Last time, we started discussing the transition to advanced tai chi skills.  We identified when it often begins as well as why it starts to become more challenging for people as they hit the learning plateau between basic skills and learning advanced skills.

Learning tai chi is more than physically learning movements during classes.  As we discussed last month, it also requires a deeper understanding of the theory around movement.  So, we will continue to share some typical challenges which people encounter. You may recognize some of these same challenges as the ones that you are facing.

This next challenge is one that is faced by almost all students.  See if you can relate to this challenge.

Slowing Down(Slow 緩慢 huǎnmàn)

When learning tai chi movements, we typically go through 3 stages:

  1. Slow
  2. Fast
  3. Slow

In the beginning our movements are slow because we are struggling to remember the moves. Once we learn them, the movement then becomes part of our muscle memory and we speed up. In fact in this second stage of learning, if you try to slow down you may end up forgetting the next move. This is also one reason why many people have a hard time progressing from the second learning stage to the third stage because they fear forgetting the moves when they move slowly.

The third stage of learning is when we have to force ourselves to slow down again. This last stage is when we try to connect movement with our mental focus. Tai Chi is based on profound and complex principles. Only by slowing down our movements can we feel and connect the concepts in our mind to our body.

Slowing down is challenging. It is like placing a microscope over each and every little detail of our movements. It forces our mind to slow down and become acutely aware of every moment of the movements performed.  Any missing details or information about a movement surface so that they become exaggerated and exposed causing us to forget to prepare for the next move.

This is the second fear many people experience. They fear that their weaknesses will become exposed when they slow down.  Be assured that this is a normal part of the learning experience. Without exception, everyone goes through this learning stage. Training in this manner is both mentally and physically exhausting, but extremely effective in enhancing our skills.

The third reason for not being able to slow down could be due to a lack of strength and stamina.  It could be either or both physical and mental stamina. Start by applying this training method to the movements learned in tai chi basics first. Then try it on a small section of the form. It will take time to slowly build up strength and stamina.

The Real Value of Slowing Down

Tai Chi is performed slowly not because it is for old people.  It is a common misconception that many people hold.  Instead, performing movements slowly is a unique and powerful training technique that integrates our mind fully with our body. You will find that performing tai chi slowly is much more challenging than performing it quickly.

Repetition and mindfulness is the key to knowing the tai chi movements not just learning them.  Attend additional practice classes to enhance your weekly practice and the advanced programs to maintain your knowledge and enhance your understanding of movements.

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