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Learning Taijiquan

posted 1 Aug 2018, 04:10 by WestDevon Tai Chi   [ updated 8 Nov 2018, 09:27 ]
“To learn Taijiquan means to educate oneself” (Chen Xiaowang)

Chen Xiaowang compares learning Taiji as going to school. In his words, it is like progressing from primary to university level, one gradually gathers more and more knowledge. Without the foundation gleaned from primary and secondary education, one will not be able to follow the curriculum of the university level. To begin with, the early days of learning are about building that foundation. As the average person’s disposition is at a more excitable level than is required in Taiji, ‘to begin with’ can mean quite a long time! When people first come along to my classes, they usually say they did not realise Taiji was so hard to learn. It requires patience, self-discipline, motivation and perseverance, so it is important to be aware of the enormous benefits the practise is bringing to all aspects of your life and on all levels- physical, emotional and spiritual- and to focus on the process and these benefits rather than an end result. There are no shortcuts and the process is very gradual. 

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step”
Getting rid of tension in the whole body is the key. The unnecessary physical and emotion tension we carry in our bodies is very taxing, a bit like driving a car with the brakes on all the time. The physical tension becomes habitual and leads to the misalignment of the joints, pelvis and spine. The first step, therefore, is to learn to loosen the body and release tension. Most of us live in our heads (in Chinese philosophy this is referred to as ‘monkey chatter’) so once we calm down and actually ‘find our body’ we start to experience our physicality as it really is and begin to learn how we move. This can be both wonderful and disconcerting all at the same time!
The moves of the Taiji form are essentially a matter of body memory. Conditioning the body to remember the moves can take many repetitions. The body memory is slow to develop but, like driving a car, the individual movements will eventually become second nature. As learning develops, a certain amount of change is inevitable, for if your practise had no effect you would probably stop trying but you cannot make it happen; you have to let it happen. How long the change takes to develop is down to the individual.
There is a very real sense in which an art such as Taiji cannot be ‘taught’ so much as ‘learnt'. Ultimately, it is your body that is your yardstick. A teacher is at best your guide, assistant and inspiration. For whatever your reasons for learning the wonders of this ancient and intelligent art, whether it be for health and fitness, relaxation or to even explore the martial side, do not be put off by having no time to practise or thinking you will never get it-you are what you think! Simply enjoy the wonderful journey at your own pace and natural ability and gradually it will come together- mind, body and spirit. You are your own teacher.
On Saturday, 25thAugust, my dear friend, Yuri, has offered to call in and do another workshop on route to Cornwall. As always, this workshop will be suitable for beginners and improvers. Yuri’s sessions compliment Ben’s workshops by focusing on particular topics and aspects of Taiji to enhance our learning and understanding of this art.
“Development in science is boundless as is the study of Taijiquan.
            Its wonders can never be expended in a lifetime”  (Chen Xiaowang)
It is great to see new faces at all of the classes. I always encourage them not give up too soon, as do all the regulars! It is tricky adapting a class to suit everyone but, most importantly, I strive to make sure everyone feels comfortable in their learning and am always open to listening what they feel works for them. Ben once told me to be creative in my teaching; for me, that means not planning classes but flowing with the moment by being in the now. It certainly works in the new Lifton class; a warm and friendly group with immense enthusiasm and smiling faces. Their support of the classes and workshops is amazing and really appreciated.
Last Sunday, I was informed of the passing of a dedicated member of the Lyford class, Keith Rogers. Having previously learnt another style of Taiji, he embraced the learning of the Chen style with the greatest enthusiasm and was constantly helping others. His wife said he was so happy to have found the class and enjoyed every moment. Our thoughts go out to all of his family at this sad time. It was a privilege to have known him and I am sure he will always be with us in spirit at Lydford. Lammas blessings to you all.
Check out this website for class times and details of forthcoming workshops.