Ten Essential Points of Practice for T'ai Chi Ch'uan
By William C. Phillips

Approach: Approach Tai Chi Ch'uan with no preconceptions. Experience it as meditation, physical culture, and as an exercise of chi. You may develop self-defense along the way, but you may also develop that which is truly supreme and ultimate.

Patience: Every person is an individual. Some things will come quickly, others slowly, and some, perhaps, not at all. Know that each person develops at his own pace. The student competes only with himself. Therefore, a student should not feel that he is falling behind if a fellow student develops a skill in a month that he cannot acquire in six. The student may develop more quickly in another area. But even if not, remember that progress in Tai Chi Ch'uan, for most of us, is measured not in months, but in years.

Perseverance: While most students experience some benefit from Tai Chi practice within the first few weeks, Tai Chi is the practice of a lifetime. Ever increasing benefits of Tai Chi Ch'uan accrue with the decades of one's practice. Practice should be morning and night all the days of one's life.

Straight Spine: This facilitates the flow of chi up the spine.

Breathe To the Tan T'ien: This develops chi.

Empty the Mind: Tai Chi Ch'uan is meditation. This improves sensitivity to input, ability to react, to concentrate and to be sensitive to and to control chi.

Single Weight: This enhances internal sensitivity and improves balance in the form, push hands, and self-defense.

Feel Air as Substantial: If the air has substance, how much more substance will even your most supple opponent have? Also, this will aid in doing the form smoothly and at an even pace.

Softness Through Root: Develop your foothold so that five or six strong men together cannot push you. Also, develop your ability at neutralizing and softness so that you need never use that root. In this way, while having substantial root, you will always feel light and supple.

Benevolence: Never try to harm anyone in practice, teaching, or demonstration. In push hands and self-defense, as in form, you are competing with no one except yourself. If you feel a need to overpower your partner in practice, then your real need is to overpower your own ego. Your partner is there to help you develop your skills, and you, his. When you are pushed by your partner, it is not your partner who has pushed you, but rather your inability to neutralize the push that has pushed you. You will be "unpushed" when you have sufficiently overcome yourself in body, emotions, mind and spirit.

Originally published in Tai Chi: Perspectives of the Way and Its Movement, July-August 1981, Vol. 5, No. 4

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