Writing a book on tai chi

Converting my largest website into a book proved to be quite problematic.
The principal issue is the fact that a website has no start, middle or ending.
All pages exist with equal significance, with the possible exception of the home page.
I spent a few months on The Hidden Strength of Tai Chi and a separate title called Rest.
The former stalled because the information is hard to convey in a linear fashion, and the latter was a no-starter because it seemed to be stating the obvious.



Most adults have totally forgotten what learning entails.
They placate themselves with excuses about not having a young, flexible mind... or having no time.
But this is not the truth at all.
The truth is far simpler - they have become old and lazy.


Single palm change

I was talking with a lady about baguazhang.
I asked her if she knew the purpose of the single palm change.
There are of course several possible answers which are appropriate and correct.
She couldn't think of anything to say. 

It makes you wonder what exactly people are being taught.
The answer to the question is fundamental to a student's entire comprehension of the baguazhang palm changes, since the subsequent palm changes are employing the very principles discovered and understood from the initial palm change.


Tai chi is not supposed to be a spa treatment or a chill out session.
It requires the individual to mentally engage with the material - to deepen their knowledge and skill - to understand
This makes the training far more stimulating and encourages long term interest in the art.


Writing a book

After deleting the Neijiaquan & Newcastle Martial Arts websites, I realised that the difficulties I experienced writing a book could be circumvented if I stuck to the A-Z format used on the websites.

Instead of seeking linearity I present a book based on A-Z.



If you want to become skilled with tai chi you need to practice frequently.
The more often you perform the movements, the easier they are to remember.
Repetition forms habits.

Little and often is best for concentration.

Isn't tai chi slow and boring?

(i) Pace

Many of the beginners exercises are performed slowly in order to relax the muscles, calm the mind and encourage awareness.
Only one of the tai chi forms is slow. The rest are more vigorous.

Taijiquan (the martial art) training starts slowly and then speeds up as the student becomes more skilled.

(ii) Boredom

A good class will always have a comprehensive syllabus in place; ensuring on-going development and access to new material.
The training challenges your mind with unexpected insights, skills and possibilities.
No two lessons are the same.

(iii) Stimulation

Modern culture encourages people to seek out stimulation and entertainment.
This can lead to impatience and a diminished capacity for attention.

To make progress in tai chi, the student must engage with the training and work hard.  
A quiet resolve and a commitment to practice will lead to strong progress and the opportunity to learn increasingly fascinating, sophisticated skills.


The purpose of a tai chi class

If you attend a night school class to learn Spanish, French Cuisine or how to paint, the lesson is simply teaching you the required skills.
The next step is to go home, speak Spanish, cook or paint.

Tai chi is just the same.
We are teaching you how to do tai chi. Now, go home and practice the art for yourself.


Your contribution

Are you an expert in taoism, zen, the Tai Chi Classics, tai chi principles, human biomechanics, ergonomics, internal martial arts concerns, combat, how to teach taijiquan...?Probably not.
In all fairness, there is little a new student can contribute to the class in the form of knowledge, experience, insight and skill.

However, you can be friendly.
And you can also aim to practice what you have been taught. 
This is your contribution to the class.


Is tai chi compatible with the gym?

Gym work typically shortens muscles and promotes patterns of tension and fixity in the body.

Tai chi does the opposite: it allows muscles to lengthen, releases tensions and encourages good skeletal use.
The muscle work that takes place in tai chi is principally geared towards whole-body movement and training the body to rely more upon postural muscles.

Body building and weight lifting are fashionable activities today. The emphasis is upon developing external muscles which creates an armouring effect that can eventually distort the bony structure. It is the over developed musculature that actually torque's the bones and discourages them from bearing additional weight. The body attempts to compensate and problems arise.

Running does not necessarily in and of itself improve posture that is already poor and constricted. It often exaggerates problems due to the substitution of inappropriate muscles. The repetitive inappropriate development of the musculature (as in body building or weight lifting) often leads to diminished sensitivity. Stress occurs in the knees and lower back, encouraging injury.

Various sport activities emphasize strength, endurance and speed. Development of muscle control rather than skeletal balance takes precedence. Gaining speed at the expense of mounting tension, is too often the goal. 

(Liz Koch)
The health benefits of tai chi are quickly undermined by weight lifting, exertion and forcing.


School was long ago

What exactly did learning at school involve?
  1. Lessons in class/explanations
  2. Reading text books
  3. Practice in class
  4. Heavy repetition of basic elements e.g. times tables, alphabet, spelling tests
  5. Peer competition
  6. Homework
  7. Exams
  8. Levels of proficiency
  9. Regular feedback 
Somehow as adults we expect to pick things up easily and skilfully without undertaking the process of learning necessary as a child.
Why is this?


Making changes

Although it is not easy to make changes, we all can do it.
There are some simple steps to follow:
  1. Become aware of what you are doing (habit)
  2. Inhibit (stop) the urge/habit
  3. Consider your options
  4. Consciously act
In the field of martial arts practice, this 4 step process is too slow for combat but it can be trained in partner practice.
Over time, old habits are shed and new/more effective habits replace them.
The ideal situation is where the student can respond spontaneously and appropriately to whatever is happening (as it is happening) without the need to consciously think at all.