An anonymous reader asks:
“Should you do warms-ups before doing the Tai Chi form?”
Unfortunately I have more than one answer to this question. First, there is what I do, both before practice and non-class days. I do these because I feel I need to, in order to maintain strength as well as flexibility. I also do push hands and sparring exercises because they are specific to situations that come up and leave me free to practice the form as a meditation for maximum benefit.
I do warm-ups before class. These are gentle stretches of the joints before starting the practice of Tai Chi because it helps to have the joints loose,and allows the Chi to circulate freely. However, there is more. There are strengthening and flexing exercises that I do apart from Tai Chi to insure muscle tone and flexibility.
On exercises, Professor Cheng said several times, just do the Tai Chi and it has all you need in it. This is especially true of Professor Cheng’s form as he readjusted it for Yogic and Chi Kung benefits, as well as fighting and push hands. As such, it is not necessary to warm up first. You are warming up as you practice, as well as practicing. Cheng Man Ch’ing’s Tai Chi form is not an aerobic external exercise, and it does not vigorously push or pull anything. So because of its slow nature and the fact that the kicks are later in the form, as is the squatting single whip, the form is the warm up as well as the exercise. By the time you get to the parts you might want to warm up for, you are warmed up. Also the fact that you do them slowly means that you are not too likely to get any pulls or sprains due to cold muscles. So we were told by Professor Cheng that warm ups are not necessary.
Understanding this, but knowing that I do not have Professor Cheng’s Ch’i flow, muscle tone or flexibility, I know that I need to practice some warm ups in a class situation, and do other exercises at home. So for me it comes down to a matter of emphasis.
I will end this with a comment from a T’ai Chi friend of mine, responding to someone who does a lot of warm-ups before his Tai Chi practice. He said, with tongue just a bit in cheek, “Wow, you sure know a lot of warm up stuff to keep you busy and warm… And, if you do them before the Form do you have any time left to do the Form…?”
And so, if you do practice warm-ups, as I do, do not become lost in the warm-ups and forget the Tai Chi you were warming up for.
In Tai Chi,