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Speaking Tree

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T'ai Chi for Energy is Absolutely Seamless

16th April, 2009

In T'ai Chi, after the basic rudiments have been polished, the student is encouraged to learn the 'form'. Form training highlights the essence of T'ai Chi and best exemplifies its meaning. It is a broad teaching that contains the accumulated wisdom of ancient China with regard to the principles of action and internal energy development. It involves a series of movements which are performed seamlessly as though no part of the body is cut off from the mind or from other parts of the body.

There are short forms, there are long forms. Generally speaking, the longer a form, the deeper it impacts your body and the greater the resources it demands. Most beginners are better off learning the short form first.

The short form has the advantage that it requires less commitment in terms of time, devotion, learning and practice. Yet, it provides a good dose of most of the essential benefits that T'ai Chi has to offer, albeit to a lesser degree as compared to the long form. Since there are fewer movements to memorise in the short form, the student can spend a greater proportion of time on gaining a clear understanding of its unique concepts, principles and applications. To get the most out of your practice, repeat the short form several times in continuous succession without taking a break, each time moving more and more slowly and softly. The short form is ideal for seniors and people recuperating from any injuries or suffering from any chronic health problems.

Long forms provide the full spectrum of benefits that the art is renowned for, increasing the chi flow throughout at regular intervals. By stretching more specific soft-tendons, ligaments and fasciae, the movements of the long form work deeper in your body. Because it incorporates more number of movements and postures, the volume of energy that accrues per minute is bigger.

Long forms require painstaking practice and diligence which makes them difficult for the beginner who may not have the requisite physical coordination, skill or patience. To learn the long form, the first thing to do is to challenge and develop visualisation power or go through the movements mentally, immediately after the class is over.

Learning any T'ai Chi form, short or long, involves good knowledge of its unique concepts, principles and basic constructs. Learn to do the form at a slow speed, so that you can keep a watchful eye on your alignment, synchronisation, continuity, balance and also distinguish between yin and yang aspects.

A wide variety of different health benefits ensue from practising the form with different speeds. One way of doing the form is what is called quasi-static. Quasi means 'almost' and static means 'still', which means, you perform the form so slowly that there is as little noticeable movement as possible. This is very effective for being able to encompass the continuity and shape of the movements, thereby enhancing your ability to experience chi.

Once you attain proficiency in doing the movements slowly, you can begin to infuse more speed into your movements with your awareness deeply rooted in the principles. However, the speed during a given round must remain consistent, though, without interfering with the natural ebb and flow of each move. You will be amazed at your ability, enhanced by first practicing slowly and softly, to move exceptionally fast with seemingly little effort.