Twenty-nine years ago, a friend of mine took me to a Taiji (T’ai Chi) workshop. I had no idea what Taiji was or what it was for. As I waited in the room with many others, the music started to play and this guy came out and started doing this thing called Taiji. Now being a fan of old school Kung-Fu movies, with all the flying and kicking and fast action, I had never seen anything like it before and was taken back by the idea of this being Kung-fu. I guess the thing that was most amazing to me was how slow he was moving. There seem to be this beautiful rhythm to it as he moved around the room from one form to another. I was hooked. I knew there was something special in moving that slow, some secret hidden below the surface that seems to fill the room and capture everyone’s attention. It was almost like watching a black panther moving in the jungle you could feel the power and intensity with each step. It might sound odd, but it seemed to me that everyone in the room was thinking and breathing slower as though we were transported to a more peaceful and calm place, this seemed odd because just outside the door was the high energy of the city with all it fast pace energy.
While he moved in this slow and steady flowing motion, he seem to hypnotize everyone in the entire room. I sat there wondering how slow can you go and when you go that slow how the world must look. I was hooked and wanted learn more about this Taiji stuff. So, I embarked on my Taiji journey to discover the answer to my question about going slow.
Finding The Rhythm In Taiji
Being a student and teacher of Taiji I have found that there are three key rhythms to Taiji. First, is the normal way of doing Taiji, not to fast not too slow, a steady natural flow of movements leading one form into another like a dance. Secondly, is the little slower version which is more like a Chi Kung exercise. And the third is fast Taiji which is doing the form in a fast pace motions.
I believe that all three phases of Taiji are important to learn to fully understand Taiji and to round out one’s form.
When it comes to learning Taiji everyone starts out being way too fast, not only in doing the form, but also in wanting to learn the form. I guess its part of our culture to want to learn and do everything fast, let’s face it, we live in world where fast is the standard on how good something is. From fast food, fast Internet, fast oil change, fast cars, fast weight loss, fast money, fast acting medicine etc… and the faster the better we are told. Our culture seems to be on speed and everyone knows that they should slow down but few can, going slow is not so easy and very hard to do. Too often we are always in hurry to get results.
For this reason the first question that new students always ask is “how long will it take me to learn Taiji”? I have the same answer for the past 29 years “a life time”. Then they say “no really how long will it take and is there any books, tapes, DVD’s I can get so I can learn it faster”, again I tell them the say thing “if you want to learn Taiji it will take a lifetime, if you want to learn the form, it will take about one year for the short form and one to two years to learn the long form”. There is always a look of surprise and confusion in their eyes when I say this and than a look of puzzlement, I just tell them to come to class.
This is also why I often find it amazing and funny when I met people that express to me that they studied Taiji and didn’t get anything out of it, when I press them for how long they study they tell me for six months. I try to tell them Taiji is like water and you are like rock, if it took you this long to become stiff and hard it will take sometime to wear that rock down.