Consistent and Powerful Practice

October 31, 2016 0 Comments
At Inchmahome Priory

At Inchmahome Priory

It is a joy for me to a Tai Chi form that calls for large and complex movements.  Right now, I’m learning Double Rainbow Fan created by the late Madame Wang Ju Ron, and continued by her daughter, Master Helen Wu. Master Wu is my teacher’s sifu (sifu:  a skillful person or master).

The version provided in the link above is a faster version set to more contemporary music than my lessons.  Saying that, I practice in studio and with my teacher, Ruth Kneile, along with a group at the Urbandale Senior Center on Fridays.  No slouches are they. Jumps, twirls, fan tosses and kicks are executed with grace and style.  I swear that Katie has had springs installed in her knees. She jumps like a gazelle. Steve has a photographic memory for forms. And Judy could do the entire five minute routine in two and a half minutes.

Learning a new form requires memorizing the choreography, learning new bits of form, and practice, practice, practice. What begins as a complex “jumble” of moves slowly evolves in to steady, smooth movement.  The form has many turns, a couple of fan tosses and several punches.   Thank goodness my fans are bamboo and virtually unbreakable because they’ve hit the floor more times than they’ve been caught.

My advice on learning a new form is consistency of practice and breaking down the whole in to pieces.

  1. Follow along with a group (or a video, although this is less productive) through the entire form even when just starting out. Leave your feelings of awkwardness at the door and jump in.  Laugh when you get completely lost, but keep at it.  You are building muscle memory and things will come together a little later on.
  2. Starting at the beginning of the sequence, concentrate on one or two movements and move on to the next only when you have a grasp of what you are to do. Don’t go for perfection because you could practice 100 years and still find small adjustments.
  3. Build your knowledge by small parts of the sequence while coupling the sequences together, building on the entire form as you go.  In your daily Tai Chi or Qigong routine, practice the sequence you’ve learned and spend extra time on the newest sequence you are learning.   Then, at the end of practice, go through the entire form again, or at least that part when you remember some of the sequence.
  4. Work with a sifu or master.  You are never going to observe adjustments to your form as clearly for yourself as a trusted teacher will.  And, make sure your teacher’s style meets your needs.  You should work with someone who you WANT to say “thank you” to when they make a suggestion.  Walk away from any teacher that makes you feel that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, talented enough or coordinated enough.
  5. Know that mastering a new form takes time.  You will first learn the sequence, then you will pick a part in the sequence that isn’t quite what you want it to be and bracket your practice around just that small piece.
  6. If you were building a project plan or making an improvement in a process, you would identify no more than three items to break apart and fix.  The same goes for your weekly practice.  Find those bits you want to focus on, make a mental note or write them down, and resolve to practice those bits until you are satisfied that you’ve made an improvement.  I take one day a week and practice the kick, the turn or the toss that challenges me.
  7. Each week take a day off, no Tai Chi no Qigong.  Let your mind rest.
  8. Before going to sleep, go over the sequencing, either the bits you are working on or the entire form.  Then drift off to a peaceful sleep.
  9. Perfection is for fine crystal and airplane landings, not for Tai Chi.

 

 

 

 

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