Starting Out

Painful vs. Painless Effort

john kozak

There are many styles of t'ai chi as well as methods of teaching. Choosing a teacher is an important first step.

Also important to know is that t'ai chi is learned in stages. Your teacher will guide you through them properly. Ignoring these stages of learning will only result in a lot of wasted effort.

And perhaps most important, it is critical when starting out to develop the right study habits. In the beginning great emphasis is placed upon learning each posture correctly. This kind of exact learning requires repetition, time, patience, and effort.

Yang Ch'eng-fu, whose style of t'ai chi I practice, admonished students when beginning absolutely to avoid haste.

"And while you may not remember me, I well remember you, and I just want to thank you for introducing me to T'ai Chi and starting me on this amazing journey."
— Staara, Indiana

Stages of Learning

The first stage of learning is to memorize and be able to do the t'ai chi form which is a series of individual postures linked together. These postures provide the foundation for all future practice.

The next stage focuses your attention upon the mind as well as the body. You will learn the internal practice of the postures such as ascending and descending, yin and yang, and opening and closing.

With continued practice you will come to understand difficult t'ai chi concepts and be able to apply them. At this advanced stage of learning, the quality of your practice will change dramatically transforming itself into painless effort. We describe this state as being "in t'ai chi."