Here is an interesting article called “Overview of Best Practices in Taji” by Dr. Yang Yang, a scholar and practitioner of taijiquan. His site seems to have much more information and he seems to have done extensive scholarly and practical research. His expertise confirms some of the conclusions I’ve been arriving at via my much more limited experience, such as
1) standing meditation is the key
Wuji zhuang (无极桩), or standing meditation, is translated as “standing pole” exercise and is the basis for Taiji movement. In fact, the Taiji form movement is often referred to as “moving pole” (huo zhuang, 活桩), highlighting that Taiji movement evolves from practicing standing wuji zhuang. Both the classical literature of Taijiquan and the oral tradition of the internal martial arts repeatedly emphasize that wuji zhuang precedes Taiji movement. Chapter Seven, “Training Methods for Sparring,” of The Yang Family Forty Chapters, begins with this point:
In central equilibrium (what is commonly called “standing pole”), the feet develop root, and then you may study the four sides and advance and retreat [emphasis added]. (Wile, 1996).
Well-known sayings within the internal martial arts community further assert:
Lian quan bu zan zhuang, chi fan mei liang cang.
Practicing form (external movement) without practicing standing pole
is like eating food with no grain in the storage bin.
Bai dong bu ru yi jing, bai lian bu ru yi zan.
One hundred movements are not as good as one stillness;
One hundred practices are not as good as one standing (pole).
Just like xingyiquan and yiquan. Not too surprising. It’s more interesting to find that wuji zhuang was at times deliberately withheld from public teachings!!!
2) learning long choreography is not really the important thing for beginners despite what new students think
Beginning practitioners of any age are often frustrated with their inability to memorize choreographed movement, and all beginners should be encouraged and reminded that it does not matter in the least how soon one can memorize choreography.
3) small is better than big
A well known saying within the Chen family tradition asserts “From big to small.” A similar saying exists in Chapter 28 of the Yang Family Forty Chapters: “First practice expanding, then look to compacting” (Wile, 1996b).
The last quote may be ambiguous and not talking about outer form, though.
Glad to confirm some of these notions via a nice, expert, formal source.