Tai Chi Chuan has gained a lot of popularity in the past decade or two, due to its supposed health benefits. Instructors talk of low impact exercise, improved strength, agility and overall health; and many people do get some benefit from their practice….even though they’re doing it wrong. The thing is, if you are going from doing nothing to doing some exercise, no matter what it is, you will have better health. And that is the case with most Tai Chi Chuan practitioners. They don’t seem to be interested in actually learning the art, but rather heard that it’s great for what ails them and because of its slow, flowing movements they assume it’s easy. And again, they’re wrong. Tai Chi Chuan is not some simple exercise that you can pick up in a weekend seminar. It takes years of dedicated practice, just like any other form of art.
The only way to get the true health (mind/body) benefits of Tai Chi Chuan is to practice it as it was originally intended. As a martial art. Now, I’m not saying that you have to start sparring and hitting the heavy bag (although it’s a good idea), but at the very least you need to do push hands; and you ABSOLUTELY need to understand the application of the technique and be able to apply it with some force. Just think, if Tai Chi is based on the concept of Yin and Yang (harmony of opposites), how can you practice slowly without practicing fast? How can know softness without knowing (strength) hardness? But again, the biggest issue that I see with the practice of Tai Chi Chuan, is that people have no idea of the purpose of the movements. How do you keep proper structure and technique, if you don’t understand the movement? What about the concept of the yi (mind) leading the chi? This can’t be done if you don’t understand the technique. People end up moving in improper ways, they overextend their limbs, their breath is not in harmony with the movement….basically they are not doing Tai Chi, but are simply moving their body around randomly without any mind body awareness.
So what to do…? It’s simple. If you really want to gain the benefits of Tai Chi Chuan, look for an instructor that understands the martial application of the techniques, that can apply them with power and that also has a good working knowledge of push hands. Otherwise you are not doing Tai Chi and might as well wave your hands around in the comfort of your own home.
Thanks for reading.
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