Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 296
Educate Yourself
It is my experience as an instructor that most students, if they are learning from an instructor in person, will just follow along until the choreography is learned. Not much outside study. That was the way Master Choy mostly taught and the way I learned. As I’ve shared, when I started studying there were no books, or internet, so in person was the only way. When I started teaching I changed my opinion. As any reader of my Tips knows, I place the greatest value on understanding the how and why of each part of each move. Without this understanding, one is trying to drink from an empty glass.
There are various ways to gain a body/mind understanding of what you want your body to do. Most important would be to do what your instructor explains and shows to you. If that person doesn’t teach that way, you need to research on the internet, or in books, or if you are so inclined, make up something yourself. That takes time and a certain kind of mind – not for everyone. Research is difficult, as there are so many different forms taught in many different ways.
After a student has gained a certain basic understanding of the form, I encourage them to do the form to the other side. In the Traditional Yang Style, we start out stepping ahead with the left foot, and using the left forearm to peng or Ward Off Left. In starting the form to the other side, one would step ahead with the right foot and peng with the right forearm for Ward Off Right.
Even in this most basic of all moves in our form, one must understand what we are doing as an application. So much depends on this idea. In Ward Off Left, am I kicking when I step? Am I grabbing, or sticking and leading, with the right hand or wrist? Am I stepping behind the opponent’s forward right foot and then tripping them, or if he has the left foot forward, am I stepping into his center and using my left forearm to strike?
To the untrained eye, these various options would look pretty much the same, but if done with real understanding, there is a slight difference. So once you understand this move, then you can apply this understanding to the other side. This really is a test to see if you know what you are doing and how you translate this knowing into doing. Start off with one move, and when you feel confident, do another move. And look carefully at the transition. The transition is always the most difficult part of linking moves. All transitions have meaning even though most people don’t pay much attention to the bridge from one side to the other. It is not A. B. It is A, B, etc. Or writing in cursive instead of printing.
Once you get the idea of how to mime martial arts moves, it becomes instructive and fun to make up your own. So give it a try.

Sequence for educating yourself

*Find a teacher and focus on what he or she shares.

*Read the Tai Chi Classics.

*Research on the internet.

*Research other internal arts.

*Assistant teach.

*Teach a friend.

*Start a class.

*Prove yourself by competing.

*Write a blog or book.