The Old Way of Form Training
- Published on Thursday, 19 December 2013 07:40
- Written by Roger Bastick
In the old days traditional Yang family Tai Chi training started with long periods of standing qigong. Once the student’s qi was built up then thirteen fundamental postures were taught spending 2-3 months on each.
After several years the form was taught but not as a series of connected movements. Each of the postures was held for long periods of time, as in standing qigong, before moving on to the next posture. I have seen it reported that each posture was held for twenty breaths, or ten to twenty minutes. Each of the transition movements was also held.
This was to experience the internal power of each posture by allowing the body to settle and assimilate the basic internal components of the movement – relaxation, lengthening connective tissue, proper internal body alignment, and breathing.
After four to five years the form was performed in continuous movement at normal speed or slower. Thus you are talking about eight years to learn the traditional form. Yang Cheng fu (1883-1929), fearing that people would become bored with the traditional way of learning, reversed the procedure and started with the moving form. However, his brother Yang Shao Hou (1836-1929) still made students hold each posture for a few minutes.
Imagine how popular Tai Chi would be today if it was still taught in this way! However, some people still like to practice in this manner.
Sometimes you hear the remark why don’t we see the remarkable abilities of the Yang family and Tai Chi in general around these days?” The answer is that few people practice as diligently as the great adepts of the past did! For example, the son of Fu Zhong Wen (a number one disciple of Yang Chengfu), Fu Sheng Yuan, is on record saying to get a basic self defense ability you need to practice the long form at least three times a day. It is also said that Yang Sau chung, the son of Yang Chengfu, was required to do the long form 30 times a day from the age of eight watched over by his father’s assistants! This level of dedicated training (6-8 hours a day) is equivalent to that of an elite athlete.