Learning the form

Learning the form

Postby Siahn » Thu Sep 01, 2016 3:46 am

At my school, we learn the form one move at a time. That is, until we have learnt the intricacies of one particular movement to a reasonable level we are not allowed to move on to the next movement. With this approach it takes many years to learn all the movements of one form.

However, at every other school I have looked into, they seem to learn the entire form to a ‘rough’ level first and then begin to refine it. In other words, they learnt the steps and rough movements of the form within a matter of months and then begin to practice and refine it further.

Can others tell me how they learn the form and what the advantages might be of your approach?
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Re: Learning the form

Postby ChiDragon » Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:46 pm

Here is the way how I was taught.
The 108 form was broken down to four segments. Each segment contains different sets of movements. At the first week, one set of movements was taught in class. Then the student go home and practice twice a day or more to get familiarize with the form. At the beginning, one should not pay too much attention to the correctness of the movements. What is important is to let the muscles and joints to adjust and get use to the changing position of each movement.

In your case, by just learning the form one move at a time which will have less effect on the muscles and joints. IMO It defeats the purpose of Tai Ji Chuan. BTW The purpose of going through the movements should be done continuously and smoothly. After a period of time, like few months, the breathing will be kicked in spontaneously as part of the practice. One movement at a time, the breathing may not kick in to give you the internal physical change in the body.

The combination of the movements and breathing will activate the biological loop inside your body. The biological loop will enhance the functions of the internal organs to generate the internal energy. In other words, it will increase the rate of metabolism to prevent any stagnation of the body development.
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Re: Learning the form

Postby global village idiot » Thu Sep 01, 2016 6:51 pm

Though I wouldn't say your instructor is wrong, ChiDragon is right in that breaking the long form into four sections is the standard way to teach tai chi.

One thing you haven't mentioned is the smooth transition from one posture to the next. I would hope your instructor places a great deal of importance on the transitions, because it is by them that we get the most out of tai chi as possible. If all you're doing is going from one posture to the next, with little concern for how you get from one to the next, you're just striking poses; and if that's all you're doing, you may as well take ballroom dance lessons with a partner - you'll have more fun.

The more I practice, the more I'm convinced that the transitions are at least as important - if not necessarily more important - than the postures themselves. Claude Debussy is famously quoted as saying "Music is the space between the notes" and it's the same thing in tai chi. It's one thing to end up perfectly situated in "Crane Spreads its Wings," but it's how you get there that makes the move effective, both externally and internally.

When you practice a new piece of music on an instrument, you don't practice each individual note one-at-a-time - you practice passages or sections of the piece. Tai chi is like music in this regard. It's especially like Beethoven's 9th Symphony - the first three movements all essentially differ from each other, whereas the 4th movement revisits the previous three and has additional things at the end. Look through the 108-form set - when broken down into four sections - and you'll see the exact same arrangement.

Tai chi is movement - continuous, flowing movement - and focus on the postures, without focusing on the flow and "music" of the entire form, seems to stand at odds to it.

There's another concern, which is that while the first several moves are extremely well-ingrained (as they should be) the last ones are but imperfectly remembered, since they're done less frequently. This is true when working in the set, but at least when working in the set, it's not so bad.

If your instructor in fact gives the transitions the attention they merit, then it isn't so bad, though the last concern still obtains. I'm more intrigued by what you didn't say than what you did, and I'd be grateful for more information.

gvi
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Re: Learning the form

Postby Siahn » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:33 pm

global village idiot wrote:Though I wouldn't say your instructor is wrong, ChiDragon is right in that breaking the long form into four sections is the standard way to teach tai chi.

One thing you haven't mentioned is the smooth transition from one posture to the next. I would hope your instructor places a great deal of importance on the transitions, because it is by them that we get the most out of tai chi as possible. If all you're doing is going from one posture to the next, with little concern for how you get from one to the next, you're just striking poses; and if that's all you're doing, you may as well take ballroom dance lessons with a partner - you'll have more fun.

gvi


Thanks GVI, I appreciate your feedback

In answer to your point/question around the transitions; trust me, my instructor goes to great lengths to train and emphasize the transitions between the movements. I will confess that Ive had my share of concerns around my schools approach to training and for that reason I have 'shopped around'. However, no other school or instructor I have met so far has come close to my current instructor when it comes to going into painstaking detail around each movement and how to transition from one posture to the next. His grasp and transmission of the Tai Chi principles is superb and I am convinced that were it not for him then I would not understand Tai Chi to the level I do relative to my time training. He is a superb instructor, probably the best I have encountered throughout 30 years old Martial Arts training in general.

However, I take the points you and others have made about learning the form in sections to help facilitate flow and continuous movement.
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Re: Learning the form

Postby Audi » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:03 am

Hi Everyone,

Different schools have different philosophies of teaching the form with associated advantages and disadvantages. Concentrating on learning fewer postures to a higher degree of accuracy helps avoid having to unlearn some bad habits later, but gives you less to practice with at home and less to compare with.

I think I have even heard of past teachers that focused only on standing positions of the final postures at first and then had the students “fill in” the transitions after several months/years of standing training.

Here is the way how I was taught.

The 108 form was broken down to four segments. Each segment contains different sets of movements. At the first week, one set of movements was taught in class.


Though I wouldn't say your instructor is wrong, ChiDragon is right in that breaking the long form into four sections is the standard way to teach tai chi.


I have not heard of four division of the traditional Yang form. Could one of you elaborate on what the divisions are? I have only heard about dividing it into three sections separated by the two instances of Cross Hands in the middle of the form.
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Re: Learning the form

Postby ChiDragon » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:26 am

Audi wrote:I have not heard of four division of the traditional Yang form. Could one of you elaborate on what the divisions are? I have only heard about dividing it into three sections separated by the two instances of Cross Hands in the middle of the form.

Hi, Audi,
It is really insignificant to argue how many sections were divided in the long form. I would feel it is a matter of the organization of the material for easy learning. Besides, there are many repetition of movements in the 108 form. Since the repetitions are very time consuming, I had stop practicing the long form and just practice the 32 and 40 forms with my own additional favorite movements included in my practice.
Last edited by ChiDragon on Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Learning the form

Postby fchai » Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:52 am

Greetings All,

The Yang Form I learnt has 3 parts, as Audi mentioned. Each instructor presumably teaches in the manner that they believe is the most effective, dependent on the environment, circumstances and teaching methodology. My understanding is that in the past, and pretty much the way I was taught 30 odd years ago, was for the student to follow the movements being done in a group and absorb what they can by mirroring the movements. Typically the complete form is done at the start. After this, the group breaks up to small groups dependent on their progress level and build on what they know and/or are confident in executing, with support from a more advanced student. However, additional to this, those who wish to have greater knowledge and competency engage the teacher for personal instruction. This personal instruction is done one-on-one and as a private session. However, if a teacher only exclusively conducts group classes then the approach would be different, with the advanced instruction being given in a group format.
However, it is often the case IMHO, that Taiji is a personal journey as well and one's practice and proficiency evolves, as one matures in the form. Every movement is connected and have meaning and purpose, and attention to the transitions is also critical. However, transitions have a lot of scope for interpretations depending on your ''intent''.
In response to the question about teaching methods, the old saying, "Different horses for different courses'', apply.
Take care,
Frank
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Re: Learning the form

Postby taojoannes » Wed Nov 09, 2016 5:59 am

I learned T.T. Liang's 150 Posture form, it's broken into six parts.

1st section - to cross hands
2nd Section part 1 cross hands to hi-pat on horse
2nd Section part 2 separate foot to cross hands
3rd Section part 1 cross hands to golden rooster
3rd section part 2 repulse monkey to hi pat on horse (almost identical to 2nd section part 1)
3rd section part 3 Thrusting Hand to close

The end postures are fairly inconsequential, I mean, they're important and you need to get them right and be stable, but, yes, the posture is not where you end, the posture includes all of the movements that get you from one point to another. The "end posture" is just a demarcation point. Different branches put them in different places.

In our branch we actually break each movement into 2,4, or 6 beats, so there are a total of 614 individual stances that we can stop and check.

As far as learning it, I learned it posture by posture, and then section by section. When I learned the whole thing, I was able to play it to the music.

Time wise... I can't remember, but it couldn't have been more than six months. We also followed the rest of the class for group form practice even before we learned the whole thing.
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