Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise beneficial to both body and mind. In order to get the best results from it, beginners should pay careful attention to every action and be patient when practicing. Before commencement, we should note the following points:
The physical performance: Before we start, we must relax and think of nothing else. Our movements should be slow, and natural breathing is essential. We must not be tense. If we can do this, every action will become easy and smooth, the waist will turn freely and we will gradually develop comfort and relaxation.
The spiritual aspect: Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise that produces harmony of body and mind. So we should not concentrate on physical strength, but our actions should be guided by thought. For example, if we want to lift up the hands, we must first have the necessary mental concentration. Only then can we raise the hands slowly in the proper manner. Our mental concentration should be continuous as should the movements. In other words, we should let our intellect guide our actions. This becomes a habit if we practice constantly. In so doing, our breathing will become deeper and our body will be strengthened.
At first, it is not easy for a beginner to judge whether his styles and movements are correct or not, and in some cases, the beginner finds that he cannot adapt to certain styles. However, there are some principles which beginners are required to understand and to follow. If they pay careful attention to these rules, there will be no problems in producing correct styles and movements. Here are those rules:
- The beginner should note that his head must not move up or down, as both of these actions are incorrect. The right way is to position the head in line with the spine with its weight resting thereon. This leads to the relaxation of the neck muscles.
- Don't raise the shoulders or fully straighten the arms during the movements and keep the elbows close to the body. Otherwise, the movements will be stiff and this will handicap the turning of the body. So, we should relax our shoulders and elbows in order to move smoothly.
- The basic requirement in practicing Tai Chi Chuan is to relax the whole body, and to avoid stiffening the chest. If we can achieve this, our breathing will be more comfortable and as a result, our movements will be more alert.
- It is difficult to change our posture during practice if the waist is too tense, also we cannot transmit the strength from the waist to the hands and fingers. If we let our bottom jut out, the body becomes unstable and the movement will not be graceful. So the beginner is advised to relax his waist.
- Most postures of the Tai Chi Chuan involve resting the weight on one leg. This means that, with certain exceptions, the weight of our body is to be supported on one leg only. Resting our weight on both legs simultaneously hinders movement. Each posture specifies on which leg the weight should rest.
Besides the above points to which we should pay attention during the exercise, the following habits must also be adopted:
- We should always practice with the intention of deriving the greatest possible benefits and so daily practice is recommended.
- We should watch when the instructor is teaching others and observe others performing so that we may benefit by comparing our techniques, adopting good points and correcting bad ones.
- In order to improve our understanding, we should often think about and try to analyse the styles after we have learned them.
- We should often question the instructor concerning the styles and keep on doing so if we are not fully clear about them.