Category Archives: Thoughts

How to run your Taijiquan form: 25+ inspiring ideas

It’s just like this: when you practice Taijiquan, you just have to run the Taijiquan form. You just do it a lot. Like daily. No matter which form or which style you prefer, you have to do the form.

Of course you can have a closer look at the Taijiquan moves, do push hands, Qi Gong, and meditation. But basically it’s just

Practice Taijiquan = Run the Taijiquan form

And honestly: sometimes that is just a bit boring! I practice only one form. It is a long form, but it still is only one form. So I repeat it, repeat, rerun, retry, and repeat once more day in day out.

Because I plan to do this till the end of my life, I need to make the form interesting. Usually I try to practice whatever we talked about in the last lesson, just to understand it in more depth.

And I started looking for a “theme” or motto! So I start the form and focus on one aspect specifically. Like my feet or Yin & Yang.

Over the years I’ve collected a long list of ideas how I can run my form. So it remains interesting and I can discover new aspects. And obviously I’d like to share this list with you:

25+ inspiring ideas how to run your Taijiquan form

  • Do it soft & flowing (quite slowly)
  • Run the form like a drifting cloud
  • Keep the moves and transitions really smooth as if you pull a silk thread out of the cocoon
  • Bring to mind you are made of water (which you are to 70%!) and pour yourself into the form
  • Imagine you move through water
  • Imagine you move through honey
  • Listen to music while you run the Taijiquan form (I once went to a class where everyone brought their own preferred music. We practiced to Techno, Rock, Pop etc.) Tip: the piece of music should be at least 5 minutes long!
  • Concentrate on Yin- & Yang-phases and aspects
  • Concentrate on your center (Dantien)
  • Focus on one specific part of your body, e.g. feet, hips, relaxed shoulders, open neck, hands
  • Discover the different Qi Gong stances during the form (especially arms & hands)
  • Feel how you are positioned between heaven and earth (you could concentrate specifically on acupuncture points Kidney 1 and Baihui)
  • Put a small (rice) pillow on your head – how do your moves and postures change?
  • Look closely: focus on the direction of your head and the eyes
  • Roll off your feet ultra consciously
  • Practice barefoot, with socks, in Taijiquan shoes or with sneakers and notice the differences
  • Run much faster than usually (I do this to find my unconfident postures and transitions)
  • Run much slower than usually
  • Hold each position for 3 breaths before you continue
  • As Taijiquan is a martial art, think about what your “opponent” is doing
  • Run the form with strangers: instead of only practicing alone or with your familiar class, visit other classes, try another school, or go to World Tai Chi Day
  • Go to different places: you can practice basically anywhere, why stick to the school or your living room?
  • Practice inverted: If you usually open to the right, open to the left and train the other side
  • Move only the legs (let your hands hang down or put them on your center)
  • Sit down and do only the arm moves
  • You can run the Taijiquan form in your head! Sit down, close your eyes and practice in your head only

These are a lot of ideas and inspirations to spice up your practice. If you need even more, you could also use quotes. I collected a lot of Laozi quotes. Just choose one, contemplate on it and try to put that thought or insight into your Taijiquan form.

Or you can have a look at the many principles of Taijiquan (e.g. here) and use them for your practice.

And if you know any other way to run the Taijiquan form, please share it in the comments. I would be more than happy to try it!

Happy Qi!

Angelika

 

Taijiquan levels: which skills you should have after x years

In Taijiquan, there is a lot of talk about “levels”.  There are no belts like in Karate or other martial arts, so it is really hard to tell how good someone is.

So you might hear things like “after 1 year you should already have these kinds of capabilities” or “after 10 years you surely understand this aspect” or “after 20 years you are likely at this level”.

And what if you haven’t reached those skills and Taijiquan levels yet? “Oh, obviously you simply did not practice right during the last years”.

That’s all BS.

I realized that when I had a look at my children. My son is now 5 years old and well – in some areas he is “behind” others boys at that age. But guess what: there is NOTHING he or I or anyone else in the world can do about it. He is just on his own path.

And I think almost everyone with kids understands that.

But why do so many think, that as an adult we should all develop at the same tempo. Or at least have reached the same level of capabilities after 5, 10, 20 years of practicing Taijiquan?

Besides the thing that we all develop at different pace (like I explained with my son), there are so many other reasons why we evolute differently.

Some Taijiquan people come from years of practicing Karate, others from years of Ballet, others from years of not moving at all.

Some Taijiquan people come with pain, others are considered “healthy”.

Some start in their 20s, some in their 40s, some in their 60s, …

Some practice 8 hours per day, others practice 1 hour per week.

Some love Push Hands, others just not so much.

I am sure there are gazillions more aspects in which we are unique.

So I really urge you: NEVER JUDGE SOMEONE ELSE BASED ON HOW LONG THEY HAVE PRACTICED TAIJIQUAN.

Don’t be impressed by someone who is practicing Taijiquan for 10,15,20,30 years already. And don’t look down at someone who just started last month. We all move on our own rate. We even enjoy the slow movements of Taijiquan, why not enjoy a slow evolution in our skills! Consider it as just another lesson in patience.

“Patience and Tai Chi. If you persevere in practicing the principles, achievement will come. You can’t force it; you can’t make it happen. “Gradually, gradually”. You must be patient.”

(Cheng Manqing in “There are no secrets”p. 8)

You learn at your own pace. Just continue practicing and over time you will feel the change. There are no Taijiquan levels you must reach at any time. While you are on your way, on your own very personal path: NEVER COMPARE YOURSELF TO SOMEONE ELSE.

Fully enjoy your own Taijiquan evolution.

Happy Qi!

Angelika

 

Just in case you want to read more about Taijiquan levels, I recommend this – beware there are a lot of very mathematical calculations, graphs etc! How to calculate your Tai Chi skill level

 

Are you a Taijiquan Form Collector or a Form Deepener?

I once heard about someone who knew dozens of Taijiquan forms. So he developed a mathematic program to decide on which day to practice which form. I would call him a Taijiquan Form Collector – someone who just learns all kinds of forms and then continues to practice them.

I have to admit: I am not a Form Collector. I am what you could consider the complete opposite: a Form Deepener. I actually learnt 2 different forms (long Yang form and 24 form), but I only practice the long Yang form. If I where better at maths I would rather write a program about when to intensify which move! I mean, who else thinks & writes about four ways to build the Beak Hand : Hello, I am Angelika and I am a detail freak.

I think most of the Taijiquan people fall more or less into one of these categories:

Taijiquan Form Collector vs. Taijiquan Form Deepener

Obviously, a Form Collector spending a lot of time on his art can dig deep in his forms. Just as a Form Deepener can learn more than one form. Though you might want to wait a bit before you learn too many forms:

“… consists of those who are eager for immediate results and careless of detail. Before a year is out they have already finished their study of the hand, two-edged sword, broadsword and spear forms. Although they are able to imitate the outer aspects of the form, in reality they are ignorant of its inner aspects.”
(Yang Family Secret Transmissions p.4)

And to make it clear: I don’t say that one type is better than the other. I just want to emphasize that you need time to learn forms.

To me it was really helpful to understand that for me to be satisfied in my practice, I don’t need to learn a new form every year. I stick to my form. Forever. And though I go to different workshops, maybe even learn other forms, I always return to “my” form. It even overwhelms me that I now do a Taiji fan form, too. That is already almost too much for me to digest.

And though I know there are so many more weapons in Taijiquan, I am not sure if I want to get deeper into them. I know that if I focus on just the long Yang form and the Taiji fan, I will get much further than if I hop around.

But that’s just me. I want to encourage you to think about, which type you are. Because the people around you might be very different from you!

Just imagine that your teacher is a Taijiquan Form Collector. Every season he comes up with a new (short) form you should learn. Or I once went to a teacher where after you learned one form (in a couple of months), the class would continue with the next form.

From my personal experience I tell you: if you are a Form Deepener, you will not be very happy with a Form Collector-type teacher!

Or if you are a Form Collector and your teacher is a Form Deepener – he/she might dwell endlessly (= weeks) on one particular move. But you just want to move on. Not a perfect match, either.

I also remember that moment when I went to a “correction” class – I was told before that we could go deeper into the moves. I thought – wow, just the right thing for me – and started asking detailed questions e.g. where that fist points at. I was then told that I should not be too ambitious. Well, that’s just how I roll, I am a detail freak.

Obviously, that person who said that isn’t like me. Maybe he is a terrific Taijiquan Form Collector, I don’t know him well enough to say. I still like to go to that class and learn a lot when I’m there. But I hope that one day I will find another freakin’ Form Deepener like me! (Actually I bet my very first Taijiquan teacher was a Form Deepener just like me – oh how I miss her!)

And of course I want to know: what type are you? Do you love learning new fantasic forms? Or do you love getting into every freakin’ detail?