Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Practise Taiji Slowly?

Why do we practise taiji slowly? It is, after all, a martial art, and you don't move slowly at all when you are applying taiji. So why not practise it at the speed that you use it?

I think the answer is because we practise taiji slowly so that we make sure that each movement is done correctly. When we move slowly, we are able to check ourselves to ensure that each movement is carried out exactly as is required, so that we move in line with the principles of taiji. With time, each time we practise a movement, it is correct, meeting the requirements. After practising the same movement a few thousand times, the correct way of moving becomes such a part of us, that instinctively, whether moving fast or slow, we are able to carry out the movement in the exact same way, just at different speeds. Then, when we need to apply that movement, we are able to meet the requirements of the movement, but moving at a faster speed.

But slow is not necessarily good. Each time we practise, while we move slowly, we must not have breaks within our movements. Because one of the main principles of taiji is to move continuously (绵绵不断). If we move so slowly that there are breaks in our movement (usually because we take too much time checking ourselves), and it becomes a bad habit, what happens is that when we try to apply that movement (moving at a faster speed), the same break will happen, because we are so used to it. And then we will find that we are unable to properly apply that movement, because the break in it causes the force to be disrupted.

So while practising slowly is good, remember, the movements must be continuous. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of practising slowly, and we might as well practise at the same speed as we expect to apply the movements. And then it becomes like changquan.

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