Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 295
Building from the Ground Up
At this mornings practice, I noticed a couple of the newcomers trying to follow along, and they needed help. Most people are attracted to Tai Chi for the flowing movements, with the hands and arms scribing lovely patterns in the air. That is what they most try to duplicate. But inevitably their stances and foot work leave much to be desired.
In all my classes, I always start with stances. In my online classes and YouTube Master Courses, I start with stances. For good reason.
I asked the class this morning after finishing playing a form, “Have any of you ever built a house?”
There were two or three affirmatives. There were also some strange looks, as many suspected a trick of some kind. I then asked, “If you did build a house, would you start with the roof?”
Then they got it. Of course, you have to start with the foundation. The “higher” the house the deeper the foundation. I then suggested to the new people who have just dropped into our park practice without going through the step by step of formal classes, that they go to my web site – www.gilmanstudio.com, then click on Articles, then the Comprehensive Guide to the Yang Style Footwork; or Online Courses, then Yang Style Long Form; or go to YouTube, and put in:https://youtu.be/RPERLR8_6sI (Yang Style Tai Chi Complete Leg Techniques).
The key to mastery of Tai Chi is the footwork. Constant close scrutiny pays big dividends. Once a student understands the basics of the how and why of stances and steps, and practices these basics until they become natural, only then can the close focus move elsewhere.
So I recommend that all players review the basic principles of stances and steps on occasion. Every time I start new classes, I have a chance to review my steps and stances. And it is so interesting to notice how these evolve as I age and change my focus.
I once did a workshop with T.T. Liang, who was one of America’s great Tai Chi instructors. He was 100 years old at the time. He was so proud that he could still do the forms and he showed how he could walk the length of the large hall and with each step he would raise the unweighted leg and squeeze his knee to his chest! He was an inspiration for all of us.