5.a.xxxvi-why-practice-forms Section

Three Reasons Why I Practice Taijiquan Forms? 

written by Nick Gudge – September 2012

All the significant practitioners of taijiquan gained their basic skills through foundation form practice. Many of them have stated this publicly, frequently and unequivocally. Yet most practitioners who say they are honestly looking to gain putative taijiquan skills want to practice lots of different forms and competitive push hands. I thought it might help if I stated why I practice these foundation forms and despite my interest in other forms and competitive push hands have focussed the overwhelming extent of my practice on foundation form practice.

The first reason I practice taijiquan forms is because my teacher tells me to. Perhaps not the best reason and perhaps the best reason of all. I trust my teacher. I trust my teacher’s understanding, both as a taijiquan practitioner and as a taijiquan teacher. I accept that given his much wider viewpoint as both teacher and practitioner he can see a more appropriate way forward than I can.

The second reason I practice taijiquan forms is because my mind concludes that, based on the evidence I have researched, it is the only way to gain good taijiquan skills. I have read and heard many discuss their varied alternative ideas – alternative from the traditional view - about how to gain taijiquan skills. The problem is that none of those offering alternative training solutions have gained substantial skills i.e. reached the third level of taijiquan gong fu. In fact most of them have not reached the start of the first level. (Imagine if you will pre-pubescent children offering opinions about how to achieve a successful sexual relationship. It still surprises me how frequently and commonly these opinions are taken into consideration despite the lack of any verifiable evidence that these alternative ideas work.)

All those practitioners that I have heard about or met that have reached a place of significant skill all used a remarkably similar process: practicing an inordinate number of foundation forms. Despite the unappealing nature of this process, (unappealing because of the undesirable amount of time, effort and concentration required,) in more than 20 years of researching I have come across no method that produces even slightly similar results.

I understand that most people do not aim for such vaunted heights of skill. You might reason that I am unreasonable in my castigation of their efforts to find short cuts to a lesser skill level. However, I do not see that this “lesser skill level” is in fact a level of skill in taijiquan. All of the short cut routes I have researched all fail to understand even the most basic steps required to gain fundamental skills. Unless a particular skill is gained at a particular stage in the training process, it remains very unlikely that significant progress will be achieved beyond this point. The skill set arrived at without this skill e.g. peng jin, is simply not taijiquan, not only in definition but in effect.

The third reason I practice taijiquan forms is because my experience of training with my teacher, Wang Hai Jun, and acquiring the set of skills I have acquired, shows me this is the most efficient path. The few years or so that I have spent training intensively (though unfortunately not continuously) in form practice out of my 25 years training taijiquan clearly and unequivocally demonstrate to me that this is the most efficient method to achieve the skills of taijiquan. Even though I do not want this to be true, even though I have been very reluctant to accept this as true, it is true.

Nick Gudge is a student of Wang Hai Jun and teaches Chen style taijiquan (tai chi) classes in Limerick.


If you are interested in reading more about Practice you might be interested in the following articles:

Good Practice (3 page article)

The Value of Practicing One Form (1 page article)

Six Stages of Training Taijiquan Skill (4 page article)

More detailed technical information can be found in my four part series

Gaining Taijiquan Skill (40 page article.)