What is tai chi chuan?
Tai chi chuan is an ancient exercise that embodies China’s most profound concepts and principles of health and movement. It offers true harmony between body and mind. In Chinese, tai chi means “supreme ultimate.”
Based on softness and awareness rather than force and resistance, tai chi chuan (also referred to as tai chi, taiji, or taijiquan) has been recognized for centuries as a method of self-cultivation and an unexcelled form of self defense.
Practiced at a slow and even speed, tai chi movements are widely acknowledged to help calm the emotions, focus the mind, and strengthen the immune system. In a very real sense, tai chi helps us stay younger as we grow older, thus making an essential contribution to our overall health and well-being.
How do I learn tai chi chuan?
Tai chi chuan is practiced as a “form,” a well-defined sequence of movements that flows from one posture to the next according to underlying principles. The tai chi form is learned by practicing the movements and principles in class weekly and at home every day. In class teachers demonstrate the movements, and students practice them together as a group. The teachers give you hands-on adjustments to help you feel the best alignment for the movements and postures. No special equipment or uniform is required, though flat, cotton-soled shoes are highly recommended.
What are the health benefits of tai chi?
Regular practice of tai chi nourishes the body, mind, and spirit. As physical exercise, tai chi strengthens the legs and improves balance. Posture and flexibility in the joints are improved, so you can stand and move with less effort. The slow shifting of weight from leg to leg helps the circulation of blood through the body, improving heart health. The quality of relaxation in tai chi, as you move through the sequence of postures, helps to regulate the flow of your internal energy, your qi, through your whole body, nourishing the health of your internal organs.
As we learn to relax physically, we learn to relax our thoughts and emotions, relieving the stress of family, relationships and work. Stress relief is a common tai chi benefit that brings many people to this art.
Placing the focus of our awareness at the center of the body makes tai chi a moving meditation, a way to be centered and grounded throughout our day.
What if I have health problems or disabilities?
Properly taught and practiced, tai chi can be safely and productively done by anyone who can stand and walk. The movements and postures of the tai chi form can and should be done at your individual capacity and adapted to your current condition.
You’ll be interested to know that many new scientific studies have shown the practice of tai chi to be beneficial to people suffering from virtually all the major chronic illnesses from heart disease to diabetes. You can find links to many of these studies here.
How long does it take to learn the tai chi form?
It usually takes about 30 to 36 class hours to learn the basic movements, depending upon the schedule of your teaching location. The benefits of doing tai chi, though, can be felt immediately: Even with the first movements of the form, we begin to embody the principles of tai chi chuan! The Tai Chi Foundation (TCF) course curriculum doesn’t end with the basic movements. You can continue to study tai chi at deeper and more subtle levels, embodying its principles more completely, for your entire life.
What comes after the Beginning Level course?
Tai chi chuan can be a lifetime art! The TCF curriculum is a carefully designed sequence that enables serious students to develop their tai chi to a deep level, and, possibly, to become teachers themselves.
The first level, Beginning Level, teaches you the form: You learn how to go through the entire sequence of movements, where your hands go, where your feet go, and the principles (softness, straightness, relaxation) that animate these movements.
The next level, Fundamentals, refines your awareness of these movements and starts to bring your awareness inside: How do you feel your feet on the ground supporting you in the best way? How do your joints open and close? Can you improve your relaxation throughout your body?
After this level, you can begin to learn Push Hands, a partner exercise that expands your awareness beyond yourself to include another person. How is your partner standing and moving? Where is your partner relaxed or tense? How can you be relaxed and rooted while dealing with force (albeit safe force) coming towards you?
Our advanced levels help you internalize your awareness of tai chi as exercise, meditation, and non-aggressive self-defense. Tai chi sword and fencing further refine and expand this awareness.
Other TCF courses impart tai chi benefits in ways other than learning and practicing the form: The Eight Ways and Roots and Branches 5 Element Qi Gong ™ may be taken as invaluable aids to students of tai chi and by those who aren’t planning to learn the form.
In addition to these courses, TCF continues to develop new curriculum to help all of us “on the way” benefit more profoundly from tai chi principles.
Which tai chi form do you teach?
TCF teaches the tai chi chuan form developed and taught by Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing and passed to our founder, Patrick Watson, a senior student of Professor Cheng. This form is easy to learn, enjoyable, and accessible to students at a whole range of levels of physical skill and ability. Our form is based on principles (softness, relaxation, straightness, centeredness) that are the source of tai chi’s health benefits.
What is the difference between your teaching method and other methods?
TCF uses team teaching at all our locations. This means you have at least two teachers to watch and listen to during class. For our teachers, team teaching keeps their focus on improving the learning experience and passing the art to students with clarity and a focus on the principles. Importantly, it prevents teaching from becoming an “ego trip” for any one teacher. The sequence of courses and material within each course makes it possible for anyone studying with us to proceed at his or her own pace.
Who are your instructors and what are the costs?
The Tai Chi Foundation is a teaching organization; we have taught public classes and trained teachers since 1976. Our teachers have all received rigorous training in the movements and principles of the art and the TCF teaching method. And they continue to train and develop their skills as tai chi practitioners and teachers for as long as they teach. All TCF instructors teach under the auspices and supervision of the Foundation. Tuition rates are set by each teaching location.
Can tai chi videos or books help?
Nothing replaces learning tai chi in person, body to body from a teacher. Videos or books can serve as reminders of what you are working on in class and can also provide fascinating and inspiring additional background to the history, philosophy, and principles of tai chi chuan.
How do I find a class near me?
The Tai Chi Foundation (TCF) has affiliate teaching locations across the U.S. and in Europe. For help finding TCF instructors near you, check our list of locations.
How do I become an apprentice teacher?
After studying for several years, you may become interested in learning to teach tai chi. Speak with your teachers about your interest in participating in our teacher training program. Our teacher training program is an intensive, long-term commitment to training and participating in the TCF.
How do I become certified to teach?
Certification to teach is provided only through our teacher training program. Visit our Certification page for more information and how to apply.