In order to develop training habits that your improve your skill you need clear and reachable goals. Its just common sense that often gets obscured by the excitement of learning something new. I remember being admonished by my teacher on many occasions for putting the cart before the horse. When I was having a little too much fun practicing footwork and punching he would stop me and say, “Settle down young man, practice the Jam Jong, practice the sensing strength…first you must make the frame, then you can learn how to move it.” After I had those things his advice changed, “Stop practicing so hard for more power! Your problem is not power, you need flexibility and relaxation.” Practice is simply much more productive when it is arranged to reach clear and reachable goals. That is why having a good teacher is essential.
As martial arts systems go, Yi Chuan is purposely simple. There are seven categories of practice that are interrelated; standing (Jam Jong), sensing strength, footwork, push hands, sensing sound and fighting. With these categories integrated or Hunyuan strength is discovered, developed and applied. Without a teacher to identify and prescribe how to use the 7 categories of training its like being lost in the dark. Take Yi Chuan standing practice as an example, which consists of eight fundamental shapes or orbits. Beginners generally need to use a fair amount of tension and little or no movement in order to mold the basic frame and link the appendages to the core. Intermediate practitioners are generally working to maintain the sense of oneness with less and less tension and increase the flexibility (range of motion) of the external orbit. While advanced practitioners may focus on subtlety and casualness, increasing their capacity to generate torque and the speed and flexibility of their internal orbit. I use this oversimplification to make the point that there are many, many ways to practice standing depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Learning from my teacher is like visiting the doctor. He evaluates and tests my progress during each visit and prescribes changes to my training routine that will bring me the most benefit. If I take the medicine, so to speak, I generally make rapid progress. If I do not take the medicine he will subtlety (sometimes not so subtlety) remind me until I do. Having clear and reachable goals simply accelerates the learning process and shortens the path to developing integrated (Hunyuan) strength and the capacity to apply it.