Yangchengfu04, when I first learned a Yang Style form many years ago, I was taught to do the postures according to particular counts or beats, ranging from two to six. For instance, Play the Pipa/Guitar had two beats, and Ward Off left had six. Most postures had four. I was even told that it would be worthwhile occasionally to do the form to a metronome in order to make sure that the pace was absolutely even. I never got around to doing this and have never heard or read that the Yangs recommended such a thing, but I mention it in case you are interested. The method Jerry mentions is also a good one, if you want to learn to adapt to a new pace.
Wushuer, thanks for expanding on what you believe you get out of expanding Taijiquan through your daily activities. I find it interesting that you feel you can integrate your Taijiquan this way. I have to say that I think of Taijiquan as being intimately associated with my purpose. As I result, I find it difficult to concentrate on something like “Taiji walking” in the abstract. Walking to conserve energy is not the same as walking to preserve a maximum of control. My purpose while walking on ice is different from my purpose in walking on firm ground. Walking to listen to the birds is different from walking to the store before it closes. My steps in the barehand form are not quite the same as my steps in the saber or sword form. In order to reproduce what you describe, I think I would have to use a great deal of imagination to supply an adequate purpose.
Jerry, I think that Yang Zhenduo has talked about using the first rep to loosen up, feeling very free on the second rep, and feeling power on the third rep. Do you feel this? I definitely feel the first two sensations for the first two reps, but the third one feels kind of strange. I have actually begun to feel slightly incomplete if I cannot do three consecutive reps, but find it hard to say what exactly the third rep does differently for me. I do, however, have a tendency to lose my place in the third rep after doing the umpteenth Single Whip. Sometimes, for instance, I have to concentrate on whether I am finishing the first or second paragraph and whether to form a hook with my right hand after Embrace Tiger Return to the Mountain.
Jerry, what about the weapons forms? Have you had much experience doing them with consecutive reps? I have begun relatively to neglect the weapons forms and wonder whether it would be better to replace some of my barehand repetitions with weapons forms. Do you feel one rep of a weapons form equals one rep of the barehand form? I do you find the tradeoffs?
Shi Tianren, nine minutes seems awfully fast. Isn’t that roughly the pace of Chen forms? I would think that at that pace, you are training somewhat different skills from what is mostly trained at the 25 minute pace. For instance, I personally would find it difficult to maintain complete and distinct weight transfers at such a pace without making the form very jerky or failing to extend fully at the climax of the postures.
04 and Shi, do your teachers do form in unison with the whole class at such speeds? If not, does the slower pace feel unnatural? If you have been to seminars, how has the pace felt there?
Michael, what do you feel you get out of solo single movement practice that you do not get out of doing the form? Do you use this to concentrate on specific movements you want to polish, to work out kinks without distractions, or to fill in bits of time that are not long enough to do the full form?
As I have worked over the years at eliminating endless defects, I have often wondered about the wisdom of continuing through to the end of the form, as opposed to suspending a rep in the middle to go over difficult parts. When you lose your balance, should you pick up right from where you left off, or go back over that part and “do it right”? I have pretty much settled on not interrupting repetitions, but wonder when I should be finding time during routine practice to go over specific trouble spots. Even if I reserve some time at the end of the form, I forget what all the problems were and also end up on a little bit of a down note. What I generally do is file away things to work one during my next opportunity to repeat the posture during the next rep in the day or during the next day.
Michael, what does sword and saber practice mean for you? Do you do each one once and then put them away? If not, what have you found best? Here, I have not yet found any quantum difference with respect to the number of consecutive reps and to the sequence in which I do the forms. I cannot discern any particular “practice groove.” I am, however, much more conscious of particular postures that just don’t work right or where I have not figured out where to put my Yi. For instance, in Waiting for the Fish in the Sword Form, I know that I have incorrectly visualized the posture as a full body vertical circle to the left. Because of this, I naturally end with my right shoulder down and my left shoulder up, as if I need to twist my shoulders down to the right, like a seesaw. I cannot figure out the mental shape to give to my body’s movement that will both make them natural and also fit with the principles. I also generally find much less flow than with the barehand form, so that being more relaxed or less relaxed does not seem automatically to translate into a greater feel for internal principles.