What is the Purpose of Practising Tai Chi Slowly?
Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
movements always puzzle onlookers. At first, it seems to them that they
are watching a movie in slow motion and they wonder how this can be good
for you. When Tai Chi students claim that this is a martial art, it is
hard to believe. About a hundred years ago, Tai Chi was considered one
of the top four martial art systems in China. It belongs to the Nei Jia
school or internal family of kung fu. Xingyi and Bagua are its close
Practising movements slowly is not unique to Tai Chi. All high level
martial arts and health arts use a form of slow, deliberate movements to
enhance the inner aspect of the mind and body. When we practise a
series of movements quickly, we may miss many finer details in our
performance. When we slow things down, our lack of coordination between
upper and lower body, uneven, shallow breathing, poor concentration and
no feeling of qi in our movements are revealed. In the classical
articles on Tai Chi, we are advised to practise the form slowly,
smoothly and continuously. Everything should be linked like a flowing
stream or the smoothness of reeling silk from a cocoon.
Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang (1928- ), founder of the Hun Yuan Tai Chi
system, talks about the importance of building gong, the essence of our
practice. First we collect and accumulate qi. This is achieved by
practising the Hun Yuan Qigong, Fa Soong Gong and Silk Reeling Gong.
Gong practice strengthens the internal. Qi (energy) replenishes the
body’s internal system, making the body stronger and more flexible. The
practice of quan (the forms, Push Hands and weapons) will be much
enhanced, once you have a strong foundation in gong. During the quan
practice, qi will be further circulated to the internal organs,
meridians and marrow. This is the cultivation of jing qi shen (essence,
energy and spirit).
Grandmaster Feng says that gong is like the flour needed to make
dumplings. It is the raw material we need to reach the higher stages of
training. Later, it becomes the source of your dong li (understanding
of power). There is an old saying, “circulating qi is like flowing
water.” If you do not have the feeling of internal qi when you practise,
you are only doing the form externally. It is like boiling an empty
pot. You first need water before you get steam.
find it easy to become tense but not so easy to relax. By practising
slowly, we improve our ability to feel what we are doing. We become
conscious of our weaknesses. We know where our tension is. Slow,
smooth and continuous practice also relaxes and regulates the nervous
system. This helps to create a feeling of internal and external
harmony. After a practice session, we feel more relaxed, happy and
practise the Tai Chi form in a slow, relaxed manner, we also train our
sinews and tendons. This does not happen when we tense our muscles.
Slow, relaxed training also allows the body to develop more
holistically. We are not just training one area. Everything develops
altogether. In the beginning, it seems to us that we are progressing
very slowly. However, every part of our body is benefitting from the
means that it is a very efficient method of exercising. Slow, relaxed
practice helps to avoid injuries. It also improves our ability to go
from softness to hardness in an instant. This enables us to issue power
quickly in a martial arts context.
Practising Tai Chi slowly will give you many more benefits than any
relaxant medication and with no side effects. However, you have to do