The most common (mis)conceptions of Tai chi are what unknowingly keep hidden it's deepest secrets.
Consider for a moment the common characteristics of Tai chi masters:
1. They are old (usually at least 45-50yrs +).
The older they are, the longer the beard and balder their head, the more credible their ability and the more people flock to their classes. But did they start practicing Tai chi when they were old? NOPE! They started when they were young and if you want to master Tai chi, the earlier you start the better.
2. They are old but they move like a 20yr old.
The reason their bodies move so well is because they started young. They once were 20yr olds and they retained the ability to move like a 20yr old into their old age.
3. They have disciple and practice daily.
These are essential ingredients in mastering anything. In the case of Tai chi, the body and mind are being nurtured and maintained on a daily basis. The sooner you start, the less damage and imbalances you will have to correct when you start practice. Some imbalances are basically impossible to correct once they reach a certain stage. Of course, starting at ANY time is beneficial but the sooner the better!
Then, the question that arises is: "If Tai chi isn't for old people, why are the movements so slow and gentle and why do so many old people do it?!"
The movements are slow and gentle, yes. But the reason why they are slow and gentle is very, very interesting!
The reason is not because Tai chi is designed so that you do not get injured while practicing it, the reason is a technical reason. When you practice Tai chi you are tapping into the body's inbuilt natural biological mechanisms. To do this, one needs to learn how to move in a certain, specific way.
This way of moving is not done to avoid hurting one's self, it is done so that specific mechanisms in the body are activated. How to do this? The secret lies in the smooth, gentle and relaxed movements. To learn this, you need the guidance of a teacher because as easy as it may look, it is not.
This way of moving is COMPLETELY different to the type of movement that is for example done in exercises such as weight training. This is why a lot of older people practice Tai chi: because the type of movement that Tai chi uses is suitable for them, but is not specifically designed for them. (But yes, there are Tai chi classes that are specifically for older people).
Why did the Tai chi master gain mastery in Tai chi in older age if they started learning when they were young? Because this way of moving takes a long time to master and the time-span for mastery is testament to its profound wisdom. As soon as you start practicing you will see the benefits and you will see them develop for years to come!
So young people (and people of all ages), this is my message to you! Try Tai chi and don't wait until you get old and you find out the problems with your body could have been avoided years ago!