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I have been training in Chen style Tai chi for more than 2 years, and I can say I can perform the first routine, Yi lu, without thinking of the form (which movement comes next and so on). So my Sifu says that I should start to concentrate on my energy and breathing. When I practice at home, I find it comfortable to close my eyes for concentration. However, my Sifu is not really a fan of it; he says we should train eyes-open and it is also important where we look at during practice.

What do you think? Is it harmful for my tai chi to close my eyes?

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Are you doing Taiji entirely for meditation, relaxation, and chi-kung? If so, go ahead and do it with your eyes closed. Or better yet, do it sitting down on the floor while just "thinking" of how the movement should feel. You'll make more progress at your intended purpose that way.

If, however, your purpose for learning Taiji is at least partially for martial arts (self-defense), then practicing it with closed eyes seems counter-productive. If you need your eyes closed in order to practice it, then what happens when you need to use it for self-defense? Are you going to close your eyes then? That would be ill-advised. And so, how do you think it's going to work for real when you can't even make it work when practicing it that way (with your eyes open)?

Beyond that, your eyes give you instant feedback on your balance, your position and which direction you're facing, your stance and how your body looks, etc. If you take that away during practice, it's very likely you'll be leaning too far forward, your arms will be too far away or not far away enough, your head will gradually tilt downward as if you're looking at the ground, you'll end up facing the wrong direction or you'll finish too far away from where you started, etc.

Seeing is very important during the training phase for self-correction. It's why having mirrors on the walls is so important. You have to be able to see yourself to know what needs correction. Going by feeling alone, without sight, often isn't good enough.

One other thing to realize is that the forms themselves encapsulate self-defense instruction. Where you are looking at in the form often tells you something about where your opponent is expected to be or what you're supposed to be doing. If you know how to interpret your form correctly for self-defense, this is one of the most basic pieces of information you need.

That said, you can experiment with training without your eyesight. You'll laugh sometimes at the way you look when you open your eyes to check. And maybe that can give you something you can take back into your normal Taiji practice. It's just that this probably shouldn't take up much of your practice time.

Push-hands practice is also something many people like to try without sight. It develops their sensitivity. But that's only a drill, not reality. When you go into free-sparring or realistic self-defense applications, you'll definitely need to see what's going on. Or you'll get hit.

Hope that helps.

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    Thank you for your detailed answer. That was really helpful. – Endery Mar 29 '16 at 11:20
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    "it is also important where we look at during practice". This is true in Chinese forms and Karate kata. You are usually looking at the opponent. So head position indicates where he is. – ColinSeligSmith Apr 1 '16 at 13:05
  • @css1971 Quite true! I'll add that to my answer. Thanks for pointing that out. It's actually a very important detail. – Steve Weigand Apr 1 '16 at 17:25
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in my experience of defying my elders and getting hurt so many times, i'd say if you really want to master the deepest roots & principles of how tai chi actually works... and your sifu is good? always listen to your sifu. that's my take on it. sifu is like your dad in the way that, when he gets to know you, he really starts to care. if he has a good soul, he's like your "dad" in a way that he'll teach you things that his teacher taught him, same as a family!! if you know your sifu is a good person, treat him like a Buddha... like gold! it's only going to bring good things. if not, you can screw-up your foundation for tai chi and possibly get your eyes or throat ripped out... joke lol

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