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(9 pages total)

Page 8 - Taijiquan (T'ai Chi) Basics

Taijiquan routines, sets, or "forms" range from a couple of postures to more than 150 postures, depending on the style. Even dedicated life-long Chinese players have difficulty performing the longer sets, which is the reason for the enormous popularity of the "simplified" routines introduced in the mid 1950s. Some traditional teachers think these simplified forms are blasphemy to the "true" art however and that they fail to develop the skills necessary to learn "real" Taijiquan. Other instructors believe that one single posture done correctly is more valuable than 150 movements performed without understanding.

Push-hands, a controlled contest between two players, is often introduced into the training to help the student understand the application and redirection of energy that accompanies the higher levels of the art.

Most Western teachers introduce basic Chinese philosophy such as "yin-yang theory" and sometimes "Qigong breathing" into their Taijiquan class to help Western students understand the movements. In China, are typically not taught in beginning classes because the students already understand much of this basic theory.

How to Find a Class

Most metropolitan areas with immigrant populations have a Taijiquan teacher somewhere...the problem is finding him or her. Until recently, few instructors had classes large enough to make a living by teaching, so they often taught in their basements or in a local park in their spare time while working as a cook or nuclear scientist during the day. With the recent popularity of the sport, although still a challenge, it is much easier to locate a good school or teacher.

Although most true "Masters" are of Chinese descent, there are many Westerners who are proficient at Taijiquan. Consider that some Western instructors have better teaching credentials and are able to communicate complex ideas better in English, plus they understand Western cultural barriers that stand between you and the practice of this wonderful exercise system. Famous master-instructors do not always have the patience to teach beginners and expect more dedication to the art than the average player can give, on the other hand they have the "understanding" that comes from years of experience. Most importantly, the teacher should make you feel good about practicing, and you should feel anxious to attend the next class and receive the next "tidbit" of knowledge.

Remember, there is no "magic", and knowledge must be earned by the student through dedicated practice and hard work. The Chinese say that anything easily attained is not worth much.

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