If you slouch and the instructor told you not to slouch, most likely you would over-compensate.
This now creates a new problem; equally as bad as slouching.

Habits are deeply ingrained.
When wrong feels right, your own nervous system will provide unreliable information.
You gauge how your body feels in terms of what is familiar, rather than what is correct.



To learn, a person must let go of what they already know and be prepared to embrace the unknown.
Everything that you know is in the past. The unknown cannot be known.

Learning must begin by letting go.
There is nothing to be afraid of; it is natural to be uncertain, to have doubt, to be ignorant.


7th dan

A 7th dan exponent wears a red belt with a black changshan.


Corrections are not criticism.

An instructor corrects the student because they care about the student's progress.
Suggestions, possibilities and alternatives all serve to broaden your horizons and open the mind to new possibilities.
A reminder encourages the student to remember the basics, to focus upon the underlying

The student should be grateful when corrected, because the correction offers an opportunity for change, for improvement.



The training methods taught in class were designed to gently encourage you to use your mind and body in a different way.
Your existing habits will actually impede you.
Instead of performing an exercise comfortably, you will find the drill awkward... until you relax and do something unfamiliar.
Slowly, you learn to recognise the benefit of moving in the internal way.

Obviously, this process takes time.
It also requires the student to engage physically and mentally with the art.



Strain slowly leads to damage over time.

Prolonged imbalance can result in injury as the small strains gradually wear away at the body.
Like cracks, they cause very subtle damage.

Most people impose very slight strain on their bodies all day long.
Hunching over a computer.
Sitting badly.
Reaching to do something rather than stepping closer.



This 'disconnected' approach is also evident in our educational system which still over-emphasises examination results at the expense of real learning. Our children are fed vast quantities of discrete and often unrelated information which they must parrot back on demand. They are drilled and judged on their performance in a series of disconnected topics.

(Michael Gelb)


Being corrected

One of the obstacles facing a student is the experience of being corrected.
A good instructor can easily illustrate how one methods works and how another method does not.
It is their duty to help you to recognise the difference.


How can you do right when everything you do and feel is wrong?

This is a good question.
The trick is to relax; physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Relaxation will not remove your bad habits, but it will help your mind and body become more receptive to change.


Niwa (pure place)

The training hall is a place where you can relax, have fun and learn.
It is not a place of violence and machismo.

The challenge of learning tai chi chuan removes conflict, macho urges and aggression.
A student learns how to move in a graceful, balanced, harmonious way whilst maintaining composure at all times.


Spiritual component

Tai chi chuan practice does possess a spiritual component.
This may be experienced through studying taoism and zen, along with meditating, and practicing qigong, the form and application.

An earnest student of tai chi chuan becomes calmer, more harmonious.
They have a sense of deep connection with all things.

Individual priorities

Not everyone wants to commit themselves to weekly lessons and daily practice. Nobody says that you should.
It is important to do what feels right for you.

Similarly, you must not resent the progress of others in the class who are dedicated and skilled.

Each student is free to proceed at a pace of their own choosing.
If you want to attend once or twice a month, that is fine providing you accept that you will need plenty of revision and your progress will be slow.


Form application: one posture

We look at one posture of the form at a time, with attention upon the ‘power’ component. How the body movement reveals martial possibilities.

Visualise attacks, and potential counters. Pay attention to timing, distance and positioning.

Do not change the posture to suit an application.

Do not be hampered by thinking that the final position is the posture.

Do not distort your new awareness by exaggerating the posture during form practice.

Remember that form application is not about self defence.


Train as often as you can manage

Concentrated practice in the early stages of an endeavour dramatically improves the value of future practice.

(Michael Gelb)



How long does it take to learn to play the guitar? How many lessons are needed to speak Japanese? Obviously it depends upon your purpose.

 Do you want to be the next Segovia or Clapton, or just to play a few simple tunes? Do you intend to translate haiku, or are you simply preparing for a two-week vacation?

 Although the skill of your teacher and your talent level will certainly influence your progress, the duration and intensity of your study will be determined ultimately by the level of expertise that you seek.

 (Michael Gelb)


I am writing to say how inspiring I find your website and blog. Calm and inspiring.
 I only found it last week but I hope to be a regular visitor from now on.



Body trauma

Our reaction to disturbing events throws our bodies into chronic imbalance. We tend to hold the 'memory' of a traumatic experience in a particular part of the body. This muscular memory in time becomes part of the total pattern and is incorporated into an individual's use of himself.
 (Michael Gelb)


Tai chi master

Mastering tai chi requires the following:

• A lifelong commitment to the furtherance of the art
• Spontaneous demonstration of every and any aspect of the art
• The ability to train other people to become tai chi instructors
• An embodiment of the principles outlined in the Tai Chi Classics
• Highly accurate rendition of every exercise/form/drill/application
• Extensive knowledge of every facet of every subject in the syllabus i.e. 'jing'
• An in-depth understanding of every facet of the exercise/form/drill/application
• How the exercise/form/drill/application links to other aspects of the curriculum
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why the different components operate
• Grace, ease, subtlety, sensitivity, nimbleness, appropriateness, simplicity are all a given
• The willingness to train disciples to acquire every aspect of the teaching and perpetuate the art themselves
• Unselfconscious, skilled and utterly effective application of the art in combat employing chin na, jing and shuai jiao
• The ability to develop, improve and deliver a thorough, fully differentiated syllabus suitable for all ability levels and all ages
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why every form posture operates and how it can be applied in at least 7 different ways
• Comprehensive theoretical knowledge and the ability to discuss and explain how taoism, martial theory and actual practice all tie together
• The ability to apply the tai chi principles (yielding, stickiness, peng, jing, composure, connection, 4 ounces etc) in every situation with absolute ease and certainty