My best tip: go to lessons
Here are my pages about my experience of Tai Chi Chuan and free tips/advice. I practice Yang syle 24 and Chen syle, also Chi Kung and Chi Kung Meditation. This page will grow as I add more advice and tips.
At school a friend used to tell me about Tai Chi, but this was the combat version which is mostly about pushing away your oponent. He talked of a Master pushing a group of men back accross the room as they tried to attack him. I have always been interested in Tai Chi and when I went on my honeymoon to Hong Kong we saw many people practicing it in the parks.
After that visit the idea began to grow on me. My wife was into Yoga for sometime and we started to get Yoga DVD's for her. Then I thought about looking for a Tai Chi DVD. The result was Master Wong's Combat Tai Chi which has led me onto wanting to learn about Tai Chi in general.
My Tai Chi Tips:For those taking up Tai Chi (of any type) I would say don't expect immediate results. It takes a long time to learn especially if like me you try to learn without personal tuition. However it is possible and after doing basic exercises you get stronger and when before the instructor looked so much more advanced you slowly begin to catch up. The benefit you will feel is quite something. As I say my number one tip is: don? rush! Also proper shoes is the most essential purchase don? do it barefoot for sure.
One thing that is very important is breathing. The breath should be synchronised with the movement. Also you should breath down into your stomach, or Tan Tien and not with your chest. The breath will regulate the speed of movement as the slower the movement the better it is for you. Certainly slow movement helps with balance as you need to take all the weight on one leg when stepping across and with a slow movement you are not tempted to quickly take up your weight by shooting your leg out quickly.
It is usually recommended to breathe though your nose but if you get short of breath you can breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is also useful if you have a cold and a blocked nose. In the yang family translations book this is actually the preferred method, rather than through just the nose. However I personally prefer deep breathing through the nose only, but the exhale option is handy.
Although you dont have to do Tai Chi everyday soon after starting you will want to. The desire for the art is strong once you feel the rewards. When you get onto the form you will find it hard to remember the sequence of moves if you leave it to long. I find that doing the form once a day is just right but sometimes twice if the mood takes me. Certainly if I miss a day I feel as though something is wrong.
In order to learn the form from DVD I would recommend sitting down with paper and pen and drawing the DVD instructor doing the form in little stick men and then using this as reference. Don? try to copy the form as a whole from the screen as you will soon get in a mess. Telling left from right alone will confuse: as the screen is a mirror. Don? fall into the trap of doing the form back to front as I did in some places!
Watch your knees! You must be careful not to hurt your knees. Don't 'jerk' up from stepping out and across: use the strength of your legs to bring you into the new form, but don't force it, if you are not strong in the legs keep your feet closer together. Also think of the 'empty/full' movement, let one leg become 'empty' while the other becomes 'full' then as this happens transfer your weight across. Watch where your back leg is when bringing your other leg forward and don't twist your leg by having your back foot fully 'planted' make sure the foot spins on your toes, hence putting less strain on your knee. Really there is nothing worse than enjoying your Tai Chi every day and then getting knee pains, try to avoid it before it happens.
Warm up and warm down is a very good idea. Even though it is usually said that you don? need too with Tai Chi I have found it best to get the joints working first. I have found that doing some Chi Kung exercises and then some basic Tai Chi exercises before and after doing the Tai Chi form helps a lot. Also at least five minutes of standing Chi Kung meditation is a must otherwise you tend to walk away with blocked chi and an un-rested mind. Ideally a balance of movement, standing still and mediation is best, however that would take some time, and I find that 5 minutes warm up/down 8 minutes form and 5 minutes meditation is good for a daily routine. However when learning new forms longer will be needed.
Another tip I have is: watch tai chi videos on You Tube and Google Video. One thing to watch is the positioning of the feet, this is very important, more important than the arms.
From my experience it is not possible to learn from a DVD and you should go and learn from a Tai Chi Master. The Master Wong DVD starts with a massive disclaimer about health issues. I nearly ruined my knees doing Tai Chi wrong. Now I do it right after learning from a proper intructor.
One of the Tai Chi books I had talked of a master who wanted to learn something new from another master. He was not proud saying that he knew it all already but told the master to treat him like he knew nothing. This is what I took with me when I decided to throw away almost everything I had learnt which was flawed and start again as a Tai Chi beginner learning directly from a master.
My Biggest Tip: if in doubt see an instructor!