How To Practice Tai Chi By Yourself

One of the questions I am most frequently asked, is how do you practice by yourself?

There are no hard and fast rules for practicing by yourself, as each person will approach it differently. I will share with you some of the ways and aspects that I work on by myself.

Sung (Relaxation)

To work on my relaxation, I tend to favor squats. Specifically wall squats. In order for you to succeed in a good wall squat, you must be completely relaxed. Sigung Richard E. Clear has written a book on Chi Energy, Activation, and Cultivation which outlines how to perform a good wall squat. I would strongly recommend it.

This being said, the goal is to work up to 10 squats. If you are holding any tension at all, it will tend to pull you over. So, complete relaxation is a must.

Also, I will work the sets emphasizing sung.

Movement

I try to incorporate the principles of Tai Chi movements in my day to day routine. here are some examples of how I do that. If I am shopping and I find something I need on the top shelf, I think of “rise and fall” to reach it.

Here is how this works. In “rise and fall”, the movement comes from the wrist. When it comes from the wrist, it does not introduce tension into the shoulder. Think of how you open a door. The movement comes from the wrist. When I reach for something, I let the movement come from the wrist. I tell our students to imagine that you have balloons tied to your wrist, and it is the balloons that raise your arm. I also think about whether or not my body is moving as a whole. Ideally, I want my body to power the movement of my arms and legs. The classics mention that nothing moves unless the core moves.

Structure

Checking your structure can be a little difficult on your own, but here is how I do it. As I perform each individual move in the set, I pause before I move to the next one. Let me use” Wild Horse Tosses Mane” as an example. After I transition into” Wild Horse”, I pause. During this time, I check to see if I am holding tension anywhere. If I am, I try and locate it and then melt it out. Next I will pick up my rear leg. If I have to shift my weight to pick my leg up, that tells me that I wasn’t where I needed to be. As a result, my structure would reflect this. I use techniques like these on each and every move as I progress through the set.

Also, I use other moves such as “Brush Knee” or “Wild Horse” to move objects or open doors, etc. Keeping in mind and checking for breaks in my structure.

Slowness

Slowness is pretty straight forward. I work on doing the set(s) as slow as I possibly can. If I am working on (Tai Chi) walking, I go slow so as to make sure I am getting the needed flexion in my feet. The main thing I try to remember and work on is the slowness, this allows me to make and feel all of the micro-adjustments that need to happen. And deliberateness, in that when I make the move(s) they are happening when they need to and not before.

Push Hands

While I can’t answer for everyone else, I can give you some examples of how I do it. The following is just one example of how I work on structure and root.

If I am working on my structure or checking to see if my “root” rises, I will push against a door frame or wall. If my structure is off, I will end up pushing myself off. It is then just a matter of finding and making the needed corrections.

To see if my root rises, I push and then suddenly let go. My object is to make sure my root stays down. If I feel it rise after I let go, I send it back down and start the process over. In this way, I am training my root to stay down.

Sensitivity

Here is just one of the many ways I work on my sensitivity. My personal favorite, is the use of a shopping cart.

Here is how this works, when I am shopping, I put my hands lightly on the outside of the cart. I can’t use force to turn the cart, so what I do is “listen” to what is happening between the wheels and floor. I use what I feel to turn the cart. In this way, I can work on my sensitivity.

There are countless other ways to incorporate Tai Chi into your daily routine, But I leave that to you to find. Searching for answers/ self -improvement, is also the mark of a good student.

Comments

  1. Patrick Servey says:

    I truly enjoy thought of movement, structure and flow as in all nature. I may be broken but I still have movement as it may be or could be or just is. That’s why I look to you for the proper structure more so and I thank you.

  2. Nice pointers. Here’s a question for you, how do you motivate students spend more time practicing in their own time???

    • Stuart, that is a good question.
      There are a number of ways in which I try to do this. As an instructor, I try to make sure they have all the tools they need to practice on their own. This includes everything from making sure I answer all of their questions, to making sure how they can incorporate Tai Chi principles in their day to day routines. I also try to keep it interesting and fun.
      Another thing I tend to do, is to demonstrate some (higher level) things that can be done with Tai Chi. These can be health related or martial in principle. I do this so that they can see what is possible with Tai Chi, as well as to give them extra incentive.
      Lastly, I make sure they understand a few things. These are that you get out of it what you put into it. You can incorporate it into everyday existence. And that as an instructor, I am always available to answer any questions.

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