To teach Tai Chi well, one must understand that Tai Chi is not just about learning a set of choreographed moves. The routine of moves is a means to practice the principles of tai chi.
The original creators of the tai chi forms had designed the sequence of moves with a purpose. This purpose was to provide a means of practicing tai chi principles using techniques which could be grasped as basic biomechanical movements while increasing the level and depth of understanding.
With 5 main family styles of tai chi, the various styles provide varying aspects of difficulty and challenge. The forms were also designed to be long enough to be beneficial to the practitioner from a Traditional Chinese Medicine or health perspective as well as martial arts training perspective.
At our school, we teach the traditional tai chi forms with over 80 moves that take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to perform. We do not teach the shorter forms like the Simplified or 24 Form routine. These forms were created for the purpose of competition as they could be performed in a short amount of time while demonstrating the requisite skills.
To help students remember what might seem like an overwhelming number of movements, we have a strategic learning experience. Students can enjoy learning in steps and progress at a manageable pace.
We place a lot of emphasis on a high quality teaching system. In addition, we continually improve upon the teaching system as we discover better ways of passing on knowledge and understanding. We know this is what makes the difference in our students’ learning experience. If you have never attended our classes, we have a teaching system which progresses in this way:
- Learn the Basics
- Learn the Form
- Learn Vital Energy
LEARN THE BASICS
There are 6 basic moves that are practiced at the beginning of every class. The goal of each basic move is to focus and practice on 1 or 2 principles. These principles are simple to understand, but requires repeated practice over a period of time before it becomes instinctive for your body.
In addition to the basic moves, we teach body posture and alignment; how to relax; be balanced and centred at all times. We also practice self-awareness and mental focus to control the details of biomechanics and movements of our body.
LEARN THE FORM
The process of learning the form is split into multiple levels. Each level is built upon the previous level. There are a lot of opportunities to practice and reinforce what you have already learned previously. Practicing, reviewing and improving what you have already learned each week before learning new movements are a mandatory part of the learning process.
At the micro level, when teaching each new move, it is further broken down into logical steps. Each step only focuses on a specific aspect of the move. Once all aspects of the move are acquired with a certain amount of fluency, then the move is practiced as a whole.
At the macro level, the instructor is observing the class to see if the required principles are present while learning each new move. Principles learnt from the Tai Chi Basics course are reinforced and applied. New principles will also be taught and applied as the student progresses to each new level.
LEARN VITAL ENERGY
Vital Energy is where the journey of learning Tai Chi truly begins. After learning the basics and completing enough semesters to complete a form, most people have probably sensed their own internal energy at least once or twice.
At this stage, the more complex and profound theories of Tai Chi will start to emerge. In these advanced classes, the entire form is practiced from beginning to end during the first half of the class. Then, a chosen individual move within the form is broken down by the instructor so students can learn a deeper understanding of how the movement is executed. The vital energy elements of the movement are reviewed in detail and practiced.
This process is repeated from the first move to the last move of the entire form. The pace is very slow and usually takes 3 – 4 terms to complete one cycle of the form. Then it is repeated again from the beginning. A student does not need to wait for the instructor to start from the first move, learning Vital Energy can start from any point in the form.
Advanced classes are taught by Senior or Master instructors who will continuously observe and guide each individual student’s progress.
If you want to learn more about these advance training principles and concepts, read the various blogs that we have written – Tai Chi – the Martial Art)