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Tai Chi

As a Tai Chi instructor, I've seen many of my students commit the same mistakes over and over again. These missteps will impede the development of your proper posture and body mechanics

When I first started Tai Chi about 30 years ago, it was a complete mystery to me. The movements were cool but I did not understand them. I did not know the why behind the moves. It wasn't until I saw the practical fighting applications for each move did I truly understand Tai Chi.

There in lies the lesson for today, There is a correct way and a wrong way to perform Tai Chi moves. The reason why there is correct ways is because the correct way is going to lead to more power when Tai Chi is used in a fight.

Now I know that 99% percent of you who are reading this will not ever use Tao Chi in self defense, but I had to explain why I am going to be addressing some of the frequent pitfalls seen in Tai Chi and how to remedy them.

Whether you're just starting or are an experienced practitioner, recognizing and correcting these mistakes can transform your practice.

So here it goes:

Here are 4 things you can do to correct your Tai Chi.

1. Elevating the Arms:

The first common mistake has to do with the positioning of the arms. Often times, my students believe they're keeping their arms low, but when in reality, they're holding them too high.

One of the key tenets of Tai Chi is to relax and when you have your arms too high you cannot effectively relax the shoulder muscles.

If you've ever felt your breath catching in your chest while doing Tai Chi, this might be why. By lowering the arms and sinking your elbows, you can ensure that you flow your breath. Sinking your elbows not only enhances your breathing but also offers you a better mechanical advantage in generating power.

2. Stiffening the Joints:

The second major issue I notice with most of my new students is stiff, locked joints. Tai Chi Chuan emphasizes fluidity. You can't be fluid with rigid movements. For example, when performing a single punch or even a move like the brush knee, your joints should remain soft and pliant. When you lock your joints a skilled practitioner of Tai Chi will be able to use that against you when you do push hands. Stiffness can lead to loss of balance, and they don't provide any mechanical advantage.

3. Twisting vs. Rotating:

The next thing that I see new students doing is twisting their body. You should avoid twisting your body in Tai Chi. Anytime you twist you are throwing your body alignment off and you are inherently off balance.

Instead, you should focus on rotating your entire body as a whole. Rotating maintains alignment between the shoulder and hip. Twisting disrupts this continuity. This misalignment makes you susceptible to being unbalanced.

4. Misunderstanding the hip

The fourth point is you need to understand and master moving the "qua" or the hip joint. A common error is when push the hip forward. Instead, try to imagine it melting down and back, allowing it to absorb incoming energy more effectively.

To sum up, here are the four crucial takeaways for refining your Tai Chi practice:

  • Keep the arms at an appropriate level, ensuring the elbows remain below the shoulders.
  • Maintain soft and slightly bent joints for better energy absorption.
  • Rotate, don’t twist. Ensure your shoulder and hip qua remain aligned.
  • Perfect the positioning of the qua. Rather than pushing it forward, visualize it sinking down and back.

The best way to practice these techniques is to test them with a partner. Feel the difference in your movements when you adjust your arm height, maintain soft joints, rotate instead of twisting, and perfect the positioning of your hip.

Thank you for reading and please continue practicing and refining your Tai Chi. Have a wonderful day and keep the flow going!