How to discern a good Taichi class?

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

  1. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    Another frame of reference:

    What kind of push hands?
    Single handed, or double?
    Fixed feet, set step, or free step?
    Formulaic or dynamic?

    I've played push hands with a guy who's whole push-hands experience was getting the other person to lift their front foot off the floor. If that is all the push hands that is taught, practiced, then a certain set of skills will develop in accordance to that game.
    The same way "sport" taekwondo differs in application to traditional kickboxing.
  2. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    I get what you are saying, but the comparison is not good, I am not disagreeing, just pointing out that speedball and boxing are very very different, is kind of like comparing swimming to skiing and judging swimming based on skiing
  3. jmf552

    jmf552 Member

    Well, I may have used the wrong term there. To me, I was trying to describe the ability to project power without hardly any muscular strength involved. Like a push where the touch is soft, but it moves your whole body. Where muscular resistance only puts you in a worse position and moves you in the direction of the push even more.
  4. Dan Bian

    Dan Bian Neither Dan, nor Brian

    A speedball is a training method used in boxing.
    But it is not boxing.

    Push hands is a training method used in tai chi.
    But it is not tai chi.
  5. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    I sit and type corrected. My brain went to something completely different when I read speedball, sorry
    Dan Bian likes this.
  6. Grond

    Grond Valued Member

    I swim, ski, box, and am a Tai Chi newbie, but I know enough about Tai Chi at this point to understand the basics, I think. And what I'll say is that all sorts of training tends to be crossfunctional. Swimming can make you a better skier, skiing can make you a better boxer, boxing has been (for me) very helpful for learning Tai Chi, and in turn Tai Chi helps me relax when swimming, skiing, AND boxing. :D

    That last bit, the relaxation piece, is I think the end game of Tai Chi as I see it. It's ALL about the breath. And that's why it's similar to boxing, skiiing, and swimming. All three require strong legs, breath control, and control between tension and relaxation.

    Give you an example, when skiing you have to stay as loose and untense as possible until ready to turn, or you will probably crash. A rigid body does not handle a ski slope well at all. And that turn requires a moment of tension in the legs and core (and arms if you're one of those people who use poles, I do not). But you better also be able to control your tension when landing a jump, because there will be an impact, the reflex of which will also crash you if you are too loose. But in that moment, there's a good metaphor for the Tai Chi principles of transition between hard and soft. When you land, you tense so your body doesn't fold like a chair, but practically immediately, you need to ease out of that tension out of your legs and regain your loose feel on the snowpack.

    Swimming, another great example of the interplay between tension, relaxation, and breathing. Relaxation helps you breathe and stay afloat, tension requires the muscles to consume more oxygen, which is why the best swimmers are masters of basically being like fish, only tensing the necessary muscles at the right time. The idea of some Tai Chi techniques I've learned is exactly this, where in between techniques there is a relaxation and then some form of rigidity. I've seen some questionable Tai Chi videos that basically throw this idea out, that somehow ALWAYS being fully loose and relaxed is the way to go. I respectfully disagree with that because of my last point.

    Boxing analogy, I stay pretty relaxed when sparring because like swimming, it conserves energy. But if you're nothing BUT loose in boxing you're going to go down hard the moment some swarmer comes in with both barrels. At that time, you better stand hard or move, or get run over by a train of combos. As a standup martial art that seems to combine strikes with wrestling, I don't see how Tai Chi could be any different. I do get the whole "use your opponent against themselves" mentality, but that theory only works up to a point. At certain times it is always going to be necessary to use muscle, be rigid, and draw on your endurance. The idea that none of that is ever required in hand to hand fighting is, I believe, a fantasy and why some of the most ardent Tai Chi proponents get beat up a lot on camera. :)
  7. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    You're certainly welcome!

    My practice? Only an hour of form/sequences of same. Sometimes also some nei gungs,but not much.Nothing like I used to.Not a serious daily routine for me by my standards.
    After 25 years I pretty much laid off much regular and serious practice.Just the last year and a half been steady at doing what I wrote above.

    The shame,the shame.
    OK old man, you senior me there.Plus aside from your problems you've been active most of the years.

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

    El Medico Valued Member

    Depends on how they are issuing.Some pushes you'll feel,alright.Unpleasantly.

    I agree that the push hands ability of an instructor,even a non martially oriented one is a good gauge of their understanding of at least some important practices/training methods. Whether that's actually reflected in the quality of instruction and what is being taught may vary.
    For sure. There's also a lot of teacher "awe", at least in the US. Even those who don't cultivate it often receive it,deserving or no.Something about the various types attracted to TC,I guess.

    I'd opine it's not so much cultural differences of that type.

    Assuming the instructor has a decent transmission and is open in his teaching-not that common even today- how many people are willing to spend the necessary hours-and pain?Leave us not forget that most people seeking some manner of pugilistic expertise will seek elsewhere as most TC groups haven't been places to learn that.So the pool of students even an open teacher has to draw from are less likely to contain individuals of such a serious bent.

    What didn't you get after 14 years? Relaxation?Sensitivity?The ability to hit somebody in the schnozz?

    If people don't progress it's their and/or the teacher's fault.

    Health benefits are a multi-layered subject/practice,but what most think of are the types of benefits one could receive from any exercise performed in a similar manner to basic TC. Lower blood pressure, speed rehab for some injuries,reduce mental stress,the sorts of things that have been documented by the medical field.

    Relaxation is a means to an end in TC.It's not the endgame,but you can make it your endgame.Plenty do. It's not about the breath-at least not anymore than any fighting system.

    Grond,you never want to be "rigid" in function. "Sung"-which is what one is supposed to have at some level for TC to work-is not just relaxation,tho' "relaxation" is usually the word used for "sung". This is an error leading to misconception. The relaxation isn't just being loose,tho' most conceive of it that way.

    Of course you use muscle.You're always using muscle.It's the how and the amount used. If your meaning is muscular resistance pitting raw strength against raw strength then say bye to executing TC.Not sayin' it don't happen!( Likelihood of such an error goes back to level of ability of both opponents in whatever method (s) they utilize in combat).But in TC theory and concepts it's an error. But mayhap I misunderstand your statement.

    As for people who don't do roadwork and get in the ring....they get what they ask for!

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

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

    A very good point was brought up in another thread that is so relevant, I thought it was worth bringing up here.

    Nachi mentioned that her TCC instructor made a point that there are no special secrets and mysteries in Tai Chi. I was taught the same thing right away.

    I think one thing to look for to find a good TCC class is that the instructors dispel the ridiculous secret mysticism that is a part of all too many TCC classes. If someone is looking for a good TCC class, and they see that element in the class, it is time to keep looking!
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  10. aaradia

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

    Mod Note: After moderator discussion, the discussion of Patrick Swayze's Tai Chi Scene in the movie Roadhouse has been split into it's own thread. You can find it and carry on the discussion here.

    The mod team felt that a discussion on finding a good Tai Chi class is an important resource and that the side discussion reached a point where it distracted from the resource this thread was intended to be.

    Some of you may find your posts were split as well. I tried my best to keep the part of the post relevant to this topic here. And moved the part of the post involved in the Swayze discussion to the above mentioned thread.

    Any questions or concerns about this should be sent via PM to any moderator, not on this thread. Again, so as to keep it on topic.

    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
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  11. Twisting

    Twisting Valued Member

    congrats! you are the type of practitioner that will help martial traditions be preserved!

    btw, i would recommend from a orthopaedic view though, that you be careful of low stances. consider not doing them, OR be very careful and do some research. ideally, in a low stance like a bow stance for example, your front knee shouldn't be more forward than the foot. for some of the back weighted stances it's different but you have to mind the ACL ligaments. even Chen Xiaowang had to undergo knee surgery and had to correct his stances. in other sports i've seen so many knee injuries from regular squatting as well. the practical method as well as the chenyu beijing chen crowd don't seem to have the issue in terms of injuries, but they seem to be using a more middle stance approach to forms.
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  12. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Haha, no, I don't think that's the case. But thank you :)

    I am tryin to be careful with low stances. Thing is, I can now feel discomfort maybe even more often in higher stances ofr some reason. I am aware that knee over toe is a big no and I think I am not doing that. Perhaps except for when I need to go low to make a step, so it's basically first a half squat on one leg. It is unavoidable there sometimes. That might be the problem with doing lower stances. And probably some twisting in the knees instead of moving the hips. I am trying to work that out. I got some feedback on this from my teacher. My knees were getting progressively better, before I went on a few weeks break from training now due to covid.
    Thank you for the advice, though, it is very appreciated! :)
    I just enjoy working my legs out, so I would like to find a way to do the low stances without hurting my knees. But as I said, it was getting better, so now that I am going back to training, I will pay more attention to avoid any positions that would be harmful. The problem is my knees often don't hurt until after the training, so it is hard to figure out where the problem lies...
  13. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    If one looks at pix of the folks in the early to middle 20th century you'll find most of them-Yang,Chen,Wu- in a front stance have the lead leg shin perpendicular or nearly so to the ground.

    The commonly heard "rule" of not extending the knee beyond the toes in such a position is actually poor advice for many-the knee shouldn't be past the base of the toes otherwise the position can strain the knee. This will vary among individuals but I think it's one of the two main causes of "T'ai Chi Knee", the other being knee rotation or perhaps I should say excessive rotation- this degree of what is excessive will again vary with the individual .

    As applied to function when knees are past base of toes forward stability is weaker.Meaning one can be pulled off balance easier.
    Nachi likes this.
  14. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Hmm, thanks for the advice, too. I am not sure how far I am letting the knee go, to be honest, but It is likely that at least during transitions it does go over the toe. I will try to check and adjust this.
    But indeed, rotation may also play a role. I am trying to be more careful and indeed it started getting better.
    I am just after covid, well, not back to health, yet, and my whole body seems to ache when exercising, so it is hard to judge anything at the moment.
  15. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Pay attention to how you rotate the torso. If you turn from the shoulders and pull your feet behind you, then you create torque on the knees. If you push with the feet against the ground, and use that to turn the torso, you don’t put that kind of pressure on the knees.
  16. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Hmm, I actually think I am not doing that. Well, I hope at least! :D I know the move should come from the feet. Not saying I can do it too well, but I am relatively confident to say I am not starting from the shoulders, at least. I try to have my arms be moved by the body, to the point of dragging them a bit too behind it. As for the rotation in the knees, it might still appear. I think I am turning a bit too much in the hips and on the whole to the sides. Trying to do the motion correctly, I need more space for that. I still can't do such a fine movement in the hips, so I am turning too much and maybe that might be hurting my knees. Perhaps. I might get a a video of myself doin ghte form, but only once I get a bit better. It would be awful now with many more problems than I used to have...
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  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Ok, so when you turn or rotate, think about how it feels on your leg and knee. Your upper and lower leg should turn as a unit. If your upper leg turns first and then Pulls the lower leg around, you might feel that torque in the knee. So just pay attention to that, it might help eliminate the knee pain. In short, you don’t want to do movement that creates a twisting at the knee joint, causing the upper and lower leg to turn separately from each other, twisting away from each other.
  18. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Oh, it's been a year and I thought I'd do a little update to this thread from time to time :)
    I've been having fun training, I added classes, currently I am at 8 hours a week of Taiji. I've learned the sword (jian) form so far (which I love) and right now I am learning the Cannon Fist form (Laojia Erlu), fan form and only recently started the broadsword (dao) form. I enjoy all of it a lot, although I don't really have time to practice at home (I feel like I am not doing much other than working and training anyway), so i feel like I am learning a lot of new stuff right now and don't practice it enough, but I do not feel overwhelmed. Yet :D

    I've been assisting with classes, but only a bit. Starting in March, I will be teaching a new the fan form class. Not sure if with the teacher's help or not or how much of it. I was a bit scared at first, and I still am, but to be honest, I am also kind of looking forward to it :) I've been helping a group of friends practice the fan form on an additional day (not really teaching or explaining anything, though), but we've always had a lot of fun.

    Last week the teacher wanted to film a short promo video. To use as an ad for the new fan class and for an event this week. I think the video (he actually made it into three short ones) looks fairly good! I usually can't stand watching myself on a video, I see a ton of mistakes and think I look awful in general, but this one actually turned out better than I expected. Maybe as it is only a few short moves, maybe it is the light, but I kind of like it, so I thought I'd share :)

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  19. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

    You will do fine. I discovered I was teaching push hands and later Dao and Jian when I looked around and saw my teacher was no there and off working with others, teaching them basics of another form. Or working with beginners on the same form. Never learned the fan though, it was not part of my lineage.
    Nachi likes this.
  20. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Hahaha, that is a pretty cool way of finding out you're the instructor there :D Love that.

    Thank you, I do hope I'll manage, too. :) The worriesome bit is that there will probably be complete beginners to taiji as well as people already learning it for various amounts of time. I have never seen a class with beginners starting with weapons (it you consider fan a weapon) and not learning the taiji movement basics elsewhere, so I guess this will be a test. Though it feels like I am the one being tested :D
    My nightmare scenario is that half of the class is beginners, half more advanced and perhaps someone more advanced than me. I'll see. I guess I shouldn't be pessimistic. :)
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