Tai Chi Challenge #4 - How do we train
Last week we asked the question, ‘why do we train?’ This week we’re going to look at how we train, and a little challenge off the back of that. Tai Chi has terms like movement in stillness and effortless power. Such terms suggest minimal activity outwardly but much within. Seemingly little effort producing a bafflingly large result. Amongst other things, these effects speak of efficiency, maximising the efficiency of our actions, of our efforts. Master Ding has often described learning tai chi as building a bucket. A bucket is a tool used to take water from the well to the trough. However, if my bucket is full of holes, much water is lost. Many trips are taken to produce a useful result. But, if I invest my time in fixing the holes, I will spend much less time and effort in carrying water today, and tomorrow, and for as long as I keep the bucket maintained. A small refocusing of effort at the beginning results in a higher level of efficiency every day. Our tai chi training is the same. Our form is the bucket, it’s a tool we’ve built to perform a task. The question is, how efficient is our use of that tool? How much benefit do I reap each time I use it? If I can maximise the efficiency of the tool, I need much less effort to achieve the same result, or, more interestingly, I can put in the same effort, and reap much more result! Now that sounds worthy of pursuit. So we must split our efforts, time must be put into fixing the tool, making it work better. And time must be put into using the tool to reap the benefit. This weeks challenge: Practice your form, or as much as you know, in it’s entirety, as well as you can. While practicing, take mental note of one aspect that causes issue. It might be balance during kicks or smoothness while stepping. Whatever the point is. Remember it. Once the form is completed, take that one movement and practice it, as well as you can, at least ten times in a row. Pay particular attention to the issue at hand. Try small adjustments to your movements/postures/balance to see what effect it has on the problem. Now is the time to take the movement apart, scrutinise it and see if you can improve it. Once completed, reassemble and reinsert into the form. Lastly, go through the form once more, letting go of any expectation of improvement. Just let it be as good as it can be. Any improvements will apply across the entirety of our practice. Like seasoning food, a little bit, well mixed, changes everything in the dish. Practicing in these two ways allows us to reap the reward of our practice, while simultaneously pushing its quality ever forwards. Increasing its efficiency and effectiveness. Go!
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