The main part of the Tai Chi system of training is referred to as “the form”; this is a sequence of 108 prearranged structured movements that flow slowly and smoothly into each other (for a list of postures see “What We Do”). The Form’s training principles bare testimony to the well renowned, clever yet subtle body skills contained in its postures and strung harmoniously together. The movements are relaxed yet strong, like an iron bar wrapped in cotton wool. The iron bar is the Yang and the cotton wool is Yin (for the explanation of Yin and Yang see section on “The Philosophy of Tai Chi”). The form is divided into three sections. Once learnt the Yin Yang form is trained into the original then, finally, the spiral concept is added. The form is multi layered and these layers are amalgamated into a deep understanding of the principles and concepts of Tai Chi.
Benefits of training
The benefits of training Tai Chi depend on the student’s commitment and the level of practice he or she undertakes. The soft gentle movements of the form promote flexibility and suppleness of the joints and muscles, which may, over time, have become stiff. This stiffness comes from inactivity and restricted movements of the body’s joints. The Tai Chi form aims to correct this shortfall by posture and structure training. This is Tai Chi’s method of health improvement through an exercise training program; hence, the system is sometimes referred to as the art of rejuvenation. If we can reduce stiffness and improve flexibility the body’s full range of movements can be restored – think how that could alter your life!
Stress contributes more to fatigue and ill health than any other aspect of our life. If we can at least acknowledge this, and recognize it, we have a chance of changing to a more positive way of being. If we can reduce our stress levels and return back to our former relaxed selves think of the benefits that our families and friends could gain. Remember, we influence people around us in two ways, positive or negative, and sometimes we get back what we project! Tai Chi is a multi-level system of many benefits, some of which may help in some medical conditions. There is only one true solution if your stress levels are affecting others around you – you have to change. The form, or Tai Chi’s moving set, is the vehicle for this change. This part of the training is about general improved health, fitness and well-being.
What form is best?
All Tai Chi forms are correct if the correct concepts and principles are adhered to. The Tai Chi Form studied in the Shi Zen Do system is the Long Form (108 postures from the Yang style). There are many other types of Yang forms from many other lineages. These forms all have their own personal training formats and characteristics depending on the teacher’s preferences. If we look further than just the surface of these other Yang forms we can come to understand the inherent elements which are the profound concepts and principles left behind by these truly great Martial Artists. If you can see beyond the structures of all these forms and grasp the deep rooted concepts then you are in fact doing Tai Chi! There is Tai Chi movement and tai chi – they are two entirely different things. Movement is only the superficial underlying concept of stringing structures together (external) whereas the other is internal training and concerns what is inside the structures. The form is there to accumulate and cultivate these principles, to gain freedom of movement without losing the fundamentals. Now we have established the fact that Tai Chi is beyond the form, how can we set about understanding this elusive art?