How to discern a good Taichi class?

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

  1. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    So I have for some time thought that trying something like Qigong or Taichi could be fun. This weekend we've been to an annual tea festival and saw a demonstration of Taichi. I really liked how this group's Taichi looked (I've been to some Taichi free classes - one or two previously and let me tell you not all Taichi seemed liek something I'd like to try). So it good me in a mood I need to try it right away. Unfortunately this school's classes collide with my karate and I don't want to compromise there. However, I found a similar one - a Taichi academy of a teacher of the other club's teacher.
    The owner of this academy seems to be doing Taichi fulltime, has some girst placed from international competition, says he's a student of a master from China who apparently also come here from time to time to give seminars and this teacher visits China to practise. The style is Chen Taichi and overall it looks really good to me.
    I wanter to book a three month course, but it looks like I can first try a class for free, which I would like to do.
    If I go, could you give me tips on what to look for in a good Taichi class or ask the instructor?
    I suppose one good thing is if they do martial applications and most of all if I enjoy the class. Is there anything else?
  2. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    I always sort of assumed most people just go through the forms with no thought of application. More about feeling the energy and whatnot. I'd say that showing martial applications doesn't necessarily mean it's a good school. My capoeira instructor was really big into the martial applications but for me I just wanted to dance and flip.
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  3. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I see, that is true, too. Honestly, I could do without a martial application, too, but this is what I heard is a good thing and assume if the instructor knows the martial application, if that's the original purpose, maybe, the techniques in the fors would be... I don't know, more correct?
    What I look for is I guess the relaxation and maybe meditation aspect, and no matter how silly it will sound, working with the energy, too :D
  4. icefield

    icefield Valued Member

    If it's Chen it will be more martial than most tai chi classes, I suppose the question is what are you looking to get from the class.

    Chen typically has lower stances, a harder workout, more application work and the pushing hands more akin to grappling applications

    If that's what you see looking for then the class for you, best to try it and see
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  5. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I wrote what I would like from the class above.
    That said, the demonstration I saw was a chen taichi, too, and unlike most forms I've seen, I really enjoyed that it was more dynamic and I could really see the energy and flow in it and I thought I'd really like to do that. So I am all for that style just from that. And a bit of a work-out definitely doesn't hurt, either :)
  6. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I forgot to mention I would like to gain from this is too get a better habits when it comes to posture etc. I am not sure if Taichi really can help with that, but I sit way too much and doing some kind of a more gentle exercise to keep the muscles relaxed and stretch would be good. I need to learn to keep my back straight so it doesn't hurt etc. Although that is only a minor goal.
  7. icefield

    icefield Valued Member

    Sorry was writing as you were,

    Chen tends to be more dynamic that the other tai chi arts are, at the start anyway
    A lot more fa ging and mixing of fast and slow movements than other branches are at least at the start of the systems
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  8. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I figured that, I was just lazy to retype and copy it again :)

    What is a fa ging?
    The combination of fast and slow movements appealed to me. Much more that the only always slow looking taichi. And it could maybe help with my karate practise too, since I need to improve the contrast in my soft and hard techniques in the kata :)

    Pardon my ignorance, but I am curious: You've been doing Taichi? If so, what are your thoughts about it in general?
  9. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Hi Nachi,
    You're right in your thinking that learning Tai Chi/Taijiquan as a martial art will give you better benefits than a class that doesn't.
    One of my teachers said "The health benefits of tai chi come from practicing it as a martial art; without the martial intent, it's aimless movement of your body, no matter what 'energies' you think you can visualise."

    In terms of what constitutes a "good" martial arts class, it's quite similar to what would constitute a good traditional Karate class; Kihon, Kata & Kumite.
    Basics should include neigong and qigong exercises to relax the structure, and coordinate deep breathing with stretching movements. It should also include footwork practice, correct body mechanics, fundamental movements, silk reeling (particularly in a Chen-style setting).
    Form would include not just learning the sequence, but disecting each movement, applying the Basics learnt above into each movement, and beginning to apply a "sense of enemy" to your form practice; where-by you take an understanding of the martial function of each movement, and visualise this in your mind as your play the form. This focuses the mind, rather than allow the mind to drift and wander.
    Kumite, from a tai chi perspective, may include everything from fixed applications, 1, 2, or 3 step "sparring" drills, fixed pushing hands, moving pushing hands, and eventually levels of free sparring.
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  10. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Fa Ging/Fa Jin is "to emit force".
    People generally associate Fa Jin with fast, explosive movements. But it's possible to make a fast, explosive movement and NOT Fa Jin, just as it's possible to make an apparently slow, soft movement, and Fa Jin.
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  11. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Thank you for the explanation, that is what I was looking for! It sounds good. If I go, I will try to find out about these things :)
    I can't really judge from the videos, but the teacher looks like he can do the forms right, but I have no way to tell what the classes look like, yet. Anyway, I am looking forward to trying :)
  12. icefield

    icefield Valued Member

    I studied tai chi with one of my old kung Fu sifu for about 5 years, I studied both modern Yang tai chi and a smaller old frame version which was closer to Chen as in had lower stances in places, faster more explosive movements etc.

    It was fun, the structural awareness and listening skills brought about by doing standing chi gong and pushing hands was useful when I took up grappling but for me I found the lack of hard sparring not so.good and pushing hands as we did it too limiting to be useful.
    Personally I found grappling and clinch work in general gave me better understanding of body mechanics and listening skills and also just as much fai ging
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  13. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I see, you stayed with taichi for quite a long even if it seems it wasn't your cup of tea. :)
    I am luckily not looking for any hard sparring not really another martial arts, as I have my karate. I wonder what the classes will be like.
    A good perspective, though, thanks :)
  14. icefield

    icefield Valued Member

    I was with that sifu for a decade and tai chi was a part of the senior students classes so I spent a while at it.

    It was fun and I enjoyed it but later in found something suited me better, it was the close range work and grappling I liked about tai chi and I found better options for this that I enjoyed more.
  15. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    I see :) Thanks for the answer.
  16. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Chen does not mean martial, if it is competition form Chen. If it is from the Chen family it has a batter chance of being martial. 19th generation and before use Chen taiji martial arts, 20th appears to be leaning more towards Sanda for applications.

    Most Yang stylists have no clue of the martial side, some from Yang family do, but not many. For martial side of yang you are more likely to find it in the Fu Zhongwen and Tung Ying Chieh branches.

    Chengman Ching style, may or may not be martial, again depending on which if CMC students it comes from

    Wu style is divided in the North, Shanghai and South. North in Beijing tends to be martial. South from Wu family in Toronto is also martial (required to learn break falls from Eddie Wu in Toronto). Do not know much about Shanghai version.

    Sun Stlye, if you find a person who really knows traditional Sun, is pretty darn martial, even though folks call it old persons taijiqusn. Actually, it is jsut more obvious than other styles. But finding that type of teacher is no easy task.

    Wu/Hoa, comes from Chen combined with Yang and I do not know much about it.

    There is a Zhaobao style, tends to be very marital, but finding it outside of China is rough, there is a guy in California, that is all I know of outside of China.

    Finding a good taiji shifu is also not easy. There are those that know martial arts, and taiji forms and apply what they know to the form. However it is not right for taiji as a martial art. There are those that know only form (this is the lions share of taiji teachers these days)

    Lineage is important , only from the perspective of knowing where it came from and what the chances are of it being the complete style.
    Another problem, old school Chinese shifus tend to not tell you what they know until they know you.

    Shifu coming from China does not always equate to good, but then it is not always bad either. You need the teachers background to figure that out.

    However there are also those that only know the competition forms who are very good too.

    Look, research, ask questions, go with your gut when all else fails
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  17. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    The teacher of the school is a direct student of the 19th generation Zhu Tiancai. Not that I understand it much, but that's what is written on the website. And that master Zhu Tiancai also comes from time to time to give seminars. Which sounds very interesting to me. Although who knows if they are free to access even for newbies.

    I know, but it does sound good! :) That is about all I can tell since I know nothing about Taichi lineages.

    Thank you for the resume! I found the mention and some comparison of the 5 main styles (or so they said), but never heard of some of those you mentioned.
  18. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Zhu Tiancai is the real deal Chen family taijiquan. He trained with Chen Zhaopi and Chen Zhaokui and I believe he still runs a school in Chenjiagou. If you can train with him, do. I trained a little with Chen Zhenglei and he and Zhu are the same generation

    The five families are
    • Chen style (陳氏)
    • Yang style (楊氏)
    • Wu Hao style (武氏)
    • Wu style (吳氏)
    • Sun style (孫氏)
    From Chen comes two sub styles ; Hong Junsheng (Practical Method) and Feng Zhiqiang (Hunyuantaiji)
    From Chen comes; Yang
    From Yang comes: Wu style and Cheng Manching style
    From Yang and Chen comes; Wu Hao style
    From Wu Hao comes; Sun Style

    Zhaobao disputes the Chen family claim as being the first family of Taijiquan. Zhaobao claims that the Chen family and the Zhaobao folks learned from the same person and developed their styles at the same time.

    There are a ton is taiji styles out there, but all come from one of the 5 families one way or another. Even the competition forms are based on the 5 families, although many of them do not come directly from the 5 famlies.
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  19. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    It is very likely he runs a school in China. On the website of the school here I saw in their gallery that a few people went to China to train with the master.
    If I enjoy Taichi and there's an opportunity to go to any seminar like that, with Zhu Tiancai coming to teach, I would of course, like to go.
    I see.

    Thank you for the explanation of the lineages. Taichi seems to be a rather old martial art, so no doubt the lineages would be a bit complicated.
    Xue Sheng likes this.
  20. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    Historically speaking, or at least Historically supported; Taijiquan starts with Chen Wangting (1580–1660)

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