Chan Seng Chee's newsletter for Sing Ong Tai Chi branches affiliated through him.
Dear Tai Chi enthusiast,
We are having another wonderful year for Tai Chi Chuan training. Prof. Yek taught a series of seminars in March and again in October. The seminars are very vital for sparking the thoughts of every student according to their individual needs. Without these powerful presentations, it is really uncertain how many years of just regular training is needed before the same messages can really get through.
Many students have made crucial breakthroughs this year. A number have completed the 42 universal form with respectable grades and several from Wellington have bravely attempted their first grading.
This year I attended the Second International Instructor's Camp in Auckland with Mr Mike Kinney, Mr Marcus Simons and Mr Brent Drake. Master James Lim 9th Dan (8th Dan ITF) from Montreal, Canada together with most of the Sing Ong Tai Chi North Island instructors were there again.
The Camp was much more relaxed and enjoyable than last year's. It is because we were more familiar with one another and know how the camp was going to run from last year's experience. Prof. Yek taught us the meaning and elementary calculations of the Pa Kua (Eight Trigrams) in Tai Chi Chuan through the Six Tendon & Joints Relaxation Exercises. We also spent time on Push Hands and completed the Shao Li drill.
After much planning and discussion with the senior instructors, Master Michael Yek is going to implement a more refined training syllabus next year. This will include assessments for the Six Tendon and Joint Relaxation Exercises and the Five Relaxation Exercises. It should help the new students set their goals more clearly and strive towards it.
We have also been restructuring the classes and getting some of the senior students to start training as instructors. This will give a lot better individual attention to the new students.
Teaching will also lift the standard of the senior students as Prof. Yek have said that the optimal position to be in for maximum progress is when there is: 1) an instructor of a higher level to lead you, 2) classmates of the same level to push you and 3) students of a lower level for you to lead and express your skill.
I have written a brief guide about learning Tai Chi Chuan for the new members and have included it here so that it can be another reminder for students and instructors at all levels.
Learning Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Chuan is an immensely deep and profound art which has great health benefits besides being one of the most advanced of martial arts.
However, to enjoy the full value of Tai Chi Chuan, it has to be appreciated and cultivated by the practitioner beyond just a superficial level. Serious commitment to training and the careful guidance by a knowledgeable instructor is necessary for success.
The student must be prepared to regularly attend two classes a week and practise the material taught for a few minutes everyday for a few months before there can be any appreciable effect. The beginners level is completed in about three years of sustained training.
Mental preparation should begin as soon as the uniform is worn. In self training, loose clothing similar to our Tai Chi Chuan uniform should be worn if possible and the same mental preparation should also be observed.
Tai Chi Chuan is unique and the student must be prepared to encounter ideas that are unusual and are more often than not contrary to the objectives of other physical activities and martial arts. Any effort to train without full acceptance of the correct philosophy and working principles will be futile. Therefore, careful attention must be paid to the instruction and constant mulling over the theory is essential. The students are encouraged to ask questions at the end of the first phase of training.
The student must also appreciate that learning must be by a, 'step by step', 'level by level' basis. No attempts should be made by the student to learn material that is not prescribed by the instructor as sufficient development of each stage is necessary before the next is introduced. A correct and strong foundation is vital for success.
The ability to accept change ( regular updates of information) is vital, because a simpler version is always taught first and many succeeding refinements are revealed when the student is familiar with the preceding versions. An inability to understand this by the student, will always lead to frustration, instead of delight, whenever a later and more accurate version is taught.
Firstly, here are four ideas that the new students should know about Tai Chi Chuan:
- Tai Chi Chuan is created from the philosophy of Wu Chi (Entropy - evenly distributed but disordered energy) giving birth to Tai Chi, Tai Chi splitting into 2 phases (Yin/Yang), 2 phases to 4 phases, and to 8 phases, and to 64 till Infinity or Entropy again. All of Tai Chi Chuan is about balancing Yin/Yang with increasingly more and more phases.
- "Use 'Yi' not 'Li'." Tai Chi is about using the mind and not physical effort.
- "Moving the hands is not Tai Chi Chuan!" Just moving the arms will be violating the balancing principles and also that,
- "Perception and Reality are not necessary the same." In other words the student must understand that: 'What they see,' may not be, 'what is', in reality. Tai Chi Chuan cannot be learnt by just looking without knowing what to look for. It also means having 'faith' in the principles of Tai Chi Chuan.
There are the very important 'Ten Points' that have to be learnt later on.
We start by learning the Six Tendons & Joints Relaxation Exercises. These exercises are designed by Professor Yek to initially free up the tendons and joints so that the principles of soft and yielding can be achieved.
The next level is the differentiation, reintegration and balancing of the body according to the principles of Yin/Yang and structure.
At the higher levels, the controlled circulation of internal energy through the meridians of the body is practised together with the balancing according to the Five Elements and Eight Trigrams Formations. The 'Spiralling and Entwining Energies' and the highest level of Tai Chi Chuan can also be practised in these exercises too.
However, the new students should first of all concentrate on the accuracy of the moves. Relaxation and a natural flow of movement are the next objectives.
We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and progress in Tai Chi Chuan everyday.
May Chi be with you.
S C Chan