48 Form Tai Chi Chuan Teaching
IV. Steps for Practice
In the first stage, for the foundation work, attention should be paid to the following points:
(I) Correctness: In learning to practice Tai Chi Chuan you must, first of all, keeps your body upright and comfortable, and take the correct position. When raising the head and straightening the neck, dropping the shoulders and elbows, relaxing the waist and holding in the buttocks, special attention should be paid to keeping the spine straight and the shoulders and hips re1axed and flat to ensure an upright torso. The positions for the other parts of the body should also be executed earnestly and correctly as required. As a matter of fact, ignorance of the essential points for any one part of the body will lead to a deformation in the positions of the other parts. For example, if the buttocks protrude, the waist will be affected, the chest will be thrust out, and the abdominal muscles will become tense, causing errors in the execution of the movements. Therefore, the beginners must not seek quick Progress or learn hastily and carelessly.
(II) Stability: To ensure that the torso is upright and comfortable, it is first of all necessary to keep the lower limbs stable. The stances and footwork are the foundation of good Positions and movements. If the steps are too small and too narrow or the positions and angles of the feet are not correct, and the distinction between emptiness and solidness is not clear while executing the movements, instability of the body will result. Therefore, beginners must first have a clear understanding of the stances and footwork. You can properly grasp the timing for the change of body weight by practicing the stances and different steps separately. Or you can Practice the different leg techniques (heel, toe, and side kick) and do more exercises to improve the pliability of the waist. This can also increase lower-limb strength and improve the stability of the movements.
(III) Relaxation: Beginners should pay attention to relaxation when executing the movements. The body parts should be fully extended and the movements should be soft and natural. Beginners are likely to use clumsy force and become unnecessarily nervous. In laying the foundation, the body parts must be relaxed and the movements must be soft. Strive to overcome, nervousness and stiff movement.
(IV) Lightness and softness: In order to acquire lightness, slowness, softness and gentleness required by Tai Chi Chuan movements, beginners should do the exercises slowly and softly, and apply the force lightly and evenly. Generally speaking, slow movements and light force at the beginning help make correct movements at the right pace and avoid incorrect force application.
In the second stage, a firm grasp of the rules of Tai Chi Chuan movements should be stressed. In order to demonstrate the characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan, we must focus on the following Points:
(I) Continuity: After a certain foundation has been laid for the positions and movements, the next step is to make the entire exercise continuous. Al1 movements should be well connected with those proceeding and those following. The whole set of exercises should be done without interruption, like flowing water and floating clouds. The end of one exercise is the exact beginning of the following one. For example, at the beginning, the four movements of warding off, stroking, pushing, and pressing can be practiced separately. After you are ski1led in these exercises, you should connect them fluidly and practice them as one. Although there should be a certain sense of rhythm between two exercises (as though a slight pause after one exercise is finished), the one following shou1d be started immediate1y as though the previous, exercise seemed to pause, but did not pause. The whole set of exercises should be well connected and done continuously without breaks. There should be no pause.
(II) Coordination: Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise for the whole human body. It calls for the movement of all parts at the same time, and good coordination among them. In executing the "cloud hand," for example, when the waist is turned, it drives the arms out to draw circles in the air with the palms turning inside and outside together continuously with the movement of the buttocks, and the legs supporting the entire body to move and turn to the 1eft or to the right, while the head also turns naturally with the torso. At the same time, the eyes look at the upper hand. In this way, the whole body moves in coordination, with close cooperation between all the body's elements.
(III) Circularity: Movements of Tai Chi Chuan are formed by various arts and curves. Once this rule is grasped, you can consciously avoid straight-line movements, dead turns, and right angles, and make your movements circular. The waist is pivotal for generating the movement of the limbs. Only when the waist is used as the pivot, is it possible to make hand movements and footwork circular, smooth, light, gentle and flexible.
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