One of the main reasons for practicing the Tai Chi Hand Form slowly, avoiding the application of brute force, is that we can harmonise our thoughts and actions by moving in a smooth and relaxed manner.
The Taoists said ‘seek tranquillity in motion’. This means that the slowness of our physical movements when practicing Tai Chi Chuan results in peace of mind which enables us to concentrate on performing the exercise to the exclusion of outside distractions. Soft slow practice reduces tension and increases concentration. Thus, over a period of time our physical and mental health will improve.
If we are suddenly attacked, we must be able to react swiftly to prevent our opponent completing his assault. This ability to react swiftly depends upon our body remaining relaxed in such a situation. By constant, soft, slow practice we can make our muscles and tendons relaxed. This will allow our joints to rotate smoothly, making us swift and agile in defence and counterattack.
Lao Tzu said ‘The unbending breaks, the yielding survives’. Our softness allows us to yield before even the strongest attack. But just as bamboo which has bent before the wind swings back when the wind has ceased, so too our defence must change to attack at the right moment.
There is no set length of time for practicing the Hand Form from beginning to end. The young tend to exercise a little faster than the old, but fifteen minutes is about right.