The Way to Tai Chi Chuan, Part 2

One of the most important factors in learning anything is the instructor. It is essential to find a good teacher if you want to learn Tai Chi Chuan. Tai Chi is such an elusive art that it is difficult for a beginner to know that he or she is getting the “real thing”. There are some qualifiers that the beginning student can watch out for.

Master Vincent Chu, the author of Beginner’s Tai Chi Chuan, gives excellent advice regarding the choice of a teacher:

First you must look for a well-trained and knowledgeable instructor, though not necessarily somebody famous. Get as much information about the instructor as possible. Then find out under whom he trained, for how long, and how much time he spent studying Tai Chi. Ask about the teaching method and the curriculum. Find out if the instruction is systematic and if there is a progression of learning (which is important).

It may take a while to find the instructor best suited to your needs but the wait far outweighs the alternative, lessons that may lead to nowhere.

There are five major styles of Tai Chi Chuan: Yang, Wu, Sun, Hao, and Chen. The names are derived from the families who created each style. After Yang Cheng Fu introduced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan to the public, its popularity became widespread. The beginner may be attracted to one style over another but all styles share the same unique principles of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan is often associated with the Yin-Yang, which resembles a black fish following a white fish around in a circle. Yin represents the feminine or yielding element and yang is masculine or resistant. According to Chinese tradition, the combination of these two elements is universal.

It is said that Chan San Feng, a Taoist monk, got the idea of creating Tai Chi Chuan when he witnessed a bird attacking a snake. Whenever the bird tried to strike, the snake yielded, leaving the bird with place to attack. In the Tai Chi symbol the white fish has a black eye and black fish, a white eye. This represents hardness within the soft.

Tai Chi Chuan appears soft on the outside but is very powerful internally. The soft, flowing movements of Tai Chi seem to be a form of meditation. In the advanced stages, some practitioners use the form as a kind of moving meditation. Tai Chi Chuan is closely associated with Taoist philosophy from which Chan or Zen Buddhism developed. “Chan” or “Zen” literally means “meditation”. Tai Chi gives the mind a chance to clear itself of any “excess baggage” and relax. This enables one to practice the form peacefully and to “enjoy the journey.”

As you can see, Tai Chi Chuan allows for a wide parameter of choices. It combines the grace and sophistication of dance with the deceptive power of a martial art.

It can be slow paced for a senior citizen or vigorous enough for a young adult. It requires no special place or apparatus and its health benefits have been proven. But as with any thing worthy, it demands patience and consistent practice. For those who practice, the rewards are great.

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