How to remember the Solo Form's movements

With the popularity of Tai Chi Chuan, the quality of students is diverse and the comments and complains from students are increasing. It does not matter who the students are, the theme is the same; it is difficult to remember the Solo Form.

After three decades of involvement in Tai Chi Chuan as a student as well as an instructor, I observed that successful students have their methods and techniques to remember the creative Solo Form. Here are some of them.

1. Name
Many movements in the Solo Form have a very unique and distinctive names which can be classified into three groups.

  1. The name describes the movements: e.g. Brush Knee, Twist Step, Cross Hands, Single Whip, Lower the Body. etc.
  2. The name describes the movements as a defensive and offensive martial application: e.g. Step Forward Intercept, Parry and Punch, Brush Knee and Punch Downward, Hit Tiger. etc.
  3. The name is associated with an animal such as White Crane Spreads its Wing, Retreat and Ride the Tiger, Wild Horse Parts Its Mane. etc.

When one remembers the names of the movements, one will better understand the mechanics of the movements. e.g. Left Brush Knee and Twist Step means the left foot steps forward, left hand brushes the left knee downward, and the right palm pushes forward.

2. Offensive and Defensive Movement
Although the movements are slow and relaxed, each movement has its value as a defensive or offensive maneuver. This is especially important for those practitioners who treat Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art. Many times the student does not fully understand the practical value of the movement and is not able to execute the movement correctly. Therefore, although there are multiple applications in each movement, if the instructor correctly interprets the application of the movement, the student will quickly understand the movement or try to understand and perfect the movement.

3. Visualization
From the name, one can imagine the movement. For example, in White Crane Spread its Wing, one can visualize the crane has an upright body, chest relaxed, one arm going up and the other going down, and the body's weight is on one foot. Remember, this technique also helps the students to increase their creativity and master some of the more difficult movement.

4. Number or digital
Since Tai Chi Chuan has so many unique and distinctive names, to remember all the names themselves is already a difficult task. One can substitute the name with a number. Therefore, one can assign a number corresponding to one movement and some time one movement divided into number of moves. This is a perfect method for students who are good with numbers.

5. Balance
Tai Chi Chuan is the art of balance and there are many people who are interested because of its benefit in balance. In each movement, left always goes with right, top always goes with bottom and front with back. If one can incorporate this concept of balance in learning, one will comprehend the Solo Form quickly.

6. Repetition
Tai Chi Chuan's Solo Form is composed of a series of circular movements. One can practice each circular movement or a number of circular movements in each lesson repeatedly until familiar and understood. e.g. One can practice the Part the Wild Horse's Mane repeatedly to better understand the movements.

7. competition and Demonstration
Competition and demonstration encourage the practitioner to better himself and achieve higher skill. This is so because the situation requires the practitioner to be serious, the movement has to be perfect and correctly executed. Therefore, if a student practices regularly under these conditions, one will excel to a higher level.

8. Environment
When a student is in a comfortable environment, he will perform better. This association applies to many things in life as well. Seek a good place for your practice. A space in the house or in the park is a great help. To be comfortable, the first criterion is to achieve serenity. The most common way to relax is to take a deep breath.

9. Practice
Tai Chi Chuan is one of the physical activities that involves two steps to remember. Knowing how to do it intellectually is not enough; a correct understanding requires a student to know it physically as well as intellectually. Many students do not remember the lesson the next day because they do not practice or do not practice enough. In order to remember, one must transfer the information from short term to long term memory with practice.

10. Group
When students help each other, they are able to remember the movements better. This method of group support provides a comfortable environment. Every student is at the same level so that they can share their experiences and understanding about each movement and help each other. In other words, they have the same level of communication.

The traditional method of teaching Tai Chi Chuan was done on a one on one basis by the instructor. Time is not an issue so that a student can master one movement as a time so that the quality remained. However, this method of teaching is too slow for today's fast paced students. Although Tai Chi Chuan instructors had been compromised with this fast pace, high stress society with a shorter and simpler Solo Form, students still find it difficult to remember and execute the Solo Form correctly. If a student utilizes the ten methods described above in remembering the Solo Form, he should be successful.

Article By Vincent Chu
Copyright © V. Chu. All rights reserved.