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Can I skip the hand forms?

The short answer is no. But why don't you want to do hand forms?

Over the years, I have known at least two characters who have touched on this topic with me. One wanted to train with me, but skip the hand forms and just do the fighting bits. And somebody else who felt his son can do without hand forms and go into straight sword. The latter didn't happen and had to do sabre instead.

As a martial art, Taiji isn't so different from other styles of Chinese martial arts. We have hand and weapon forms. These are done in a certain order and way. It isn't just about tradition, but it is a proven way of progression. For example, you need to complete the hand form and understand the basic theories before you can start weapons. Each weapon has their own theories and how to use them. It also gets progressively harder, so it helps if you already know how to use your stances. Do you run before you can walk? No. Well then, there you go. Some people have compared the sword form as a PhD. Which I agree, because if you haven't read for a Bachelor's degree, how can you even begin to understand and approach a PhD. It's a completely different level in terms of complexity. It's not advisable to learn weapons when you're still learning the hand form. Afterall, you wouldn't read for a Batchelor's, a Master's and a PhD at the same time.

The self defence applications (the fighting bits) are taught alongside the hand forms and there is a lot theory that goes with the art. It is important to understand the foundations of the art, in order to practise Taiji correctly. Learning hand forms is time consuming, but it is very rewarding when you finally complete it and feel the various benefits. I understand that it is tempting and fashionable to skip out hand forms, but that kind of martial art is not taught at White Horse Tai Chi. Hand forms help you learn and are not considered unnecessary in genuine martial arts. When you finally progress to weapons, you'll understand how hard it can be and you'll be thankful you've gained a good foundation.

At White Horse Tai Chi, we follow the Practical Tai Chi Ch'uan International syllabus. We lean more to the traditional, but the emphasis is for learning to be fun and relevant. Sure, not everything will be enjoyable for everybody, but there's something for all. You need patience and perseverance, the skills and abilities will develop. You can't force things to happen, but with patience, it will. Have faith in what you do and avoid shortcuts. There's a method in our madness and in the long term, shortcuts don't produce results. Better to train smart and train well, genuine hard work is what real gongfu is about. Remember, your training never lies.

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