- What is Tai Chi Chuan?
- What are the benefits of practicing Tai Chi?
- If I don't want to learn to fight should I still join the class?
- Is the class suitable for beginners as well as advanced students?
- What is the curriculum?
- What is the typical class structure?
Tai Chi Chuan (or Tai Chi) is both an ancient meditative Chinese health and longevity exercise system and a highly effective internal martial art. Many people associate it with the typical image of a large group of people in a park in China moving slowly in unison through a series of "dance like" movements. This public image of Tai Chi certainly represents one aspect of the art, although the complete system encompasses much more than simply performing this "Long Form" series of movements. Tai Chi training is based on slow, continuous, gentle and flowing wave-like movements of the whole body and a calm, focused, and centered state of mind. Over the centuries, Tai Chi, like other martial arts, has divided into various styles, such as Chen, Yang, Wu, and Temple. All the Tai Chi styles are somewhat similar in their form and utilize the same principles. This class is based on Temple style Tai Chi.[back to top]
For those individuals primarily interested in improving their health, suppleness, strength, relaxation and mental calmness and focus, Tai Chi is the consummate exercise system which has proven effective in this regard for hundreds of years. Through the slow movements of the forms and other subsets of practice, the Tai Chi practitioner focuses on correct posture, rooting, breath, flexibility, relaxation, linkage, mind/body connection, energy yielding and attachment, and a centered, focused, calm and “awake” state of mind. With consistent practice over time, this training results in a healthy, strong, flexible, relaxed, energized and focused mind and body.
For those people attracted to the benefits and enjoyment of martial arts training, Tai Chi also excels. Its effectiveness is based on the concept of “yin and yang” which represents an every changing balance between soft, yielding, and redirecting principles and relaxed applications of force through rooted and whole body integrated movements. Since its martial effectiveness depends more on the mind and the cultivation of jing (internal power) rather than simply the body...size, strength or speed are much less an issue. This characteristic makes it an appropriate martial art for anyone to learn regardless of physical attributes. As an internal martial art, Tai Chi develops one's ability to respond responsibly and effectively to conflict, whether internal or external, and whether physical or otherwise.[back to top]
Yes, absolutely! Typically, most students will be solely interested in the health and meditative aspects of Tai Chi, while some students will want to pursue its martial applications as well. This class is designed to accommodate at the same time each of these pursuits. For those students that want to avoid the martial pursuit, the class structure and the Tai Chi system itself make this possible. Each student is encouraged to pursue their own path of development and goals.[back to top]
Yes. The class can accommodate students with beginner to advanced levels of skill. This flexibility occurs for two reasons. Foundational movements done by beginners are also practiced by advanced students but with a change in height (from middle to low and ultimately high), or a change in frame (from slow to fast and from large to small), or a change in principle emphasized (such as simply remembering the form, to focusing on the quality of posture, the quality of breath, linking breath and movement, relaxation, moving as a single unit, fluidity, centering of mind and awareness, etc.).
Further, Tai Chi is a layered art form. More advance movements consist simply of the basic foundational movements (as any beginner would perform) with the addition of more complex movements layered on top. So while advance students are performing a form such as “brush knee & twist step,” the beginning students, right along side, can be performing “arrow and bow stance” which is a subset of the more complex movement.[back to top]
The Temple style Tai Chi system is divided into seven levels of mastery. The first three levels relate to learning what is commonly known as the “Long Form” through a process of learning individual sub forms (or postures) and, after mastering the individual sub forms, stringing them together into first, second and third section of the “Long Form.” The first three levels also include beginning methods of “pushing hands” which are gentle two person sensitivity practices.
The complete Temple style Tai Chi system is well structured and systematized in it training approach. It is divided into a total of 60 training modules of related material. Each student is individually assessed, based on their previous Tai Chi experience and ability, and placed in the appropriate training module. The student studies, trains and sufficiently masters one module before moving onto the next one. In this methodical manner, the student always knows his level of development in relationship to the whole system and never skips necessary material while moving on to the next stage. With a clear training structure the learning is simple while the practice remains challenging within each students unique capacities and limitations.
Beginning students start with Training Module One which is titled “Foundation Fundaments.” In this training module the emphasis is on learning the most basic individual forms. From this training the student develops the various stances, preliminary movements, and structure. All the rest of the Tai Chi forms are built upon this material so hard work here is essential. The student also begins to learn and incorporate the ten basic Tai Chi principles into all their movements. After sufficiently completing Training Module One the student would next begin practicing beginning Pushing Hands methods to develop sensitivity, connectivity, and yielding applications. The Training Guidelines are promoted throughout the training to help keep the student on track with optimum progress.[back to top]
The typical class begins with the standard Tai Chi warm up. Next, there is a short review of the basic elements of a form previous taught. During this period, individual student's movements are assessed and suggestions for corrections made. On an individual basis, as each student is ready, the more subtle distinctions within each form are made apparent. The learning process is one of gross imitation to more refined modeling to eventually owning the movement with all its subtle distinctions as one's own. Next, new material is presented through demonstration and explanation with subsequent practice. The material is presented in visual, kinesthetic and auditory modes to meet the different learning styles of the students. Questions and discussion are welcome and are an important part of the learning process. Throughout the class, the Tai Chi principles are repeatedly emphasized. The class concludes with a slow down process and closing.[back to top]