Yeung Ching Po on Tai Chi Chuan Practice

Translated by Vincent Chu

Although there are many martial art systems, they all have theories and principles on what they are. There are many people who spend their whole life learning a martial art and they come up empty.

As a beginner, one must understand that one day's work is one day's gain. If one adds all the day's, months', years' work, the achievement will be great. Tai Chi Chuan is an art that's composed of hard and soft. It has special information on philosophy, physics, and physiology. If one wanted to study this art, one must go through a special training program. Although one has a good instructor and classmates, the most important factor for success is that one must practice regularly; otherwise, all is useless. People say that actually learning something is better than thinking about it. If one can practice in the hot summer and cold winter days, it does not matter if one is female, male, young or old; one will achieve a high level in Tai Chi Chuan skills.

Recently, there are many people who have taken an interest in Tai Chi Chuan. I am very happy about this. Among the beginners, one must have the will to practice and be open to learning. What they will achieve is infinite.

There are two kinds of people. First, people who are smart, who can digest information quickly and are satisfied with what they have learned. Second, people who do not have the patience, who want to learn everything quickly, people who are more interested in quantity than quality. In less than a year, they already learned the solo form, sword, knife and spear. They appear to have learned all the forms. Actually, they have not. When you ask them about the movements, direction, inside and outside, they do not know how to respond. If you wanted to correct what they learned, every movement seems to require correction. You correct his movement in the morning and he forgets it in the evening.

It is often said that it is easy to learn the empty hand form, but difficult to make correction. This is a warning to those who want to learn quickly. These kind of people do not only make mistakes for themselves but others as well when they become instructors themselves. With many of these people around, I am worried about the quality of Tai Chi Chuan in the future.

Tai Chi Chuan training begins with the solo form. It is learning the individual movement of routine. The beginner should start with a knowledgeable instructor. Slowly, learn each movement. Pay attention to the inside and outside. Inside refers to the use of the mind, not physical power. Relax the body and sink the chi down to the dan tien. Outside refers to the whole body. The body must be nimble all the time. All parts of the body must be connected, from the feet up to the hands and fingers.

At the beginning, it is important to learn one movement at a time. Do it correctly before you go to the next movement. This way, one will not make mistakes and one will not have to make corrections later.

During Tai Chi Chuan practice all the joints must be relaxed and open. The nose should breathe naturally and the four limbs should not have too much physical power. For many people, when they begin to move, the breathing begins to feel difficult, the body begins to shake. This happens when one stops breathing. Internal practitioners understand this clearly.

When you are practicing Tai Chi Chuan keep the following in mind:

  1. The head should not lean too much to the left, right, front or back. Suspend the head from above means the head seems to balance an object and it should not be stiff; otherwise, this object will fall. Although the eyes look foreword, sometimes they will be turning to look based on the body rotation. The mouth appears to be closed, but not really closed, open but not open. Inhale with the nose and exhale with the mouth. All is done naturally. If there is saliva produced as a result of putting the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, swallow it.
  2. The body should be upright during the open and close movement. It should hollow the chest and raise the back. Sink the shoulders and rotate the hip. At the beginning, one should pay a lot of attention to all the joints, otherwise, it is very difficult to correct mistakes later. If one does not do it correctly, one will achieve some Tai Chi Chuan skill but not much health benefit.
  3. The joints on the two arms should be loose. The shoulders sink downward and the elbows point down. The palms should extend outward and the wrist bent. The intent is on the arms so that the chi can get to the fingertips. With years of practice, the chi will be connected as a unit.
  4. The two feet should be clearly distinguished as empty and full. This will help the practitioner to walk like a cat. When the body's weight shifts onto the left foot, the left foot is full and the right foot is empty. When the body's weight shifts onto the right foot, the right foot is full and the left foot is empty. Although the foot is called empty, it is not. It should have the ability to advance or retreat, if necessary. When we say full, it simply means that something is there, it does not mean anything extra. Generally, the knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. If it is more than 90 degree, it is excess. When the body leans too much foreward, it loses its upright position.
  5. When it comes to kicking, there are kicks with the toes and kicks with the heel. The standing leg should loosely connect and balance the body so that the kicking leg can function. If the standing leg is not balanced, the kicking leg does not have power.

Tai Chi Chuan training generally begins with an empty hand form such as the Long Form. The next step is Push Hand Exercises such as Single and Double Joint Hands in a stationary and moving positions. The third step is Tai Chi Chuan weapons such as sword, knife and spear.

It is better if a practitioner can practice seven to eight times a day. This can be divided into two sessions as morning and evening. One should not practice immediately before or after meals. In term of location, it is good to find a place where fresh air circulates, such as in a park or courtyard. It is not recommended to pick a location that has high wind for it is not good to take this air into your lungs. This can make one sick. The clothing should be lose and the shoes should have a flat bottom. This can seal off the pores in the skin and can make you sick.

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