to improve over time.

Benefits of Tai Chi
Developed initially as a self defence Tai Chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise practiced by millions of followers all over the world. It involves gentle flowing graceful movements and stretching.

It helps to promote calmness, serenity and focus. It improves balance and flexibility.

It has also been credited for improving general wellness, immunity, help with stress and anxiety, fall prevention. An exercise fit for all ages. There is no need for expensive gym equipments or memberships. It can be practiced at home, in a park anytime and does not require a lot of space.

Below are links to articles by reputed sources.

My thoughts on Tai Chi
I have always been a rather inquisitive person. I enjoy dwelling deeper into something that I am interested in and have spent hours trawling the internet and YouTube, trying to learn more and develop a better understanding of Tai Chi. Fortunately there are numerous videos and articles by various masters/ practitioners which have been instructional and enlightening.

I have come to realize that Tai Chi encompasses a lot of basic principles in Anatomy, Structure, Physics, Vectors, Angles, Physiology, Mechanics, Momentum, Energy. Focus and concentration. Of course there is the Philosophy.

The Tai Chi form is just the physical way to apply theory into practice. Hence whenever I do my Form, I try to incorporate and apply these basic principles.

Basic Principles
Gentle and relaxed. I am sure many of us have been told to relax when we do Tai Chi. In Chinese it is referred to as “Sung”. I interpret it as being using minimum muscular tension to maintain posture and provide motion. (Muscular elongation as oppose to muscular contraction)

Sinking. This is a mental process. Starts from the crown of the head, through the body, legs, feet and rooting into the ground. This can only occur with relaxation (sung).

Movements should be slow, steady, continuous and controlled. There should be no pauses and one movement leads to another smoothly.

Posture and balance. The spine remains upright and relaxed (sung). Imagine being suspended by a string at the top of your head. No leaning. Shoulders relaxed and slightly rounded.

Movements are rounded. Arms are held slightly rounded (as if hugging a large ball) with elbows slightly bent, lowered and not drooping

Lowered centre of gravity. Ensure that the knees are not locked and slightly bent. The knee should always follow the direction of the foot and not extend beyond the big toes. The Dantian is the centre of gravity and should maintain a horizontal plane without any excessive up and down movements.

Always finish footwork before any weight transfer. This will maintain rooting and stability. Transfer of weight will allow for foot adjustment, forward and back movements.

Timing. Weight transfer, hands and body actions should finish simultaneously. When you move, every part of your body moves, when you settle every part settles.

The hip. This is referred to as “Kua” The hip initiates the turn. It forms the axis of rotation when the weight is on the substantial (or weight bearing) leg. The spine remains erect not leaning and turns with the pelvis.

The arms, shoulders and elbows. Hands always in front of shoulders. Shoulders relaxed and elbows below shoulders. Arms should never move independently or be flailing around. Keep some space between upper arms and armpits. Movement initiated in the hips, up the spine to the shoulders and expressed in the hands. Hands relaxed and then strengthened slightly as the movement is finished expressing feeling and strength.

Breathing. Tip of tongue should be in contact with upper palate. Breathe out as each movement is finishing. Breathing should be gentle through the nose and using the diaphragm instead of expanding the ribcage. (Referred to as reverse breathing). Breath into the Dantian.

Wishing you all many hours of happy practice and enjoyment.

Some useful books
Tai Chi Dynamics by Robert Chuckrow , PhD
The Dao of Taijiquan Way to Rejuvenation by Jou, Tsung Hwa

Tsi Wai Kang
Assistant Instructor, Keilor

Updated: 10 August 2019