When am I Going to Get It?
by Gene Nelson,
ATCQA Certified Tai Chi Instructor (Level III)
and member of ATCQA Advisory Board.
Doing versus Practicing:
Doing - Select a single move or
combination of moves that you feel completely comfortable with. Maybe it's just
one move like the preparation or any combination of connected moves. These
should be moves that you can do in an alpha state, flowing, meditative and under
relaxed control, with really good body alignment. Do these for 5, 10, 15
minutes, however long you want.
Practicing - First you have to
select a sequence that is not particularly comfortable for you. A sequence where
you have the gross memorization, but the sequence feels linear, disconnected,
steps are not in control, you are feeling stress in your upper body when you
raise one leg. You know the feeling! Like an Elephant on ice skates. Practice
doing these few movements focusing on a different principle each time you do it.
Stepping under control and moving from the center are really important, keeping
shoulders down and soft, incorporating the empty foot, hips front, staying
round, maintaining one height and one pace and examine principle of functional
relaxation throughout all aspects of the moves. If you keep practicing this
sequence and building more and more Principles into these moves, it will start
to feel different. The more you practice, the more sequences come into the Doing
fold, and the more you will get out of the moves you were already connected to.
All practice is like always being on a
diet. It's a lot of work. You need to have a piece of cake once in a while.
That's doing Tai Chi. New students, students within their first 18 months of
study, should spend more time Doing. The longer you have been playing Tai Chi,
the more Practice you should be doing because your practice will effect so much
more. At EVERY stage of your Tai Chi experience, try to maintain a schedule that
allows for both Doing and Practice. The results will be a highly predictable
balance of qualitative and quantitative personal Tai Chi development.
am I Going to Get it?
The majority of
challenges a student might incur, when studying Tai Chi, can be addressed by
first understanding and embracing the answer to "When am I going to get it".
"When am I going to get it", this is the
single most frequently asked question by my students. My standard answer is
"I'll let you know, when I know ". The actual answer is, in the spirit of the
question, "Never". As long as you continue to study you will never Get It.
Actually, the longer you study the more you will realize how little you Get It
and how un-important that quest is. Tai Chi study is a trip, a journey. I know
this is a very new age-sounding response that is an overused bumper sticker, but
in this case, it's really germane.
Studying Tai Chi is an endless process of
improving your body's alignment, learning new moves and transitions, improving
the quality of each component, conditioning your mind and body to meet force
with lesser force (the connection to functional relaxation), and in the process
addressing the many scourges of the 21st century such as stress, high blood
pressure, cardio vascular disease, stroke, depression etc. In addition, you are
positively addressing issues and conditions like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia,
neurological disorders, balance issues etc. And, if you study diligently and
with the right teacher, you have the opportunity to take all you have learned
and continue to experience, all the principles and ingredients of Tai Chi that
are serving your physical and mental health, and learn how to directly apply all
to the martial applications of Tai Chi.
Here's the best news. You don't have to
"Get it" to start getting all these benefits from your Tai Chi playing. Every
movement in Tai Chi has the ability to produce profound positive results. The
more you practice, the more will transition into the doing part (see Doing vs.
Practicing ), and the greater the benefit. You set your own pace.
However, if you are always chasing "When
am I going to get it", you will be missing out on the benefit you can derive
from every class and every time you actually play Tai Chi. Here's another bumper
sticker: "Slow Down and Smell the Roses". .