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.

After having no class on Thursday and on Saturday, it was really nice to get back to teaching tonight. I’m really going to miss teaching every week over the summer. One of the reasons I’m going to miss it is I find that working in a group (even though I’ve got a decade now of T’ai Chi, and the students I’m teaching are just completing the end of their third year of T’ai Chi) is that the group discussion can still help me find and understand points that had passed me by beforehand.

An important one came up tonight that I want to share with everybody.

We were talking about daily practice and how people were getting on with that and how the people in my Beginners’ group [my Thursday night class – Ed] were getting on with that. A couple of the ladies tonight mentioned that when they practice, they sometimes forget to do certain sections, but that it’s a different section each time. The point I wanted to emphasis to them, and what I want to share with everybody else, is the difference between what my Improvers are experiencing when they miss out pieces of the form from time to time compared to my Beginners, who find that they hit a wall and stop.

With the Beginners, they practice the form until they get to a point where they don’t know what to do, and they get stuck. They get stuck because they don’t know that part of the form, and they stop. They are unable to continue and unable to complete the form because they don’t know it well enough to play it on their own yet. The difference with the Improvers is they do know the form the whole way through, and on any given day they’re able to play so much of it, but they miss bits out. Not because they don’t know the form, or they don’t know the sequence of the form or the individual moves, but they miss bits out because they’re now working at the next level, which is their attention and their mindfulness, and they miss bits out because their concentration isn’t yet at the level where they can practice for 15 to 20 minutes and keep the form in mind the whole time.

And that is an important difference: they know the form, and are now working on the next level, which is their mindfulness and being there for the whole time they are playing the form.

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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.

Tonight, for some of my students, it was the end of their second year with me, and their third year overall playing T’ai Chi. One of the things we concentrated on tonight was the difference between when they started and where they are now. One of the points that was made, which I thought was very valid, was that it is the regular practice – playing T’ai Chi regularly – that makes the difference in how you feel. You feel completely different after a while. As you progress, you feel different again, and the feeling keeps changing and it keeps improving.

The reason it gets even better is that it is the practice of the form, and the application of the principles to the form that ultimately change you on the inside, both mentally and physically.

On the website, we’ve got a lot of studies listed, including medical studies of how practicing T’ai Chi improves various aspects of people’s health. You don’t have to take my word for it [in fact, you never should have to – everything any T’ai Chi teacher tells you should be verifiable and backed up by evidence – Ed] you can go and see what medical studies – proper research – has been finding out.

Those things aside, I always come back to the point that T’ai Chi is not a mechanical skill that you learn. It is not a tool that you pick up and use for a certain purpose and then put back. T’ai Chi is something that you make part of you – it becomes part of you, and you become part of it. It is a symbiotic relationship, and those people who come to class learning the form to keep themselves happy, and who don’t practice during the week (they only play the form in the class) and then drop it for whatever reason – they’ve completely missed out on what T’ai Chi has to offer them for the rest of their lives.

If you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re thinking that you don’t know when you’re going to practice between classes, I imagine that your teacher would be like my teacher, and like me, imploring you to practice this every day, twice a day if you can, rain or shine. No matter how you feel, do what you can every day, and the benefits mentally and physically will soon add up.

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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.

In the second year of the syllabus, it’s all about using the form to explore ten principles, which are based on Yang Cheng’fu’s ten important points, which is something you can go back in the old books and you can find those in there for yourself; you can look at them, and you can see what they said about them back then, and what we say about them now.

We’ve just done week 28 out of 30 for the second year, and as part of that tonight we looked at two principles, because we’ve been spending the last ten weeks of the third term doing a whistle-stop tour, a review of all ten principles just to make sure that people have a good idea of what they are trying to achieve with them, and because people go away on holiday etc and have had to double up tonight [I obviously meant catch up – Ed].

I had one of those “doh!” forehead-slapping moments as part of that tonight because, although it is blatantly obvious, I only just realised tonight that of course the principles go together, just like yin and yang. [Mrs H at this point helpfully pointed out that forehead-slapping is surely the sound of one hand clapping – Ed]. I’d never noticed that before; it’s so obvious, and I’m feeling very foolish about it. [It is good to admit these things, for one day we all forget what it was like when we were at the beginning of our journey … and that is when we lose our way – Ed].

The principles we looked at tonight were Continuous Movement and Stillness In Motion, two principles that absolutely complement each other. You can take any move of the form, and you’ve got Continuous Movement firing off, and it is being supported at all times by its exact opposite, which is a lack of movement – Stillness In Motion.

To explore Stillness In Motion a little bit more, what we were looking at tonight was the difference between stillness and Stillness In Motion. Stillness is where you stick, where you stop and you feel that you have stopped. Stillness In Motion, by contrast, is where you’ve become more efficient, and you’re still moving but you’re only moving that which needs to be moved.

So for me that was a very entertaining class tonight, and for me very educational, even though I’m the one teaching it, and I hope you find this point helpful too in your practice.

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