Closely connected to the subject of my previous entry, the importance of maintaining a sense of enemy, is the need to understand the meaning of each of the movements in the Taiji form. This means in effect the need to know what the martial application of the movement is, what exactly are you doing to the imaginary enemy. This knowledge is necessary even if you are practicing Taiji only for health and have absolutely no interest in Taijiquan martial art.
It is true that the movements have more than one application. At Qi Elements we have selected what we call the “standard application” for each movement. The “standard application” is the one we think best illustrates why the the correct way of performing the movement is correct and why the incorrect ways are incorrect. Why does teacher say my hand position correct here but not there? Why does one movement require an an empty stance with heel down and another movement require the ball of foot down? Why does teacher say my movement is too big, my stance is too narrow, or my stance is too wide?
It is also true that in some traditional schools, the answer to the above questions is “because teacher says so!” But we believe that the student learn more quickly, understands better, and remembers longer when the answer is explained in reference to the meaning of the movement and how it applies to the standard application. We might illustrate, for example, that in the standard application, “If your hand is here instead of there, you will lose contact with your opponent.”
OK, so what if the student is only interested in health and the loss of contact with an imaginary opponent seems irrelevant to him or her. Well, in almost all cases, when something is incorrect for the standard application, it is incorrect for health too. Too big a posture can cause muscle and joint tension, which restricts Qi flow. Too small a posture can also restrict Qi flow. Incorrect foot position can affect balance, and if continued through prolonged practice will irritate the joints.
Correct performance of the form movements is also important for the mental benefits of Taiji practice. Learning how to perform the movements correctly helps improve memory and executing them precisely helps refine the mind-body communication.