Scientific way of teching Taiji
"Quality instead of Quantity"
by Brigitte Lichtenberger
I started 4 and half years ago to learn the Art of Taiji Chuan from Shifu - Mr. Rennie Chong. His way of teaching is unique, as he implements all the biomechanical laws from the body, the physics, and natural laws into his Taiji. The fascinating thing is that Taiji is a very old martial art and already in the ancient days they were following the principles of the nature to improve themselves. So, you could ask, why is Shifu's teaching unique? In the older days, you learned Taiji from a young age with a healthy and fit body. Nowadays a lot of people start after 30 years or even above with already some aches and pains in the body. Taiji is a fantastic tool to help the body get balanced again and being healthy if you follow the principles and implement them as well in your daily life. More about that later.
Shifu can adapt his teaching to every individual very well due to his medical knowledge and his knowledge of biomechanics. As a student, you cannot copy his movements or others, as it doesn't fit your body. You should learn the principles and adapt them to your body with Shifu's or an instructor's help. For example, you cannot teach people to hold the arm's in a certain angle, as one has long arms and another one short ones. Furthermore, the proportions are different in each body. This is a huge challenge for instructors to adapt to different individuals. The other challenge is to balance each body. Some people need more flexibility or lack strength on one side. Other people should learn to focus more their mind.
Practically means this that you spend a lot of time, especially in the beginning, with foundation work. As well here quality is more important than quantity if you like to benefit from Taiji. With good quality, you harmonize all the different body systems and the energy "Chi" can flow without blockages, which means: we are healthy. This foundation work scares a lot of students away, as the perception of Taiji is just "doing the steps". Unfortunately, one has no benefit from just doing the steps in an incorrect way, other than probably being social, while training in a group. It even can harm your body heavily. The goal in Taiji is to improve yourself and not to be able to follow the steps. If you improve yourself, you will benefit in daily (and nightly) life. If you follow the principles you do the whole day Taiji without practicing the steps. The steps help you later to perfection your movement quality and having a good practicing routine to bring the energy into the flow.
Some students just don't appear anymore after a couple of trainings because of some pain or lack of perseverance. A teacher cannot see everything in the body of the students. That's why it is essential to communicate with each other.
Above I mentioned the word 'principles' a lot. There are many of them. One of them is for example that the spine should be straight, otherwise you put too much force on it and there might be consequences on a longer term.
On your path to improve, you should have the balance between gaining theoretical knowledge and practical training. Even there you have the Yin and Yang principle. You need to improve both. I try to ask a lot of questions (why's) to understand more about Taiji and my body. With this, Shifu knows better in which level I am and how he can adapt his teaching to suit me best if needed.
At the moment, my main focus is on 'song'. Every now and then, I would realize that my muscles in my lower back are contracted unnecessarily - for example when waiting for the elevator. It is not only during Taiji practice I want to improve, but also implement it into my life. It needs a lot of determination and perseverance to achieve higher levels, but the reward is worth every drop of sweat.
I understand very well nowadays why it is called an Art. To bring all the different pieces together is more difficult than all the puzzles you did as a child. I feel more as a beginner today than after one-year practicing, as I can see now so much more to learn and to experience on my path in Taiji.
Here, I would like to thank Shifu und Shijie Jaleen, who motivate and help me a lot to continue my Taiji path, and to all my mid-students for bringing laughter into practice and good discussions. It is lovely to be part of the Taiji Family.