3 Ways to Make Tai Chi Form Practice More Interesting

Chen style Tai Chi Chuan practice (photo by pfctdayelise)
Chen style Tai Chi Chuan practice

Attaining competency in Tai Chi Chuan requires hundreds of hours of correct form practice, and mastery requires thousands more. One impediment to sustained practice is a lack of interest: Tai Chi forms are too boring to perform daily.

Perseverance in the face of boredom builds character; however, feelings of boredom may be a sign that your learning has stalled. To keep your practice fresh, productive and fun, try performing these variations on your standard Tai Chi forms.

Perform a mirror image of the form, with left and right sides reversed. For example, where you would normally turn right and raise your left arm, turn left and raise your right arm instead.

Benefit: This variation will help you appreciate the difference between the movement of the form, and its choreography in a particular direction.

Move at fighting speed. For example, at a normal speed, the Yang style 103 movement hand form can be completed in 20-30 minutes. At fighting speed, it takes 5-7 minutes.

Benefit: Many problems that remain hidden during slow movement will reveal themselves at a faster speed: clumsy footwork, excess tension, collapsed postures, and more. (But remember: if you end up sweating and short of breath, you are not practicing Tai Chi.)

Do it with your eyes closed. Engage and rely upon your other senses.

Benefit: Your balance and listening skills will improve. Also, reducing your reliance on sight will make it easier to “sink the qi” as prescribed by the Tai Chi classics.

When you can play the form backwards at full speed, in the dark, while standing on a sheet of ice, then you have really accomplished something!

What other methods do you use to keep your forms practice interesting?

8 comments on “3 Ways to Make Tai Chi Form Practice More Interesting”

  1. this reminds me of an article I once read on keeping kata interesting*. The author had made it a point to do 50 kata a day…and did it for a year and a half. (ouch)

    A primary observation? Kata can get very boring.

    Recommendations…
    do kata as if you are water/wind/fire (force of nature)
    do kata to music (that’s one of mine)
    eyes closed (good call)
    think only of feet and stance
    think only of hand/arm motion
    think only of belly/reverse belly breathing
    think only of keeping good posture
    take only one principle (his example was using hips to generate power) and find every place it was in the form. work to find a way to do it better

    *Stephen Coniaris, “Kata training for Shodans” (I wish it was online, but no such luck. Try him at http://www.shoshinryu.org/ if you’re interested)

  2. Good article. I’ve spent several years practicing nothing but zhan zhuang, or standing stake. I prefer to stand in my basement, facing a blank wall.

    The boredom COULD be excrutiating. I’ve found, that even with standing stake, by paying attention to what I’m doing, I become far too involved to even really notice the passage of time.

    How do I know if I’m not doing it right? I get bored.

  3. Great point, Rick! Like you, if I’m getting bored, it means I’m not really paying attention. In taiji, we could easily try to look at the 6 harmonies and are we adhering? This pratice in itself is very difficult and can lead to other avenues to explore.

    Like you, Rick, I prefer to do zhanzhuang facing a wall. 🙂

  4. Nice to see some good advice for Taijiquan. There are also many fun practices with a partner, like Push Hands, Adhering Hands, Whirling Hands, Whirling Legs, Sticky Feet and all their variations. In Solo practice, imagining attacks and finding responses by using natural permutations of Forms, examining posture/control/ability in Forms – left and right, Qigong for health and/or healing from Forms, or martial Qugong from Forms, etc, etc, etc.
    How can anyone get BORED with Taijiquan?
    Heaven & Earth Way Academy – http://www.tai-chi-kungfu.com

  5. One variation that really challenges my students is to do the 108 Form backwards. (Or as one wise guy illustrated when I announced the exercise – he merely turned 180 degrees LOL).

    Basically you start with Closing and work back to Origin. The idea is to challenge the mind as well as the body.

    Great post, Chris!

  6. >> feelings of boredom may be a sign that your learning has stalled

    Thus a good idea is to always keep an ‘eye’ on ‘process’.

    Besides, performing both ‘left and right’ might also help to grasp ‘essential’ feel/quality, besides compensating for asymmetry acquired by being pressed into a scheme of (unnatural) lateral preference.

    CC.

  7. The Core of our Being is always Peacefull, Content, and Happy when the mind focuses on breath, feeling blood circulating, or Heartbeats, the mind will touch the core and get the benefit.

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