How to Improve Our Tai Chi?


Caroline Demoise
Seeking for excellence is the root of human progression, many tai chi enthusiasts would do anything to improve our tai chi. Caroline gave an excellent talk on this topic in Monterey Tai Chi workshop June 2004

How to Improve Our Tai Chi?

Caroline's class of discovering the depth of Sun style tai chi in Monterey June 2004How to improve our Tai Chi? That’s why we all came to Dr. Lam’s workshop in Asilomar, that DESIRE to improve our Tai Chi. Having good instruction is essential to Tai Chi development, however, the biggest ingredient in improvement is YOU and your practice. Practicing with precision, with patience, with perseverance, and with passion, having made Tai Chi a priority in your life is a good way to begin improving our Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is a journey inward. It is your journey and yours alone. When I think about Tai Chi, it feels like a process of transformation.
On the physical level:
– the transformation from stiffness to flexibility; from deconditioning to fitness
– the transformation from poorer health to better health
– the transformation from disconnected body movements to coordinated, fluid, full body movements
On the mental level:
– the transformation from mindless movement to intention directing the movements.
– the transformation from a noisy, cluttered mind to a quiet, calm, still, focused mind.
On the spiritual level:
– the transformation from an ego/judgment based reality to a reality of clarity, awareness and compassion.
– the transformation from unconscious movement to being PRESENT in the body, fully aware of how it feels when we move.

So how do we improve our Tai Chi? What do we bring to our daily practice that facilitates this transformation? Using the guidance of teachers on how to perform the physical movements, the external part of Tai Chi, we must bring a focus on the Internal.
Focus is a very important word in improving our Tai Chi. We must bring our focus inward. Our internal development comes after we learn the shape and sequence of movements and feel very familiar and comfortable with the form we are learning.
– Focus on breathing – a relaxed, deep abdominal breathing.
– Focus on the mind – using intention to direct the movements.
– Focus on being present in our bodies – to feel the movements from the inside out,
feeling the movements with our bodies (not just awareness of them with our mind)
– Awareness of our orientation in space as we move. Feeling the proper alignment in
the body during each movement.
– Consciously aware of the heel touching down, weightless at first, then the
transference of energy and weight as we complete the movement.
– Noticing the relaxation of each muscle in the body and the expansion and loosening
of joints as we move.
– Developing the thread that connects each movement to the next.
– Becoming fluid during practice of the form.
– Feeling energy move in the body with each movement.
– Following the energy of the movements. Allowing the energy to move us, or carry
us into the next movement.
– Feeling grounded.
– Feeling connection with earth and heaven.
– Feeling the deep connection we have with nature and really feeling that oneness.

Under our teacher’s guidance, we teach ourselves Tai Chi. We follow and watch this process of transformation. Sometimes we even become impatient because the process takes so long and takes on a life of its own.

Our inward journey takes us to deeper and deeper levels of awareness of how our body moves, how our energy feels. Like peeling off the layers of the onion, this transformation takes us to never ending new levels of living deeper in our bodies, becoming more aware and present.

Developing the internal is your responsibility. It is the gift you are giving yourself through the study of Tai Chi. No one can do it for you. A teacher can show you the movements and provide feedback on your process of learning. A teacher can give you technical corrections, guidance on the internal components of Tai Chi and see the results of your practice, but you are the one who must have the desire to pursue the internal. You are the one who must have the desire to improve your Tai Chi.

So, how can we improve our Tai Chi?
1. Find a teacher you resonate with and train with him or her.
2. Teach Tai Chi to other people. I have learned so much more about Tai Chi during the time I spend contemplating how to explain it, how to facilitate another’s progress, how to coach and how to inspire a class. Teaching is a fast track for our own progress.
3. Practice, practice, practice with patience, perseverance, passion and precision having identified Tai Chi as a priority in your life. And practice with beginner’s mind. When we think we know it, there is no room for new awareness.
4. Look beyond the external form.
5. Develop the inner qualities of stillness, awareness, non judgment, acceptance and courage.
6. Make abdominal breathing your normal breathing pattern.
7. Read, study, contemplate and follow Tai Chi principles.
8. Identify your Tai Chi goals, because “energy follows intention” When your goals are specific, you are more likely to achieve them than when they are vague or unclear. Taking the time to write down how you want to improve your Tai Chi helps to clarify goals and make them specific.
9. And, of course, most importantly, have fun.