Friday, February 20, 2015

Important tips for taichi beginners

Tai Chi Chuan is, to Western eyes, an unusual way to exercise. It is not the usual sweaty workout expected in order to build muscle and lose weight.

The first and most common impression that young students have upon seeing this slow and almost-no-impact exercise is “this is for elders, not for me.”

Tai Chi is an ART; a slow cook, not a deep fry. It’s not fast food or a magic supplement. Young students often do not stay in class long enough to digest this art which can maintain the body for a lifetime.

If you are a student who has hesitated to try Tai Chi, or if you are ready to leave class after just one try or a look or two, we suggest that rather than just quitting, you try some of the following guidelines and go to your teacher for some advice and encouragement.

Tip: Watch for Details During Class

The biggest challenge for beginners is trying to quickly grasp each movement seen in class. That is a difficult challenge which can require great patience when progress seems so slow. The trick is to watch your instructor!

A good teacher will put together slow, segmented movements to let you see the details. Watch closely, and try to replay them in your mind after you have left class.
Here are the details you can watch for:
1. Step: Watch which foot holds the body’s weight. (The other foot should be weightless.) Notice how the body weight changes with a step forward or a step backward. Notice the direction the toes are facing and how that changes with each step. When the foot is lifted, notice if it turns with the ball or with the heel, and if it lands on the ball or the heel.
2. Body: Notice whether the body turns to the left or the right as it moves forward and backward.
3. Hands: Notice when the hands move from left to right or right to left, from up to down or down to up, from inside to outside or outside to inside. Notice which direction palms are facing.
4. Eyes: The eyes should not stare, but should gaze through the upper, moving hand most of the time.
5. Coordination: As you become more familiar with the movements of the step, body, hands, and eyes, look for how they coordinate with one another. For example, one hand will move forward and the other hand will move down.
Tip: Class Structure
Our classes are carefully designed to have:
Warm Up to limber up all joints.
Easy Energy Development to practice fixed step movements that extracted from the forms.
Single Movement Practice to learn details and develop expertise in a particular movement.
Form and/or Routine Practice to gain familiarity with an entire form.
Movements are carefully explained for your level, then reviewed again in the next session to make corrections and to allow you to catch up if you miss an occasional class.
Tip: Names of Movements
Click here to get the name list for the Yang style 24 form.
Ask your teacher for a list of names of the movements for any other forms you are studying.
Our Chinese ancestors created these names in order to help students memorize the “body vocabulary” of each movement. In the old days, Tai Chi Masters required students to sing aloud the name of each movement while practicing. If you will do the same, it will help you master the sequence of the form quicker until you can perform it on your own.
Each name actually describes a posture that connects two movements. Each posture is a slight pause. In Chinese, this is called Ding Shi, the Pause Posture. All names are vivid descriptions or analogies. “White Crane Spreads its Wings,” “Wave Hands like Clouds.”

Tip: Visit with Other Students
Always feel free to ask the students around you in the class for advice or explanations. They have also been beginners, and are always glad to help others. Discussions between students will always expose some interesting thoughts, insights, and questions.
Tip: Class is not Equal to Practice
Because a class has very limited time, a common problem for new students is lack of practice. Sadly, attendance at and learning in class is not enough of a commitment. Students should take what they can from class and repeat it at home on their own. To master even the rough appearance of a movement, the movement should be repeated at least 100 times a week.
Practice, practice, practice -- for yourself and for your teacher. Tai Chi teachers never want their students to say “I learned a new thing today, but I already forgot what I learned yesterday.”
Take notes if you can, very few students prepared to take notes!

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