Single Form Practice
In the next two installments, let’s look at two commonly asked questions. The first is "Why do we do Single Form Practice instead of the longer form?"
First some history. During the Ching Dynasty the royal family wanted the Yang family to teach them Taichi. The Yang family did not want to reveal what was not only a family secret, but a cultural treasure to Manchus, who the Chinese believed to be barbarians that were ruling China. What they did was teach the long form in order to hide the true training that they were doing. The real training at the time involved doing Single Form Practice, because this is the way that true power and Chi flow is developed. This became what is called "Park Style Taichi" today, and is seen being practiced in parks all over China.
To understand the benefits of Single Form Practice, think of it like this. Imagine that you go to a gym and do one bench press, one curl, one lat pull, until you have done say 34 exercises. You could go to the gym for years and never make any real progress in your muscle development. In fact, what you do is go to the gym and do multiple sets of repetitions of each exercise, and in this way, develop your muscular strength. You need the repeated repetitions in order to get the full benefit of each exercise.
This is what Single Form Practice does for your energy. By concentrating on each individual form and doing multiple repetitions of each form you first, learn the correct physical motion but then, more importantly, the energetic flow associated with that form. Through multiple repetitions, you increase and strengthen the energy flow associated with that form so that it becomes second nature to you. It is all about feeling that flow, and not just making a physical motion.
Now when you eventually put those single forms into a longer form, the challenge is to try and flow through the longer sequence, while still keeping the same feeling that you had when doing multiple repetitions on just a single form. This is very difficult at first even if you do Single Form Practice. Without it, you end up doing a long sequence that is more of a physical exercise than a flow of energy. If you have done Single Form Practice, your concentration is on flow and connecting the changing energies as if you were just doing one single form. In addition, any spot in the sequence that you have difficulty is a good way of determining what forms still need more work.
Remember that the end result of Taichi practice is to strengthen and purify your energy. The purpose of each form is to remind you how your original energy flowed, and that is the state that you are attempting to return your energy to. You can only do that through sincere Single Form Practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Over time through this kind of practice, you make each form your own and only then will you be doing real Taichi, instead of Taichi-like Taichi.