Tai Chi forms involve a series of choreographed martial arts poses that flow together like a slow motion dance. How these movements are taught can vary. Some classes are taught by example. Meaning, the instructor will lead the group all the way through the entire Tai Chi form, and the students mimic until over time they remember all the movements.
However, many classes are taught for different levels, whereby the movements are broken down into one or two movements per class. If you are an average learner, these classes are preferable. It is much easier to learn one movement at a time and practice it all week than it is to try to assimilate an entire Tai Chi form.
I'll mention here that your learning will be much easier if you don't miss classes. It's easier to memorize movements in smaller bites. For each class you miss the bites get larger. View some of the "Free Online Lessons" to get an idea of how movements may be broken down in classes.
Also, you might ask your teacher to recommend a video or DVD that teaches your style, so that you can have an at-home-tutor to augment your classes. That way if you have to miss a class, you can stay caught up with your group.
The following points lay out how Tai Chi is taught or might be studied, in an effort to help you get the most out of your classes.
> Warm-ups and relaxation techniques are usually repeated weekly, although if you practice these everyday on your own you will be all the better for it.
> The actual Tai Chi movement of the week must be learned and practiced on your own that week.
> Each week a new Tai Chi movement will be added to your growing form or repertoire.
> The form will get longer and longer each week until you learn the entire form.
> Long forms of 20 minutes take between 6 and 8 months to learn.
> Short forms of 10 minutes may take 2 to 6 months to learn, depending on the instructor and the form.
> Advanced students often repeat beginning or intermediate classes for years to refine their performance of the Tai Chi forms.
> Advanced students may serve as assistant instructors in class.
> As an advanced student, you may be asked to assist new students learning the forms for the first time. Tai Chi, like all martial arts, is based on a mentoring system. As an assistant, you'll usually teach the first of the following three stages of T'ai Chi instruction.
> T'ai Chi's taught in these three stages.
> First, the movements are learned.
> Second, the breath is incorporated into the regimen by learning an inhalation or exhalation that is connected to each movement.
> Third, a relaxation element or awareness of the flow of energy through the body is learned. Although the first step offers many benefits from the first day, the benefits get richer and deeper with each level you learn.