GBol Arts

Taichi Notes Archive

Form and Flow

George at a Seminar

This month let’s talk about the relationship between form and flow. Many students ask why they are learning these forms and how they relate to the flow of energy. It is sometimes hard in the beginning to see how these two things relate, so it is worthwhile to consider this relationship.

Starting with form, you are working at the physical level of practice, which is where everyone has to start in the beginning. When you first come to Taichi, you are in a disconnected state, both energetically and physically. The first step is to use form to "put yourself together". You start by doing this on the physical level with forms. Each form teaches you to put your body together as a whole, and to move everything as one. Remember your first Taichi Classic, where it talks about each part being connected to every other part. Pay attention to doing the form in a relaxed, connected manner. Strive for perfection in your movement as you learn each form. Move everything together as one, not as a bunch of disconnected parts. This kind of practice will, over time, allow your energy to begin to flow, which leads to our second topic.

After form, comes flow. If your form is not correct, you will not be able to flow properly. With each form, you not only have a physical posture to learn, but also an associated energy flow. You must have the physical level practice to open up this flow, which moves you to the second level of practice, the mental level. Here, your mind moves the Chi, and the Chi moves the body. Unlike the physical level, you now let the energy flow move the body, rather than have it be a physical motion only. This requires time and serious dedication to get to the point where your motions are pure energy flow. You now think left, and the body moves left as a result of the energy flowing in that direction. This is very different from using physical motion, so be careful that you do not fool yourself into thinking you are flowing, when in fact your motion is purely physical.

The most important part of this is the energy flow. It is very easy to get so focused on the forms and doing them "perfectly", that you miss the real point. As my students have heard me say so often, "Wardoff is not a form, it is an energy". We use these forms to help us learn to flow, and feel the basic energies, but ultimately, the energy itself is the goal. This is not to say that the forms are not important, they are, but you must remember they are a tool. I often tell my music students that what they play, be it piano, guitar, bass, those are not the instrument. In fact, they themselves are the instrument. The guitar for instance, is like the keyboard I am typing on now, a tool. You are the one who creates the music, or in this case the flow. This is your focus in your practice, and with diligence and sincerity, you will be able to create these energies at will, without any specific physical form.

Form and flow then are the beginning of your Taichi journey. You use one to develop the other, but then, like a bicycle, you take off your training wheels and ride on your own, feeling the flow carry you as you move. Step by step through your diligent, sincere practice, you will get there. My sincerest wishes that you all reach your Taichi goals.