Personal Development

Some simple training tips I have found useful:

  1. Pick a part of your body to focus on – legs, arms, hips, shoulders or whatever then do your exercises and form while focusing on them trying to keep that part 50% relaxed. Then do the same while working with your lower abdomen – tantien.
  2. Read a good book on Tai Chi eg Master Chen Xiaowang’s “Five Levels of Tai Chi” or his coffee table “Chen Family Taijiquan” perhaps the “Tai Chi classics” which I think can be found for free online. Pick a part which seems to resonate with you and then focus your practice on understanding that particular part by recognising what they are saying from the feelings in your body. Repeat as necessary.
  3. Watch videos by good practitioners in an attentive manner – seek to understand what they are doing

Good luck

This came up in conversation recently with my teacher Karel Koskuba in discussing how one progresses in Tai Chi – this constant process of practicing and noticing – paying attention to small things and following them – until suddenly there is a realisation of significant change and that something previously impossible is now relaxed, natural – almost easy.

A process which seemingly continues in successive cycles……………….until it doesn’t.

 

 

When I practice alone I have the freedom to work without a teacher – that is to say without anybody actively correcting me – I have the freedom to make mistakes and to try “the wrong ” way of doing and sometimes this really pays off. Because I paid attention at the time all my teachers and lessons are memorised  inside me and by going “off piste” I am not questioning them but rather I am questioning my original interpretation of what I thought they were saying or doing – it is amazing how often I got it wrong all those years ago and now suddenly realise what it was they were really trying to teach.

What can I say I am a slow learner!

I find it a bit like being lost without realising it because everything is so familiar, so habitual, in such a comfortable rut – I need to look around and try a new direction in order to find the right path again. We all get delusional sometimes and just doing the same old thing yields the same results – which generally can be a good thing but we can easily veer off in without realising it so it can be worth shaking yourself up and trying some different things. Remember the lesson and try to look for different possibilities than the one you have been focusing on.

The snowglobe of life needs shaking up occasionally so it can settle into a new pattern.

Tai Chi and world subcultures

Seen world-wide it is observable that special interest groups have their own mores, practices, language (jargon) and social norms which are often quite foreign to outsiders who occasionally enter them, either out of need or curiosity. We see this in our interactions with the professions of medicine, teaching, law and so forth – when visited at need these micro-cultural schools of expertise justify high fees often sustained by this very separateness and the enforced barriers to understanding which they promote.

Elsewhere, we see a similar situation with areas of personal interest – clearly the one considered here is that of martial arts.

Once we understand Tai Chi/martial arts as a specialist niche culture like the professions, then we can begin to expect some challenging issues in comparison to mainstream culture. Certain practices for example, or ways of perceiving human interaction are just as “foreign” as any medical training (complete with dissections, intimate examinations, drug ingestion, etc) or legal conversation replete with tortuous thought experiments and Latin notation.

Compare for example with dance and its suppressed sexuality (a vertical expression of a horizontal desire), its intellectualised definition of physical expression and its pre-linguistic emotional expression through wholly committed physical action. Consider also the physical, psychological and linguistic worth of sports.

So, when you join a Tai Chi class consider that you have entered a very old sub-culture based on millennia-old ideas and practices, many once common but today lost except to some specialist areas. Perhaps consider what it means to join such a group and allow for the fact that you are the (albeit welcome) outsider who needs to make allowances for the conflicts which may come about from your own expectations. Even for those of us with many years as part of this sub-culture we continue to find that the thinking and habits we were brought up with continue to hold us back in developing our Tai Chi skill set.

So we are all beginners and all seeking to find our place in this world of multiple sub-cultures.

Many worlds Tai Chi

27 February 2020
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Tai Chi is a bit like one of those online computer games where you start in a small world and need to work out what it is all about so as to open up another level after level on an apparently infinite journey. But this is real and you need to find and to learn […]

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Tai Chi – martial arts culture for beginners – some issues raised for students and teachers as observed from personal experience

11 November 2019
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It is my hope that the following will help “first timers” better understand and enjoy their early Tai Chi classes since I frequently come across beginners who attend Tai Chi sessions with absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what it is or how classes work – and it seems that this sometimes can lead to […]

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When change happens………..

26 October 2018

Over the years I have from time to time noticed changes in the way my body moves – recently I have noticed some small changes. Interestingly these changes have begun with very small perturbations in existing patterns – so small I could not properly describe them until a while later after more relaxed practice when […]

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Partner work – why don’t people like it until they try it?

5 September 2018

I have learned through painful experience that partner work and physical corrections make up a potentially very sensitive subject – martial arts people will probably wonder why I am bothering to write about this at all – whereas beginners or people with no experience of interpersonal physical activity may well recoil that I even dream […]

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Attending a Martial Arts (Tai Chi) class for beginners – further thoughts

20 March 2017

Attending a martial arts class may well be very different to other activities you have undertaken and it should be remembered that Tai Chi is a martial art – and I believe it is extremely important that this link is maintained. This is part of their paradox which I have written about elsewhere.  So the […]

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Areas of learning in Martial Arts

19 March 2017

Every now and again ( 10 years or so) I ask myself “why am I practicing martial arts?” and usually I get a fairly simple answer – this time I am grateful to a student who prompted me to ask it once again and this time to come up with a very much more complicated […]

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