How to discern a good Taichi class?

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

  1. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    My Tai Chi instruction is still 100% remote but my instructor showed a really simple movement the other day as part of a form, and it was totally a boxing clinch technique but you'd never know it except he explained it just right, it clicked at least for me. So now my Tai Chi instructor is helping me improve my boxing clinch. Unreal, I wasn't really expecting that.
    Twisting and Nachi like this.
  2. aaradia

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

    It is a pleasant surprise for others in other arts too. I know several who did high school wrestling. They said that Tai Chi improved their wrestling and they weren't expecting that.
    Nachi likes this.
  3. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Years ago I had a talk with a Chen Taijiquan guy (I think he was an 'actual' student of Chen Zhenglei) He decided to go train at an MMA gym and thought it was awesome. He was learning a lot about his taijiquan, but what surprised him is what the MMA guys were learing about how to deal with his taijiquan. His rooting and relaxation was really messing some of them up. Bit overall he was having a ball and so were many oters at the MMA gym
  4. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    I was encouraged to try Tai Chi by a fellow Fencer (who also was an Aikido and Tai Chi practitioner) to learn smoother more plastic limb extension/reaches. Worked for me enough for me to stick with yang style for a few months and go later go back and try Chen for a couple of years. Once you get past some of the woo there's some interesting transferable body mechanics. And yeah I noticed the clinch parallels when I boxed: sink the elbows and gain maintain attachment into the opponents elbows while maintaining the root, with Tai Chi you can develop that much needed clinch without relying on too much muscular strength allowing some breathing space. (Not that I ever liked being in clinch range, close boxing - preferred footwork and head movement) Naturally the trapping range with push hands is TCC bread and butter (gets some live experience if you can - its an interesting experience in balance sensitivity as well as an insight into how hands can work without Boxing gloves on)
    Subitai and aaradia like this.
  5. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Another year has passed and I thought I'd return to this thread with an update on how the Taiji is going.
    Training-wise this was a difficult year as gyms were shut from October till May, but since this school's teacher teaches Taiji fulltime, he made quite a lot of online classes (around 15 hours a week), so I attended some regularly and was able to advance my knowledge of the form - Lao Jia Yi Lu - quite a bit. Learning the form was something done quite easily online from home as I didn't need a sparring partner, nor any equipment, just some space. With a webcam the teacher was able to see even very small details, so I got more corrections than I could process right then and there. Still, I was looking forward to regular classes in the gym when the re-opened.
    I went to a few Taiji seminars when it became possible, too, and the teacher taught me a bit ahead of my original group, so I am probably going to finish learning the whole form soon (although of course, there will be a lot to work on then as well). Both teachers in the school are knowledgeable and really nice and helpful.

    A year ago, I was asked to help with the classes as one of the instructors. There weren't really many classes to help with with the school closed, but I was attending online training for instructors that was a bit more detail oriented and with more personal corrections. When classes restarted I started helping with the warm-ups etc.
    The new season is starting this week with new classes opening. I am now officially one of the 9 active instructors in the schools (who help the two main teachers), with each being assigned at least one class a week where we would help - which for me should be doing the warm-up and practicing in front of the class so that the teacher doesn't have to demonstrate all the time by himself and has time to watch and correct people. At least for now. There should be a parallel beginner class opening maybe in a couple of months, but I don't thing my responsibilities would become much more that that.

    With the new season the teachers also opened a new type of class - Taiji Kung-fu, - two 120min long classes a week (one of which clashes with my karate, so I only plan on attending one), focused more on the practical and martial aspect of the art. Today was the first class. There were push hands (only for those who already knew how-to, though), and we got to practice some principles of movement the teacher would like for us to learn and two applications of the beginning movements fo the form which we practiced in pairs. It was great.

    When I started two years ago, I started Taiji with my dad, who, however, hasn't returned after the first spring lockdown, when we both stopped. But now I half persuaded him to give it a try once again. He agreed, soI reviewed the beginning of the form that he learned with him in the weekend and he is going to try a class tommorrow with me.
    Together with the less advanced class that my dad wants me to go to with him and the class I will be instructing, I am planning to attend 7 hours of classes a week. With additional 5 hours of karate my schedule is full.

    I really enjoy Taiji so far and I am practicing much more than a year ago. I find this type of movement very nice and comfortable. I am trying to push myself with the low stances, so I have definitely improved my leg strenght and stability. I did my best to learn the rotational movement of the hips and as a result I became softer in the hip joints, I can do minute movements with them and I became a bit more flexible. I can kick higher, I can do it let's say in a softer way as well (hard to describe the feeling). My flexibility significantly improved for my calves as well recently. What I am most happy about, though, as I believe I already wrote last year, is how it helped my back. The beginnings of keeping my back straight in Taiji practice all the time were rather painful at times, but gradually my back became more flexible than I remember it to ever be, and it hasn't hurt I think at all in the last year. Before that my back sometimes hurt in the morning when I slept in a wrong position.
    I feel like I can improve my physical abilities and my back more and I really enjoy Taiji, so I am planning to train hard :) (well as hard as time permits).
    Grond, Dan Bian and aaradia like this.
  6. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Such a fantastic update :)
    The last year/18 months have sucked for so many, so it's great to see people getting stuck back in.
    Your progress sounds solid!
    Nachi likes this.
  7. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Thanks! I really hope there will be no more lockdowns now.
    Dan Bian likes this.
  8. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Nice. Your post reminded me that I just hit my own first year anniversary of taking up Tai Chi.

    While I definitely haven't had the time to invest that you've had, I can confirm that as far as at least posture and back are concerned, Tai Chi is the mack daddy. I am very used to training hard and then being sore (especially lower back, I am a runner) and needing whole days to recover but practicing Tai Chi after a day of hard training is not only beneficial, it literally releases a lot of the muscle inflammation and soreness that I had kind of chalked up as a necessity.

    Nope, moving slowly with a low center of gravity, core engaged with hips tucked forward moving slowly through the floor space turned out to be better than an ice bath, as far as those post workout periods. And because of that, I've been able to fit whole extra training days into my week. Was doing 3-4 days of mixed cardio and weights, now I'm up to 4-5 because of less down time.

    My favorite time and place to do what little Tai Chi form I know (about 15 moves) is in the steam room. Muscles are warm, skin is pliable and well hydrated, and I will just bust out some Yang style. Makes me feel like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, at one with the sun and earth. :)
    Nachi likes this.
  9. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    You just reminded me I'm coming up on my 30th anniversary of starting Taijquan this Friday
    Grond and Nachi like this.
  10. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Wow, that is a big one! 30 years of training, wow. I guess that deserves a congrats! I hope your knees will get better and you'll be able to get back to training.
    Xue Sheng likes this.
  11. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    That's really nice. Your experience sounds very similar to mine. I do Chen style, but I suppose the core of the art is very much the same.
    And while I do find Taichi relaxing, especially when tryin on my own for a short while, when I go to classes I tend to push myself, improve my stances, transitions etc., so I am able to easily accumulate soreness instead of relaxing muscles. Well that goes mostly for legs and perhaps back, though. But the movements feel really harmonious and comfortable, so I find them relaxing in a way as well.

    It's awesome that it helps you relax to such a degree!
    I never had the idea to try in a steam room :D Probably also because I only go there very rarely, but that is a cool strategy :D
    Grond likes this.
  12. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    Practicing T'ai Chi IS hard training-if you're seriously working it,like Nachi talking about her stances,or spending a "bit" o' time on the daily practice.

    Here's one for ya,Grond.Try this sometimes.When you finish a "posture",try staying in it for a bit,releasing any residual tension in the musculature bit by bit while doing any minor structural corrections as needed.Feel the differences in weight distribution and the % difference between the rooting of the legs.

    Bon appetit!
    Keep that to yourself.Otherwise next thing ya know we'll have "Hot T'ai Chi" class advocates.(At "reasonable" prices). Although we could apply Gen. Chang's expression he closes his TC book with-"Let us go to sweat for success."

    Always liked that poorly translated line.

    (Mod Note: This part of post moved to another thread. See moderator note in thread.)

    Congrats to you too,"junior".;)
    It was 45 for me in June.

    And Nachi,that avatar photo-your structure looks good,even in such a small image.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2021
    Grond and Nachi like this.
  13. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Wow, 45 years is quite the anniversary! Do you still practice regularly? :)

    Thank you!
  14. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    49 for me in martial art ;)
  15. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    Thank you. Keep it to myself, you bet I don't ever do this if anyone else is in the room. If there are people in there, it's just contemplation with my head hung low and my lower back stretched to the maximum.

    (Mod Note: This part of post moved to another thread. See moderator note in thread.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2021
  16. jmf552

    jmf552 Member

    I studied combat-oriented Tai Chi for 14 years under a really amazing instructor. He could do things that seemed to defy physics. I have also worked out with other groups under other instructors. My main gauge of the quality of instruction is the "feel" in push hands. If you do a hard, "Yang" push against a good Tai Chi practitioner, you will feel almost nothing, but he will send you flying. Against a poser, you will feel push back, muscle against muscle. Similarly if a good practitioner pushes you, you will not feel much, but you will move. If you try to resist, your resistance will only cause the push to throw you farther.

    My two observations are 1) That there a higher percentage of nonsense instructors in Tai Chi than any other art. It is really easy to fake your way to "expert" with beginners. AND 2) Even a really good practitioner cannot transmit the art to all his students. It is only a small percentage of people, especially a small percentage of Westerners, who can really learn it. We are too much into the Yang side of things and cannot accept the Yin.

    I, unfortunately, was not one of those students who got it. After 14 years, I still admired the art, but realized I did not have the temperment for it. I learned stuff, sure, but not enough to justify 14 years. Also, my fellow students did not seem to be making great progress either. It is definitely not an art to build quick, dependable self defense and I am not even sure about the so-called "health benefits."
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2021
  17. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    This implies that the combative "endgame" of tai chi is push hands. Someone may be good at playing that game, but transferring that ability to free fighting is something else.
  18. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Not necessarily. My Yang shifu is incredibly good at push hands, knock you off center quite easily. Also the best I've ever known with qinna, as well as very good a Shuaijiao. How this transfers from his push hands skill is he tends to stay incredibly relaxed and he is the only person I have ever trained with where I cannot feel a qinna lock coming on. as for the Shuaijiao, similar thing, before you know it, you're on the ground looking up. Its the relaxation and ability to feel the other guys center that you get from push hands.... push hand is a training tool, with some crossover usage, but mostly a training tool
  19. jmf552

    jmf552 Member

    My statement does not imply that. The original question was "How to discern a good Tai Chi class," not "How to discern if Tai Chi instruction applies to free fighting." I don't believe push hands is, or should be, the "endgame," or that someone good at push hands would be good in a street fight. However, the feel of someone's push hands is an indication of whether they are really capable using internal energy or not, whether they really understand Tai Chi or not. Being "good at playing that game" is not what I was talking about. I know people who win at push hands with external "tricks" that are not the real art. I am talking about the feel.

    Everyone who studies has their own endgame. And there are people who are experts at every art who can't actually defend themselves. And there are streetfighters who have never had a single hour of formal training who are deadly.
  20. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Quite literally what I was getting at.
    Someone could train on a speedball for 5 years, they'd learn certain qualities and abilities that come with using that aparatus. But that ability doesn't mean they can climb into a ring with a 5-year experienced boxer and win.

    I'll repeat your original statement back to you.


    The question then becomes "define 'good'".
    IMO, the quality of instruction should be more than any one thing; ability in form, feeling in push hands, free sparring application etc. And to judge a teacher/class purely on one of these aspects doesn't give a clear/accurate picture.

    To discuss this, a common frame of reference is needed. What do you mean by "internal energy"?

Share This Page