I’ve often been told that taiji training can be similar to an onion in the idea there are many levels to training. At first, just the sequence is training enough, but over time things get a bit deeper or not so deep.
I feel that I’ve trained long enough that the overall shape of the sequence is really second nature now. I think it helps to not try and be a “forms collector” but to really learn and understand a couple of forms. This was ingrained with me during my wushu training as I maybe did like 1 form a year, quite a constrast to my TKD days doing a new form every month or so. Currently, my focus is on the 38 form by CXW and the Laojia Yilu.
In every training session, I try to at least get in 5 mins of zhanzhuang with at least 8 reps of each of the silk reeling exercises. The first 4 reps of the silk reeling are really a mix of zhanzhuang and chansigong. The reason is that CXW breaks the single handed silk reeling motion into about 4 different steps. At each step, there are certain requirements for the body and for the mind. I try to concentrate and focus on these during the first 4 reps, especially in reqards to qi intention (Qi to dantien, back, shoulder, elbow, hand, waist, dantien), each count has a corresponding placement for the qi.
In addition to the yi aspect (intention, mind) there is a dantien rotating aspect. As I’m taught, the dantien can rotate in 3 different methods (vertical, horizontal, combination of the 2). The vertical method is really more like and “over” or “under” rotation and the horizontals are more like “spinning” in my mind. The last one is really a combination of the 2 which creates more of a spiral motion.
So, after I do the chansigong, I generally try to work on some kind of short form to get warmed up. I did practice CZL’s 18 essence chen form for a while, but lately I’ve been doing the 38. Currently, over lunch, my main focus is just to get a fluidity of movement and continuity with mental relaxation (I’m trying to take a break after all!). I work through that form at a pretty slow pace that is coordinated with my breath and then I do the laojia yilu after.
Now, when I’m at home and training on my own, I’ll try to get at least 3 reps of a form in before moving to the next form. The first rep is just to warm the body up and done at a higher stance to get relaxed. The second rep is done with a bit lower stance and I’m starting to think more about yi and the intention of qi at each posture. The third rep is done slower and with a more lower stance.
Sometimes, I feel that it can be quite overwhelming to try and think about all these things during any given rep, which is usually why I like to break things down. Hopefully, I’ll get to a point that the yi will become second nature so I won’t have to put too much effort on the actions.
If I’m really short on time or just want to do some isolated training, I’ll pick out just a couple of movements and really get into the nitty gritty on them. I’ll look at my structure, alignment and try to determine the qi path for the movement and if I’m really ambitious, try to incorporate all of the dantien rotations in their appropriate places. I usually don’t make it to the dantien portion as I still have quite a ways to go on the structure, alignment and yi that I’m still working on, but it’s good to shoot for the moon