The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Tue Jul 05, 2016 5:50 pm

Hi, all
I have heard many people who practiced Tai Ji for years, even more than ten years, and said there is no correct way in Tai Ji. I also had noticed that they have no sign of progress. Is it because they didn't know the correct way or just haven't taught the correct way?

To me there has to be a correct way, one way or the other. This is just puzzling me! People think that there is no correct way is because there is no correct way or they have not learnt the correct way?

Any comments? If you think there is the correct way, please tell us. Thank you!
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby fchai » Wed Jul 06, 2016 3:50 am

Greetings,

Never quite sure what people mean when they make the statement, 'correct way'. As you yourself and others are aware, there are a number of different Taiji schools, within the schools there are different lineages, and then there variations (even between grandfather, father, son), and then there are differing interpretations. Then there is the emphasis placed by the various teachers, as Taiji offers so many different pathways if folks have an inclination to 'specialize'. There are those more focused on the martial aspects, those inclined to the health benefits, be it physical or psychological, those who focus on the meditative/mindfulness aspects, and on it goes. Even the question of breathing offers differing views and opinions.
My personal opinion is that Taiji is very much a personal journey. Once begun the individual may seek to find and explore the various pathways that they find fulfilling and suits their disposition. Many others never get to realize their potential or even to gain a deeper understanding of Taiji. These unfortunately will/may feel discouraged and fall by the wayside.
Take care,
Frank
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Jul 07, 2016 5:24 pm

I'll take a lash at this one.
Caveat: My opinion is worth only what you paid for it.

I view this as meaning, "In TCC there is no one prescribed way in which you will respond to anything, there are many possible responses all of which can be correct."
In my misspent youth I spent quite some time learning a very little bit about a few "hard" style martial arts. My first ever classes were at a local community center and were what the teacher called "Karate". It was a little bit different from other styles I've since seen that were also called "Karate" but I was about twelve and all I knew was that I was learning "KARATE" So I was fairly thrilled to be there and wasn't too worried about "style" names or anything like that.
The teacher of those classes was very, very clear with us that "When your opponent does X you do Y, and you do Y every single time without fail. Only Y is the correct way!".
He taught his version of Karate using a very clear "stimulus/response" method of martial arts where there was one, and ONLY one, "correct" response to any type of attacks that our opponent ever made against us.
We had this drilled into our heads class after class, practice after practice. No variances were allowed or whatever we did was not "correct". Not even if what we did worked!
That was irrelevant to this teachers system, period and end of story, only his method of response was allowed.
I have also seen this taught in a few other schools, so I know it's not just an anomaly I ran across. Some teachers do this, others do not. I won't say it's "wrong" just a bit shortsighted, at least in my personal and not so humble opinion.
When I moved on and started training other styles, and found out that not all martial arts are taught this way, I was fairly well surprised but quickly adapted and learned.
When I began training TCC I was told early on that "there is no correct way" and I was very glad to hear it.

Hope this helps a bit.
I am quite sure there will be other replies that disagree with my opinion.
They will not be wrong.
There is no correct way to practice Tai Chi Chuan.
Whatever works, that the correct way.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:28 pm

fchai wrote:Greetings,

Never quite sure what people mean when they make the statement, 'correct way'. As you yourself and others are aware, there are a number of different Taiji schools, within the schools there are different lineages, and then there variations (even between grandfather, father, son), and then there are differing interpretations. Then there is the emphasis placed by the various teachers, as Taiji offers so many different pathways if folks have an inclination to 'specialize'. There are those more focused on the martial aspects, those inclined to the health benefits, be it physical or psychological, those who focus on the meditative/mindfulness aspects, and on it goes. Even the question of breathing offers differing views and opinions.
My personal opinion is that Taiji is very much a personal journey. Once begun the individual may seek to find and explore the various pathways that they find fulfilling and suits their disposition. Many others never get to realize their potential or even to gain a deeper understanding of Taiji. These unfortunately will/may feel discouraged and fall by the wayside.
Take care,
Frank


Never quite sure what people mean when they make the statement, 'correct way'. Perhaps people were not told or taught what the correct way should be. Or, sometimes, they were told but ignoring the facts of what it is. Regardless what style, Taiji by itself has its own basic fundamentals. All schools must follow, in order, to teach effectively. I understand that there are variations for the purpose of accomplishment or to be specialized in certain training techniques. However, whatever the goals or aims are. All must have to go through the basic training as a general requirement before advance to the next level of training. The goal is to reach the ultimate realm of practice. If one has not gone through the fundamentals, then, one wants to jump the gun and goes to the next level. Perhaps, one might want to pay the instructor and skip to the next level. So to speak. Sorry, that is not how it works.

If there is no correct way, then, no body is accomplishing what Taiji was intended to accomplish. By just going through the movements, and one might think one has accomplished what one wants. Unfortunately, with the thinking that there is "no correct way", one will never fall on the right track to begin with. Thus the practitioner will continue to go off the track and thought something has accomplished for one's satisfaction.

Even the question of breathing offers differing views and opinions. Breathing is an essential in life, why should there be any doubt? If in doubt, please don't, just try breathing with Taiji practice for a few months and see it make any difference.

There are few threads, here, on the site about breathing. If someone was just going through the movements and keep on ignoring the significance of breathing, then, one is not doing Taiji properly. Sorry to say, I'm not disappointed for those who did not practice Taiji correctly, but disappointed for Taiji which not revealing its true beauty to some of the practitioners.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Jul 08, 2016 1:11 pm

ChiDragon,

I have read several of your posts regarding what you regard as "correct breathing" for TCC.
We simply are not in agreement on that issue. I view your method as being incorrect...
For me.
Not for you.
Not for anyone else that it works for either.
But it is now, always has been, and I strongly suspect always will be incorrect for me.
How you describe "correct" breathing in TCC simply does not work for me. I have tried using it and several other methods that are similar, for years on end, without any level of "correctness" for me.
If it does not work for me...
Then that method is, by the very definition of the word, incorrect for me.
So here we can see that "there is no single correct way" to practice TCC.
Even the "fundamentals", "basics", "principles", these also have no single, definitive, EVERYONE does them one way and one way only, "correct" method.
What is a "correct" method for me simply may not work for you, making that "incorrect" for you while I can repeatedly perform using that same method "correctly".
We all have a different body, a different way of thinking, so TCC has to be a very individualized art.
Once you move beyond any of multiples sets of "postures" that are taught to all beginners everyone, without fail, must learn to use those "postures" with methods that are "correct" for them, but those same methods may not be "correct" for the guy standing right next to them and has been since day one of their training.
I see this over and over and over again with my students.
I saw it happen first hand when I began training in the Wu school long, long ago.
I started out training with a group of people in a beginners class. We all started at roughly the same time, we learned from the same teachers, were taught the same forms.
Then we moved on to pushing hands, learning the same things from the same teachers at the same school at the same time.
I was able to learn sticking and adhering, as well as following, fairly quickly.
Other students... Not so much. They struggled for a long time before they were able to pick that up.
If "the basics" of pushing hands as taught by the same teachers, in the same school, at the same time, using the same methods, all worked equally well for everyone out of the chute, we should have all progressed at the same rate.
That clearly did not and does not happen.
The instructors had to change up their methods and individualize them for each struggling student before they were able to start doing even the basic skills of pushing hands that I had picked up from the "standard" methods that they first used.

This is simply one small example, there are many more but I hope this will be enough.
The bald statement "there is no correct way" should, in my PNSHO anyway, might be better expressed by adding a single word to it: "There is no ONE correct way to practice TCC".
Then perhaps continue that with, "There are many."

Bob
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Jul 08, 2016 6:36 pm

Bob,
I'm sorry to hear all that. Well, the reason we practice Tai ji is mainly to improve our breathing progressively. The deeper one can breathe is the sign of progress in the practice. The goal is to get the chi(breath) sink deep into the tantian. In modern term, it is called the "abdominal breathing". As soon one can perform abdominal breathing, it was considered to be one has passed the first level of Taiji.

The next level is continue to practice with the abdominal breathing in every move to develope the jin() in the muscles. Without breathing, one cannot fajin which may not advance to push-hand. Push-hands require the chi to sink deep in the tantain, otherwise, one cannot fajin to its ultimate realm.

BTW Breathing is the biggest hurdle to be handled and get over with. It takes time for people to improve their breathing problems; it all depends on their initial problem with breathing. I always encourage my students to breathe as deep as one can during practice. At first, it may not be as deep as down to the tantian. However, it will go down to the tantian eventually. That is the main goal for practicing Taiji diligently. It seems that my students have no problem with that. At least, they have the notion about breathing is the goal in their minds. It is every obvious to see who advance faster is by observing who did the most breathing in class.

Some people want to improve their health by practicing Taiji. Some improved very quickly and some did not improve at all. Those who did not improve their health is because their breathing habit has not been improved. Indeed, it has a lot to do with the amount of oxygen that one inhales into the body. Again, the manufacture of ATP is involved inside the body during the muscle movements and breathing. Hence, this is the hinden basic fundamental of Taiji. Regardless of its forms. This is something that all martial artists should and must understand.

IMMHO The "correct way" is defined by the majority of the qualified and respectable masters. I would suggest to treat it as a basic fundamental guideline to be followed by all practitioners.


Let nature take its course
Wu Wei
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby Bob Ashmore » Sat Jul 09, 2016 2:57 pm

CD,
If "deep breathing" is a measure of "correctness" then I've got that covered in spades.
I breath deeply, slowly, evenly, almost all of the time. Even during fairly strenuous physical exertion, such as when I ride my bike up a steep hill (which I do nearly every day), I don't speed up my breathing very much, up to about 12 bpm max, and I do not breath shallowly at any time.
My resting respiration rate averages 6 breaths per minute and my doctor is always simply amazed at how slowly and far into my diaphragm I breath when she puts that stethoscope on me and listens in on that. She tells me to breath faster so she can complete her test in a timely fashion. I have a hard time doing that, even consciously thinking about it.
Whenever one of those pulse ox machines are put on my finger the blood ox reading is always 99% so I am well oxygenated.
So no worries there for me at all on my breath rate or anything about it. I pass every physical with absolutely flying colors.
But...
What I don't do is regulate my breathing or tie my breathing to my physical movements, ever.
Breathing is an automatic function and my body will just keep right on doing it all day long whether I'm thinking about it or not.
So I, as you say to do, "let nature take its course" by not interfering with that in any way beyond staying healthy.
Let me ask you something...
Do you try to regulate your heart rate to your movements during TCC?
If not, why not? Your heart rate can also be controlled by your mind, so why wouldn't you do that too?
Heart rate is also an automatic thing, your body keeps right on doing it all day long whether you're thinking about it or not, just like breathing.
Since you're regulating the fashion in which you breath, tying it to your movements as opposed to letting nature take its course... Why not your heart rate too?
My resting pulse rate, btw, comes in anywhere between 54 and 60, which is in the "athlete" range for a guy my age.
I can speed that up, slow it down, pretty much at will just by thinking about it.
So... Why not do that when doing TCC as well?

I am not trying to insult you, to me this is a very legitimate question as the two things are rather intrinsically related and I can't understand why someone who is so vehemently pushing the one method wouldn't do the other.
That said...
I've tried to make it as clear as I can that if the method of breathing you are advocating works for you then that is what is right for you and you should definitely keep on doing it.
My "non method", the one taught to me by my teachers and Masters since I started training in this art, works for me too.
Neither is incorrect because they both WORK. That's the bottom line for "correctness", isn't it?
Some people find a greater level of success using one method, some with the other.
"Let nature take its course"!
So once again I stand by my amended quote, "there is no single correct method, there are many".
Try them all, I have, then use what works best for you.
We are all different, no single method of ANYTHING will work for all of us. That's how nature works.

And, by the way, I have worked fairly closely with a few Masters of TCC and a couple of Grand Masters as well.
Not one of them has ever said that tying breathing in with movement is a "basic fundamental guideline to be followed by all practitioners".
In fact, quite the opposite.

Bob
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Sat Jul 09, 2016 6:05 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:CD,
If "deep breathing" is a measure of "correctness" then I've got that covered in spades.
I breath deeply, slowly, evenly, almost all of the time. Even during fairly strenuous physical exertion, such as when I ride my bike up a steep hill (which I do nearly every day), I don't speed up my breathing very much, up to about 12 bpm max, and I do not breath shallowly at any time.
My resting respiration rate averages 6 breaths per minute and my doctor is always simply amazed at how slowly and far into my diaphragm I breath when she puts that stethoscope on me and listens in on that. She tells me to breath faster so she can complete her test in a timely fashion. I have a hard time doing that, even consciously thinking about it.
Whenever one of those pulse ox machines are put on my finger the blood ox reading is always 99% so I am well oxygenated.
So no worries there for me at all on my breath rate or anything about it. I pass every physical with absolutely flying colors.

Bob


Bob,
Congratulations! You have accomplished what Tai Ji was intended to do. I don't know how did you get to this point. That's right, you want to keep the resting respiration rate average at 6 breaths per minute at all times. You got that covered in spades all right. BTW That was what I want to hear from you. As long this is your regular breathing habit, you should keep it that way at all times. Even though, you don't coordinate the movements with your breathing during Tai Ji; but you still perform the abdominal breathing which is fine. However, what I was suggesting if you do coordinate your movements with your breathing would be more effective in the training. If you cannot do such thing, that's fine too. Let nature take its course!

Please keep in mind. Breathing is the only thing which can be regulated externally but the heart is not. However, the heart rate can be regulated indirectly is by regulating the breathing. I will go over the resting rate of the heart in the next post.

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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:20 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:CD,
Let me ask you something...
Do you try to regulate your heart rate to your movements during TCC?
If not, why not? Your heart rate can also be controlled by your mind, so why wouldn't you do that too?
Heart rate is also an automatic thing, your body keeps right on doing it all day long whether you're thinking about it or not, just like breathing.

Since you're regulating the fashion in which you breath, tying it to your movements as opposed to letting nature take its course... Why not your heart rate too?
My resting pulse rate, btw, comes in anywhere between 54 and 60, which is in the "athlete" range for a guy my age.
I can speed that up, slow it down, pretty much at will just by thinking about it.
So... Why not do that when doing TCC as well?

I am not trying to insult you, to me this is a very legitimate question as the two things are rather intrinsically related and I can't understand why someone who is so vehemently pushing the one method wouldn't do the other.


Bob


No, I do no and cannot regulate my heart rate as the way you'd described. It is humanly impossible. As you said, the heartbeat is an automatic thing. The heart rate will be changed only when there is a change in the oxygen level in the blood or the blood pressure changes. For example, if you run, your oxygen level will go down, then your heart will beat faster to circulate more oxygen to the body cells. When you stop running and come to rest, your heart will be slowing down until the oxygen level is back to normal resting rate again. I don't think anyone by sitting still to make the heart rate to speed up by will.

I can control my breathing but not the heart rate directly. However, I can control my heart to stay at resting rate indirectly. It can be done by maintaining a constant level of oxygen into the body. So, the heart does not detect a change in the oxygen level in the blood, thus it will not take any action to speed up the beating rate. To keep heart at resting rate even better is with abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing will provide a maximum amount of oxygen uptake at all times. There is more oxygen than enough oxygen for the body to be consumed. Hence, the heart will never ever see that there is a lack of oxygen in the blood. Then, there is no cause for the heart to make any adjustments.

A provision of a large amount of oxygen, it is good for the cardiac muscle contraction. If the cardiac muscle contraction is very strong, then, the blood pressure will be maintained at a normal steady level. In other words, the heart will never have to beat faster or harder than the resting rate. Thus, the heart will never be overworked itself. I am so happy for you is because that is exactly what's happening to you when ride your bike going up a steep hill everyday.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:47 pm

CD,
I've been fairly busy for the last couple of weeks, first chance to visit the page again.

Again, I have to disagree with you.
Anyone can manage their heart rate. It's actually quite easy.
Just think about it, that's all there is to it.
Chi follows mind intent.
I know this to be true because I've done it quite frequently and demonstrably.
In my last post I mentioned pulse/ox meters, I am very familiar with them because I used to do maintenance on them (as well as many other types of medical equipment, I was a bio-med tech).
While doing so I used to amaze my co-workers by plugging myself into one and then changing my heart rate just by concentrating on doing so.
I could speed it up to nearly double my resting rate and slow it down rather significantly as well. Not to half of course but from about 54 or so down to the mid 40's.
Again, just by putting my mind to it. I would stand or sit in one place and make that meter go up and down at will.
I did this over and over again and on medical equipment that was calibrated to measure heart rate very precisely.
So no, it is not impossible to regulate your heart rate. It is very possible and...
It's not even hard to do.
You can do it right now. Just sit down, close your eyes (I am past that point but most people need to do so at first), and put your mind to it.
If you don't have a pulse/ox machine handy then just have a friend measure your pulse (not easy to do that yourself but it can be done).
Then think about your heart going faster. Put all of your will to it.
Your heart will speed up. It may take you a while but eventually and after much practice it becomes easier to do.
Just like anything else.
I don't recommend starting out by trying to slow down your heart rate. That is much more difficult to do.
After you begin to be able to speed up your heart rate you can than practice slowing it down from an elevated state. Once you can do that it will be easier to slow it down a bit from your resting rate.
Give it a try, I think you'll be surprised.

Bob
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby global village idiot » Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:53 pm

My perspective in tai chi is limited; however, my perspective elsewhere seems to speak to this question.

When I first enlisted, the Army was still very much in favor of the thinking best summed up by, "You'll never be wrong if you go by the book." It was a hidebound sort of thinking, very Platonic, as though there was only one right way to do any given task.

Nowadays, such thinking is very near blasphemy. Creative solutions (within reason) are encouraged. I was in the field with my Reserve unit the last three weeks and asked as many people as it occurred to me to ask. Not one of them had heard such a sentiment expressed in the last ten years. However, every single one had heard the phrase, "This is A way, not THE way."

I bring this up because it seems the same sort of thinking is embedded in the premise of this discussion.

Would it perhaps be better to say that while there are many, many ways to do tai chi wrong, there isn't one single way to do it right?

gvi

[EDITED TO ADD] Here's another way of looking at the issue...
Tai chi confers many benefits - health, mental well-being, balance, self-defense, etc., most of which defy easy quantification.
If there is one "correct" way - with the clear implication that every other way is incorrect - then the benefits would likely not accrue by doing tai chi in any way other than the "correct" one.
But is this so? Is this really what happens in the real world?
Probably not.
Moreover, who gets to say what's correct and what isn't?
It would seem that this is the business of the instructor and a good instructor ought to look at results rather than outward appearances.
Suppose there's one correct way to do "Repulse Monkey," all others being incorrect.
If I do "Repulse Monkey" in a fight and it works despite not being "correct;" that is, if it sends my opponent flopping all out-of-control...what penalty is there? Do I go back and let the other fellow knock me around for two minutes while I'm in the "penalty box?"
Suppose someone does the forms "incorrectly" and despite this gets improved balance? Do we get to spin her around until she dodders around like a drunkard?
Suppose someone does the forms "incorrectly" and despite this feels emotionally better? Do we get to tell him how fat he is or that he smells like a city trash-collectors' strike until he's at his pre-tai chi state of insecurity?
I'm being purposely facile, but the point is still valid.
It would seem that the results matter; and as there is no real way to quantify them - despite their being there - whatever way gets the results is ipso facto "correct." Arguing about whether a practitioner could achieve better results by doing it better, to me, is something for an instructor to do - I have enough problems squaring myself away.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Wed Aug 31, 2016 10:23 pm

global village idiot wrote:My perspective in tai chi is limited; however, my perspective elsewhere seems to speak to this question.

I bring this up because it seems the same sort of thinking is embedded in the premise of this discussion.

Would it perhaps be better to say that while there are many, many ways to do tai chi wrong, there isn't one single way to do it right?

gvi



Perhaps I would like to rephrase it:
Would it perhaps be better to say that while there are many, many ways to do tai chi incomplete, there isn't one single way to do it right which is a fallacy?


Those people who practice Tai Chi Chuan but do not understand the principle of yin-yang. Perhaps, they may not do it right or may never ever do it right! One who knows the principle of yin-yang will be able to perform self-corrections without further instruction from a teach. Otherwise, one may practice and practice for years and going nowhere. It doesn't matter how good your instructor is if the principle of yin-yang wasn't taught once in the class. Also, it depends on the intuition of the students to comprehend and apply this principle in the practice constantly. If the move was violated the principle, the body would have had felt that the posture was not properly done. Such as the body was tilted toward one side to cause off balance. Most importantly, those who neglect the significance of abdominal breathing will not receive the ultimate health benefits. There is one way to find out. That is one who gets tired after each practice or from any strenuous work. Another way one can tell that the ultimate benefit has been attained is the sight of a tremendous increase in libido or the body is full of energy.

So, it is wise to say. To practice Tai Ji Chuan correctly is to following the principle of yin-yang and have each movement to coordinate with your breathing and vice versa. I can guarantee it will never go wrong.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:34 pm

Chidragon,
Again, I have disagree with one portion of your last post:
"To practice Tai Ji Chuan correctly is to following the principle of yin-yang and have each movement to coordinate with your breathing and vice versa"
Up to the point where you so vehemently insist that ONLY tying breath to movement is correct we're entirely on the same page. Because...
If you tie your breathing to your movements and it doesn't "work" for you, then that is by its very definition incorrect for Tai Chi Chuan.
I have never, ever been able to make that method work for me.
I have never, ever been told by a single Master that it is necessary and, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

For me I would let this go. I know that for myself this statement is simply not correct so I would just shrug, ignore it, and move on.
However this forum is not just frequented by those who have enough knowledge of this art to do that, there are many people who come here with varying levels of accomplishment in this art, so not all of them are going to have that ability.
For them I have to keep repeating this reply so as to, at least in my own mind, make sure that no one leaves here feeling that they simply HAVE to tie their breathing to their movements or they will never learn TCC correctly.
For you that works, so please keep right on doing that.
For me it does not. It never has and I feel quite sure it never will.
For me, as well as most of the people who I know who are quite accomplished in this art, up to and including several Grand Masters, that is not a basic principle, a guiding precept, or correct for them.
Are we all wrong?

Bob
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Sep 09, 2016 5:20 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:Chidragon,
For me, as well as most of the people who I know who are quite accomplished in this art, up to and including several Grand Masters, that is not a basic principle, a guiding precept, or correct for them.
Are we all wrong?

Bob

If one cannot, do not follow nor understand the correct way, it still doesn't mean it is not the correct correct way. If the Grand Masters do not follow this principle, then they could not have been called themselves Grand Masters. However, if you have never heard of such principle, it was because you had never been told before as you said. BTW I had been told and heard many times by the Grand Masters. I can site some links about how important the breathing is in Tai Ji as well as in martial arts. FYI A Tai Ji swordsman cannot perform well without knowing the correct method of breathing. In order for one the pick up and manipulate a sword properly, one must have had practiced Tai Chi in lieu with breathing for many many years.

Are we all wrong? You might answer that with your own discretion.
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Re: The Correct Way to Practice Tai Ji

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:16 pm

Once I had read that some people are practicing Tai Ji Chuan in this manner:
1. 死練太極
One just practice, practice and practice Tai Ji Chuan.

2. 練死太極
One just practice Tai Ji Chuan by going through the movements blindly.

3. 練太極死
One just practice Tai Ji Chuan in one's lifespan.

All these manners have the implication that people are practicing Tai Ji without any fundamental knowledge nor understand the essential purpose of Tai Ji. Unfortunately, they are not even bother to find out what Tai Ji Chuan is all about.
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