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Master Wang Xian’s Tai Chi Quan Q&A. – 3

What should I pay attention to when practicing Tai Chi if I have practiced other styles of martial arts before?

First, you need to identify the differences between Tai Chi and the martial arts styles you previously practiced. It is crucial to understand these differences before practicing Tai Chi to avoid unconsciously incorporating the feelings and habits from your previous styles into Tai Chi. Once you have identified the differences, especially the main ones, you can consciously avoid mixing them. For a considerable period of time when starting to learn Tai Chi, it is recommended not to simultaneously practice the styles you previously learned. Otherwise, you may unintentionally bring elements of your previous styles into Tai Chi. In Chinese martial arts, the distinction in “jin” (power, force) between different styles is a significant dividing line, so it is particularly important to focus on developing the correct Tai Chi jin. It may be easier to differentiate the external form of the routines, but understanding the correct jin is key, and once that is clear, other aspects become easier to manage.

What is the relationship between Simplified Tai Chi and Traditional Tai Chi?

Simplified Tai Chi was developed to facilitate its promotion and make it more accessible for a larger number of people to learn. It is a modification of Traditional Tai Chi rather than a separate entity. Therefore, the essence of Traditional Tai Chi must not be lost. While the forms are simplified, the principles should not be simplified. The number of movements can be reduced, but the internal structure of each movement should not be compromised, and integrity must be maintained. The difference between Simplified Tai Chi and Traditional Tai Chi lies mainly in quantity, not quality, so one should not cut corners while practicing. Nowadays, many Tai Chi styles have developed simplified routines to adapt to the needs of society, with the most famous and successful being the “24-Form Simplified Tai Chi.”

Is it necessary to have an aesthetically pleasing posture when practicing Tai Chi for fitness?

The beauty of Tai Chi comes from multiple perspectives, including spiritual beauty, form beauty, rhythmic beauty, and a special artistic beauty. If you follow the principles and practice Tai Chi correctly, it will naturally be beautiful, and there is no need to deliberately seek aesthetic perfection in posture. Each art form expresses beauty differently, so if you modify Tai Chi movements to pursue the beauty of dance, it would be inappropriate. Therefore, it is only necessary to practice according to the principles of Tai Chi for fitness, and the postures will naturally be aesthetically pleasing. However, after becoming proficient, it is possible to consciously incorporate expressive elements, especially during demonstrations and performances.

Is it normal to feel somewhat fatigued after practicing Tai Chi?

Although Tai Chi is “soft,” it is not weak or lethargic. While the practice is slow, the spirit should be full. After completing a practice session, there may be some physical exertion, but the mind and energy should feel refreshed. If you feel fatigued after practice, it is important to determine whether it is due to normal physical exertion or mental fatigue. If it is due to physical exertion, it is normal, and resting for a period of time will naturally alleviate it, and your physical stamina should improve over time. However, if it is mental fatigue, something might be amiss, and you should investigate the underlying reasons. Even in the case of physical fatigue, if it occurs regularly, it is not normal and requires attention.

How to practice Tai Chi routines well?

What defines practicing Tai Chi routines well depends on different requirements and standards. For fitness purposes, first, accuracy is important, and the movements should adhere to the specifications as much as possible. Second, the movements should be smooth, without jerky transitions. They should flow like clouds and water. Third, there should be a sense of charm and the distinctive flavor of Tai Chi, exhibiting the integration of softness and firmness, and the interplay of emptiness and fullness. If you achieve these points, you have essentially met the requirements. To practice routines well, there are several experiences to draw upon. First, memorize the principles thoroughly and become skillful through repeated practice. Second, carefully observe, whether it’s watching videos or observing demonstrations by instructors, and contemplate deeply. Third, practice repeatedly, but not haphazardly. It’s better to practice three times with complete focus than to mindlessly practice ten times. Fourth, engage in exchanges. Observe fellow practitioners and identify their mistakes. Consider how to avoid those mistakes and ask for feedback on your own practice. By using others as a mirror, you not only improve faster but also enhance communication and add enjoyment.

How should we understand the “Tai Chi Quan Treatise”?

The “Tai Chi Boxing Treatise” by Wang Zongyue is one of the most important documents on Tai Chi and should be read by practitioners. However, each person’s understanding and comprehension may vary at different stages. To understand the treatise, it should be seen as a general principle of Tai Chi rather than being overly specific to corresponding technical aspects. It outlines the essence of Tai Chi as a whole. Some people analyze each movement in correspondence with the treatise, which can easily lead to limitations. The “Tai Chi Boxing Treatise” can be applied to the essentials of each movement throughout, providing a foundation, but it is not specifically targeted at each individual movement. Therefore, understanding the treatise should start from a macro perspective to gain a more comprehensive and extensive understanding.

Is it better to have a higher or lower stance when practicing Tai Chi forms?

The height of the stance should be adjusted according to individual needs. Older individuals or those with weaker physical conditions can have a slightly higher stance. Younger individuals or those with better physical strength can have a lower stance. A lower stance will involve greater physical movement. Additionally, it depends on the specific Tai Chi form. Some Tai Chi forms have specific requirements regarding stance height, while others may require a lower stance to meet the requirements.

What are the “Ten Essentials” of Tai Chi?

The “Ten Essentials” of Tai Chi were proposed by renowned Tai Chi master Yang Chengfu. They summarize the ten basic requirements of Tai Chi and provide explanations. They serve as important guiding principles for practicing Tai Chi, especially the Yang-style Tai Chi. The Ten Essentials are: emptying and raising the crown, sinking the chest and raising the back, loosening the waist, distinguishing between empty and full, sinking the shoulders and dropping the elbows, using intention rather than force, coordinating upper and lower body, integrating internal and external, maintaining continuity without interruption, and seeking stillness within movement.

Is it better to sweat or not when practicing Tai Chi?

Sweating should not be used as a measure of the effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise. Whether or not you sweat during Tai Chi practice depends on factors such as the duration of your practice, the height of your stance, and the rhythm of your practice. Generally, heavy sweating is not advocated during Tai Chi practice. If you follow the correct principles, you should experience a slight warmth in your body and a sense of openness after practice.

What is the effect of competitive Tai Chi forms on fitness? How does it differ from traditional Tai Chi?

When people refer to “competitive Tai Chi forms,” they are usually referring to the Tai Chi competition routines designated by the national sports authorities. They also have fitness effects and should not be seen as separate from traditional Tai Chi. The development of competitive Tai Chi forms was designed to meet the needs of modern sports competitions and to standardize the routines. It adopts certain forms while still being rooted in traditional Tai Chi. Many traditional Tai Chi masters were invited to participate in the creation of these routines. The essential and representative movements from traditional Tai Chi were incorporated into the competitive routines, maintaining consistency in theory and principles. The only difference lies in the difficulty of the movements. Traditional Tai Chi forms usually consist of more than eighty movements, while competitive Tai Chi forms have been simplified. They are categorized into different styles such as Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao), and Sun. Therefore, even if Tai Chi enthusiasts do not participate in competitions, they may still enjoy practicing the competitive routines for their convenience and the equally beneficial fitness effects they provide.

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