Expect to work hard to develop biomechanically efficient strength using a relaxed well-aligned posture.
Develop functional fitness, coordination, flexibility and martial skills
Learn body mechanics and breathing methods
No contracts or special uniforms
Call or email to schedule a free class
Classes are held at the following times:
Tuesday/Thursday evenings 7:45 - 9:30 PM: Conditioning (reeling silk, walking drills, stretching, resistance training, light weights), taiji forms, push hands
Sundays afternoons (2:30 - 4:00 PM, several Sundays/month): Push hands
Guidelines are provided to aid prospective students in evaluating our program with respect to their desires and expectations. Note that the instructors for classes and seminars are not generally health care professionals. Please consult with your physician to determine the suitability of this program for you.
The exercises performed in class should not be strenuous to someone that is performing this sort of conditioning on their own. If you find the exercises strenuous, first, back off to a nonstrenuous level. Second, examine your exercise program for a lacking. As with any physical exercise, you should discuss your practice with your physician to see if they believe it is suitable for your needs and current state of health.
Knee - Knee injuries are one of the more common problems for beginner taijiquan practitioners. Be careful to monitor your leg alignment. Avoid lateral and torsional stresses on the knee. When turning the leg, do not lead with the side of the knee and allow your foot to lag behind. To avoid torsional stresses, avoid performing weighted leg turning on grass or with shoes that grip until you have those turns well mastered on smoother terrain. Also, do not extend a knee beyond its respective toes. Knee injuries can be serious and permanent.
Hernia - The downward cycle of some reverse breathing patterns can stress the lower abdomen. Reverse breathing is best taught with many cautions concerning downward force that is excessive or sudden beyond the capability of your body. If you have a tendency toward herniation or feel any odd sensation or concern about your lower abdomen, back off and perform the downward cycle softly, focusing on sinking your qi rather than applying pressure. Or, simply don't perform reverse breathing.
High Blood Pressure - The pressure created by the upward cycle of some reverse breathing patterns must be contained in the abdomen otherwise the pressure in your head can rise to a dangerous level. Be very careful if you have high blood pressure. Perform this part of the cycle softly, inhaling to the kidneys without forceful packing, or dont perform reverse breathing.
Taijiquan practice yields several cardiovascular benefits:
(1) It tends to be a mild cardiovascular exercise, the degree of exercise depends upon the intensity of your training.
(2) Learning to relax the muscles can lighten the workload on the heart by
- relaxing your pericardium region thereby directly relieving pressure on your heart
- relaxing your muscle tissue, thereby improving circulation to the relaxed areas.
But, do not expect the same cardiovascular benefit that can be obtained from running, swimming, skiing, etc. I supplement my taijiquan exercise program with running and various cardio machines.
Two fundamental aspects of basic taijiquan ability are the following:
(1) Integrated body movement - When the primary mover moves, all parts move in harmony.
(2) Relaxed, minimum tension, functional movement (movement with sung) - giving up all unnecessary muscular tension.
Some exercises and physical activities can be at direct odds with developing these fundamental abilities.
a) Western-style weightlifting focuses on developing small muscle groups compared to taijiquan's approach of working whole body movement. The muscle patterning is vastly different.
b) Dynamic tension exercises train you to use muscle groups to work against each other in a manner that is directly counter to sung. In dynamic tension, maximum effort is used to accomplish very little, while in taijiquan, minimum effort is used to perform a work task. Dynamic tension teaches muscles to hold back efficient, relaxed strength.
c) Ballet requires the practitioner to constantly raise the qi, which is counter to the grounded style of movement that we are trying to establish by practicing taijiquan
If you practice these exercises and you want to become proficient at taijiquan you may be fooling yourself. In my experience, students that have practiced these exercises did not adapt well to the movement style that I was trying to teach.
Don't be overly impressed with qi sensations. Qi sensations can often be strongly felt when you have the flu. Qi sensation alone is not a accurate measure of correctness of movement and posture. Get your postures aligned, movements relaxed, and basic health needs in order, then use the sensations as an additional means to tune your movements. Operating in the opposite manner has the potential to have you fine tuning something that is distorted in someway.
New Age Taiji, Mysticism, and Psychic Abilities:
The goal of our classes and seminars is the development of fundamental and classical taijiquan abilities and health attributes. It does not include mysticism or New Age practices.
Not a Once-a-Week Event:
Practicing taijiquan by attending class once a week does not lead to significant health, strength, relaxation or flexibility benefits or taijiquan abilities. If you are going to attend our classes, plan to work seriously during class and at least a few times a week on your own. Make an effort to integrate the principles of movement and posture that we are developing into daily activities, as well as working on them in a concentrated manner.
It is an Exercise:
Be cautioned that performing taijiquan in a very mild, high-stance manner is not much of an exercise for most people. Although such a soft, relaxed practice can alleviate stress and have certain health benefits, it is not a good substitute for vigorous exercise for most people. Taijiquan should most often be performed to feel like exercise, otherwise you may not be getting the health benefits that you expect. I believe that the unusual faith that many people have placed on taijiquans health benefits have actually resulted in decreased health in many by substituting a nonexercise for a potentially real one.
When to Teach:
Feel free to share exercises that you understand with your friends. On the other hand, if you bill yourself as a teacher of taijiquan and accept money for your teaching, please hold yourself to a reasonable standard. Knowing the material and performing to the level outlined below seems to be a reasonable minimal standard:
(1) Know and perform well a conditioning set, such as the silk reeling exercises.
(2) Be able to perform basic grounding.
(3) Know how to teach some stationary and simple walking practices.
(4) Know and demonstrate opening (kai) and closing (her).
(5) Know and demonstrate the eight jings: peng, lu, ji, ahn, tsai, lieh, jou, kao.
(6) Know the form that you will teach:
- How the moves are powered
- Names of the moves (Helpful, but not really necessary)
- Some positioning details
(7) Know and perform well some push hands practices.
(8) Know and be able to provide some historical context.
(9) Be familiar with some readily available taijiquan resources:
- Internet groups
In the studios that we use for class or seminars please use indoor white-soled sneakers or other clean (indoor) nonmarking footwear. To avoid stress on your knees avoid footware that grips the ground tightly (e.g., some people have problems with running shoes). To avoid stiffening your legs, do not use footwear that is very slippery on the intended floor.
Not a Social Club:
Many comments float around the martial arts world about how lazy, useless hippie taijiquan classes evolved into lazy, useless, yuppie taijiquan classes. The most common varieties of yuppie taijiquan that I've observed include
- Wine and Cheese Taiji
- Coffee and Cookies Taiji
- Vacation Discussion Group Taiji
- Shoppers Club Taiji
- Ski Club Taiji
- Encounter Group Taiji
The Chen's, Yang's, Wu's, etc. worked diligently to develop their health, strength, and abilities. To obtain classical taijiquan benefits it is reasonable to follow their models instead of models available from the newer yuppie styles named above. If you were teaching an academic subject in a school system and expected students to learn the stated subject matter you would not tolerate the above distractions. Lets diligently work on taijiquan during the small amount of time that we have put aside for it.
Feedback During Two-Person Work:
When working with a partner, provide them with brief feedback on one point at a time. Complex and protracted discussion is usually a sign of a solely intellectual exercise rather a taijiquan exercise. So, be brief or wait for the next person to provide feedback to your partner.
Standing Around During Two-Person Work:
Avoid standing around and watching others perform two-person work unless there is something that you need to examine. If you are the odd person, practice a solo version of the exercise.
Taijiquan for Fighting:
Taijiquan is by its very name a martial art. It cannot be learned well without practicing and understanding applications. With serious practice aimed toward martial ability you could become very proficient at the martial aspect. I enjoy and teach the martial aspects of taijiquan but place it secondary to basic conditioning for health.
Questions and Comments:
Questions and comments can be very useful unless they are distracting to a current activity or the answer is obvious if you had thought about it for a minute before asking. Questioning yourself first is a good tool for learning. It may be reasonable to hold some questions until a time that seems appropriate for the class setting. But, do not stop asking questions. Just think about the issue for a few minutes first.
A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, Why are you riding your bicycles?
The first student replied, The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back! The teacher praised the first student, You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.
The second student replied, I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path! The teacher commended the second student, Your eyes are open, and you see the world.
The third student replied, When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo. The teacher gave praise to the third student, Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.
The fourth student replied, Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings. The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.
The fifth student replied, I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle. The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, I am your student!