Don’t Underestimate a Relaxed Face

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If you really want to relax all of your body and make your mind calm, a good advice or “trick” is to relax all of your face and your hands completely and the rest of the body will more or less follow. At least it will be much easier to relax the rest of the body if you are aware of all of your face and hands and relax every part of them, your eyes, neck, tongue. Relaxing the head and fingers is a good starting point, a step in order to learn how to relax all of the body, and later how to “sink” all of your strength down to the feet.

You can try it sitting or standing. Every conscious thought you’ll have will cause reactions on your breathing pattern through an emotional impact. And because your brain always try to formulate thoughts with words, reactions will happen in your jaws, neck, tongue together with responsive reactions in the rest the face and the eyes especially. This means that relaxing the face will calm your mind. But it also means that a tense face and neck will stir the mind and give rise to thoughts. This cannot be avoided because it’s a function  of the nervous system. Repeated involuntary movements in the neck and jaws will cause stress signals to the brain which will have a negative impact on your body tension and the intensity of your thoughts.

This is also why you should always breath through the nose and not through the mouth. The reason is the same, mouth breathing sends stress signals to the brain. If you are tired and have a hard time to wake up or don’t feel clear in the head, then there are mouth breathing techniques you can use to “wake up” better and to become clear in your mind. For martial arts, there’s a reason why it’s sometimes good to incorporate this, but the over-use of mouth breathing as seen in some martial arts is based on a misunderstanding. And when it becomes a part of meditation it doesn’t serve a purpose to inflict calmness.

So always breath through your nose. There’s also this saying to keep the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth. This is also just about relaxing and nothing you need to think about. If you relax the jaws and neck, as well as mind, the tongue will automatically spread out and fill up the roof of the mouth.

While practicing standing meditation, stand comfortable, drop the shoulders and chest, practice to relax face and hands. While moving attention to the face and jaws will help you to relax the neck and keep the head in place. The head can lift itself up and attach itself as it was attached from a string above. But nervous movements in the head and jaws will stir the mind and fill it with thoughts that presses it down. A relaxed face, an empty mind, might give you the feeling that the head is light and help it rise, or float up.

When you relax the head, coordinate this as conscious relaxation together with relaxing the fingers. Then, as you move, you will easily detect any tension that appear from head to fingers as the shoulders and in the chest as well.

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Achieving Deeper Understanding of Tai Chi Chuan By Assuming Distance

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Something I find a little bit sad in the Tai Chi World is closeness and narrow-mindedness. Most Tai Chi practitioners shape their opinions of their world through a limited view of vision by practicing in their own school only and listening to their own teacher only. Even the opinions on other styles and schools is mostly based upon what their teacher says. I find this a pity. Sometimes students just practice Tai Chi as a physical exercise like any other, they have no interest in digging deeper. And that’s okay if that is what they want. But sometimes there is a cult-like mindset. Not many teachers encourage Tai Chi students to think. In many schools, the students often have the opinion that what they do belong to the best Tai Chi there is. Sometimes they are even taught that they cannot practice any other style or learn from any other teacher.

But there’s a great saying in Chinese Martial Arts, that you need at least three teachers if you want to become good in any Chinese style. The closed mindset found here in the west is just not a traditional Chinese thing. It doesn’t belong in the world of Chinese martial arts. Before the days of fixation with strict styles and competition between official schools, the Chinese martial arts had very loose curriculums. They were not as fixed today. And there were not as sharp lines between styles either. My own view on Tai Chi Chuan is that there are no styles. But there are principles that are the same for all styles but some of them can be more or less in focus depending on school and teacher.

In fact every teacher will express him or herself differently from any other teacher. All good teachers in the traditional Tai Chi styles will differ on views about what is important and how things should be taught. This is why it’s so important to not take your own teachers words too strict. If you have the possibility I would advice any student to look around to meet other teachers and practitioners from other schools. Maybe you’ll find that your first teacher was the best, but you won’t know if you don’t take a step back and look at yourself and your knowledge on a distance. Assuming distance is good and often necessary as it’s easy to become blind to what you do.

We who do art as painting, write or do other types of creative work, we know that sometimes we do need to have a good rest. And that we need to take a rest from our work and art. A painter might take a break from a painting he has started for quite some time before continuing again. Others might take breaks while in the painting process by taking several steps back, turning the painting upside down or lay it on the side, so he can look at it from other angles and perspectives. A writer might take a month of rest or two from a finished draft and won’t even think about it for a long time to be able to look at it again through distance and with new fresh eyes. I find it a bit peculiar that Tai Chi practitioners are not encouraged to do the same. Instead it seems that continuous practice, from day to day without interruption, is the key to excellence. I don’t agree with this common view. Rests and taking breaks is good. And also necessary if you want to better understand what you do. Through the 30+ years that I have studied Tai Chi I have had a few breaks, as well as taking chances to meet new teachers and people. Every time I have taken a break from my art and/or my teacher and later returned to my art I have been surprised that I never lost anything or had taken a step back in my progress. Instead, these times always meant a leap forward in progress and understanding. Sometimes in ways I could not have anticipated.

If you can, you should go out and meet new people. Then you can compare your own knowledge and skills with others. Maybe you could get a recommendation to another teacher from your own.  And maybe even more important is that you should never feel bad if you have reached a state of internal fatigue or if you just feel as you need a break and do other things. What you should do is not only to take a break, but to take a good break, and leave all of your practice for a while without even thinking about it. When you are ready to continue again, you will do it. And then you  will also be able to feel the joy again.

A Response to the Recent Wing Chun Confusion On Establishing Ground Path in the Internal Arts

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In Tai Chi Chuan, and in all of the arts that are traditionally associated with the name “Neijiaquan”, or the Chinese “Internal Family of Boxing Schools,” have many things in common. Not only does Neigong and Martial practice blend together and become impossible to separate. Power in these arts is generated by the use of whole body coordinated movement that connects with the ground in specific ways. In Tai Chi Chuan the body must be balanced and well rooted. The foot is coordinated directly with the hand without delay and without any sequential order of connection. This coordination is an aspect of the “six harmony” principle in the internal arts.

Lately, there has been some misconceptions spread about using ground path in the Internal arts. There are a quite few people in the Wing Chun world who claim that they do something different from other internal arts and say things like that they don’t need to use ground path, that they “don’t need to use the ground”, and some of them try to demonstrate this in different ways. A couple of these people are enthusiastic and share what they know generously. I like what they do, so I have nothing against them personally. Still, I believe that it’s a pity that they spread mistakes and misconceptions about what they call internal arts. They keep repeating “I don’t need to use the ground” and “We do it differently” as mantras.

I won’t mention names but I will still bring up a few examples. And it’s quite easy to search videos and Facebook groups to find out what I am speaking about. One person intentionally awkwardly tries to demonstrate that using the ground takes time and needs a big wind up movement, which obviously is as wrong as it gets from a Tai Chi perspective. In his videos I hear him say things like “I don’t need to use the ground”, and that using ground force is “Intermediate”. He says that “the problem is the time-length.” But still he doesn’t need to “load” by sinking physically or bring strength from the ground by sinking his waist physically.

The meaning of “We don’t need to use the ground” is obviously a statement that what they do is more advanced, and maybe even “better”, than other Internal Arts. When throwing a student into a wall, he says: “It’s not from the floor.” What you can see though, something that is highly evident, is that he leans his whole body against the student. Because his student is unbalanced using and use a square parallel stance, this leaning itself is well enough to disrupt the student’s balance. And then he can easily push the student away with arm movement only. As this teacher is using a square stance himself and leans his body against the student, he is also unbalanced and would be very easy to pull off balance. Leaning the whole body as he does is obviously a big no-no in Tai Chi Chuan.

In Tai Chi, Jin (Intrinsic strength/power) is an expression of the internal conditions. For establishing a Jin ground path, this means that you need to know how to relax your whole strength down to your feet. But there is no time-delay. In Tai Chi Chuan you don’t suddenly drop your posture or “sink the Qi” in order to do something. Instead, you are always kept sunk. In Tai Chi Chuan, when doing something with the hand, as reaching out with the palm in “brush knee”, the press when pushing the foot down into the ground, must be felt directly in the hand. This feeling is something you should practice in your form, a feeling of an instant, direct connection between hand and foot. Some people speak about establishing a Jin (intrinsic strength/power) path to the ground, others call it just Ground Path, or use both of the terms. The power comes out directly without no delay, no draw back, no preparation or wind-up. As William Chen expresses it in a classic way, he says that in Tai Chi you establish “something from nothing and nothing from something”. If there is an evident load, sinking, a preparation, then we as well would consider this intermediate.

One Wing Chun video that I really like and enjoy though, a video that focus on the internal aspects of the arts, is the Martial Man’s interview with John Kaufman who studied with Chu Shong Tin. Chu was a student of Ip Man and learned Ip Man’s “Internal” Wing Chun. I won’t put a link to the YouTube Video, but it’s easy to search it up if you are interested to watch it. Anyway, Kaufman explains that he does not need to “use” any particular part of the body, and instead what is done is all about just “being”. So it’s not about “doing”. Why? Because if you focus on doing something with any special part of your body, you will lose the whole body generated movement, using that part instead of using all of the body equally. He explains it very well. He takes a few examples of what he does not need to do. But he is very specific with that he still uses these parts of the body and that he still uses the whole body. He does not take the legs out of this equation and he does not really take ground force out of the equation. But he says that it’s important to not try to do anything specifically, or to re-phrase it with my own words, instead just letting it be there naturally as a part of a whole.

What Kaufman is talking about is where I believe that some of the Wing Chun protagonists are confusing things up. When they speak about what they do compared to what they are not doing, they have already lost that important part of doing everything together, using the whole body together, as a natural part of being. They are doing things individually, isolated from the rest of the body. We know this just because of the fact that their minds are focusing on isolated matters when demonstrating what they’re doing.

And obviously you’ll never get away from the us of the foundation, the base, legs or roots, regardless of what you call it. The gravity is always involved, and how you deal with the connection to the Earth is always something you need to take into the equation. There’s a reason why most of Chinese Martial Arts are concerned by building a strong base in the beginning of the the individual’s journey. Traditionally this type of Chinese practice starts off with countless of hours training stances, together with endless corrections of posture and structure. Today most of teachers are not extreme in their teaching method, but the importance of building a strong root and a good foundation is just as important as before. Claiming that using ground force is not important and an immediate skill is ludicrous. It does not make anyone a service, not Wing Chun stylists, not Tai Chi Chuan practitioners and certainly not the world of Internal Martial Arts in general. What many of the “internal” oriented Wing Chun teachers are claiming is not what Kaufman meant by “not doing” this or that. Why they do claim that they don’t use the ground, something that is just not true, not even according to what they demonstrate themselves, is not something I would try to give a definitive answer on. But maybe they just don’t know enough about what they are talking about.

However, as I said, I do like what Kaufman says and it resonates well with what I myself do in my Tai Chi Chuan. Many years ago, I needed to practice different parts of my body individually in order to learn how to coordinate different parts of my body properly by isolating different ways to coordinate foot, kua, centreline, waist, spine movement, etc with the limbs. But when you understand how to coordinate your body in different ways, it’s important to learn how to move naturally and spontaneously without thinking about the mechanics of your movements. When I practice my Tai Chi, especially against something or someone, as dealing with different punching methods or push hands, I don’t think about what part of my body leads the movement. I don’t care if I initiate my movement from the feet, kua or the dantian. I rather use all of the body together as a whole and let my body naturally adjust to what is happening. When you learn something it’s all about “doing”. Later, when you understand how to do something and it has become a natural habit, “doing” should be a spontaneous aspect of “being”.

Here somewhere, where “doing” becomes a natural expression of “being”, our arts, regardless if they focus more or less on internal aspects, might have a chance to meet and understand each other. However, individuals who constantly try to put what they do an a pedestal and look down on others, will never be able to breach the gap between “we and them”, and will never come to a greater understanding of the principles that we all share in common. I don’t condemn anyone. But I do think that it’s a pity that students especially, and also others listening, might adapt to a teacher’s catch phrases just because they are dazzled by a demonstration. Anyone who focuses on narrow and superficial things, as differences of approaches and external expressions of techniques, will never be able to reach down below the surface and understand the core of how the principles really work on a fundamental level, which is essential for reaching an advanced understanding of the internal aspects of martial arts.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Essentials: The Learning Process of Body Mechanics

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T’ai Chi Ch’uan is indeed a complex art. The learning process goes from separating and learning different types of body mechanics and then putting it all together. This text right here deals mostly with Tai Chi from a Yang and Wu perspective. But still, even if the learning steps might differ, the general ideas should remain the same in all traditional Tai Chi schools. Though I would like to point out that I can only speak about the traditional schools as much of the learning and theory has been very much simplified in modern times, especially concerning how Yang style and short, simplified Tai Chi versions are taught today.

If you look at the 10 steps further down below, you can see that even if I have summed up the progress in ten steps, it’s still quite a lot. In my structure below, I have only considered the mechanics of the physical body. But it’s still important to at least briefly approach the Mind, because the learning process with coordination of mind and how to deepen the practice is a much more complex matter. 

Mind over Matter (Body)

In daily life all people move from the limbs and with the hands especially. They are more aware about their heads and hands than anything else. They keep their balance point high and many people tense their breath. The progress in learning Tai Chi mechanics is very much linked to our own awareness, our body awareness and our awareness about ourself as mind and body in time and space. We strive to be aware about our bodies and ourselves by focusing on the parts of the body where we normally are at least aware. One would think that moving and using our bodies as a whole, from the bottom and from the center, to the top and out through the limbs could be a completely physical development. But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The way of separating the mind and body here in the West does not work if you want to achieve what can be achieved. And there’s a completely scientific and logical reason behind this. It’s about our nervous system and our sensors in the body, where and how we actually are aware about our own bodies physiologically speaking. This  determines how we perceive ourselves and how we use our bodies. (See the Cortical Homonculus for explanation) That is why it’s necessary to understand that because the body mechanics in Tai Chi deals with whole body movement, understanding and using the body as a whole, the process of learning body mechanics, is paramount to how well you understand yourself and how you deal with your own body. The process in not only technical, it’s just as much a process of deepening your own body awareness, your knowledge about yourself.

The Body Mechanics learning process explained through ten steps

When you start learning Tai Chi, you start learning as a person who is used to mostly be aware about your head and hands. For some people, the process of starting to learn Tai Chi can be painful. You will become painfully aware about all of your mistakes and flaws, how bad your balance is, how bad your coordination is and how hard it is to coordinate the body with awareness in the most simple ways. Now you will start to use your nervous system in another way than you are used to in daily life’s movements. Through the time, you will deepen your knowledge about yourself. It will be a long journey with plenty of rewards ahead.

  1. Balance and the central axis.
  2. Understanding feet and legs
  3. Use of the kua 
  4. Understanding the lower Dantian
  5. Coordinating of kua, dantian and waist
  6. Opening and closing the lower ribs
  7. Opening and closing scapula 
  8. Coordinating lower ribs, spine and 
  9. Coordinating lower and upper body and all of it together 
  10. Everything moves together spontaneously without focus on any part starting/initiating movement

So, let’s explain these steps further:

 

Stages 1 & 2 – Balance and centerline

  • Balance and the central axis.
  • Understanding feet and legs

First, you will need to learn how to separate full and empty by weight shifting and moving from posture to posture. You do this while keeping your body straight while getting acquainted to the use of turning around the central axis. You will learn how to use your center and balance.

Now, after learning the basics, you’ll need to learn to become more aware about your feet and legs, not only how to shift weight but to move your body with the feet and legs. You need to try to be as passive as possible with your arms, letting the body push the arms and pull them in. 

These first two steps, the very beginning of learning Tai Chi properly, occur mostly while learning a form. The process of learning a long form might take one or two years of study. If you study a long traditional form, you will probably need to learn it first before being able to deepening your body method further.

Stages 3 to 5 – Building the foundation

  • Use of the kua
  • Understanding the lower Dantian
  • Coordinating of kua, Dantian and waist

Above I said that you will “learn how to use your center and balance”. But you are probably not quite there yet to be able to move completely centered and balanced. Most people in the beginning year or so of their Tai Chi practice will sometimes feel uncomfortable and unstable, even shaking. This is because you have started to learn how to relax your legs, but you need to develop a certain leg strength before stabilizing. One of the keys of learning how to stabilize your posture while developing your “roots” is to make use of the kua. This concept is sometimes confused with the tips of the hips, but the kua is actually on the inside area. It’s the hip joint and surrounding muscles. Mostly when we control the opening and closing of the kua, we use the muscles on the inside of the thighs, the muscles close to the groin. While still keeping your feet firmly on the ground, you need to learn how to initiate movement from the kua. 

This understanding will also help your knee health. Many people, even those who have studied a long time, keeps awareness mostly in their feet and move from there. But if you want to stay out of knee trouble, you need to learn how to lift your legs and place them down with your thighs. The alignment of the knee and rest of the leg should follow the line of the upper leg naturally. 

When rotating, shifting, lifting and placing by opening and closing the kua of each side,  you need to control the line and and direction of your upper body with the dantian and the waist. When learning to control the whole area, the Dantian, waist and Kua will move and be used as a whole. Physiologically speaking, there are strong muscles in the kua that through fascia connects this area directly to the abdomen and solar plexus. Different layers of connective tissues connects the kua directly with the lower and middle dantian of Chinese theory. I just mention this as it might make the coordination of kua seem more logical and reasonable. This might also might it clearer that the coordination should not be about three different areas moving independently yet coordinated together, but instead really moving together as a whole, a dense type of coordinating the whole area together as there were no seams between them. Yet, the small point inside the belly, the inner or true dantian should still be regarded as the absolute center of this whole structure. Through relaxation of body, mind and breath, this small area can still be felt as an individual spot. 

Stages 6 to 8 – reviving and coordinating the upper body

  • Opening and closing the lower ribs
  • Opening and closing scapula
  • Coordinating lower ribs, spine and scapula

Before learning any of the upper body mechanics, you would probably already know one or two forms, a lot of other individual solo exercises and had practiced push hands for quite some times. You would probably have practiced already for about three or five years before going this far. Probably five years instead of three. And stage 5 is really where most people stop their learning progress. And understanding kua, waist and coordinating them directly with the limbs is what most people would define as “6 harmony movement”, or just as good Tai Chi movement. But there is still more. Many don’t stay a long time enough with the same teacher, tradition or lineage, and most teachers have not done so either. 

The lower ribs are important to practice separately and take special notice of as the base of this area connects directly to the lower dantian through the back. This area on the lower back resembles the spot in old Neidan tradition said to be the lower gate, meaning that you need special practice to open this gate to achieve grand circulation for the Qi to be able to flow out through the limbs. Many teachers have exercises to open the front and the back of the kua, this is one key. The other key is to learn how to coordinate movement through the lower ribs. You don’t need to believe in Qi, but this is an important stage if you want to understand full spinal movement and coordination, which is of course something that most Tai Chi schools does not teach. You learn to open and close each of the sides of the lower back with the lower ribs by coordinating them together with arm movement. When the arms goes up, they open, when the arms goes down, they close. For a posture as “brush knee”, when one side opens, the other side closes. 

The scapula is the most problematic area. Very few are taught this on a meaningful level. And most people who start to consciously practice this kind of movement becomes stiff and feels uncomfortable. It takes quite a while of practice to feel comfortable with this kind of coordination. First you need to understand how to not raise the shoulders to move the scapula, but instead how to activate the muscles between your shoulder blades close to the spine and move from there. This practice is directly connected to the third, upper gate in Neidan theory. Again, you don’t need to believe in qi to practice this. The type of movement and body use achieved from this practice has great practical advantages. Also for health in old age speaking keeping the smoothness of movement and flexibility of the upper back is extremely important.

After quite some time of specially designed exercises, and later implementing this type of action into your general Tai Chi, you should have learned it well enough to coordinate it with the lower ribs. When you over-emphasize this whole coordination of the back, you will first make gross movements with the whole of your spine. One example of this could be described as lifting the whole trunk from the lower ribs and then rounding the back with the scapula. When you can coordinate the movements from the lower dantian, through the lower ribs and moving the scapula together, you have accomplished a very complex way of moving and coordinating your body. But now you need to put everything together in a deeper sense. First when you have achieve stages 6 to 8, you will really understand the concept of “opening and closing.” Your whole body will work together as a pump. 

Stages 9 & 10 – Reaching natural, spontaneous movements

  • Coordinating lower and upper body and all of it together
  • Everything moves together spontaneously without focus on any particular body part

The first issue when it comes to whole body coordination with both lower and upper body together is about your base. Are you balanced enough? Most people who goes through the stages 6 through 8 can become top-heavy, unbalanced, feel uncomfortable. Sometimes learning the more advanced body methods might feel for the student like starting from scratch again and learn a whole new way of moving the body. So now you need to learn how to put everything together. When you have learned all parts individually and try to put them together, you will occasionally overdo movements, make them bigger to feel them and to better understand the coordination between different parts. But later when everything is on the right place, you need to make the coordination smaller, more compact. Everything, all body parts, should move and stop together. The foot will be directly coordinated with the hand in one single movement. Hand and foot will start and stop at the same time. As the coordination will be smaller you will need to learn how to hide the body mechanics. In the end, all of the body will move together, coordinated. You will learn how to keep your center spontaneously and keeping everything coordinated just by moving. You should not need to think about any kind of rule or need to use any certain body part to lead or initiate movement. Everything will move together, and the coordination is kept together spontaneously. Your whole body will move with the sensation of freedom, and not as bound by any kind of rule.

Differences of schools and disciplines 

There might be differences in schools concerning the order of learning. You might learn about coordinating ribs and scapula before you have deepened your root and understanding moving from the center. There might be differences about coordinating, what to move and how. Or what to not move, why and when. But the process above according to the ten stages above is still how your body must learn. Before being able to coordinate the top properly with the lower part of the body, a solid good foundation must have been develop first. Learning about a more advanced coordination of the upper body too early might will cause unbalanced movements, create stiffness and cause other mistakes. It’s not bad to understand the process and test things here and there. But remember that your foundation, your base, root and center, is paramount for everything else you learn. 

And last, the key is to stay inside the door

Most people really need a good teacher and to stay with the same teacher, or at least in the same lineage, for quite some time to get the guidance they need. The difference between so called in-door students and other ones is not about secrets. There are no real secrets. But there are methods that only makes sense to teach students with a good foundation. Otherwise teaching certain things will be nothing more than a waste of time, both of the teacher’s and yours. You need to be able to stay “inside the door” for a long time, be a student long time enough to first develop a good foundation. If you cannot first use your body in a certain ways, many kinds of techniques and methods just won’t be properly learned. Many students jump from teacher to teacher, from seminar to seminar. Teachers might look good to put in a lineage chart. But the question is: how much did you really learn from them? Tai Chi Chuan takes a long time to learn. Well, I know, it can be very, very hard to find a good teacher who knows it all, with the ability and who are willing to teach everything. But frankly said, it’s often much harder for great teachers to find good students. 

Tai Chi and Meditation

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Some interesting discussions on Social Media and discussion boards lately. Some people claim that Tai Chi Chuan practice can be meditation and others state that Tai Chi is absolutely not meditation. But both parties usually agree about most things.

The problem has to do with how you define meditation, how you look at its, what values you put into the term and concept. I was a bit surprised by the on meditation fraction, because that before reading these thoughts of others, I have always considered Tai chi practice as a form of meditation. I’ve already written about what my teachers called “the three pillars” in my brief post “What is Tai Chi?“, namely health, self-defence and meditation.

In general, people who are against defining Tai Chi practice as meditation look at this concept as detachment, detachment of one idea or thought. The most common meditation techniques is to focus on one ide, thought or concept and let all other thoughts pass by. The consciousness is arranged around the single idea so the thoughts and feelings can be controlled by ignoring them.  But if you look at Tai chi, regardless it’s about standing practice or form, there is not this kind of attachment. The nature of Tai Chi mind is non-attached. The state of the Tai Chi mind is empty, yet none of what is happening around you disregard, no impression ignored or suppressed. Everything that happens passes by like the wind, without judgement or attachment. So from this point of view, in order to prevent confusion and misunderstanding, it’s better to explain what meditation or a meditative state in Tai Chi practice might mean and make a clear distinction between “common” meditation techniques. Even if that Tai Chi is not a meditation technique, and “Tai Chi is not meditation”, are valid statements, Tai Chi is still a meditative practice. From my own personal experience, it can work as meditation and affect the practitioner in similar ways as in traditional meditation. Thus “Tai Chi is meditation” is also a valid statement. Which one is is true and false depends on point of view and what values you put into the two different terms.

My teacher Mr He explained that as meditation speaking, Tai Chi Chuan works as self-hypnosis. The movements of the form, especially if performed slow and even, has a hypnotic effect. This is the nature of the meditative practice of Tai Chi and the only technique you’ll ever need to find yourself in a deeper state of consciousness. The more slow, the better meditatively speaking. I myself have found that there is a point of speed, when I speed down to a certain pace, where I can more or less automatically reach another deeper level of calmness, awareness and consciousness. I have practiced common meditation techniques as well, common techniques as well as deeper not so common methods. Personally, I find that what you can reach with your mind in Tai Chi practice is pretty much the same as in traditional meditation. Maybe you cannot achieve as a deep stage  in Tai Chi as with some techniques, but it’s still pretty close. And personally I prefer Tai Chi form and standing practice before any other meditation method I have studied.

So  by that statement I have already answered another question: Is it necessary to combine Tai Chi with meditation? And the obvious answer is that it’s absolutely not necessary. However, if you want to combine Tai chi and meditation, I would personally recommend Deep Meditation before TM, “Mindfulness” or any lighter or simplified version. What can be an advantage with combining Tai Chi and traditional meditation is that meditation is a much faster way to eneter deeper stages of consciousness, if that is what you strive for. If you have already practiced some good method, you can much more easily understand how Tai Chi could work as meditation and your feeling and experience from meditation can guide you and help you with your Tai Chi. There is also kinds of “qi-circulation” sitting meditation practice some Tai Chi practitioners use, mostly to manifest so called “small heavenly circulation”. Personally I would not recommend this kind of practice as it might give you wrong appreciation about how Qi works in moving T’ai Chi Ch’uan.