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 What is the real meaning of Long Form?

Many different Taichi styles practice a pre-set sequence of Taichi forms that they call a “Taichi Long Form.” However, in Taichi, ideally we should be doing moving meditation, not struggling to learn an intricate dance.

The reason our style is so unique is that from the very beginning, we practice so that we are always meditating in order to feel our Chi flow. Then, we can ultimately follow our Chi wherever it takes us — from one form into any other form. Eventually, we also work to be able to feel and follow the energy of the entire universe. That is why our method of training is so powerful, and why we never substitute or elevate choreography above following our Chi.

For this reason, while there is really no such a thing as a “long form,” there is what Master Waysun Liao calls “long form practice.” Long-form practice is when you practice meditatively — naturally and spontaneously feeling and following your Chi as it flows — moving from form to form for any amount of time, in any order.

In true long form practice, no two sessions will be alike, because you are feeling your Chi flow and following that flow in that moment. Even a master will not necessarily know or care what forms they will do when they first begin long form practice: they simply feel, flow, and follow.

We use the term and practice of a “Long Form” as a convenience

Since so many other styles boast of a “long form,” many come into the art with an expectation that all schools and styles must have a pre-set and precise choreographed sequence of forms to learn and follow. They aren’t disappointed when they hear that at the Taichi Tao Center, we actually do teach and offer a pre-set “long form” in addition to our single form training.

But once they start our classes, they are surprised to learn that a long form is not the focus of our style at all. The long form is just a tool we use from time to time.

The main reason we offer a traditional pre-set long form is that we know it can take a long time for a Taichi student to achieve the ability to feel, flow and follow their Chi. In the interim, a pre-set “long form” (stringing together the same series of forms in the same order, every time), can be a valuable training tool. It gives students a chance to experience what it might be like in the future to follow their Chi through many different transitions, turning in many different directions, and moving through a wide variety of forms.

Many students also enjoy practicing a long form for the fun and challenge of it. Others enjoy performing a long form for their friends. Some find that learning a long form can give a certain structure to their at-home practice that they appreciate.

That’s why we’ve always offered training in a long form, and why we’ve assembled a “Taichi Long Form Course” on Taichitao.tv by popular request. We’ve combined both vintage video content from Master Waysun Liao and recent online classes from Master Bob Krzemienski that cover all three sections of the complete Taichi form sequence.

Taichi Long Form course

Learn the Taichi Long Form on Streaming Video with
Master Waysun Liao & Master Bob Krzemienski

Master Waysun Liao and Master Bob guide you through all three sections of the Taichi long form in this 10-hour video course. Learn both the right and left side orientation, along with important transitions and practice principles.

Why we start with single forms at the Taichi Tao Center before learning a long form or long form practice

At the Taichi Tao Center, ideally, students learn each single form on the first three pages of our Taichi curriculum first. Only then will they start pulling single forms together into the complete long form sequence. Prior single form proficiency allows our students to relax, and makes their Taichi long form both rich and full. Knowing how Chi feels and how it flows in each single form allows them to better feel and flow with their Chi throughout ours or any other long form from any other style or school. That’s one reason why, at the Taichi Tao Center, 80% or more of our practice is Single Form practice, adding in auxiliary training, two-person practice, and long form practice for the remaining 20%.

Different styles of long form practice

Many callers ask us on the phone “What kind of long form do you teach?” They have not yet had the chance to experience the powerful single form style of training. They are usually glad to hear that we teach a Yang-style long form sequence modeled after the long form taught by Master Cheng Man Ching out of respect. (Master Liao and Master Cheng were longtime friends many years ago. – read more).

Furthermore, unlike many other Taichi schools, we teach and encourage our students to practice this particular Taichi sequence on both the right and left side, so that their energy stays balanced, and so they can learn how to flow with their Taichi in all directions.

grandmaster waysun liao with cheng manching

Different Taichi traditions (i.e. Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun) have different Taichi Long Form sequences. Some have only a handful of forms, other styles have very long sequences with more than 100 forms. Each style may do its particular long form with movements in a different order than another style’s sequence. Some styles perform their long form faster, slower, in a high stance or in a low stance.

However, as we’ve already shown, the order of forms, the number of forms, the speed or frame of stance are unimportant in evaluating the many types of choreographed long forms out there. What’s important is choosing a school or a teacher who understands that the highest level of practice is never choreographed and instead, always follows the sensation of Chi flow.

Students from other traditions may explore and memorize many types and styles of long forms, or compete for longer, shorter, more visually dramatic or physically challenging long forms. Our students, by contrast, understand that none of these pursuits are important. Our students know it is more powerful and more beneficial to do a handful of forms meditatively with the true feeling of Chi flow, than to know hundreds of forms or several styles of long forms by heart, but perform them only as a physical exercise.

How our long form relates to our eight-page curriculum

Students learn the bulk of our single forms as they progress through the first three pages of our eight-page curriculum guide. All of the single forms that, when combined, make up the first one-third (first section) of the Taichi Long Form are found on the first page. The forms making up the second one-third (second section) of the long form are on the second page. Finally, the single forms that make up the final third of the long form (third section) are on the third page.

That’s why at the Taichi Tao Center, the long form sequence is learned one section, or one third, at a time. After a student learns all of the single forms on page one, they are ready to learn the first section of the long form. After they learn all the single forms on page two, they are ready to learn the second section of the long form. It may actually take a year or more for a student to progress through all the forms on pages 1-3 so that they can put all their forms together for both the third section and then combine all three sections into the complete Taichi sequence.

Important to note about our long form videos

In the original vintage recording of Master Waysun Liao’s “Taichi Conclusion” video, his demonstration of the long form is an abridged version of what we teach. This is due to the space limitations of our recording studio at the time.

However, Master Bob’s Taichi Conclusion course does demonstrate the full sequence correctly in its entirety. Both Master Liao’s original abridged version and Master Bob’s complete demonstration are included in the video course.

The correct and complete sequence is also illustrated through line drawings in Master Waysun Liao’s book T’ai Chi Classics. Many students buy this book while learning the long form sequence, as it is a handy reference to have by your side.

taichi classics book

A “Must-Have” Book for Those Learning Our Taichi Long Form

The correct and complete Taichi long form sequence, as taught at the Taichi Tao Center, is also illustrated through line drawings in Master Waysun Liao’s book T’ai Chi Classics. Many students buy this book while learning the long form sequence, as it is a handy reference to have by your side.

In addition, you’ll learn deep insights into ancient wisdom on true Chi cultivation and Chi flow, the history of Taichi, translation of the three treatises from ancient masters that make up the “Taichi bible” known as the Taichi Classics, along with commentary on how to apply this ancient wisdom to your daily practice.

Summary

A long form can actually be made from any combination of single forms if you are following your Chi. When you learn how to feel, flow and follow your Chi, ideally you should be able to move and transition from one single form to any other single form smoothly and seamlessly without losing the sensation of your Chi.

In theory, a pre-set long form sequence is a way for you to practice making these smooth transitions. However, the limits of a pre-set long form sequence shouldn’t constrain you in deeper meditation, when your own practice may move from form to form spontaneously in a different order.

In short, in the real-time application of Taichi, following your Chi and following the principles of how energy moves is more important than following a rigorous choreography of forms.

For all the reasons listed above, we encourage you to seek out videos on single form practice to augment your long form training, and make single form practice a larger portion of your practice time. We also encourage you to purchase the book, T’ai Chi Classics, and explore our many videos on Taichi principles and recorded classes on moving meditation from Master Waysun Liao. These lessons will give you the insight and practice tips you need to begin feeling your Chi flow. Actually feeling and working with your Chi will provide the best and fastest way for your Taichi to deliver the personal benefits, achievement, and mastery you are looking for.

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