Vol. 22, No. 6
Chen Zheng Lei, who is on the cover, is one of the famous four tigers of the Chen Village. He surely not only has high level skill, but also a depth of understanding of Tai Chi, intellectually and fundamentally.
One of the factors he emphasized in the interview and which is reflected in the article is the need for any student who wants to develop Tai Chi skills to practice long and hard. I mentioned to him that students also need some hints along the way and he agreed, saying that the teacher should try to help the student from going off in the wrong direction.
One of the problems is that beginners, in fact, all practitioners, have to continually re-examine what they mean by practice. For health or stress release, doing the the form once a day or several times a week may serve this purpose.
Practice can be just going through the motions and hoping for the best and continued renewal of the form so you don't forget it. But if you want to improve your understanding of Tai Chi, you have to have serious purpose every time you do the forms and partner exercises. What does that mean? It can mean trying to learn something new about structure, energy flow, and mental and emotional awareness every time you practice. Even if you don't learn something new on a regular basis, you still have to keep those kinds of goals right in front of you.
This kind of serious practice is necessary to bring yourself to the point where insight comes, like water reaching a boiling point.
Xue Nai-Yin, who writes about the Wu style, has an impressive martial arts background and appreciates how T'ai Chi works internally. He has studied external and internal styles. His internal styles include Xingyi, Bagua, and Tai Chi Chuan. He now teaches in New Zealand.
Zhang Fuxing has been practicing Tai Chi for some 50 years and studied with teachers who are now in their 90s. He explores the meanings and relationships of the 10 important points of Yang Chengfu that are frequently mentioned as the foundation of practice. These points are guidelines for practice, and the better one's practice, the more meaningful they become.
Good footwork is something that often is not developed for some time in T'ai Chi practice. Usually, early and intermediate development relies primarily on local leg strength. Dr. Paul Lam and his student, Julie King, describe some good methods that lead to better footwork.
Jon Loren, a long-time practitioner and contributor to T'AI CHI Magazine, has some useful ideas about dealing with our emotional habits. We all have our repertoire of emotions, some of which we would like to change through our T'ai Chi practice. But it is not easy. He tells the story of someone who got stuck and wasn't able to change.
Doug Woolidge gives another translation from an authority on Tai Chi that gives further prospective on the benefits of T'ai Chi practice. It is a real service to have translations of the wealth of material published in Chinese.
David Swenson has an interesting article on selecting a good teacher. I am sure that every student and teacher have their own ideas about this. The longer they have practiced, the more ideas they are likely to have. Usually, I don't care for articles of this nature. Often they express concern about the teaching, but not in a way that is realistic for the student. Rarely can a new student get to learn with a top teacher with great credentials and skills. If they do, they may have to learn from the teacher's helper.
While the number of teachers is increasing, a student in most places is lucky to find any teacher.
Beginning students should have realistic expectations of the teacher and themselves. Maybe the best a student can hope for is to find someone he feels really wants to help him learn. He will have to evaluate, as in any in any other area of his life, the question of character.
Finally, we have had a lot of requests about how to make weapons tassels, so we have included an article about how to do so in this issue.·