One aspect of Tai Chi that tends to get overlooked is testing.
I don't mean testing for rank or belts.
I mean testing the smoothness of your nervous system that should be evolving as you go deeper into your practice.
In this video, Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis demonstrates an exceptional degree of smoothness.
Even though he is demonstrating a Ba Gua rolling exercise, all of the internal arts aim to cultivate this degree of fluidity:
Specifically, watch how he changes speeds and the size of the ball. There are no gaps in his changes. He doesn't pause and think about what to do next. The smoothness he demonstrates goes beyond external choreography and reveals a seamlessly integrated nervous system.
Developing this kind of fluidity is only possible with feedback.
You can set a baseline level of relaxation when you do standing qigong, or the slow-motion flow of the solo form, but it will only take you so far.
To go deeper, you need to interact....with other people, with external objects, and with the natural world.
Watch how these instructors from Brookline Tai Chi use Tai Chi Equipment Training to hone their sensitivity:
Can you see the way that they respond to each other, before and after the equipment upgrades?
Now, compare that to the first video. Can you see where freeing yourself from any internal gaps would make you more responsive, alive, and able to handle external pressure?
The beautiful thing about internal practices like Tai Chi is that you are training your nervous system to better respond to external pressure, but every encounter with an external force is an opportunity for refining internal awareness.