Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tai-Chi Accessability or...

The Why, What, and How of my updates to the Tai-Chi System taught at Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy.

"Tai-Chi is the whole world's exercise."
-Master T.T. Liang

As my 40th anniversary was approaching, I took a long, hard look at what I can do to make Tai-Chi more accessible and convenient to my students. With over 35 years as a full time instructor, I have a lot of experience teaching many kinds of students, from martial artists to health enthusiasts to people looking for stress relief. With all the demands made upon us everyday, not only in time and energy, but in focus, care, and emotional investment, I feel the need to not add to all that stress. I am looking at making the whole system, not just the solo form, more easily learned, practiced, understood, and enjoyed. That is why I'm reworking the sequence of not only the solo form, but of the entire learning curriculum itself.

“I decided to eliminate the repetitions and drastically reduce he number of movements...”
- Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing

 I found that a lot of people have trouble learning the 150 Movement Long Form. And after learning that, they have trouble working a 30-40 minute round into their daily practice.Plus so many have started, but relatively few have finished, or gone on to enjoy the other aspects of the system like the weapons or partner work. Not to mention all the fun in the other styles we teach! I also catalogued what parts of the system were the most difficult to learn and if we need them or not. I've already taken out the Ta-Lu sections from the San-Shou to make it three sections instead of six. Ta-Lu can be practiced in Pushing-Hands classes.

“Gradually you must develop your own solo form according to your intent and personality. After you learn something, you must gradually change it to your own way. Blind followers are dead: they do not do their own style. Rebels can get something.”
-Master T.T. Liang

After much research and experiment, I have worked the 150 Posture sequence down to 72 movements to what I call the "Medium Form." This form has 46 of the 50 individual postures of the 150 posture long form. I've researched and updated about how long it takes for the endorphins to kick in. I had always heard it took 30 minutes of sustained movement and deep breathing to activate the pain-relieving, "runner's high" endorphins. Scientific research now suggests that if you exercise regularly, or have a routine you have been doing for an extended period, the body releases endorphins in as  little as ten minutes. Master Choi echoed this, and so did my personal practice. If you have a regular practice, the body is more easily able to release the endorphins with so much less time and work. The Medium Form takes about ten minutes to do, give or take, depending on your pace.

“In later years Yang Shao-hou began to change his form; a high frame with lively steps...”
-from Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan

 I also followed the Taoist Alchemical formula to arrange the movements. The 72 Movement Medium Form has 46 of the original 50 individual postures of the 150 posture long form and closely follows the original composition and sequence. I just took out many repetitions and deleted a few movements that are not needed. This will make the time for learning, and practice, much more accessible to the busy schedule of most of us.

“The oldest form taught in the Beijing class was the 73-posture form that, according to Xu (Yu-Sheng), Yang Chien-hou had been teaching.”
-Bradford Tyrey

Learning Master Wai-lun Choi's Tai-Chi Form, which he shortened and condensed, helped me a lot. Choi's form has three "Cloud Hands." When I told him my long form has fifteen, Choi said, "Why stop at fifteen, do fifty!" Master Choi explained that if you want more repetition, you can do that in single movement training. Master Paul Gallagher and I also had many conversations about how and why he made the Wu-Ming Short Form to help with shortening the time it took to learn Tai-Chi and get the benefits.

“ Chang ( Ch'ing-ling ) stayed with this man a while and derived a new method of doing the postures.”
- from Chinese Boxing Masters and Methods

I have also been learning and applying the Choi Method of Internal Martial Arts training for over 23 years. I have completely switched my Hsing-Yi and Pa-Kua to the Choi Method. I've had great results not only for myself, but for my teaching and and for my students. I am confident to embrace Master Choi's method and use it to update my Tai-Chi system. Master Choi's system is not only completely compatible with what I learned from Master T.T. Liang, it also conforms with the Tai-Chi Classics and makes them even more understandable and applicable. And accessible!

“I learned from 15 teachers.the best of them all, in my opinion, was Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. I have, to the most extent, adopted his method of performing the Tai-Chi Chuan exercise.”
-Master T.T. Liang

 Step one is to change what we do, as a solo form, and as a complete system. Step two will be to change how we do. Namely, applying the Choi Method. If you have been coming to class, you have already been exposed to the new 1st Section sequence. Many have been through the 2nd section changes as well. I have few private students who have been my "guinea pigs" with the whole form for months! Here is the new sequence for Section #1;

1st Section;

1. Beginning
2. Ward-Off, Left
3. Ward-Off, Right
4. Roll-Away
5. Press
6. Push
7. Single Whip
8. Lift Hands
9. Shoulder
10. White Crane
11. Brush Left Knee
12. Play Guitar
13. Brush Left Knee
14. Chop With Fist
15. Parry and Punch
16. Withdraw and Push
17. Cross Hands

In another blog I will explain the "How" of the changes and what actually constitutes the Choi Method. Some changes in names and other aspects will be also explained. I will flesh out the improvements and give an outline of the Tai-Chi system. I will also offer up a few practice routines with various time limits and ideas. Stayed tuned!

1 comment:

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