My Experience of Various Taijiquan Training Stages under Master Rennie Chong
by Loi Keng Liang
I have been learning taijiquan from Master Rennie Chong for about 5 to 6 years and would like to share my learning experiences encountered at various stages. I hope this will give the reader a good overview of what to expect when training under Master Rennie Chong.
At the beginner stage, the emphasis is on the "warm up" exercises as these are the foundation exercises that will help condition the body to the structure requirements to perform the form. Initially, it is a common mistake to treat these exercises as pure calisthenics exercises but under correct guidance from Master Chong and instructors, one would learn to use the "kua" when performing these exercises.
The second last warm up exercise is the "standing meditation" where one learns to tune the body structure correctly in a stationary position. One learns how to keep the body "soong" while developing sensitivity to feel the "qi" as well as to develop correct breathing rhythm required for the form.
The final warm exercise is the "breathing" exercise when one learns the proper rhythm of breathing with expanding, contracting hand movements together with squatting and body twisting movement at a stationary position.
Students will then proceed to learn the "Zheng Zi" 37 style taijiquan form (a shorten version of Yang style taijiquan.) If a student is diligent, it will take about a year to finish learn the full 37 "steps". The reason why it takes such a long duration is because there are many details to be mastered in each of the "steps". It normally takes more than a year to two to learn the full 37 "steps" because of our modern busy life styles.
Without proper body conditioning, students may encounter much difficulties when performing some of the "steps" especially towards the middle and end of the form. Thus one can never stress enough the important of diligently doing the "warm up" exercises.
One will experience great improvement in balance, flexibility, when one initially finishes learning the full 37 "steps" which is the first milestone.
It is normal for students to feel bored and nothing more to learn after clearing the first milestone. However it is very important at this stage for the students to keep practicing, getting detailed instructions and corrections from Master Chong and senior instructors so as to refine the student’s form, without which the student’s form will start to deviate from the body structure requirements.
This is a stage where one's movement shift from "external" to "internal" i.e. movements will originate from the "dantian"(core) to drive the "kua" to drive the "waist" (torso as one single unit) which then drives the limbs.
It is also at this stage that Master Chong put more emphasis on teaching more details on application and allowing students to start learning and practicing "push hands".
In practicing the form, one performs the form as if fighting against an imaginary opponent. In "push hands", the student practices with a real person (each acting as an opponent) to test the effectiveness of their applying their taijiquan skills in safe manner.
There are many levels of "push hands", simplest being single hand "push hand", proceeding to applying "peng" "lu" "ji" "an" in fixed sequence practice and more complex level where the students are free to apply "peng" "lu" "ji" "an" in non fixed free hand practice.
It is important for students to understand that the objective of "push hands" is not to win but rather to help students to check the "correctness" of their form (especially "rooting") and develop sensitivity in a dynamic environment.
Student should be more aware of whether their form is done correctly after going through "push hands" training.
It is hoped, that my sharing helps students to have a overview of what to expect from beginner to intermediate level training Rennie Chong Tai Chi Training Centre as well as not to give up and persevere on with their training especially when they hit a "wall" at their stage of training.
I hope to share more the next round if I am able to reach the next milestone.
Thanks to God for allowing me to pick up taijiquan from Master Chong to keep healthy and able to serve Him.
Much thanks to Master Chong for his patient and detail teaching and his care and concern for all students.
Last but not least much thanks also to all instructors and fellow students who help to make the training environment fun, challenging and conducive.