Tai Chi in Principle

The complete exercise system


The hard thing to do is to start, anything. The next hard thing to do is stick to it.


Tai chi is no different; people are attracted to the elegant, flowing moves.They quickly find that it is not a dance and there is a lot going on underneath.


Actually it would probably be the same with a dance. All the audience sees is the flow and the elegance but you only have to watch an episode of Strictly Come Dancing to discover that the judges are watching on a totally different, unseen level. However, the advantage of tai chi is that you can take anything you want from it. If all you want is to go to a class once a week for a little light exercise, some green tea and a chat, that's fine. If you want to benefit from the health aspects, well you need to do a little more work but you can still take it at that level. If you want to go the whole distance and develop the power to practise the martial aspects of tai chi chuan you can do that too. It will take a long time and will need a really dedicated approach but anyone can do it.


The interesting thing for me is how goals can change. I started doing tai chi for the exercise. I actually enjoyed the meditative chi gung exercises and after a while discovered that I had an inner energy that I was previously unaware of. Eventually I started teaching and now, 12 years later, I really enjoy the self defence aspects and looking at how to apply tai chi to that end.


Tai chi development is incremental and it kind of creeps up on you. I have described my journey as a 'cascade of pennies dropping'. In my experience, one day you get up and find something you were struggling with, or didn't understand, makes perfect sense. Suddenly you have the desire to look more deeply into what is going on and your practice moves up a notch.


Make no mistake, tai chi is hard work. No instructor can show you the whole thing; you need to learn it for yourself. But if you do suddenly understand something and you take it to your teacher, if she or he is any good, they will help you develop your insight so you can move on further. And there is the key, find a good teacher, someone you can relate to and trust. It is no good if they just want to show you that they are better than you; we know they are. They need to be generous and to share.


In the end it is your practice, your tai chi. You take it where you want it to go or follow it to where it leads.

As one of my own instructors said to me: “All you need to practise tai chi is the patience - to practise tai chi.”