I live in England in the small city of St Albans, a few miles north of London. Professionally, I started out as an electrical engineer, managing military aviation projects and I am now an executive coach and consultant in culture change. We have a thriving tai chi community in St Albans and I became an apprentice in the mid-noughties. I served previously on the TCF Board from 2008 to 2011, contributing in particular, to the development of TCF’s strategy and vision.
The Beginning Level of Cheng Man-Ch'ing’s form is taught in approximately 30-36 one-hour classes, divided into three separate 10-12-hour courses called B1, B2 and B3. Each class hour provides teacher demonstrations, lots of practice repetitions, hands-on adjustments by teachers, and verbal guidance. Students are asked to practice what they know at home in the morning and the evening--and more, if they can. Practice is the heart and soul of learning the form.
B1 – The First Third
In Fundamentals, we review the entire form from beginning to end, working to embody the tai chi principles at a deeper level. In particular, we bring our attention to the feet, legs and hips. As in any art, there are fundamental elements that provide a foundation for one’s practice and future growth. In Fundamentals, we focus on these elements by examining how each posture or transition works (and challenges!) our balance, our relaxation, our connection to our tantien, and our overall awareness. Fundamentals is divided into three 10-week courses: F1, F2 and F3.
At the Intermediate Level, we progress to a deeper and more internal understanding and practice of tai chi chuan. New concepts are introduced that enable us to integrate our form and push hands practice as one body of knowledge with all movement initiated and guided from our tantien. Intermediate Form is a 20-hour course.
“Push hands” (tui shou) practice might be better translated as “sensing hands.” In this partner exercise, we use postures and movements from the tai chi form to “listen” with our body for our partner’s balance, timing, and tension. Through push hands practice, we learn to play with another person’s energy and movements and develop relaxation and balance in our responses.
Professor Cheng distilled the tai chi form into eight movements that are easy to learn and fun to practice, The Eight Ways. These eight exercises bring the essential health benefits of the full form into your everyday activities. Become stronger climbing stairs. Sit and get up from a chair with greater stability and less effort. Lift or reach for objects securely using tai chi principles.
Roots & Branches 5 Element Qigong™ is energetic and healing as it condenses tai chi into standing postures, walks and shifting movements. By integrating principle, breath, and focus in the “tantien” with awareness of the Chinese Five Elements, this work generates, circulates and unblocks “qi” (vital energy) allowing it to nourish us at the deepest level. This work is valuable for tai chi students at all levels, including complete beginners, and those who don’t practice tai chi.
Tai Chi Sword is as different from Western swordsmanship as calligraphy is from typing. The embodiment of the Tai Chi Form and training in Sensing Hands are pre requisites for learning the Sword Form. The sensitivity and delicacy of the prior forms are needed if the practice of sword is to be of benefit to the practitioner. When one becomes proficient in the Sword Form they can progress to fencing where the principles of Sensing Hands apply.