When I first started my tai chi journey back in 2006, I just wanted to relax, but I was very eager to learn a full tai chi form. This may sound familiar to you. I was learning wu style tai chi and then yang style tai chi long forms. I spent 4 years doing these tai chi forms and despairing at not finishing any of them. My teacher was going too slowly for me, I used to think. 10 years have passed since then. Now, I do chen style tai chi, the most traditional one, and I train regularly with my husband Sifu Nick Taylor from Devon Tai Chi Centre and Grandmaster Liming Yue. I haven’t finished the long form (Laojia) and I am okay with it. What has changed? Tai chi has become a journey, not a destination.
I know that I am learning with every movement that I do, and how fast or how much I am learning has become irrelevant. I have learnt to follow my body, my female cycle, my personal desires. I rest when I need to rest, I train when I need to train, but most of all I repeat what I know once and again and again. Each time I move, my movements have a different feeling. Each time I move, I learn until I reach a plateau. This plateau is very annoying, and I get stuck and I am not sure what I need to learn next. I get bored. I decide to continue going to classes and workshops. This will happen to you too. At this stage, many of you leave or start a new endeavour. One day, in a class, you will see a new nuance, same words will have a different meaning, like it happens to me. You will finally understand what was hidden years ago. Your body understands and moves and relaxes in a different way. That has happened to me a few times. My soul starts soaring again. I smile. I take pleasure in my new learnt detail. And I go back to the basics, applying my new learning to the most basic movement: silk reeling.
Silk reeling has so much to teach me that I need to go back to it again and again. Silk reeling exercises prepare your body for the tai chi forms. Silk reeling helps you to experiment with the new details that you learn. As I go back to silk reeling, I practice the new details that I have learnt: relaxing my shoulders, my hips, my wrists; keeping my body straight, or my head; becoming more aware of my breath or my back muscles, or my lower back position; checking whether I am too focused on my front, or my back, my left or my right side; following my qi, feeling it, becoming a good friend to it.
So many things I need to learn from silk reeling exercises that my tai chi journey often feels like a silk reeling journey.