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Understanding Common Beginner Mistakes

After a tai chi student learns the moves (8, 24, 40, 108, sword, fan, dance?) learning is far from over. As a matter of fact, there is never "perfection", only improvement. In Yoda’s unique style, he might say, “Perfection, there is not. Only improvement, there is.”

Here are some common mistakes made by new Tai Chi practitioners:

1. Elevating the Arms: Often, beginners believe they're keeping their arms low, but in reality, they're holding them too high. This can impede relaxation of the shoulder muscles and affect breathing. Lowering the arms and sinking your elbows can enhance your breathing and offer a better mechanical advantage in generating power⁴.

2. Stiffening the Joints: New students often have stiff, locked joints. Tai Chi emphasizes fluidity, which can't be achieved with rigid movements. Soft and pliant joints are key to maintaining balance and do not provide any mechanical disadvantage⁴.

3. Twisting vs. Rotating: Beginners often twist their body, which can throw off body alignment and balance. Instead, focus on rotating your entire body as a whole. Rotating maintains alignment between the shoulder and hip, while twisting disrupts this continuity⁴.

4. Misunderstanding the Hip: Understanding and mastering the movement of the "qua" (or Kwa or Kua) or the hip joint is crucial⁴. (Here is a simple 10 minute video to introduce you to the concept, along with a short exercise. )

5. Over-reaching: Resist the temptation to push out with your arms and upper body. Consider moving in from the lower body rather than stretching out from the upper body⁵.

6. Tension: Maintain softness and relaxation in the arms and hands to heighten the sensory aspects⁵.

7. Posture: Keep a straight line along the spine⁵.

8. Weight Transference: Experience every aspect of transferring your weight from one foot to the other by keeping a low center of gravity when moving⁵.

9. Upper Body Focus: Beginners often focus on the arms and upper body, which can lead to energy being focused in this area. Try to consider lightness in the upper body and a deep connection with the ground⁵.

10. Continuity: The form should be executed in a smooth, harmonious manner⁵.

Remember, recognizing and correcting these mistakes can transform your Tai Chi practice. Notice the difference in terms used by various instructors but understand that they are talking about the same or similar concept! (Hold the bowl or hold the ball? The qua or kua? Chi or Qi? ) Most of all, remember that your practice is just that -YOUR practice. What is listed in this post as a beginner error may be an accommodation to compensate for your personal physical reality. Know yourself - your ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, wrists, neck...and accommodate as needed. Happy practicing! 😊

(1) The Four Common Tai Chi Mistakes and How to Correct Them.

(3) Tai Chi: Four Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them.

(4) Common Mistakes When Practicing Tai Chi.

(5) Tai Chi: First Principles to Correct 4 Common Mistakes.

(6) What is Tai Chi? History, Its 10 Benefits, and How to Start as a Beginner.

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