Most of us are familiar with, to some degree or other, the slow, flowing movements of the Tai Chi Chuan form. The form is a series of interlinked flowing movements, that look like a stylized, imaginary fight with a number of opponents. This is true in a Tai Chi form, as much as it is true in a Karate Kata. Though this is more apparent when observing the performance of the Karate Kata, or any stylized form from a hard style of traditional martial arts. Perhaps this is so because of the greater speed at which these hard style forms are performed.
Nonetheless, it is pretty clear to even the casual observer that the Tai Chi form is full of movements and techniques that could be applied martially, in a self-defense context. Some of the movements are clearly strikes, while others can be interpreted as throws, or takedowns with some ingenuity of interpretation.
The Tai Chi Form’s Main Purpose
However, the Tai Chi form’s main purpose is to be the outlet through which the principles of relaxed, effortless movement are formally practiced. Secondarily, the form is a lexicon of many of the main techniques of the particular style of Tai Chi, or martial art in question, being practiced. The form should be practiced slowly in order to be able to consciously manifest each principle of effortless movement. Though with much time and practice, the form can be practiced at a greater speed as long as the principles are adhered to. If you cannot adhere to the movement principles at greater speeds, then best to slow it down and continue to practice.
The Tai Chi Form as a Qi Gong Set
In addition, it is said that the movements of the Tai Chi form function in the same way as a series of qigong exercises in that they gather, distribute, and store the energy of the environment within and throughout one’s body. The general term for energy in the Chinese language is Qi. Whether qi flow is a part of your paradigm or not, you will feel a flowing sensation and increases in heat especially (and initially) within your limbs, in particular your hands, even at the early stage in your practice. If you subscribe to a more skeptical worldview then you could attribute these sensations to the increase in blood flow due to the relaxing nature of Tai Chi which relaxes the muscles, opens the joints, and perhaps relaxes and further opens the highways and byways for blood transportation known collectively as the circulatory system.
Ultimately, when practicing the form principles trump details.