Tai chi basics, including “single basic moves,” are employed to train for specific objectives, such as loosening, relaxing and strengthening joints, ligaments and tendons, all of which are exclusive offerings of the tai chi exercise system.
What I like about single basic moves is they fit well in solo practice. Why? For one thing, doing a single move repeatedly is pretty good exercise without having to remember long sequences of form postures and transitions. You can relax and pay more attention to the feeling of the movement and not worry so much about what comes next, which you tend to do in trying to memorize form sequences.
Of course, sequence learning is a necessary part of overall learning. Often that’s all that is taught to beginners. Many of us remain beginners for years, in that case, because we often lack knowledge of internal practices, which if we did would help lead to a more well-rounded knowledge base. Single basic moves can help build the knowledge. You become aware of something that you were not aware of before.
For many, at first, the movement is rather broad, or wai dan (external field), compared to nei dan (internal field). Both views are accurate but they have different intentions and different results. Most learners begin with a wai dan mindset. Nei dan is deeper, less superficial, revealing much more of the total scope of practice that is possible.
Wherever you are in your learning process, progress happens by keeping it simple and seeking deeper awareness of what constitutes any move. Single basics helps to immerse yourself into this area of learning.
Although single basics are repetitive, they are not repetitious, so to speak. You repeat a pattern, intent on refining, not on repeating it exactly the same way as before. Change is the key. “Changeability” as Master Xu puts it.
How do you refine? Pick out a particular locus, for example, from the center or dantian first. Focus your attention on how you move there and how the rest of the body responds. Focus on the move itself and how you might alter it—make it smoother, rounder, less hesitant, more relaxed, effortless.
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