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The Frustrating Art of Learning Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an exercise that looks graceful, slow, and easy. How hard can it be to learn right?

It can be hard, frustrating and sometimes utterly confusing!

Learning Tai Chi is an amazing thing you can do to boost your health. Not only physically but mentally.

At times the moves can be easy to learn at other times they can drive you crazy.

During the first month or so of learning Tai Chi, I was utterly hopeless at doing the moves, didn’t matter what move it was I could right royally screw it up. At the time I honestly thought I was the one with the issue and that issue was Im incapable of learning this ancient art form that billions of people learn every day. Total lost cause.

Just because a move looks simple doesn't mean it's easy

Yet I kept turning up, kept screwing up, and kept on going. At times it felt like I would get two steps ahead then trip over my feet and tumble one step back. There were times during class the pieces would all click together and I would feel like I had it figured out only to get home and suddenly forget it all.

I kept persisting, kept turning up, kept practising, kept cursing.

Eventually, things started to click into place. A small turn here, a little arm movement then, a quick foot adjustment there. Moves were becoming more automatic. My body was memorizing the moves before my head could overthink it.

So why do the movements look super simple and yet be so hard to do?

It wasn't until much later I learnt the reason why. Simply put your body is just not used to full body movements moving in this way.

We often don't think about how we move. If we want to turn left, we well, just turn left. In Tai Chi, we are forced to coordinate both our mind and body together in order to think about shifting our weight, aligning our body, moving our arms, re-adjusting our feet... all in a slow controlled fluid manner. Talk about mind-body confusion!

It can feel like you're moving everything everywhere all at once

Learning Tai Chi also requires a lot of concentration and a willing mindset. It can be easy for your mind to wander all over the place when you learn Tai Chi. Often times instead of focusing on what I was doing and what part of the body I'm supposed to be moving, my mind would drift to thoughts such as

"what's for dinner", "I must remember to pick up cat food on the way home" etc

It can take a lot of mental energy and practice to keep your mind in the here and now!

Just like learning any new skill it takes practice and practice often means that at times you will feel like you're constantly stuck on repeat trying to learn the same move over and over. Or fighting with your mind to keep it from wandering away.

Over time I have found it's much easier to learn a Tai Chi move if you break it down into little bite-size pieces. In fact, this is how I teach the moves in my classes, nice small steps. Another nugget of knowledge, learn the footwork first then the arms.

Tai Chi moves are more centred around the lower body and feet, the arms are more of an illusion. If you get your footwork sussed then your arms will follow.

So if you are feeling like you are just not getting the moves, take heart and remember your instructor was once going through what you are now and I dare say probably still is at times.

Rest assured though if you stay patient, keep practising, and keep showing up your body and mind will thank you for it.

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