Tai chi class or school?

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What is commonly being taught in a tai chi class

According to The Journal of Asian Martial Arts, most tai chi classes in the world offer solo form (a sequence of moves), and a bit of qigong. Not many classes actually do pushing hands.
Some do sword form. Occasionally, teachers speak of self defence applications. Things like 'san sau' are very, very rare, and rarer still are classes that teach anything approaching an actual martial art.

Tai chi class or taijiquan school?

Most people never think to ask whether or not they want to attend a tai chi class or a taijiquan school. The two are not the same.
It is worth considering the differences...

A tai chi class

Most tai chi classes in the UK are essentially drop-in sessions. Students attend as and when they feel like it. The teacher is often not qualified and there is no syllabus in place.
The attenders usually have a good time. T
hey follow along with the group and do more or less the same things every week. Very little progress takes place but people enjoy being there.

A t
aijiquan school

Professional instruction from a qualified instructor
Fully-differentiated syllabus 
13 areas of study
Cultivate healthy social relationships within a safe, friendly environment
Address individual health concerns & training requirements, tips & pointers, refinement & corrections, one-to-one assessment/feedback/guidance
New material/insights every week
Access to on-line resources and school DVDs, workshops, boot camp and class social events
Complete biomechanical understanding of form, along with exploration and application of The Taijiquan Classics
Opportunity to study multiple taijiquan forms, chin na (seizing), shuai jiao (take downs), self defence, form applications, weapons training, neigong (whole-body strength), jing (whole-body power), Taoism & Zen, martial principles & practical application, taijiquan principles, meditation, brain work (meditation, awareness, metacognition)

This level of study is not going to happen via a drop-in class...

The purpose of a school

If you attend a night school class to learn Spanish, French Cuisine or how to paint, the lesson is simply teaching you the required skills.
The next step is to go home, speak Spanish, cook or paint. You learn through practice. Taijiquan is just the same. We show you how to do taijiquan. Now, go home and practice the art for yourself.

Night school

Taijiquan is not supposed to be a spa treatment or a chill out session. It requires the individual to mentally engage with the material - to deepen their knowledge and skill - to understand.
This makes the training far more stimulating and encourages long term interest in the art.

The 'vibe'

A taijiquan school has an entirely different dynamic to a drop-in class. The school has a sense of community. People enjoy a shared experience and develop friendships that last many years. 

Not all taijiquan is the same

Choose wisely... Not all taijiquan classes are the same. There are different qualities and grades of taijiquan; some approaches/classes are far more potent than others.

Following some diligent research on-line and in the library I identified the handful of most highly qualified teachers in the country. Then was amazed to find one such teacher was right here in Newcastle. Having attended the school for a number of months now what is happening for me is nothing short of incredible. The strength and stability developing around my knees has put thoughts of joint replacements out of mind altogether. I've increased strength and muscle tone similar to when I attended a gym for years. But, without one drop of sweat! My energy level has also dramatically increased and sense of well being. As well as improved flexibility and movement, which I had expected. All this with only the right attitude and regular practice, no fancy equipment required.

What is required however is the right teaching. The quality and standard of the teaching at my school, and their whole approach to health and well being, is done with a level of integrity I would only have expected to find in the best schools in China itself. Not just teaching the movements but also the understanding behind the movements, which is necessary to properly benefit from Tai Chi. Their relaxed and friendly environment are helping with learning and practicing what can be a challenging skill to master.

I must be driving passed at least a dozen schools teaching Tai Chi on the way to my school every Monday. But would consider myself mad to even contemplate practicing Tai Chi anywhere else.

(Tony Jackman)


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Page created 2 August 1995
Last updated 02 September 2021