The Experts Weigh In: 6 Ways to Avoid Tai Chi Roadblocks

[pullquote align=”right”]Every (every!) movement in tai chi involves the entire body. Do not forget about the appendage that is not doing the dramatic movement. Where is your left hand when your right hand is punching?[/pullquote]







On a break during a recent workshop with practitioners and teachers of many years expressed their envy to a newbie for being “so new” and for having the foresight to attend a workshop early on in his development.  The new student was confused by this and said “What do you mean, I don’t know anything!  I am new!”  The teachers responded nearly in unison “exactly.”

This led to a spirited conversation of “I wish I would have known…” or “This sounds silly but I would have made so much progress if I…”  What follows may seem simple.  But focus on these ideas across all of your movements and your progress will be great.  The greatest tai chi roadblocks stem from not using the body in unison.  We must learn the individual movements but then dial our focus away from the microscopic movements and treat our body as a whole.

6 Ways to Reduce the Greatest Tai Chi Roadblocks

1.  Move your body parts in unison

Every (every!) movement in tai chi involves the entire body.  Do not forget about the appendage that is not doing the dramatic movement.  Where is your left hand when your right hand is punching?

2.  Identify which leg is weighted and which is empty

When we stand normally we 1) do not pay attention to where our weight is and 2) typically weight evenly.  In tai chi there is always an empty and full leg and weight is distributed in a percentage (90/10, 60/40, etc.).

3.  Breathe naturally

Your movements match your breath in tai chi.  Often new learners change their breath to match their movements when it is the other way around.  Learn to relax and lengthen your breath and move your body to match.

4.  Reduce tension

Show me a student who has been told to relax and I’ll show you someone who is frustrated.  This one drives many of us nuts for years (Relax please. I am relaxed d#@% it!).  Assume a posture, drop your shoulders, squeeze the whole body and then relax each body part in succession.  Now you are relaxed and can move.

5.  Avoid rushing

Yes you want to learn the form but work diligently to enjoy the process.  Then the form won’t matter.  This is partially the onus of your teacher because they should be providing material that makes you feel as though you are progressing continually.

6.  Welcome precision

Sink into each stance instead of flowing between movements.  Why?  Each posture develops specific skills.


There you have it.  Simple right?  Yes it is simple but we all wish that we would have had this collection of pointers years ago.

Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

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