Tai Chi Chuan Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi Chuan is one of many systems of Chinese Martial art. This system consists of solo forms, a number of weapon sets, many push hand exercises, and a two person set. Its major characteristics are slow, relax, continue and balance.

The solo form is composed of 13 principles: warding-off, roll back, press, push, pull down, elbow strike, shoulders strike, look to the left, look to the right, advance and retreat steps, and center. Each movement in the solo form is based on these 13 principles and must execute the mind, chi, and physical movement in one unit. This means that when the mind is focused on a specific area of the body, the chi will flow into that area. When the chi flows into an area, power will follow.
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2. Why is this art called Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi Chuan is a physical movement exercise based on the philosophy of TAI CHI or YIN/YANG. As such, Tai Chi Chuan is seekout circular motion everywhere and each of the art's movements is composed of this YIN/YANG theory.
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3. What is Yin/Yang
The term YIN/YANG were commonly used in ancient China as a general term for things in life. It refers to two components which oppose each other and yet need each other for perfection. In Tai Chi Chuan movements, YIN/YANG refers to some of the following terms: top vs bottom; inside vs outside; left vs right; advance vs retreat; and empty vs full.
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4. Where is the Yin/Yang in Tai Chi Chuan?
The YIN/YANG is refered to everywhere in the solo form. We can see it in the empty and full of the body weight; the open and close of each movement; the release and storing of the power; the up and down of the hands and body movements; the advance and retreat of the stepping; and the in and out of the breathing.

From this we can see that one should not focus on one area of the form but treat each movement as a whole, in order to perfect the solo form. YIN/YANG is the term refering to the whole, not its parts. Let's take a movement "brush knee and twist step," for example: The first hand pushing forward is Yang and the second hand brushing down to the knee is Yin. If one understands the term YIN/YANG, one will not push the hand too far forward, which can cause the body lean too much. From an understanding of this term, one will maintain the correct posture at all times.
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5. Is it good to emphasize Yin/Yang in Tai Chi Chuan practice?
When this happens, one is emphasizing too much on the whole. A good whole begins with its individual parts. In order to perfect the solo form, one must practice each individual item separately. That is, mastering the empty and full will improve ones mobility; mastering the open and close will improve one in practical application, and so on.

6. How should I begin Tai Chi Chuan practice?
First, you must seek a well trained and knowledgeable Tai Chi Chuan instructor; not necessarily a "famous" instructor. Second, learn all of the postures, beginning with one posture as a time. Learn how the hands and feet move in each posture and how they coordinate with the body's weight. Third, after you have learned all of the postures, begin to refine them. Work on making the postures smooth, rounded, well balanced, and coordinate them with the three human treasures: mind, power and spirit. After you have completed this third level, you are considered as having achieved the beginning stages of Tai Chi Chuan training.
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7. Is Tai Chi Chuan only for old people?
Originally, Tai Chi Chuan was famous as a martial art, and was not for old, sick or weak people. However, as a result of its characteristics (i.e., slow, relax, concentrate, balance and lightness), Tai Chi Chuan became known for its value as a preventive therapy. For that, many older people practice it in the early morning in the parks, as is commonly seen in China. This gives people the impression that Tai Chi Chuan is only for old people. However, as a result of its flexibility in practice, Tai Chi Chuan can be of benefit for the old, sick, and weak as well as for young and strong people. The martial art value of Tai Chi Chuan requires that one has strong legs, good body condition, unity of mind, energy and spirit. To achieve these requirements, one must engage in the complex and difficult training of Tai Chi Chuan.
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8. What should the beginning student concentrate on?
Following is a list of the major things that one must pay attention to at all times, especially when one first learns the solo form.

  1. Correct posture: One must master the body, hands, and standing postures.
  2. Circular motion: One must keep in mind that there are both small and large circular motions in every movement of Tai Chi Chuan.
  3. Lightness: One must be light in every movement, especially stepping of the feet, shifting of the body's weight, and pushing of the hands forward.
  4. Slowness: One must be slow in all movements in order to have control and concentration.
  5. Even: One must be sure to execute all movements at the same speed and keep their knees bent at the same height at all times.
  6. Balance: One must move the hands evenly throughout the solo form. In addition, the body's weight must be on one foot before stepping with the other foot.
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9. How do you determine correct posture?
Outwardly, a posture is correct when it looks natural and comfortable. Inwardly, a posture is correct when one feels the energy coming from the feet to the hands. In order to have a correct posture, one should begin with the outward appearance. Following is a check list for this appearance:

  1. Lower the elbows and relax the shoulders
  2. Bend the knees to line up with the shoulders
  3. Do not over extend the hands
  4. Keep the head upright and the eyes looking straight forward
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10. Why I am not able to remember the solo form?
If you are having trouble remembering the sequence of postures, you are not alone. This happens to everyone at some time. The best method of remembering the postures is frequent practice and learning one posture at a time. Breakdown the movement into how the hands and feet move and how the body's weight controls balance before moving onto another posture. In this way, you will truly understand every posture and will then not forget them as a whole.
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11. Why do the legs hurt at the beginning?
When one practices Tai Chi Chuan the knees are alway bent, the movements executed slowly, and the body's weight supported by one leg at a time. These requirements put greater stress on the legs, thus making them painful for a time. However, after one has practiced the art for a period of time, leg strength will build and one will not have this problem again as the legs are stronger and thus able to support the body's weight. With this comes a better understand of the concept of full and empty.

12. How to improve in skill?
To become good in Tai Chi Chuan, one must follow the rules at all times, practicing all of the movements naturally and comfortably. If this is not done, then Tai Chi Chuan will be of no benefit to the body.

In time, everything will come naturally. After one has learned the movements, one should begin to study and understand some of the concepts that underly this art.

To become skillful in Tai Chi Chuan, there is but one word: practice. It is said that after one practices the solo form thousands time, its principles will begin to appear. The following is a list of the four things one needs to follow in order to become good at Tai Chi Chuan:

  1. More thinking: Use the head to find out why the movements move the way they do.
  2. Ask more: Asked all the question you may have.
  3. See more: Spend more time observing how other people practice and take what is good.
  4. practice more: The true way to learn is by actually practicing and not just talking about practicing.
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