Monday, June 21, 2010

In Tai Chi, what you see is NOT what you get

Photo: jasonr611

Many of my Tai Chi students can relate to the following:

When you try to follow your teacher’s movements, you think you are repeating what you saw. Sometimes you succeed in repeating the upper part of the body movement correctly or sometimes only the lower body movements, but you still don’t internalize everything that your teacher does. Sometimes you think you mastered both the upper and lower body movements but you just missed that small turn. Is there an end to learning Tai Chi? How do you know you have really learned something from your teacher, and that you are doing all the movements correctly?

Here is when I tell my students that there is nothing to worry about. Because in Tai Chi, what you see is NOT what you get.

You don’t have to internalize everything your teacher does; you just need to get the right end result. It is this end result that you need to be concerned about. For beginners, I use this analogy: there are a lot of trails that go to the top of Hua Mountain; you just need to find one of them. For intermediate students, you need to try more trails so you have alternate ways.

In class, you have heard me talk about “Qi” (Body Energy). Imagine Qi as being similar to electricity. Electricity is an invisible thing. When you see a light bulb light up, or a fan turn on, you only see the outward result of the electricity, just as you see the outward result of the invisible Qi. When your Qi is applied to people, it can bounce people away, redirect or absorb other’s energy. However, even more important than Qi is “Yi”(Mind Concentration). Yi controls Qi just like a light switch; it controls the direction of the electricity.

Everyone already has Qi in his/her body, but sometimes it is difficult to bring Qi out. If we go back to the electricity analogy, Tai Chi movements are like the wires for the light bulb, the wires you build for your Qi. It is nice if you have perfected every move that your teacher has taught, but it is first essential that you can turn on the light bulb. This means perfecting one movement at a time. If most wires are built right but one is built wrong then the light bulb won’t light up. Every time you learn a new movement, it is like adding a new wire.

Tai Chi is a martial art that comes with many mental health benefits. Make sure you are working your mind and applying your Yi to the Qi. Try each movement out on someone and see if it works. Then you will know if your circuit is working. Test your moves and have your teacher correct you, so you don’t waste time on a broken wire movement that goes nowhere.

Copyrigthed by Huan's Tai Chi

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