As readers of my Training Tips know, Intention, (Mind Directed Action), is one of the building blocks of Tai Chi performance, effectiveness, and enjoyment. So setting Intention is of paramount importance.
The first and most important way is to understand the applications of the movements. The applications are the outward expression of the inner principles of Tai Chi Chuan, which is a martial art. Without understanding applications, the whole truth of what Tai Chi Chiuan is will remain a mystery.
To gain this knowledge, one must learn from people who have studied these ideas in the past, people we call Masters. A Master of Tai Chi Chuan is someone recognized as such by his peers. The best way to gain this knowledge is to spend time with the Master in a class or workshop. You can then experience how the expert applies the inner learning into outward form. There is no substitute for being in the presence of such people.
Most people, especially the middle aged ones who seem to be most attracted to Tai Chi now, aren’t really interested in learning a martial art, so we instructors must find other ways to explain the inner work, and how to use Mind Directed Action. The alternative to application study is what is called Imagery. T.T. Liang, one of America’s finest teachers, said “Imagination Becomes Reality”. How true. Another way to state this is, “What you think shall come to pass”.
Most instructors have a library of images to use to stimulate the mind into deeper concentration and a greater connection to chi and the awareness of how to focus chi for health, happiness, and life fulfillment.
But what can a student do if they don’t have access to working in person with a Master? When I was learning, there was no other way outside of learning directly. Nowadays, there are books, video, and certainly the internet. There is so much out there, and most are more specific to one form or another to be almost useless, but a few stand out.
Most Tai Chi books aren’t worth owning – just a quick look through and on the shelf it sits. When I had the Studio, I had quite a library of Tai Chi and related books for students to borrow and read. When I sold the Studio building, I gave away most of the books, keeping only a few that I felt were worth owning and ones that I would use as reference through the years.
One of my favorites is entitled “ A Tai Chi Imagery Workbook”, by Martin Melish. It is a wonderful collection of ideas and images to help students and teachers enjoy their practice even more. I met Martin through Madame Gao Fu, whom Martin helped get established in Seattle, which many, including myself, will be forever grateful to him for. One of the greatest Tai Chi instructors ever!
In any case, I haven’t looked through this book for a while, and when I picked it up yesterday, I was immediately engrossed in the way the book is laid out, with very clear illustrations and pictures. The book doesn’t attempt to teach a form, only to turn people onto how to use the mind and intention to move ever deeper into whatever movements they do.
The book was published in 2011 and is still available around. I checked on Amazon and it is there. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. I’m sure you will find lots to stimulate the desire to deepen your practice.