For Beginners in Tai Chi: Tips from a Life Coach

For Beginners in Tai Chi: Tips from a Life Coach

Written by Telana Simpson

Tai Chi is an integral part of my life- but it hasn’t always been that way.  I had to make it part of my lifestyle.  From developing that routine and tweaking my attitude to how I practice this martial art, I have come to experience not only it’s benefits in health and chi, but also in a sense of balance in my life.

I am also a Courage Coach, and feel privileged to share time with my clients, and facilitate them to create courage and a life that they love.

Often, a key part of a life we love, is to have cornerstone practices which we routinely get to enjoy, as this brings moments of joy and peace into our lives.  It also helps us ease between the hectic work pace and busy family life, to time for ourselves to fill up too.

From a coaching perspective then, I share here some pointers to keep in mind, as you start to incorporate the practice of tai chi into your lifestyle.  These ideas come from my professional experience related to learning how to create habits that are useful and set us up for success, and also from my personal experience with tai chi.

Ten Tips to practicing Tai Chi

1. Be clear on your purpose

What is your reason for doing tai chi?  A good intention to have is one that is bigger than just learning tai chi.

  • What benefits of the practice of tai chi are you looking forward to experiencing?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time with having tai chi as part of your lifestyle?
  • Is it the calm that comes from doing a moving meditation regularly that you seek?
  • Or do you want to develop your chi to experience more inner strength?
  • Do you just want to focus on being moving, with friends, in nice environments to keep flexible and healthy?

When we get in touch with our bigger Why for practicing tai chi, this will bring more meaning to our practice and keep us motivated.

2. Make a commitment

Plan your life around your class times, otherwise there will always be something else to do than attend class. Make it a priority and life will have a way of happening around your tai chi.

Remember, they say it takes 21 days to create a habit, and 90 days to create a lifestyle!

So in the beginning, make a firm commitment to yourself to attend for 3 months at least.  The benefits of tai chi are experienced the more regularly you practice it, and so you can only truly grasp the movements and gain the benefits by giving it a good chance and showing up regularly and often.

Also, once you have this as part of your routine for 1 to 2 months, it is much easier to keep it up.  It just takes a bit of extra effort in the early stages to stick to something you are learning, and also to create the routine and space to fit it into your life.

3. Embrace the beginners mind 

We all start somewhere.  A key part of tai chi is the beginners mind, Sho Shin as Sifu Leo explains – to be open to learning and not knowing.

And tai chi is a lifestyle practice, not a class you take once or twice and then you can tick it off.  To gain the full benefits, and the long-term benefits, stick to it and remember that anything takes time and practice to develop.  So embrace the beginning stages, remembering there is not one perfect way.  The more open and “empty” we are, and willing to show up and learn, the more we will enjoy ourselves and ultimately gain.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

If we bring to the dojo a mindset around growth, we come ready to focus on our own development.  Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we place emphasis rather on if we have improved since last week, or last month.

It’s an unfair comparison to look to others, as we are all unique and at different places on our own paths of learning.  Your fellow students are just examples to observe to learn from, and it doesn’t motivate or help much if we compare ourselves to them and degrade ourselves for not measuring up.  So develop more of a growth mindset, and enjoy it’s many benefits.

5. Be open to ask for help

Another benefit of the growth mindset is we become more open to ask for help.  You’ve just started, and others can share what works for them to assist you on your journey.

Also, it helps others with their own learning when they get a chance to explain or show you a move. And Sifu Leo is always there too to answer any questions.

One day you’ll get to help someone else, and then gain the learning one gets from such a teaching opportunity. So ask for guidance and others will help, and one day you’ll get to pass it on.

6. Count what counts

Focus on the small improvements, on the peace you gain from being present, on the co-ordination that is growing, on the small moments of recalling the next movement.

Noticing your own growth and the development of your chi, this is what counts.  It’s not useful to have a competitive attitude or a striving to know all the forms as quickly as possible.  And if we don’t count the small improvements, and rather tend to discount them because we don’t know the bigger things (like the whole form), then we miss out on the beauty of tai chi, and on our most valuable learning moments.

7. Match, look for sameness

A good strategy to learning something new is to look first for what is similar to what you already know– not for what is missing or different.  There are patterns in tai chi and its basic moves, and these patterns are repeated often.  Notice them, and you will find the rhythm of tai chi, and you’ll notice your improvements more.

When we focus on what we are getting, rather than on what we are missing, we enjoy the process more and this adds to our motivation to keep with it.

8. Be gentle and lighthearted with yourself

When we get serious, we get silly – and we miss the purpose of what brought us to tai chi in the first place.  When we are flexible and gentle – yet strong – we can laugh more easily at ourselves, and enjoy the process of learning and growing.

Because tai chi is a journey more than a destination, each milestone should be just a mark along the way, and we can have fun while we grow on this never-ending journey.

9. Practice practicing

I have mentioned a few times now about practicing tai chi.  This concept of ‘practice’ is often misinterpreted, as it is seen as something is wrong with us if we need to ‘practice’ a skill.  We don’t have the skill, or are not ‘good enough’ or doing it well enough, and so we need to practice.  This is not a useful way of using the word.

If you look up the word in a dictionary, practice refers to the actual applying of a method or idea, and is about habit and routine.  So it is more useful to see tai chi as this kind of practice which you do often, because then the focus is not on getting the moves right, but on moving the moves.

The thing with tai chi, is there are endless levels to learn and develop, and you can only learn the next level once you have experienced fully the current level you are on.

And to experience something, you need to do it- to practice it.  So take on an attitude of experiential practice, rather than perfection.

10.  Keep your self-worth out the dojo

The level you are at for a specific skill is not a measure of your self-worth – it is only the level you are with that skill.

So to develop confidence in tai chi, and to get to the stages of feeling more graceful with the moves, you need to practice and develop the muscle memory of those moves.

Our self-worth or esteem is a very different aspect of ourselves to confidence, even though these concepts get mixed up and are not well understood.

When you make them distinct though, it is easier then to not link your worth to if you get the moves right or wrong, and to know that confidence only comes from active practice.  From this flows the growth mindset, where we are in the dojo to learn and develop, and not to prove anything

May these ideas help you to gain the many benefits of tai chi, and be steps towards creating a life you love!

To learn more about Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg, contact Sifu, Leo Low Ming on 0833780468.

About the Author:

Telana, Courage CoachTelana is a dynamic, transformational Courage Coach who helps talented people have no regrets in life by having the conversations that count.

Written by Telana Simpson Tai Chi is an integral part of my life- but it hasn’t always been that way.  I had to make it part of my lifestyle.  From developing that routine and tweaking my attitude to how I practice this martial art, I have come to experience not only it’s benefits in health …

Why karate benefits women

Why karate benefits women

Women who are looking for a form of exercise or a lifestyle hobby that has many benefits to offer, need look no further than Karate.

People usually associate hard core training and hitting or punching bags with a male dominated environment. Gone are those days.

Karate is unisex in that the best ways to kick or punch have no bearing on if the student is male or female.  A push up is a push up, and students are taught the skills and drills equally.  They are only encouraged to challenge themselves and move to their next personal best level.

Women today, in this rapid evolving world, need be involved in the workspace and keep up with the times.  Because they are now empowered in the workplace, they should equally balance their lives through martial arts, giving one not only physical endurance but mental toughness as well.

In the patriarchal world of work, they need inner strength and a strong self confidence to stand their ground when needed in the boardroom.

Building strength physically in the body in the way Karate offers, is a powerful way for women to embody this strength, and bring that experience into others aspects of their lives, like the office.

Not only will this help in their self-image, but it will give women a sense of pride, confidence, and upliftment in their health.  The number one killer is not the deranged person in the alleyway, but stress and heart disease.

Stats from the World Health Organisation says:

“Of the 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.0 million lives in 2016, while lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths. Diabetes killed 1.6 million people in 2016, up from less than 1 million in 2000. Deaths due to dementias more than doubled between 2000 and 2016, making it the 5th leading cause of global deaths in 2016 compared to 14th in 2000.”

Weight loss is another area that martial arts is good for. Movement is important and cardio exercises will not only improve heart function but will get rid of excess grams- even kilos – of weight and water retention. It will help the body to function optimally.

Aside from the health aspect that fitness from karate offers, many women live behind the screens of their computers or the wheel of the car lifting their children. Getting oneself to a dojo helps with socializing and meeting life-long friends – some of my students who have met in my dojo more than 25 years ago, are still friends in and out of the training area.

How does karate calm the mind? Kicking and punching will reduce the stress and rid the mind of anger. Using the minds visualisation tool is also a powerful technique to activate other parts of the brain and thereby balance the brain function.

In terms of a weekly routine, Karate classes offer women a wide array of benefits, from health and stress management, to inner and physical strength, and a warm, supportive circle of friends.

Join a class in Parkview to try out Kobujutsu Karate and learn more about the benefits of martial arts, by contacting Sensei Leo Ming. 

Women who are looking for a form of exercise or a lifestyle hobby that has many benefits to offer, need look no further than Karate. People usually associate hard core training and hitting or punching bags with a male dominated environment. Gone are those days. Karate is unisex in that the best ways to kick …