How do I know if my taiji is getting better?
This question is a natural one to ask since we devote so much effort to our practice and we sometimes feel that we aren’t making as much progress as we would like. Especially after the large gains that occur during the first five to ten years of practice, the sometimes slow and irregular pace of progress that follows can cause frustration and even lead us to think about quitting. I often say that you shouldn’t compare your taiji level to others but should instead compare your current level to your previous level. My teacher, Mr. Benjamin Lo, speaks about this comparison in another way. He says that if you get sick less often or recover more quickly from illness then your health is being improved by your taiji practice and you are making progress. You’ve also heard me refer in class to the various levels of taiji accomplishment described by Prof. Cheng Man-Ch’ing. I’ve summarized them below. They are discussed in Treatise 11 (pp. 75-81) in “Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan.” You can find the complete reference on the REFERENCES page of our website. I encourage you to thoroughly study the Professor’s Thirteen Treatises if you want to deepen your taiji practice.
Prof. Cheng states that there are three levels of taiji accomplishment—Human, Earth, and Heaven. Human level relaxes the sinews and vitalizes the blood. Earth Level opens the energy gates and removes blockages in the meridians so that the qi can spread evenly throughout the body, thus creating balance and harmony and providing health and long-life. Heaven Level integrates the two other levels and emphasizes use of the mind to create balance and harmony with others. Each level has three degrees. Note that the first two levels of taiji accomplishment (Human and Earth) can be achieved by practice of the solo form. The highest level of taiji accomplishment (Heaven), however, requires doing taiji with a partner. This is why push hands practice is essential for gaining an understanding of the deepest aspects of taiji. As one learns to maintain the taiji point of stillness while balancing yin and yang in all aspects of life, one begins to master the art of taijiquan.