10 Essential Points of Practice for T'ai Chi Chuan
by Sifu William C. Phillips
Approach: Approach T'ai Chi Ch'uan with no preconceptions. Experience it as
meditation, physical culture, and as an exercise of ch'i. You may develop self-defense
along the way, but you may also develop that which is truly supreme and ultimate.
Patience: Every person is an individual. Some things will come quickly, others
slowly, and some, perhaps, not at all. Know that each person develops at his own pace. The
student competes only with himself. Therefore, a student should not feel that he is
falling behind if a fellow student develops a skill in a month that he cannot acquire in
six. The student may develop more quickly in another area. But even if not, remember that
progress in T'ai Chi Ch'uan, for most of us, is measured not in months, but in years.
Perseverance: While most students experience some benefit from T'ai Chi practice
within the first few weeks, T'ai Chi is the practice of a lifetime. Ever increasing
benefits of T'ai Chi Ch'uan accrue with the decades of one's practice. Practice should be
morning and night all the days of one's life.
Straight Spine: This facilitates the flow of ch'i up the spine.
Breathe To the Tan T'ien: This develops ch'i.
Empty the Mind: T'ai Chi Ch'uan is meditation. This improves sensitivity to
input, ability to react, to concentrate and to be sensitive to and to control ch'i.
Single Weight: This enhances internal sensitivity
and improves balance in the form, push hands, and self-defense.
Feel Air as Substantial: If the air has substance, how much more substance will
even your most supple opponent have? Also, this will aid in doing the form smoothly and at
an even pace.
Softness Through Root: Develop your foothold so that five or six strong men
together cannot push you. Also, develop your ability at neutralizing and softness so that
you need never use that root. In this way, while having substantial root, you will always
feel light and supple.
Benevolence: Never try to harm anyone in practice, teaching, or demonstration.
In push hands and self-defense, as in form, you are competing with no one except yourself.
If you feel a need to overpower your partner in practice, then your real need is to
overpower your own ego. Your partner is there to help you develop your skills, and you,
his. When you are pushed by your partner, it is not your partner who has pushed you, but
rather your inability to neutralize the push that has pushed you. You will be
"unpushed" when you have sufficiently overcome yourself in body, emotions, mind,
Originally published in Tai Chi: Perspectives of the Way and Its Movement, July-August 1981, Vol. 5, No. 4
Sifu William C. Phillips began his study of the martial arts in 1965. He currently holds fifth degree black belts in Karate and Ju Jitsu. He began his studies of T'ai Chi in l967, studying with Prof. Cheng Man-Ching from '70-'75. Sifu Phillips became interested in the field of holistic health in the early 1970's, when a lifelong allergy problem was alleviated with herbal medicine. Since then, Sifu Phillips has studied widely and tried to bring experts in the field of holistic health to the public's attention, most
recently through running annual holistic health weekends at the Fallsview Hotel in the Catskill Mountains of NY.
More Articles by Sifu William C. Phillips:
Acupuncture and Fitness
T'ai-Chi Ch'uan As Meditation
Some Thoughts on the Passing of Two Masters