What is Tai Chi
Tai Chi, if being looked at from a Western point of
view, can be best described as a moving form of yoga
and meditation combined. Originally derived from martial
arts, the slow, graceful movements also in places reflect
the natural movements of animals and birds, as symbols
or 'pictures', designed to focus the mind and breathing
through a complex series of executions. In Tai Chi,
where the form is practised in slow continual fluidic
movement, muscles and joints are in motion, and breathing
is regulated as an integral part of this. The effect
is a sedative upon the central nervous system which
helps to stimulate improvements upon the body's other
systems. It is calming and de-stressing, the movements
themselves becoming physical poetry to a meditative
process. When practised properly, Chi energy is increased,
and one often feels a 'tingling' of fingers and toes,
and a warming up of the body. The mind becomes clear,
and relaxed. The movements give practically a means
for motor control, balance etc. and can help posture
and loosen tight muscles.
There are various schools or 'styles' of Tai Chi:
Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun styles. The Peking Style is a
modern shorter 24-element style commissioned by the
Chinese Government who recognised the benefits of Tai
Chi, and is made up of elements of the other styles,
so that its workers could practice every morning without
taking up too much time. The Yang style, the most practised
school, is made of two sub-styles- the long form and
the short form, and was first developed in the 1800's
by Yang Lu Chan. His grandson, Yang Chen Fu, standardised
this style and made it popular in China the early 1900's.
A Tai Chi form is made up of separate 'moves', each
joined by a transition called a 'link'. Each movement
may be very short, or made up of a complex sequence
of sub-moves. Although each is an individual definitive
element to the form, they flow continually into each
other and are not practised as separates.
The epithet 'Yang' in the title: "The Yang style, long
form" refers to the Family Yang who developed this style
of Tai Chi. The epithet 'long' refers to the fact that
… guess what? It' long! So, if it is quick or urgent
results that you are looking for - this style is not
for you. Not only does it take time, it can only be
ruined if hurried. It's like a soft boiled egg that
takes a certain amount of time to become soft boiled;
or a biscuit that requires a specific length of time
submerged in a particular liquid at an exact temperature
before being 'perfect'.
There are 128 or so separate postures in the long form
and it generally takes about three years to properly
learn these postures. Many of them are repeated several
times and therefore do not require actually learning
again. However at that stage of study, learning how
to 'get from one to the other' (i.e. the bits between,
the directions and the footwork) does. I think that
an hour or two of instruction per week in The Yang style
long form is plenty. The rest of the week could be spent
in an hour of practice per day, practising this 'new'
lesson and refining the rest. It is not the instruction
that takes so much time; it is or should be - the practising.
The longer the study goes on, the more practice there
is. Eventually perhaps, 'life' becomes the practice.
or the practice is life. At this stage of study 'practice'
is never a chore, continued through choice, dunked or
boiled to perfection.