To make practice convenient and easier for ourselves, we learn Form. Practice can be a formal scheduled engagement, or more spontaneous when the appropriate place and time arises. Here are some ideas to keep practice enjoyable and fresh.
Performance – Once a significant portion of the Form has been memorized seeking an “Appropriate level”, practice the Form from beginning till the last movement learned, as though demonstrating to an audience. Move at a slow, soft, steady pace. If a problem begins to occur, don’t stop, but nip it in the bud, minimize the damage, and continue on confidently. Afterwards, go back and examine the problem to identify why it occurred, and seek its resolution. Practice not overreacting. Song; Relax.
Single Movement Practice – Now that an area has been identified as needing more attention, a single movement can be practiced in a round repeatedly, slowly working out the problem, until it is reduced to polishing out a small blemish. It takes time and commitment to change ourselves. Remember we are Tai Chi.
A few students have told me over the years, a reason they find practicing difficult is, they don’t want to practice wrong. They are not sure. Although this is a very good concern, it is a bad excuse for not trying. Nobody practices 100% wrong or right anyway. The idea behind practice is to be able to “discriminate between substantial and insubstantial”. This means we first strive to know “how to do” correctly cerebrally (intent), and then work toward the ability to do it physically. As Yang Jun Laoshi pointed out, this becomes a means to improve our Tai Chi all by ourselves. Class becomes a time to ask questions, make an assessment of progress, review the last class, and learn brand new material. During practice staying aware moment by moment (Ting Jing; Listening energy) we are able to notice our flaws; like fluctuations in stability and agility. This higher level of practice begins after we memorized the sequence of events in each movement. Tai Chi becomes meditation.
Tai Chi is a journey, not a destination. Gain knowledge from each new experience.
During Solo practice time, we can test ourselves. What do we confidently know and where are we not sure? Questions should arise out of our practice. Later these questions can be brought to class and presented to the teacher. In class I ask students questions like, “What are the three requirements of a bow stance?” I am testing their knowledge because if they can’t answer that question, how can they correct themselves during practice alone? It is simple. If we can’t identify flaw, how can we make the necessary corrections? So like earlier stated, it is not as simple as wrong or right, but a voyage from appropriate, approximate, to refined.