Taichi can be practiced at any age even though doing it well requires some important skills: coordination, balance and patience.
All the forms usually alternate between the left and right side of the body and thus requires good coordination. But it also needs it between hands and legs as they have to be moved at the same time — in opposition with Taekwondo forms for example.
This consciousness of the whole body is likely to put off many new students as they realize that, after having performed their hands well, their footwork was all messed up.
One of the reasons why Taichi uses simultaneously legs and hands is because of the soft nature of the punches or kicks, and uses a flowing motion of the whole body to increase the power of a blow, thus reducing the effort of a single limb.
Think about a whip and you’ll get the idea: moving the handle will drive the forces along the rope and the power at the end will be powerful.
Balance is also very important: when performing forms, you should always be in control of your body, even when standing on one legs with your arms wide apart. You should also move your legs at the same pace as your hands; you can’t step quickly to safely stand on your two feet and move your hands slowly to try to be in control.
This is certainly one of the most difficult part of learning Taichi as there aren’t any shortcuts to improve it but practicing again and again.
Tips: if you imagine your forms as “flowing like water”, effortlessly, it might put you in the good state of mind to be more relaxed when you do them as you won’t fall off-balance because you’re stressed. (You might’ve hard Bruce Lee talking about the flow of water in this video.)
Finally, the notion of yin (the black side of the ball) and yang (the white side) is very much present in Taichi forms: in one of them — Grasp Sparrow Tail’s –, the movement of rolling this imaginary ball helps the student to perform the motion.
This is also why forms are often repeated from the right and the left side, to prevent an unbalanced body and mind.
Next time, we’ll talk about the differences and similarities of Taichi with other martial arts.