This week I was fortunate enough to share the first steps into Taijiquan with a few people. While 1 lesson is never enough to fully grasp Taijiquan, everyone left with a little more confidence at being able to defend themselves and, more importantly, with smiles on their faces!
This week I was fortunate enough to share the first steps into Taijiquan with a few people. The first came in the form of a young man hoping to better understand his internal energy and use it to help in dealing with stress. He left feeling that he had a new tool in his arsenal to combat stress and will hopefully be able to “relax harder” soon enough. The second came with a group of people on World Tai Chi Day. This group consisted of adults of varying ages, fitness levels and Martial Arts experience.
While 1 lesson is never enough to fully grasp Taijiquan, everyone left with a little more confidence at being able to defend themselves and, more importantly, with smiles on their faces! The intial doubt upon the latter groups faces when I said this simple movement (the first 2 moves of the He-Style 108 Form) could be used to great effect in Self-Defense was soon replaced with wonder after they saw how their “attackers” reacted to their application of a simple turn while holding the other person’s hand to their shoulder. This is what Taijiquan is all about: self empowerment.
We are meant to leave our training sessions feeling refreshed, confident and with a sense of accomplishment. I remember back to my own early days of Taijiquan and how I was suprised to see the “Martial Art of Old People in the Park” actually worked! (No, I didn’t begin Taijiquan for the health benefits, I actually did believe in its Martial abilities. Just thought I’d clarify that!) Even a more advanced student in attendance learned something that he had not been fully aware of prior to this lesson in Komazawa Olympic Park in Tokyo. Now THAT is what Taijiquan is really about!
The first steps may be a lot of fun, but they pale in comparisson to how you feel after really getting into it. There is no “end” to Taijiquan, only a whole lot of “beginnings”! You can spend years and years on one Style, one Form, and still only be scratching the surface. Personally, I do one “type” of Taijiquan only. That is not to speak negatively of others who practice multiple versions, only that I have not found an “end” to He-Style and don’t ever see myself learning another style.
I think that mentality is important for whichever Martial Art you begin. When I first came to Japan I tried out Kendo for a few lessons (not wanting to take it up, only to see what it was) and found the footwork and stance was completely different to what I was used to. To try to take in both of those Arts would have not been an easy task and I wonder if I would, had I tried to learn another Art while learning Taijiquan, have grasped either or just a half-way of both?
Find the Art that appeals to you most (something we have the luxury of doing in our modern world), find the right teacher for you, and stick with it. Learn, practice, listen. It is the best thing a new starter to Taijiquan can do. And don’t forget to try (sorry Yoda)! Just prior to writting this I had a lesson and we looked at an application that was so simple that it was difficult (you know the ones, they’re all the way through Taijiquan). The student worked at it and adapted it to his own movements and executed it very well.
I wish I could see an old video of myself trying to kick. I would laugh at myself trying to get higher and higher and wasting the effort that could have been spent on perfecting the lower kick that is within He-Style. It would be great to see how far I’ve come by “going less”. I should have listened more (to my own body as well as to my Shifu!) and seen how to truly use it in application, which requires a fraction of the height I was aiming for.
Whatever your reasons are for taking up Taijiquan remember the most important thing of all is to enjoy it and take the road best suited for you, not anyone else!
About the author:
Steve Gilshenen is an Australian teaching English language and Chinese martial arts in Japan.
He is the author of the novel, “Mark of the Shaolin,” the first in the “Tigers of Wulin” series, due for release in 2014.
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