This blog post was originally published as a podcast in June 2009. I’m slowly transcribing all of my podcasts, to share them with my readers who either cannot play podcasts on their computer, or who simply prefer reading instead of listening.

On a Tuesday night, I teach an Improvers’ class. This class is for people who have completed the Beginners’ course and can play the short form all the way through from start to end, either under instruction or, as time goes on, without instruction. The syllabus for the Improvers’ class is to look at the ten underlying principles that shape the way the form is meant to be played, and we use the form as a teaching tool for that. The idea is that every week we look at one principle in isolation, we study it, and we understand what is going on and a bit of why, and hopefully a little bit of how.

That’s what we’ve been doing tonight.

One of the interesting things that came out of tonight’s class was how difficult it was to look at one principle in isolation. The conversation constantly kept coming back to how the principles interlock, how they support each other and how one principle is possible by the application of another principle.

There’s an interesting point in this about how T’ai Chi starts of as very daunting and learning the form movements and moving around … these are movements that we don’t do in normal daily life, or at least we don’t feel that we do. In time we get the hang of that and we start to feel a bit more comfortable. And then we’ve got the principles which turn everything on its head again. For a while everything seems to be getting more and more complicated, there seems to be more and more involved.

Eventually what happens is that you reach a point where you start to internalise these things, and you move from thinking about them to simply feeling them. It is part of what makes T’ai Chi an internal martial art, I would argue, although that’s perhaps a larger topic for another discussion. Part of the key for this is that ultimately there is just T’ai Chi, and all these other things, they just blend and they all merge and they become as one.

And that is our half-way goal.

That’s what we’re aiming to get to. Once we’ve got to there, we can start thinking about how to use T’ai Chi once you can do it.