Tai Chi has been unbelievably dumbed down over the years, which means that whatever reason you’re learning for – you won’t get the full benefit. It’s not about ‘health’ and ‘martial’ or whatever ‘style’ or form you do, there is only one Tai Chi and there’s a huge benefit from studying the full system.
The neigong is the pre-requisite ‘inner work’. Postural alignment, balance, left and right and upper and lower body harmonies coupled with a sensitivity to yin and yang, deep breathing and the development of mental awareness, focus, sensitivity and intensity will engender a good baseline, vigorous health and emotional intelligence.
Martial qigong takes the body through it’s full range of movement diagnosing and remedying stiffness and potential physical problems before they become crippling. It also trains the lines of excitement and power sources that are essential to encourage good vigour and power the techniques.
The 108 form is practised utilising these base layers ‘monk style’ to eliminate any excess tension both physically and mentally to learn mindfulness, grace and mobility in all directions. You need 20 mins for the magic to work and short forms are really the domain of the impatient.
The Long Boxing can then layer in the fajin and martial aspects and applications without sacrificing the previous layers. The fajin is also another layer of health projecting the ‘chi’ or life force around the body and repelling another without loss to the practitioner.
The broadsword layers in brain mapping a weapon, learning the specific weaponry skills strengthening the body whilst enhancing the smoothness of movement with another level of footwork.
The double edge sword reflects the soul of Chinese culture with the cultural poetry of the names describing the skill of the movements and the lightness and ’emptiness’ of the movement being taken to another level where the sword appears to magically ‘float’ and the body of the practitioner enhances it. All of these weapon skills backtrack to enhance all of the other forms and training.
The spear projects all of these skills to 6 feet outside of the body and is the highest level of sensitivity.
The push hands drills run alongside the forms and teach the practitioner how to relate to others. How to employ the strategies outlined in all of the other training in a spontaneous fashion. Life (and combat) are spontaneous, so the practitioner has to be respond intuitively in the moment. The level of sensitivity to be able to ‘hide your bones’ and detect and brain map those of your opponent gives you a sublime level of skill outside of the perception of most people.
You cannot learn these skills without putting in the ‘kung fu’ (time and effort) with a proper teacher and there is no short cuts – BUT – every day of fruitful practice means you are better than you were the day before.
If you want to learn Tai Chi, learn the whole system from a good source.