The First Fa Jin In The Long Form

The first fa jin in the 99-step Chen Pan Ling form we do often causes students some problems. The logical thing to do would be to copy the movement, but that’s not really how you can get this posture, or for that fact, any posture right. Technically perfect movement is still not Taiji. One student we had a few years ago was a professional dancer and it took her three weeks to learn the form. What she didn’t get was the understanding of the flavour of the movement. This flavour, this feeling is what makes Taiji what it is rather than a sequence of movements. Flavour is in the feeling. The English language is well equipped to describe each sense in isolation, we have many adjectives for describing sight, sound and touch, but the feeling of movement is a combination of these senses for which English, or for that fact any other language has no vocabulary to describe.

So, how do you learn something you can’t describe? Through experience.

The process of learning Taiji is largely experiential. It isn’t till you have experience the flavour that you can really know or understand it. Some teaching methods just got the student to repeat the postures again and again until an awareness of the flavour develops, but we don’t believe that is an efficient way to learn. What we prefer to do is to present different metaphors, give new perspectives to the student that they can try with the movement until they catch a glimpse of the flavour they’re aiming to capture. That glimpse is all that’s really necessary, as the student can then develop that glimpse until it is a part of the form they practise every day.

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