View Full Version : How do you improve your Tai Chi?

10-20-2004, 11:46 PM
Paul has posted many threads on this topic and written a few articles like:"How to improve your Tai Chi?", What is internal?, Internal vs external etc.

I would like to re-start the topic, many members may have fresh thoughts and suggestions. I asked my teacher many, many times and his only answers was: by practicing your form correctly. But how? I can't take my teachers in my hand luggage, i see them each year in January in Sydney for a whole month and in July in Germany and Rogla, Slovenia.

However, I do recall my teachers telling me this: Apart from back straight, relax joints, eyes streight ahead, coordination, rooting, relax mind and all physical attributes just think of this:

every move has a function of developing qi and jin or a martial purpose. Being aware of the function will result in better determination(yi) and accuracy

forces in moves:
peng, lu ji, an, kao , lie, cai etc, work on these forces in familiar postures of Yang or Chen. Grasping sparrows tail is a great

Communication skills:
LIsten, try to understand, absorb/adhere and redirect adding your own force

Any other thoughts on internal, external and how to improve skills what has been taught by your teacher? Unfortunately there is NO possibilty to produce a video on this complex issue

10-21-2004, 01:36 AM
The class I attend has a book and a video which I find very usefull. They are there outside of class if I need to check a move or posture. My son also helps by sitting with the book and guiding me using the book.

There is lots of advice on these forums and a number of other web sites, so no lack of information there.

Also plenty of practice, which makes perfect.

10-21-2004, 07:16 AM
I also find it quite usefull to talk with other people and share experirnces. We each have different skills so find some moves and postures easier than others.

It is also a question of interpretation, we each see things and understand them differently, so by working together to attain a greater understanding, we will all ultimately improve our tai chi. Videos are a great help, especially for those unable to get to classes, but we also need to interact with other people too. As I said before, when I can't get to class my son will sit with the book and help as far as he can.

I thin the quote No Man (or woman) is an island applies here.

10-21-2004, 10:37 AM
My Tai Chi hasn't reached a very high level despite doing this, but I think it helps: I bought a cheap video recorder off the ebay to record myself practicing the forms (actually, my wife purchased it to help our children get feedback on their Irish dancing, but I've co-opted it).

This says little about internal, but at times I'm not as upright as I feel, or I forget things, or misplace hands, feet, etc. The recorder is a way to get quick feedback and can be a way of getting others to evaluate at least the externals when circumstances don't allow direct coaching. Bill

10-21-2004, 01:38 PM
as with most things but especially t'ai chi chuan hours put in is the only result producer.the form seems to have a built in mechanism that self corrects,to a degree,the practitioner;i've also found form correction with carefully select individuals helps deepen perspective and keeps you on the path to improvement;
viewed another way,one never really improves to any vast degree,giving you always something to work on;this can be a valued gift in and of itself;t'ai chi,"the gift that keeps on giving"
i'm living proof that a man can be an island if he chooses to be,though it always helps to have a small outboard to get you to the mainland for supplies!

Dr. Paul Lam
10-21-2004, 02:30 PM
i have asked this question in all my workshops, the most common answers are:

be open minded - learn from teacher, friends, students, books, videos, video camera, go to workshops
adhere to essential principles, try to understand them at different levels
use feedback to improve yourself
be happy with small improvements
to be a teacher and learn from teaching
use visualisation
use different method to learn

10-21-2004, 11:55 PM
My situation is slightly different... I mainly use a book and videos (dvds) to practice with and then go to a teacher once a week... I find that the basics of the form are fine learnt from a book but the subtleties are shown me by my Shifu's... I find that this with practice improves my taiji...

10-21-2004, 11:57 PM
By the way, i learnt a lot from other non-Tai Chi workshops and non-Tai Chi people such as chefs, walking leaders, story-tellers, dancers etc.....Last time i enjoyed conducting a workshop for a musical school. Being a participant yourself in a workshop is a great way too. I learnt much by being a participant in al literature workshop or a story-telling seminar, one of my other hobbies. The group was international and very, very refreshing. Also Rudolf Steiner international seminars, with emphasis on curative eurhythmy(the European form of Tai Chi) was inspiring

Marc Heyvaert
10-22-2004, 04:11 AM
If I may add my 0,02...

Over the years I taught in dance studios that had many mirrors and in community halls or sport centres that had non.

Mirrors are a great tool, but not if you use them constantly. You have constant feedback, but you can easily become obsessed by the external appearance of your form. The objective IMO is to learn to experience your form from the inside, without monitoring your outside image all the time. TJQ is an internal art after all...

When I train I use my reflection in a window, or my shadow to have some feedback with regard to my position. I have never used video, because the delay between recording en playback is to big. But my greatest help is getting away from the form. A lot of people tend to do the whole form in one go, repeating it several times, but always the whole form (well as soon as they 'know' it). Although this appoach will improve your TJQ, because you practice, progress may be slow. The trick is to train sections of the form, sometimes only one position, one transition and do it at various speeds, looking for the 'mechanics' of the movement, looking for the right 'internal structure', letting the movement or the position really sink in.

An example : stepping with one technique, say 'repulse monkey', do it 100 times, next do 100 times 'brush knee twist step', etc.

Another : Get into the preparatory stance for 'brush knee...", execute the movement, go right back to the preparatory stance, execute again, back and forth...after a while you will feel how your body 'eases' into the position. Let your teacher correct the movement if you continue to feel akwardness in the movement...

The last one : 'repulse monkey', start by doing it 20-30 times. Not too slowly. Do you feel the rythm? Opening and closing? Do you feel how pushing is made possible by the relaxing and purning (45°) degrees of your body? Do you feel the importance of sinking into the supporting (back) leg? Do you feel that it is as if you had a spring in the leg? Can you hold the position for a coiple of minutes? 2? 3? Does it ache? Why? How can you make the feeling of discomfort go away?

So what I'm trying to say is that for me looking for the 'internals' of a movement is a very important aspect of improving your overall TJQ-performance.



10-22-2004, 09:52 AM
I'd like to say to Bill T don't beat your self up for not getting it quite right. You know where you are not quite perfect, and you are trying to improve.

It was Soraya who said she didn't correct new students but gave reminders like keep a staright back etc. As long as we remember the basic principles and why we do tai chi we will improve.

These forums are all about helping each other, and often the most difficult thing can be the first posting or asking for help. I understand the principles better now and feel I am improving although I still have much to learn.

10-22-2004, 12:55 PM

Nobody is perfect and one improves constantly through practice. Be happy with small improvements, feel good about your form.One of our masters had a good beer the night before, as he tumbled forwards, the class had a good laugh including himself.....lol

10-22-2004, 07:47 PM
i guess we won't get to find out just which master that was,huh soraya?;(Chen Xiaowang? Ren Guanxi?);in Stuart Olson's book about TT Liang,he recounted an incident that took place when Stuart was a live in student of his;apparently he had finally gotten the old man out of the house to practice t'ai chi during the winter when unexpectedly the old master suddenly slipped on the ice and fell.Tsung Tsai Liang pleaded with Stuart not to tell his wife under any circumstances!
(i guess he was more concerned with losing face to his wife than any of his students)

10-25-2004, 07:38 PM
These are all as excellent as I have come to expect from this group...one thing I do when I find myself frustrated with practice is to re-read something in the Tai Chi classics and try to think about it aand apply it as I practice. These are, after all, consensus "classics" for a reason. Yesterday I tried to keep mindful of having my head "suspended as if from a wire" and by the end of practice felt lighter.

BTW, I have had a further small reduction in blood pressure medicine, and I tend to credit TCC...

Richard Livingston,MD

10-26-2004, 10:54 AM
Regarding improvement of Tai Chi form, I have
found self-videotaping and lots of mirror work
invaluable.Practice brush knee at the (pro-
truding) corner of a room. You can get your
spine right up to the corner and have your head touching too.Anchor that feeling. I've
also used a post for this. Try clipping small
( 1/2 kilo) weights to your sleeves at the el-
bows. I also made a harness so I can attach a
weight to the base of my spine (which I used
a few times with success). Even tho' I abhor
any martial application of Tai Chi, nevertheless
vividly imagining an "opponent" is vital to get
the "delivery" of the various moves. Cheng-
Man ching said to practice push-hands as if
there were NO one there, and to practice the
form as if there IS someone there. Doing Tai
Chi in a pool with neck-high water (heated)
will dramatically demonstrate the "swimming in
air" description of Tai Chi. Do Tai Chi in the
dark. Have soneone push you gently at var-
ious points in the form. Take the time to
develop Mencius' "flood-like ch'i before
beginning the form. This will integrate your
body in a unique way. CHEERS. Yinny.

10-26-2004, 09:53 PM

Good to hear from you, your input is quite unique. My teacher once said"if you do have an opponent, imagine you have none, if you don't have one, then imagine you do have one.

10-26-2004, 11:54 PM
Once my teacher asked us:" what do we think mentally when we exercute a punch application, maybe' i am going to hit that guy?'" Many answers came but then he said:"nope, just do the movement"