Can Taijiquan be DIY?

by Moh Wei Ping, Yap Kung Leng and Lim Kim Foong

In this article, we will look into the perspective of whether Taijiquan can be done in the DIY-Style.   Most of us have heard about many good things about Taijiquan, especially given the interest is on physical and mental health good-being and have decided to learn this art form.  Most beginners would consider either to try out self-study or DIY as there are many VCDs, DVDs, books available on Taijiquan Training.

If you do a quick search on the Internet, a vast amount of Taijiquan videos and articles can be found just by googling, giving you more than you can digest.  Even Grand Master Cheng Man Ching has writen a book: New Method of Self-study for Tai-chi Chuan.  Given such resources available openly, a learner may ask whether is it possible to learn Taijiquan DIY Style without attending a class or to learn from a Master personally?

Let us start with the advantages of learning Taijiquan the DIY Style. If someone wishes to learn Taijiquan but is unable to find a Taijiquan instructor near or in his home town, Taijiquan DIY might be better.  The time and resources spent travelling up and down might be better utilised by reading and digesting the materials.  Since there are mass amount of information, one can compare and choose a style which he/she thinks is the most suitable.

If one practise Taijiquan DIY, then the disadvantages are that there will be no one to ask when you have questions.  Since you are doing it DIY, there is a lack of group support and motivation to push you to continue.  Most DIY projects end up in the dump due to our initial “3-minute passion fire”.  Since the materials are  provided as it is, you may not know if you are practising the steps stated correctly or not. 

The movements of Taijiquan seems to be simple and easy.  What looks easy on the surface are usually the hardest to master.  Taijiquan movements require the close coordination of limbs and body which most beginners will usually find it very difficult to execute the movements correctly, even with the presence of a master or instructor.

Some movements or stances, especially those require one to bend his/her knees e.g. Single Whip Lower Style (Dan Bian Xia shi), could cause knee injury if done without proper guidance from an instructor.  If such wrong movements are not corrected on time, it would be an hindrance for the person from advancing his/her Taijiquan skill.

Understanding Taiji Ying and Yang theory is not easy, let alone incorporating the theory into Taijiquan movements. A master or an experienced instructor can be very helpful in providing insight into the application of ying and yang theory in Taijiquan.

Newer Taijiquan books are written to be more descriptive with the authors trying to describe every movement in great details to the extent that it is difficult for the readers to follow. The readers would either give up Taijiquan or end up doing the movements incorrectly.

However the importance of Taijiquan instruction books or video cannot be ignored.  Some of the books are very good references and are a great supplement to people who are learning Taijiquan.  To people who have already mastered one form of Taijiquan (e.g. Yang Style), such materials acts to enhance their knowledge by letting them know more about other forms of Taijiquan (e.g. Chen Style, Wu Style).

To quote from Grand Master Cheng Man Ching’s book "New Method of Self-study of Tai-Chi Chuan"*, Master Cheng mentioned in the preface that "Self-study in T'ai-chi ch'uan is indeed very difficult.  Former masters stressed oral transmission and personal instruction. But when there is no alternative, and in order to benefit the greatest number, one must not shrink from difficulties, but seek every possible means (i.e. self-study)".  Master Cheng's book was written in the forties when it was difficult to find a teacher in many parts of China.  Self-study was one of the alternatives.  Another Taiji Master Chen Xin (1849-1853), in his classic "Taiji Quan Illustrated" recommended learning Taiji from a good instructor. In conclusion, it is easy to find good Taiji instructors in almost every continent of this world now.  It is also much more effective and efficient to learn this martial art from a teacher than trying it out on your own.

*Cheng Man-Ching's Advanced Tai-Chi Form Instructions, Compiled and Translated by Douglas Wile, Sweet Ch'i Press, 1985.

Can Taijiquan be DIY? @ 2008 Moh Wei Ping, Yap Kung Leng and Lim Kim Foong

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