Tai Chi Lessons

Matt | Tai Chi | Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Since returning to Canada I have started Tai Chi and have enjoyed the process of learning this art.

Through Tai Ji Quan I am not only learning the martial art, but also learning to listen to my body more, learning about Daoism and learning about Chinese culture.  Also, I am learning how to teach and learn a new skill.

As a teacher by passion, I really enjoy the way they taught us Tai Chi and I think there are some great lessons one can use to learn or teach any skill.

First, some background.  Tai Chi has 108 movements.  It is a slow and beautiful martial arts routine.  There is a balance between opposing forces in most of the movements.  Also, there are a lot of things you can think of when doing Tai Chi, but I find it usually works best when I stop thinking and simply let my body flow.

The toughest part for me was in learning the entire set (and this is still a challenge for me).  But I think the way they teach it is a great way to learn any skill.

The Teaching Process

We start at the beginning, the opening of Tai Chi, and then move on to a few more moves.  So in week one we may have learned the first 5 moves.  Then the next week we start again at the beginning, the opening of Tai Chi, continue through the moves we learned the prior week, the first 5, and then learn a few more say up until 9.  Then the next week again we start at the beginning, the opening of Tai Chi, and continue on and on.  This goes on until we could do the entire 108 moves.

So why do I think this is a great way to learn?

You learn in small chunks. I find it difficult to take in and digest too much info.  Learning in small bit size chunks is easier for me to learn and easier for me to remember.  Also I found that later I may not remember the whole routine, but I could remember a lot of the chunks and slowly start to combine them.  I think this is similar to learning a language where we learn pieces and phrases and slowly are able to combine them.

You review weekly. I have read somewhere that a weekly review is vital to putting something into long term memory.  Like most things you use it or you lose it.  So it goes with memory.  This weekly review also builds up muscle memory so that your body can react without thinking (or so I’m told).

You do it in a group.  Doing it is always funner in a group.  Same goes for Tai Chi.  There is an electric feeling of doing Tai Chi in a group.  It’s great to be able to look at others to be your guide, but also there is a connection that you can feel with and the energy between each other.

Most importantly, for me, is that you learn by doing.  I love this type of learning as it works best for me.  And by learning through doing I find there are other benefits such as you forget that you’re learning as you have so much fun doing the skill.  Sometimes in the middle of the routine I remind myself that I’m actually doing Tai Chi.

Some other tips I have been trying to use while learning Tai Chi are:

  • Enjoy being a beginner – it’s okay to know nothing.  Have fun with that awkward feeling of being terrible at something and knowing that that’s what it means to be learning something new.
  • Practice your new skill – the more you practice any skill, the better you get at it.  Perfect practice makes perfect.
  • Do what you love – for me I love learning and doing Tai Chi.  This may not work for you, but there are many other things you can do that you love.

I hope you can do what you love with the one or ones that you love.

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