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Pride and Prejudice and Taijiquan -- Is Race a Factor?

No Pain, No Gain -- and No Quality in Your Taiji

I love seeing the look in the eyes of new students who come in thinking of Tai Chi as a gentle means of "moving meditation" and then they find out what it really takes.

I have a couple of wonderful new students -- great young people -- who started two or three weeks ago. Last night we were working on the double-hand silk-reeling exercise, as I introduce them to the body mechanics required for taijiquan.

"You must have legs of steel," one student said after we had practiced a while and they were ready to stop and rest while I was still demonstrating and practicing with them.

Actually, I lost a lot of leg strength when I had my brush with death about 18 months ago and I'm still trying to regain it, but the comment last night made me laugh, and it also drove home just how difficult taiji really is.

Ken-CXX3 When I've trained with my teachers, and with members of the Chen family, as in the photo at left when I spent a day training privately with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing, I've generally come close to collapsing from leg fatigue many times. Tai Chi requires leg strength that few people have -- even those who come in from other martial arts and think their legs are really strong are not prepared for this.

If you're training in Tai Chi, and think you're doing it right, and your legs aren't burning and shaking and ready to give out -- you should rethink the way you've been taught or the way you're practicing.

Go to my online school and try some of the silk-reeling exercises for half an hour and see how you feel -- or check out the silk-reeling DVDs. A couple of weeks ago in Cincinnati, I met up with an old friend and member of my online school (and faithful DVD customer) and we trained in the Chen 19 form. I corrected his stances and coached him through the movements. He's mentioned a few times since that it took a while for his legs to recover from the workout. And we were just doing taiji.

Tai Chi is not just a slow, peaceful exercise. It's a powerful martial art. It generates power through the relaxed strength of proper body mechanics, but the base -- the legs -- are extremely strong. They get that way through proper posture and mechanics, and a lot of sweat and tears.

No pain, no gain -- and no quality in your Tai Chi. 


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