In the Tai Chi form we are imagining using a small amount of our energy to deflect or control a large amount of a partners. You can't do this if you only have the idea of what your actions are. It's like learning to hit a cricket ball then doing the same technique on a squash court. Your technique is perfect,but the ball wasn't where it was supposed to be.

"So is the Tai Chi Form like a Pattern or Kata?" Yes.. in that all three are set movements. No.. in that Kata's and Patterns (in general) contain set meanings (this is a block, this is a grab) where as the Yang Family Tai Chi Form contains not one meaning but a set of 13 Postures.

Similar to dancing, once you have learnt the ideas (Postures) to a style, you can do that style of dancing in a unending variety of ways. In the Form the changes of meaning are in the mind. The form looks the same to anybody watching. However the Standardised form contains introductions to the meanings as if there is only one because it's an introduction and Standardised. If you try to introduce all the meanings it is too much information, but Standardising the form is akin to what the Missionarys tried to do with Native Africans.

By the end, you have been introduced to Advance, Retreat, Look Left, Gaze Right, Central Equalibrium (Steps) Ward Off, Roll Back, Press, Pull, Split, Elbow strike and Shoulder Stroke (Gates). Once you become familiar with these Posture it becomes apparent they appear many times in practice and are there as a potential response in principle throughout the form.

The difficulty lies in that most people don't get anywhere near the end of even the Standardised version, so leave with a partial version of a beginners guide to Tai Chi Chuan, but then forget that's all it is and in as much find themselves in the same position as the African natives found themselves when the missionaries left.

For those interested in TCM (Tradition Chinese Medicine). This insight into self control using the mind to guide where you are moving your energies then opens the way to controlling Qi (energies) for other uses such as for general sustained heath, self healing and comforting others.

In some respects you already do this instinctively, such as when you rub a painful area, creating energy, warming the surface area, increasing blood supply. The Chinese didn't invent the effect, no more than people invented gravity. They gave it a name and invented ways of opening the mind to benefit. Much of the health aspects from Tai Chi came from the need to develop self help and it was a requirement that those who taught also knew how to cure in the event of an injury. But don't rule out much of what is claimed in books is suspect. No one has demonstreated Qi exists scientifically. But then again much of what is claimed in Western ideas is suspect and no one has demonstrated being in love exists scientifically. Anti-ageing creams, dodgy diets and so on. I break my leg I hop to a Doctor, but once it's healing I practice T'ai Chi and general exercise to build it and my confidence back up.

It need not be an either / or.