tai chi chuan master page
Copyright © John Bracy 2008
Although historical sources date Tai Chi Chuan (also written taijiquan and T'ai Chi Ch'uan) to the Chen village in the 1700s, [What's the difference between historical sources and myth, and why is this important?] there is argument for the genesis of what we today know as Tai Chi to have originated with the Yang school in the 1800s. [Read about the Yangs as possible originators of Tai Chi ]
Why do you want to study Tai Chi?
(or study Tai Chi in a new way?)
Your answer to this is question is the best guide to finding the perfect Tai Chi teacher or program to suit your needs.
Most wanting to learn Tai Chi do so because they seek to practice an art that will bring them greater health and sense of well-being. While learning to avoid a few danger areas (training practices that weaken the body’s natural strength or cause long term injury, especially to the lower back, spine and knees) [READ MORE ABOUT DANGEROUS TRAINING PRACTICES], there are many good instructors that can help you and are easily found in locations like senior citizen centers and community colleges. [Watch video sample of our Tai Chi as health practice]
A smaller group of students want a very experienced teacher linked to authentic traditions, lineages and instructors in Taiwan and/ or China. While an instructor meeting this qualification is harder to come by, many larger cities—for example, especially on the U.S. west and east coast—have one or two instructors meeting these criteria. These instructors offer training in classical styles like Yang, Wu or Chen Tai Chi.
An even smaller subset of Tai Chi students want to learn to self-defense/ close combat art of Tai Chi. Unfortunately, training in this area, even in China or Taiwan is difficult to find and often nearly impossible to come by. Tai Chi Chuan was originally known as an effective combat art, and became famous first for that aspect, not as a health art. However, today understanding of Tai Chi as a self defense art—even in China—is nearly lost. Today throughout the world most practice centers around Tai Chi's health, spiritual and/or emotional benefits derived from practice of the fluid, slow-motion-like art. These distinctively slow movements explain the arts health benefit. Often referred to as "moving meditation," slow motion practice allows stress to reduce, tension to release while activating positive health benefits associated with anti-stress parasympathetic nervous system activity—and with the student exposed to the right questions and challenges, this type of training opens the door to understanding the connection to mastery of the body’s internal energy system.
How knowledge of Tai Chi as a self-defense system has been nearly lost is illustrated by the experience of one of my students in mainland China a few years ago. Ryan, there as part of a language training program, found a Tai Chi teacher in his sixties who taught a mixed group of Chinese and westerners. Apparently the teacher moved beautifully. At some point one of the students asked the old teacher how to “apply” one of the movements in self-defense. The master had no idea. However, Ryan due to his former training knew the answer and when the other students found out that he knew the applications to this and other classical movements he was asked to start a small sub-group so that the other students could study applications with him. So here was this young American, teaching Chinese stuff to a small group in China—Almost the exact thing happened to me on one of my trips. Even in China there are individuals wanting to learn this material, but knowledgeable teachers in the subject are hard to come by.
[Read: Why Tai Chi as a combat art (even in China) is nearly lost. (Registered users)]
[Read: How to find an authentic Tai Chi combat arts teacher]