T’ai Chi Chuan and Qigong – What are your goals for your T’ai Chi practice?

Periodically it is important in one’s study of T’ai Chi to clarify the aspects of the practice that are most important and rewarding for you. The full curriculum of T’ai Chi is quite vast, with many different styles as well as practices that are primarily for martial application, health, or meditation. Continued exploration in any one of these areas will naturally take you into other arts as well. It is also important for you as a student to recognize the limitations and bias of your instructor: specifically, I am most interested in the meditation/awareness benefits of T’ai Chi, I enjoy learning new forms and I know only a portion of the whole curriculum. Many of my more serious students choose to study with me for five years and more, and many take advantage of other local and non-local instructors as well.

The three basic focuses of one’s T’ai Chi practice available are 1) exercise and health 2) spiritual and psychological development and 3) martial application. Choosing to focus on one of these aspects makes certain aspects of the curriculum more important.

Exercise and Health: Focus on flexibility, coordination, balance, breathing, stamina and chi circulation.
Form practice for all of the above.
Push hands and other two person practices for balance.
Sword forms or faster forms for stamina.
Standing meditation and chi kung practices for chi circulation.
Meridian study and Taoist energy meditations for chi circulation.
Bioenergetics, Feldenkrais and body work to integrate the Western perspective on energy circulation and physical wellness.
Weight and aerobic training to round out your exercise routine.

Spiritual and Psychological development: Focus on centering, mindfulness, presence, self-understanding and acceptance, study of philosophy and work on emotions.
Form practice for all of the above.
Standing and sitting meditation with emphasis on mindfulness.
Push hands and other two person practices as emotional work.
Study of T’ao Te Ching, I Ching and other scripture.
Psychotherapy, journal work etc to integrate the Western perspective.
Work with chi and the meridians.

Martial application: Focus on rootedness, sensitivity, awareness, balance of Yin and Yang, speed and power.
Form practice for all of the above.
Standing meditation and holding postures for rootedness.
Push hands and other two person practices leading up to free sparring.
Weapons forms for all of the above.
Fast forms and power training exercises.
Chin na, grappling, throws.
Other martial forms to broaden your understanding.