FAQ About Tai Chi

How do we start ?

Rely on the teacher, not his personality.

Rely on the meaning, not just on the words.
Rely on the real meaning, not just on the provisional one.
Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary judge mental mind.

In my experience, there are three levels of instruction--teaching, coaching and training. All are valuable but I think you need all three to learn good Tai  Chi.

Teaching is where things are explained to a whole class at a time, and each person goes off alone or works with others (in the case of push-hands) to incorporate the instructions into their form, their bodies, the art.

Coaching is where the instructor works with you specifically and says something like "Go home and practice this week, this is what you are trying to do, this is how it will feel, and come back and show me what you learned and tell me how it felt."

Training is where the instructor is with you and says something like: "This is what is going on here, try it...What does it feel like? No, try this...... Look for this feeling.........Try it again......That is closer...... That's right......Now go home and practice and we will build on it next week."

When I teach, it is individual instruction in a group setting. There is some general instruction, but I get around to every person in every class to take them to the next step in their training. Each person hears differently, has a different body and needs to be dealt with individually as they learn. Obviously, my classes are small--not usually over 6 people. The classes are 3 hours long and we work on stretching, fundamental training exercises, Form instruction, meditation, and push-hands from the beginning. Many teachers will traditionally wait to teach push-hands until after somebody learns the form, but I have been getting good results with my students by starting them with push-hands in the beginning. This is not the only way to teach, but this is the way I was trained and the way I prefer to teach right now--I really want somebody to learn good quality Tai  Chi and I think the training aspect is essential. One more thing occurs to me as important. And that is the personality of the instructor. The transmission of Tai  Chi is from teacher to student and is a fairly intimate activity. It is like raising a child or being raised by a parent. You need your own boundaries as a person and you need to distinguish what is Tai  Chi and what is the personality of the teacher--in the transmission of Tai  Chi they often get mixed together (this is one reason for the different Tai  Chi styles). So it is important that you are able to accept the personality of the teacher, even though you might not see the world in the same way as he does. You will be absorbing their influence so it is important to pay attention to who they are as people and keep distinguishing them as separate from the art they teach or the philosophy they espouse. There may be some personalities from which you will choose not to learn As I write this, it occurs to me that all this seems like a lot to take on. And it is a lot to take on. It is really worth it though. Tai  Chi is incredibly rich, magical, healthy, powerful and fulfilling. I look on it as one of God's gifts to the planet, without it being in existence we would be much poorer. To me it is like the medicinal plants in the rain forest--full of hidden treasure and value from which we can learn so much to enrich our lives and health.

What Experts Suggest
Set aside time for recharging batteries, something calm and restful, like meditation
Daily exercise that is readily available and needs little preparation can help with the "blahs" that occur and with overall outlook.
Observe mood swings; learn to accept them by realizing they will pass. Learn strategies that might help bad moods pass.
Use "time-outs" when you are upset or over-stimulated (e.g., take a time-out, go away, calm down).
Let go of the urgency to always finish things quickly by learning to enjoy the process.
     What T'ai Chi Offers
T'ai Chi is a mini-vacation from the daily "rat race."
T'ai Chi is easy, requires no preparation, and is a daily mood elevator.
'Tai Chi is a tool for self-observation of feelings and for letting those feelings go.
T'ai Chi can be performed at school or work (e.g., in the bathroom), giving you a break from stress.
T'ai Chi's slow-flowing routine is about "letting go" of outcome and learning to love process.
T'ai Chi teaches the practice of "letting go" on a mental, emotional and physical level with each exhale.
Tai Chi or Not Tai Chi
You cannot go to one Chinese restaurant and know Chinese cuisine. In the same way, you cannot attend one class and know Tai Chi.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing:
Make sure you can afford it. It seems simple but you would be surprised at how many people overspend thinking they will learn faster. A fancy studio and free uniform does not mean anything if you  learn nothing.
No matter if the teacher is fit or fat, good looking or ugly, a certified Tai Chi Master or an old Chinese man with a white beard, it does not mean they are going to teach better or worse than the next instructor.
The only way to choose your teacher is to experience their teaching style. Chances are that you are on the right track if you leave class energized, excited, and wanting more. If you leave drained, depressed, and confused keep looking. (Or start asking a lot of questions.)
Word-of-mouth is a good way to find a lead but reputations can be misleading. Rumors are just that until you experience things for yourself. Visit the school or meet the teacher and form your own opinion.
Master vs. Student
If you are growing, there is nothing wrong with learning from a student teacher or the dedicated practitioner at your local gym. As you progress you will start to know what you need/want and where to find the right person to teach you.
The more teachers, students, and practitioners you come in contact with the more you will learn.
What style?
Tai Chi has many practitioners and, like music, there are many ways to play. Yang style Tai Chi is the most popular but Chen, Wu, Sun, and Li (named from the families which they originate) styles are worth pursuing. Sample them and find what becomes you. All that said, many people start with Yang style.

What is tai chi? Why was it started?

Tai chi chuan was developed as a martial art and longevity exercise. It still is taught as both a martial art and longevity art. Today it is primarily practiced as a "Mind-body" and Health Promotion exercise. It is one of the best stress reduction methods. It is a low intensity exercise, low impact, suitable to people of all ages and fitness levels. If you can walk, you can practice tai chi.

What is the purpose of learning tai chi?

People take our tai chi classes to Improve their Health, Reduce Stress, Improve their Balance and just feel better about themselves. tai chi is shown to help some people lower their high blood pressure. Many of our students have told us that their blood pressure is now under control after their first series of tai chi and our chi kung classes. Very importantly increased balance is reported, even in people of advanced age. This better balance provides better mobility, self-assurance and will prevent serious injury to the oldest participants.

Is tai chi a martial art? How can the slow motion movements be used that way?

Some students study it as a Classical Martial Art. Some use it to help improve performance in other activities such as equestrian, tennis or golf. When done as a martial art the students move at very fast speed just like in other martial arts. We usually refer people wanting to just learn self-defense to specialized classes taught just for that purpose. We have had many black belts taking our classes and they claim it helped their other martial art skills.

Is tai chi considered an aerobic exercise?

tai chi is a low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise.

I have arthritis, will tai chi help me?

Tai chi has been shown to help reduce symptoms of some people who suffer arthritis. It has also been shown to help those with Fibromyalgia.

Do you teach Qigong?

Yes, we teach qigong (ch'i kung) "Energy work"  Ch'i Kung (qi gong) is a form of mind-body exercise that takes many forms ranging from calisthenics to meditation. Tai chi chuan (taji quan) is considered a form of ch'i kung as are hundreds of other exercises developed over the years.  tai chi chuan is only a ch'i kung if done correctly. We teach the safe methods as some forms of ch'i kung may be dangerous.

Does Tai Chi give you a longer and healthier life?

Hundreds of years ago the Chinese developed tai chi for this reason.  Dr.Rajnish Jawas added particular exercises to improve the health to his curriculum. It has been shown to help balance, agility, and well being. Tai chi reduces stress and has aerobic benefits that are good for your heart. Combined with a good diet and not smoking & alcohol drinks, these benefits add up to a better, fuller and longer life, maximizing your genetic potential.

How long will it take me to learn tai chi?

Usually you should give yourself at least 20 lessons, not days, but actual formal classes, to get the feel of it. Usually the first 10 lessons are relearning how to move and getting familiar with the techniques. You are expected to practice in between classes as well. After 20 lessons you will have the feel for it and will know if it fits your or not. You should be able to do it by yourself at this point. That is our goal for students, being able to practice on their own. Most important thing is to keep practicing on a regular basis.  

Beware of the Three Faults

The first fault is the lack of perseverance. The second is greediness. The third is haste. All three lead to mindless and sloppy learning of tai chi chuan

The idea is to focus on the basic principles when doing the form. More is not necessarily better. Some people are trying to learn every form or style they come in contact with, that is an expression of greed. Some people call them "Form collectors." They are in a rush to learn, haste. But this can cause confusion and not give them time to learn the forms correctly. It is better to take your time, learn step by step and not be in a big rush. That gives you time to digest what you learn. The haste combined with greed makes a mishmash out of forms and they all start looking alike. I have seen some teachers doing the Tai chi form that looked just likeTai Chi Kata or Taekwondo  form.  This is an example of being greedy and learning in haste.

Let your knowledge sink in. Learn one to two new movements per week. Unless you already have the basic exercises mastered, it is best to take your time. If you are more concerned about getting "through the form", than being in the form, then you need to go back and practice the basics.

How do I find a good teacher?

Determining if the teacher is teaching a legitimate method or if they are competent, is difficult to do for a beginner. As beginners have no frame of reference as to what is correct.
Find a group you feel comfortable with and then after you get a taste of it you can explore other options to find a style that fits you.
Check their references, find out who they studied with and how long. They should have several years of formal training under a master.
Ask other Tai chi teachers if they know of that teacher and if they are competent.
Do they primarily teach Tai chi chuan or do they do a number other activities Tai chi as a sideline? Those who teach many arts may not be the best teachers as tai chi is a specialty.
Ask for a referral from advanced students or other teachers.
Very important: Figure out why you are taking the class and make sure the class is suitable for your needs.
Do not be mislead by seeing fancy stunts or demonstrations, given by many schools because true Tai Chi is very different from what you get to see at such demonstrations.
Try to visit as many Tai Chi centers as many times as you can and try to observe as much as possible with respect to discipline, regularity of classes, standards of teaching, capability of the instructor to practically demonstrate and elaborately explain the application and effectiveness of various techniques and the frequency of demonstrations given by him during a class.
Do not be mislead by people who say that they could give you a Black Belt within a year or two, because Tai Chi Do not have a Belt System.
Even disciplined, honest and consistent efforts at learning authentic Tai Chi may take you more than a decade to gain some extent of perfection in all the techniques applied in Tai Chi.
For true, dedicated and genuine practitioners, Tai Chi is a life long companion

I am an aerobics instructor and would like to be able to teach Tai chi. How long does it take? Can I take a weekend workshop to get certified?

There is No weekend teaching certification workshop like there is for aerobics teachers and personal instructor's certification. Any such program is suspect. tai chi chuan is a totally different idea than aerobics, Tai chi is an Art form.  Aerobics instructors are usually very fit and flexible, and have had much training to be in that kind of shape, but we have found that does not help with learning tai chi. You still will have to put the hours in the studio learning

I have heard there are differences in opinion of what is the correct or better style of tai chi? Do you have an opinion?

There are many legitimate Styles and Versions of the art. You see we are not into mystification of family names or of the art. We are very happy with the Yang system we teach. According to us "If the style holds to the classics then it is correct." There are some subtle energetic differences and aesthetic differences in forms, which attract people. Usually the traditional systems are well balanced.

Why do I see so many different experts claiming they are the true Yang Style?

There are many high level masters who teach Yang style. Though their forms may look slightly different from each other. Interestingly there is a major family split in Yang style, both sides claiming to have the true teaching. Yang Zhen-do on one side and Fu family on the other, but there are other groups too. It is all an ego trip/ economic game, and that kind of bickering is something we shouldn't want to waste our time on. Both are perfectly fine systems as are many other versions of Yang style. There are many versions of tai chi chuan out there and my view is if they hold to the basic concepts, which includes the ten essential points, they all are good. tai chi chuan is an art form and as such is subject to artistic variations.

What should I expect in a class?
From the early years of development of Tai Chi up to the present century, the correct methods and techniques have been kept secret within the Tai Chi families. It was normal to 'knock on the door' for at least a year before being accepted as a student by the senior masters. Within the traditional taichi families knowledge of the full secret techniques, were handed down carefully within the family or disciples. The circumstances have now changed a great deal, there is no longer any great need for secrecy and the patriarchal barriers are now mostly removed. However some instructors and masters still refuse to teach openly. With us the only barriers that exist to your learning the full tai-chi art are your ability and the barriers you place on yourself, our instructors are trained to recognise when a student is ready to progress. Tai Chi has never been regulated by an official organisation and there are no belts or certificates and therefore competition or ego should never enter into Tai Chi classes. Your instructor should always treat you as an equal, but it is your duty to recognise and show respect to your instructor and to the senior students within your class. You should also treat all your fellow students with understanding, friendliness and consideration. It is important to have faith in your teacher, but at the same time you should test the truth of his or her advice by putting it into practice and coming to your own conclusions. Do not be too quick to accept teaching at face value. When you hear advice, contemplate the meaning, and then put it into practice, and then be aware of the experience, and then learn from that experience.

What are the different styles of tai chi?
There are four main styles of Traditional Tai Chi Chuan:- Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun. There is also the less commonly found Wu-Hao style. These names relate to the original family names of the founding masters, and although they are seen as being separate and distinct styles, they all have the same origins. From these traditional styles have spawned a large number of more modern variants, too numerous to mention, that also call themselves Tai Chi (or Taiji), all have different approaches and are all valid as long as they follow the traditional principles of the art.
Can tai chi be used as an attacking art?
Yes, but violence should only be the last resort, never the first. Ego has no place in Tai- Chi Chuan as it gets in the way of the efficient practice and use of the art. Violence is very rarely the correct solution to a problem and all life is precious and should be treasured. We learn the art as a deterrent so that we may NEVER have to use it. With the knowledge of violence and its consequences we CHOOSE to avoid it, apart from to save and protect the life and limb of the weak and less fortunate.

What clothing is needed?
There is no need to buy any special clothing for practicing Tai Chi. Any loose fitting clothing which allows you to move with complete freedom is suitable. Tracksuit trousers are ideal for giving freedom of movement, even during the more expansive positions of the form. For the feet you will need light footwear that does not have a raised heel. There is a Chinese slipper, sometimes called the Kung Fu shoe, which is a good choice. They are usually black with a variety of different soles:- rope, rubber and plastic. Rope rots if it gets damp, plastic tends to slip on polished surfaces and rubber tends to grip too much on rough surface, so you take your choice according to your normal practice surface. Old fashioned gym shoes  are suitable as are dance or ballet shoes. Some students do wear trainers, but these can be too heavy and cumbersome for sensitive contact with your root (the ground) and tend to make quick movements more awkward. If the floor surface is comfortable you can practice in bare feet in your early training but later on some protection for the foot will be necessary for advanced training.

What are the traditions and etiquette of a tai chi class?
A certain amount of respect for the traditions of Tai Chi is required. A bow to your instructor at the commencement and the finish of the training and a bow to your partner at the beginning and end of two person training is expected. Behaviour is required to be respectful to both other students and the class environment. Within our classes we are all on first name terms.

How much effort is involved in tai chi?

When you begin taichi the experience is probably new and strange, but you will become more familiar with the Tai Chi way of moving and expressing your energy in a gradual way - the process takes time. You will find it helpful if you remember to approach Tai Chi in a relaxed way, and let your interest and involvement develop at its own natural pace. Studying and trying to learn in a class can be a tense activity, particularly if the pace of the class is too fast for you. However, it is not necessary to learn everything on the first hearing, as there will be a great deal of repetition.

Is there any danger of injury?
Tai Chi is essentially a gentle activity; even when practicing with a partner the contact is soft and well co-coordinated. Unlike the hard arts such as Tai Chi or Judo there will be no punches or kicks thrown at you and there are no falls or rolls on the ground. The body stays upright in all of the postures, including those in a squatting stance, and the improved sense of balance which is cultivated means that there are no extreme stresses applied to joints or muscles during any of the exercises. Tai Chi exercises, operating together with changes in mental attitude, begin to affect the body and bring about small changes in the muscle and bone structure as you learn to relax and sink your centre of gravity into your belly and feet. If for example, you tend to hunch you shoulders and through your Tai Chi practice you are relaxing them, then discomfort may be caused by the muscles releasing the knots of tension. The collar bone may move a little as the shoulders relax and drop, which until the body learns to completely relax and adjust, can also be uncomfortable. Some people find that when the feet relax and the bodies centre of gravity is balanced in the middle of the feet, then the arch at the base of the toes, between the toes and the ball of the feet, can drop and the feet spread out to become flatter. These changes occur because the body is becoming more open through the use of gentle unforced exercise. These changes are a natural healthy sign of improved posture, although there can be slight discomforts associated with these changes they are temporary and will clear. You should always be aware of your limitations until your joints open up, relax and adjust, which comes with time and practice.

Can illness, disability or injury stop me training in tai chi?
If in doubt consult your Doctor, but don't necessarily expect him or her to understand what Tai Chi is. If you have any physical injuries or weaknesses your practice can be adapted around them by your instructor, and it is rare for Tai Chi exercise not to improve or alleviate any problems or complaints. For example tai-chi is an excellent method for improving your posture. The use of strength and power comes from your understanding of your relationship with and contact to the ground and weakened or damaged back muscles and joints are greatly improved by this understanding. A by product of this improved posture is the understanding of good habits for lifting and carrying heavy weights. Tai Chi is about relating to your body as it is and becoming in tune with that inner experience so that you can find ways of expressing your energy in a more natural way. Whatever problems you have to work with in your body there need not be any serious restriction to your practice if you are able to find the way to adapt your Tai chi, with the help of your instructor, while conforming to the principles of the art. This is true also for those who have physical disabilities and are not able to practice Tai Chi in a conventional way. Our instructors will be able to help you adapt the taichi postures and movements to accommodate your particular difficulties, even a wheelchair can be adapted to, but you will need some individual tuition.

Reasons for practicing Tai Chi
There are many reasons for practicing Tai Chi, to improve health, increase energy, as moving meditation to quieter and focus the mind, to understand ones nature and for self defence. tai Chi is primarily practiced for health reasons today. It's slow movements allow even the stiffest and most tense person the opportunity to relax and strengthen their body without risk of strain or injury. Many people begin tai Chi with injuries or ill health and their primary focus is a means of aiding recovery, particularly with systemic problems like rheumatism, stress related problems and structural problems like back pains and knee injuries. At it's most profound levels Tai Chi leads to a greater understanding of all aspects of life, physical, mental and spiritual.

How do Tai Chi works?
Practicing Tai Chi correctly enables the Chi energy to flow freely within the body, it improves the quality and strength of these energies and stops them being blocked or trapped by bad body structure or hard muscle. Blockages in the energy system are removed and you can then move with suppleness, poise, lightness and speed. Tai Chi Chuan invigorates the whole body and mind. It is an effective re-vitaliser and it is used by many people to de-stress themselves from the pressures of modern life. In the hands of a true master it is the ultimate of martial arts and even for senior students the power is usable.

Why Tai Chi is called an 'internal art' ?
Tai Chi is called an internal art for several reasons. The focus of Tai Chi is on the development of internal energy or Chi through movement and meditation. It is this which allows masters of this art to perform their miraculous appearing demonstrations. The progress each student makes internally - mentally and psychologically as well as energetically - is often more important than that made externally. Responding in a relaxed fashion to changes in life, problems that occur and hurdles that arise, is the daily challenge for Tai Chi practitioners. It is all too easy to become trapped in the external and completely miss the internal. To die too early is considered its ultimate failure.

Initial Benefits of practicing Tai Chi for health
The first noticeable benefit is usually an increase in a feeling of relaxation and well being. In the first class a student should begin to sense their own energy or chi. After a short period of time a student will feel this sensitivity increase and begin to improve their relaxation and energy circulation. Becoming aware of where tension is held and how to relax and soften (without becoming limp and lifeless) results in a calmer, more relaxed body and mind with an ability to do more at any moment in time. Regular practice is the key to progress. Even with a small amount of practice, you will find beneficial effects to your health & fitness. The mind and body relaxes, helping to combat the stresses and strains of modern society. It gently tones and strengthens your muscles. It improves your balance and posture. It improves some medical conditions, e.g. cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive disorders. Through its long history, there are many reports of improvements and even cure of some medical conditions e.g. hypertension, gastric disturbances, heart and musculoskeletal disorders. Indeed the lack of reliance on tension and speed makes it uniquely applicable to anyone suffering from such disorders.
Tai Chi as a Martial Art
Tai Chi is an extremely effective martial art, although this is not emphasised initially. The student must first grasp the fundamental principles of Tai Chi. However, each posture contains many Martial applications. Two person work (push hands) is used to develop sensitivity and understanding, with the goal of understanding oneself and one's partner in the same moment. Using internal energy as a martial art is the result of many years of dedicated practice. However, the use of it's principles as a means of self-defence is immediate
There have been many misconceptions about it's practical use for self-defence, the art being often only regarded as a health & fitness exercise. This is a mistaken view. Each movement of the form has a logical practical combat application. If a posture cannot be used, the form is clearly incorrect.
Developing skill in this form of self-defence requires firm dedication and persistent correct practice. With such practice women and men can attain equal proficiency, as skill is not restricted by one's size, strength and speed. Raw talent and physical strength are less important here than in other forms of martial arts. At a high level, internal martial arts movements simultaneously achieve the apparent paradox of effortlessness and tremendous power. The subtlety of such skill cannot be adequately described....
o n l y   f e l t .
Who can practice Tai Chi ?
The delight of Tai Chi is that anyone can practice it, anytime, anywhere and in almost any state of mobile health. There is no age limit. In China some people take up Tai Chi at an early age. Primarily it is studied by adults, the external arts being easier for children to follow as they require less mental discipline.

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