The discoveries I made during my first 2 years of practicing tai chi chuan This post was written by LK who is a guest blogger on Taichi-daily.com
I came to tai chi chuan by chance and stayed because I loved the exquisite beauty of its flowing movements and its calming effect that I felt right away. At the time, I saw it as an alternative to traditional sitting meditation (which I tried to master many times over many years and only ended up torturing myself), as well as one of somatic arts, a kinesthetically intelligent and beautiful movement system that could improve me as a dancer.
Only later I learned that it is an ancient martial art, complete with fighting and weapons applications. Admittedly, like many in the West and especially female practitioners, I am more interested in the health benefits of tai chi than its martial aspects. As a trained scientist, I am surprised to find numerous ongoing clinical studies of tai chi and qigong exercise, reflecting growing interest of Western medicine in tai chi and traditional Chinese medical practices. But I will save this topic for another time.
What I want to share is how my tai chi practice changed over the course of two years since I started learning yang style short form under Joe Cavaliere and Rich Morrison. As I mentioned, at the beginning I resisted learning martial aspect of the art. I even used to say in class that I couldn’t care less about martial applications of a particular move or technique, driving my aikido and tai chi teachers crazy. The words “martial” and ‘fighting” evoked in my mind images of violence, physical pain and fear and blocked all learning taking place in my body and mind. I credit my teachers with patience and letting me practice the best I could until I slowly came to understand, in my own time, the importance of martial applications of tai chi chuan and how they determine direction of force and energy.
These days, I start and finish my day with 30 min of tai chi (I do two rounds of Cheng Man Ching's Yang Short Form back-to-back) and am learning something new about myself every day. I am currently working with dedicated teachers on fine-tuning the form based on body biomechanics, and this is a long and gradual process. However, I would say, this is the easy part; what I am struggling with is grasping the concept of qi and energy flow that are central to the practice and are really the key to gaining ultimate health benefits, or so I am told. I am at the beginning of my journey and do not expect fast results, but can already feel the difference a regular tai chi chuan practice made in my life: I am more grounded (physically and mentally), my dancing improved significantly (ta-da!) although I am still struggling with keeping my balance during turns, and I am less anxious in facing my every day challenges. So, my friends, take up tai chi chuan and feel the difference it makes in your life!