How to discern a good Taichi class?

Discussion in 'Tai chi' started by Nachi, Aug 27, 2019.

  1. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    My school teaches that even if one is mainly interested in the health aspects of TCC, you still want to learn the martial applications. Because understanding the martial applications will have you do the move correctly and that will maximize the health benefits.
    Monkey_Magic, Nachi and Xue Sheng like this.
  2. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    That is exactly what I would think. I wonder what the class will look like :)
  3. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    Having tried both Chen and Yang in the past, the Chen form to the naked eye looks more martial, and perhaps because of that I stayed with it longer, but in the short while I did Yang I can assure you there are plenty of martial applications so don't be put off by another seemigly less martially looking family.

    Another good point about learning applications while you learn the form is that perhaps in your minds eye you can remember them better. Learning that "Flashing the back" is meant to be a throw embeds the form in the memory (but not necessarily the subtle body dynamics), particularly if you are martially minded than if you view it only for holistic health benefits.

    As for what makes a good class, it can be any number of points, but constant correction at least initially to your form is crucial. Some of the ideas are counter intuitive, particularly the emphasis on the waist movement originating from the Dan Tien (2" beneath your navel) and for those of us who are from a combat sports background to move slower and eliminate muscular tension .

    On the martial side if your are learning applications a minimum mount of time given over push hands I think is a must, even if only for a couple of minutes with a partner at the end of the lesson. Without it you are learning applications in isolation, but not learning the sensitivity drills that allow you to put the applications into practice at the range/distance at which they work. This was I think one of my biggest disappointments.

    Lastly resist the temptation to look askance at those that practice it only for the health benefits and relaxation. When all is done and dusted or even leave Tai Chi as I have done, you may find you forget or have limited use of its applications, but if you stick with it what will remain is a gentle exercise that you can use well into your old age, and that is I think Golden.

    Whatever you do, good luck.
    Monkey_Magic and Nachi like this.
  4. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Chen style; You should expect (minimum), though not all at once for a beginner obviously..

    silk reeling exercises
    Taolu - form work
    tui shou classical patterns, fixed and moving
    martial techniques - chin na, shuai, striking..

    Maybe also get competitive push hands fixed and moving, if you are lucky.
    If you are super lucky they may also spar with striking involved - like sanda, or it may be a softer style sparring.

    However you might also expect just a form/ silk reeling/ qigong/ zhang zhuang("standing"), type class depending on the teacher.
    And possibly anything in between.. with bits and bobs thrown in here and there..

    Urgghhh, well you did ask about tai chi; what did you expect!!!
    You never in a million years were going to get a simple straightforward answer lol.

    It can be pot luck so you can only go out and try your luck, with whatever instructors you have accesss to.

    Sounds like a fairly decent typical (classical) Chen style TCC as TCMA.
    Levels of 'martialness' are teacher dependent and quite varied/ personal - in my opinion. Some will do more than others, no real standard or anything like that, inc. within the same schools/ lineage.

    Let us know more/ how it goes, out of curiosity.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
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  5. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Actually I did not like the style because it looked more martial. I did like it for the more obvious dynamics and not seeming that slow. Which doesn't necessarily mean martial. I wouldn't dare judge that. Not sure if it being faster and more dynamic is necessarily better, but it appeals to me more.

    That is true. It is always good and helpful to know the meaning or origin of whatever, be it put to practise during the movements or not.

    This is a good point I kind of forgot about! I am going to go for a class, so I suppose I myself won't be the teacher's biggest focus, but I should totally be able to see if and how much he corrects the students.
    Actually moving from the Dan Tian probably will take some time to learn, but in the karate I do, there is a lot of focus on Dan Tian (Tanden in this case), too and the more experienced one gets, the more they work with it. And I would like to learn that, too. I am sure it would be helpful for my karate as well, so I will definitely be trying to learn anything about it :)
    Eliminating muscular tension may also take some work, I will see about it. I guess women may find this a little easier, though :D Well, I'll see.

    Looking askance at those who practise Taichi for that reason may not be my case when to be honest, that is a big reason I'd like to try Taichi too XD I think my wrists and back/posture culd use some work and gentle moving around. And I have always admired how the Taichi people are able to move softly and gracefully, even to and from obviously difficult stances. I think there is a lot of work with posture and moving patterns Taichi can help with that can indeed help improve healts and be practised till old age. Those are all more important reasons I would like to learn, I do not "care" that much for the martial part, although I am sure as mentioned before knowing the why of the techniques is important.

    aaradia likes this.
  6. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I have not much of an idea what to expect in general, so unless any answer will confuse me even more... :D
    Sounds like there are quite a lot of things to look for. I have no idea how this school goes about push hands, applications, or sparring. I will see and maybe ask.

    Mentioning Qigong, I think I saw a lot of courses when serching for them online, that combine Taichi and Qigong, however, in this school they have separate Qigong and Taichi classes. I am not sure if that is good or bad. On one hand I would like to do some Qigong, too, on the other hand, it looks like they have enough knowledge on both to put them in separate courses. Although to be honest, I do not know the differences between the two. I get that Qigong is not a martial art, unlike Taichi, just a health exercise, but other than that....

    I will definitely post about my first class here :)
    Unless I discover something that would put me off, I will probably also use the opportunity to pay for the 3 months beginner course right there. To see what I can learn. I guess trying a class to figure out the atmosphere, the teacher's approach etc. is enough, but it would be hard to judge what I can actually learn, so I think I will most likely go for the beginner course either way.
    Xue Sheng likes this.
  7. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Sometimes it's quite common for TCC teachers to pitch their classes to the kind of people that come in the door.
    Many folks just aren't after anything martial or overly martial from their tai chi class. Rightly or wrongly, that ship has well and truly sailed.

    So sometimes a typical class might not necessarily be a fair reflection of what the teacher knows/ can teach. Other times it might be exactly a fair reflection.

    Qi gong can be a tricky subject, the term itself is fairly new and has now come to cover a quite wide variety of exercises, styles and types. Including more martial sets (part of a formal TCMA cirriculum). Before the term qi gong was popularized these might have been more akin to what I would term 'martial neigong'. But of course exercise, in general, has never been a preserve of one kind of group/activity amongst a wider population.
    You are correct that most teach a set alongside the tai chi; I don't think it's a matter of good or bad whether they would seperate the classes.

    It might be good as it can suggests depth is there in the teaching.

    The TCC form at some point can and should (will) integrate and include the same principles / guiding practices that make qi gong what it is - in my opinion.
    One way to characterize the relationship is to say that Tai chi is qi gong, but qi gong is not tai chi.

    You are right that "qi gong" is not martial art. However there are qi gong/ nei gong that have martial application and or 'martial conditioning' associated to/with them.
    Can be more vague and ambiguous from the outside than some tai chi forms, and some qi gongs/ neigongs will be straight out of a tai chi form or look very much like a strike or something like that..

    For instance stationary Cloud hands makes for a classic example of this crossover.
    Nachi likes this.
  8. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    When will you be trying a class?

    I'm looking forward to hearing about it!
  9. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    That's a good point, too.

    Ah, I didn't know Qigong could be martial at all. I am a little bit confused with the terms, though. I heard about Neigong and was actually trying to find out a see if there are classes in Prague. But I don't really know what that is, as it sounded to me like Qigong and I have no idea what the difference is between the two. Then again, I didn't do my research well enough yet :oops: I only understood it has to do with meditation and qigong-like exercises probably.

    That is what I am hoping the reason for separating the classes is :)

    I will try to look the Cloud hands up :)
  10. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    On Monday :)
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  11. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    This is a video the head teacher has on his website. I am really looking forward to trying that class :)

  12. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    people say and repeat a lot of things that don't add up in the final analysis.

    If you aren't interested in martial arts any movement routine can still be beneficial. The kind of intent doesn't need to be "martial".

    A good gymnastic routine, for example, doesn't need "martial intent", it just need the right intent and control to execute the movement correctly.

    It's not really any difference as such, a rose by any other name and all that.

    Neigong I think reflects the kind of terminology used by martial traditions before the Chinese government helped organize and popularised qigong.
    After that anything being 'gentle-exercise' like would come under that umbrella.

    Terms like Dao yin have only re emerged since China has opened up, access to these kind of systems has flourished in recent times but wasn't always that way.
    A lot of this is Chinese culture, semantics, that kind of thing.

    How many exercise programs with different names and what have you are there around, how popular is the terms calisthenics these days.
    How many types of exercise can fall under that terms. How different is Crossfit with some other program ultimately, how many similar exercises can these different incarnations share.

    In other words, don't worry about it.
    try to discover, experience, enjoy or not, benefit or not.
    exercise by exercise

    Westerners, including myself, have wrangled with these terms and been beffuddled by all the terminology around, all the theories and whatnot.
    What's this, what's the difference with that.

    trust me for a hot minute.
    don't waste too much of your time.
    focus on the work, all the reward is there.

    silk reeling is the fundamental martial neigong of Chen style.

    If we get literal qi gong is 'energy-work', nei gong is 'internal work'. qi is one of the internal components that make up the 6 harmonies of an internal martial art.
    qi work should eventually be part of both your nei gong and tai chi. "qi", to my way of thinking - for these arts - is how you experience your own body. Kinesthesia basically, but also the interaction, experience and involvement of the breath in the body, in addition to your own mind-body interaction and experience. Working with awareness and intention on, in around the body is the primary thing - not the physical systems per se and their physical improvement. The martial aim here specifically is body skill, in this case chansi gong.

  13. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    But, since TaiChi is a martial art, the movements were originally developed with "martial intent" in mind. This martial intent shaped the whys and hows of each movement or exercise.

    A person mindlessly practicing a form wont get the same benefits as a person mindfully practicing the same form (exchange "form" for "pushing hands", "qigong", "sanshou" etc)

    Yes, any movement routine can be beneficial.
    My point is that, in order to get the most benefit from tai chi, it should be practiced with martial intent.
    Gymnastics, not being a martial art, does not require martial intent, but as you say, it requires "the right intent..." For Tai Chi, the "right" intent is "martial" intent..... as that's what it was intended for...
    aaradia likes this.
  14. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    you know..
    funnily enough I thought I had deleted that part of the post..

    Of course the right intent for a martial form would be martially oriented - or have markers and guidelines that fall back to martial specifications let's say, so I kind of got myself flailing in a semantic soup of my own making there.

    Seeing as it's there now. I will just add that, sure: A kick should be performed like a kick, a punch like it's a punch. Whether a teacher can teach that without calling on martial visualisations to an actual punch or kick is what I was alluding to, not what is better/ preferable or "should be", but rather what can be possible. It's just easier on everyone all round to think of punches and kicks - or whatever it might be.

    However if you are never ever planning to link your movement practice to something functionally specific, then "the function" (that function) remains irrelivent, ultimately.

    My point here is that, you could conceivably take the other route, and just say your leg has to go this high, your toes have to be here and point there, this moves like this and this like that. So all the right instructions and intent to perform *any given movement* correctly can conceivably be there.. It can be done without alluding to martial function necessarily - but I still agree 100% that it's better and easier all round that it would be taught with the martial knowledge with it right there alongside.

    It wouldn't matter if you are kicking your car door shut whilst carrying your shopping, or kicking some thug in the goolies. A kick would still be a kick, just not necessarily visualised as kicking another human being.

    Someone doing this would have to understand the martial intent but not necessarily teach it like that. This is speculative by the way, so of course you are free to disagree and the speculation has no standard of performance to live up to - yours or anyone elses for that matter.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  15. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    to be even more pedantic than what has gone before..

    You wrote: "but since tai chi is a martial art"

    I should have perhaps preceded with "since only about 12.7654564% of participants actually practice it as a martial art.... "
    It kinda makes it redundant what tai chi chuan actually came about for - as far as the remainder of participants are concerned.

    I find it amusing coming across practitioners like you and aaradia that are just burying their head in the sand about the reality of the art as it stands.
    It is and it isn't a martial art. These days it's only a very sometimes that it's practiced as martial art. Saying "it's a martial art" a thousand times won't change the fact that quite very often it's just not.

    Even when it is, then, half the time it's still too couched in nonsense culture to be a half decent one. I'm not talking about what it can be, I'm talking about what's out there 90% of the time.
  16. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Just because a lot of TCC is practiced improperly, as in, NOT what the intention was for hundreds of years, does not mean others have to accept it as good TCC. Dan Bian and I are not burying our heads in the sand. I am well aware of how it is mostly taught nowadays. Pretty sure Dan Bian is aware too. In my opinion, it isn't good TCC. Majority rules does not make it proper TCC though.

    You are free to practice what you want. The vast majority of people practicing TCC improperly, by my training. They are free to practice it as they see fit. I didn't go out of my way to single out other TCC practitioners for no reason. I answered the question by Nachi.

    Nachi asked how to be able to find a GOOD TCC class. I gave my opinion. I have been taught, and I believe, that martial intent is necessary, even to achieve the full health benefits. Any movement is better than none, but that doesn't make waving your hands around all disconnected good TCC. It makes it better exercise than sitting in front of a T.V. Add to that, that Nachi is an active person, with other martial arts under her belt, she doesn't need to just get away from the TV. She said she wants to find a good school, not just any school.

    As for your example: to go out of your way to explain a kick without martial intention takes more effort than to just explain it the way it was taught the majority of the long history of the art, is just dumb . IMO. Especially to a person who already trains in other martial arts and is quite fit. She needs to maximize the health benefits and she doesn't need people to go out of the way to take out the martial aspect, because she understands these things already. And can apply it to maximize the health aspect rather easily.

    Modern society has made a lot of improvements to a lot of things, TCC is not one of them.
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  17. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I will... jump in a bit in the conversation getting more and more argu-ish. :oops:

    I do not know much about Taichi honestly, but I know it is supposed to be martial art, although at first sight it doesn't look like one and many people don't practise it that way. However, I got opinions I expected - a good school would explain the movements by the martial intent, which I then hoped to find. I prefer to learn the traditional way, perhaps? For comparison a couple of years ago I did a free class of Taoist Taichi. I wanted to try Taichi and this class was offered to public in the week around Christmas, when in Prague you can visit many sport places doing trial lessons for free, which is pretty cool. The Taichi I went to then was only about teaching our newcomers a form. A long one. We did one movement after another, without any proper explanation, perhaps except for a few nuances of the movement itself. We went through quite a bit of a form in the hour we had, but it was impossible for any of us to remember it and we only tried copying the movements demonstrated by the teacher and probably several senior students, who, honestly, didn't look all that skilled even to me. I really wanted to avoid a school like that and wanted opinions on what a good Taichi would be like.

    Today I just returned from the trial class of the school I found online. My boyfriend came with me and we simply joined one of the last classes of the beginner summer course for learning the 74 forms. We stood in the back line and the class was started by a female instructor doing probably a standing meditation. We didn't have a chance to say we're there for the first time, so we simply tried to do what everyone did. Then we did a few forms of the silk reeling, again, we tried to copy as best as we could. This took around 20 minutes together.
    At that time, the head instructor of that school appeared and was walking around and then took the class. He said to turn to the back as the sun then wouldn't be shining in our eyes, which... made us stand in the front line. We didn't exercise now, though. It looked like the head instructor wasn't a normal instructor for this course, but rather came to check on us. He spoke about what makes up taichi, a bit about its philosophy, explaining the silk reeling and what to focus on when practising and how to strife to improve, even how to work to eliminate back pain etc. Then we turned back and he taught the first form of the long form. He went through it step by step and movement by movement. He basically explained every move either by taoist philosophy or the martial application of it, which was both good, it gave us something to understand the movements from. We only did the first form, from time to time he let us practise by ourselves and went to the second group in the room, slightly advanced. He also went around once or twice when we held our stance and he corrected person by person. I think he found something on nearly everyone, but to the two of us he said he wouldn't change anything in our stance, lol :D
    All in all, I really liked the class. It only lasted an hour and seemed rather short, but his approach and attitude seemed very similar to what I know from the karate senseis I've met. He encourged asking and seemed to have knowledge from what I can judge. So I paid for the three month course right there and I will see and hopefully learn more :)
    I think the beginner classes are taught by another instructor we haven't seen today, but I hope the approach will be similar.
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  18. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Glad you found a school you like! Keep us posted on how it goes!:)
  19. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    Lot's of people that are actually doing tai chi value moving medition above punching and kicking - for those people the value you place on the martial side does not matter.

    You can argue until you are blue in the face, you will change nothing other than your own face. Not everyone has to adhere to whatever standards you do, or believe what you do - they have different priorities and reason for their practice.

    Why is it you cannot accept that gracefully and with open arms? is it your own ego in the way perhaps? I beleive this is the way forward - accomadation of the 'other side' of tai chi. If you continuously stick to some unrealistic view of how they should be practicing, you are just 'blowing' in the wind..

    Also, all this talk of martial intent is quite pointless and even negative and dangerous if there is no further martial practice in the form of 2 person drills progressing to aliveness. A form, martial intent or not, a fighter or martial artist DOES NOT MAKE. There is no point insisting those with no interest must imagine punching people in the face, it's just the wrong audience.

    Make no mistake, people will occupy the space that consumers are hungry for; it might as well be done well without martial pretence - like Boxercise is. Exactly how it's taught doesn't really matter, because no one should be dumb enough to beleive thay are learning to fight.. But ok, whatever, keep fighting the good fight that makes you happy!

    I just don't like the idea of clueless people teaching other cluless people about self defence and or fighting. because you know, for the most part they will be.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  20. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    By the way, Aaradia, no one asked you to accept it as what you consider "good tcc".

    You are "burying your head in the sand", because you keep crying out "tcc is a martial art" as if the fact that tai chi is also a health exercise has completely passed you by and you have not been able to accept and embrace it as a real thing in of itself. It does not actually have to reflect on what you do and how you do it.

    Unless you choose to let it reflect on you of course.

    In terms of my practice, I practice everything that tai chi is and can be. But I also embrace all my fellow human being who are free to choose to practice how and what they like, exactly when they like.

    "full health benefits"

    Sorry but violent visualisations don't really add to "health benefits", maybe you are not as certain as you think you are about this. Are you more healthy than a good dancer or gymnnast ?

    It depends how much and what you train; but that's ALWAYS your choice. But your health and conditioning will have nada to do with your martial intentions and visualisations.

    I do agree, going out of ones way to avoid talk of "this is a punch" is kind of silly.

    Guess what though, 98% of the time, they'll hear it once and that will be more or less the sum of it. Any monkey can punch another monkey, and understand what a punch looks like perfectly fine.. It's not rocket science. Most people doing tai chi exercise will 98.9999% of the time be enjoying other thoughts, visualisations of who really knows what, monkey chatter, bliss, emptiness, being one with their kinesthesia so on and so forth.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019

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