I’ve been practicing Tai Chi and Qigong for over 20 years. I feel that my health and well being have benefited greatly from practicing Tai Chi and Chi Kung and I teach classes in both of these arts share what I’ve learned. I usually teach Chi Kung and Tai Chi classes in northwest Co. Donegal, Ireland, sometimes in Letterkenny, sometimes in Gweedore and sometimes in Gortahork.
The Tai Chi That I teach
I teach the 108 Yang Family tai chi “public” method, from the 3rd generation of this system. That just means that some of the footwork and some other details are different than the current generation of the Yang system. In any of the generations the Yang Tai Chi public tai chi is probably best low-impact exercises ever devised. It was designed to be practice of total physical and mental cultivation.
The core of this system is the “108” movement form, which I do not depart from when teaching. The entire 108 tai chi form is quite long and takes several years to learn, so it is beyond the scope for most modern students. Luckily, the masters who developed this form created it in self contained sections that work in a progression. A student may learn up to one of these sectional breaks that suits their needs, there is really no need to learn the entire 108 sequence to get the health benefits. I see little benefit in practicing or teaching the various short forms that are popular today when the original form contained these stand alone sections in a linear progression of skill development. Teaching the first section of the form also allows for students who want to continue on without learning another Tai Chi form, in fact this is the main reason I teach the traditional form.
Usually students are quite happy with learning the first section, even the first half of the first section is very good and contains everything most people need. Sometimes students want to go on and learn more of the form that is fine I don’t mind teaching the entire set if someone is willing to learn. Out of maybe 60 students I’ve had in the past few years only a few have completed the first section.
Also included in the traditional yang tai chi system are gentle single and double pushing hands, Da Lu, Jian (straight sword) and Dao (broad sword). I would teach that as well if anyone learned the entire tai chi form or got close to it.
Related Chinese Martial Arts that I practice
Since 2014 I have study the Yi Zong system of traditional Chinese martial arts, I am not a qualified teacher in this system but it furthers my practice. I started training in this system after my tai chi teacher passed away, it was the most similar in flavor to what I had already learned. The Yizong School teaches the three sister arts of Hebei style Xing Yi, Gao Style Bagua and Chen Pan Style Tai Chi together. Learning this entire system is only for people who have the “bug” or are going to teach full time. Personally I focus on the Chen Pan Ling Tai Chi and the Xing Yi. I have studied the Bagua as well but found it was too much to keep up everything and was somewhat redundant with the tai chi practice for my personal needs. As the master Luo Dexiu says “Xing Yi is like hardware, Bagua and Tai Chi are like operating systems.”
The Qigong that I practice.
I teach the Ba Duan Jin Qigong set in my tai chi classes, it is helpful to the tai chi. I also practice three other forms of qigong personally. The first of these methods is a Taoist seated marrow washing practice. Second is a Buddhist marrow washing qigong method, (something like 扑步洗髓功 but not quite).
The Buddhist qigong method was taught in conjunction with a set of Dao Yin yoga. Thankfully I learned this qigong method when I was a lot younger because the postures are demanding and can easily lead to injury. By contrast the Taoist marrow washing qigong method is not at all demanding physically although the discipline required to achieve results in this method make this practice perhaps even more bitter. Both of these Qigong practices are based on the Da Xiao Tien method of circulating energy and require dedicated regular practice and a moderate lifestyle.
A Focus on Health and Longevity
My Tai Chi teacher, Master Li was an acupuncturist and was focused on the health and longevity benefits of Tai Chi. He believed that in the age of firearms that Tai Chi’s greatest asset was in health preservation. As such it is not the best system for fighting, but it does work for basic self defense situations. Master Li was also a master of a type of seated Chi Kung, because of this health-focused tai chi training method, Master Li enjoyed abundant health until his death at the age of 99. He would say that proper daily tai chi practice would add 20 years to a persons natural lifespan.
Risks of Injury with Incorrect Tai Chi Practice
There is next to 0% chance of injury from practicing the Yang public style of tai chi as it was traditionally practiced, however, some other types of Tai Chi, as they are taught today, can result in injury, when practiced incorrectly over long periods of time, especially by dedicated students who put in time and effort. I know many Tai Chi teachers above 40 with injuries, usually in the hips and knees. Most people do not practice regularly or long enough to accrue injuries, but for the 20% of students who practice diligently it is very important to find the right Tai Chi teacher and practice correctly.
Common reasons people get injuries from Tai Chi practice:
1. The Tai Chi teacher is not qualified, and learned from the seminar circuit and videos, spending very little time training with a master.
2. Incorrect use of fa-jin, the method using power in Tai Chi.
3. Practicing one of the wu-shu based Tai Chi styles, which are based on theatrical performance than on the health or martial principals that Tai Chi was founded on.
4. The Tai Chi class does not teach proper body mechanics.
I was lucky and learned from a traditional Tai Chi teacher over a period of many years, before Tai Chi was popular and before YouTube. I never had to learn from the seminar circuit, which is the standard method that tai chi teachers learn from today. I also have a personal rule to never learn anything from video. My own Tai Chi teacher, the master Li Yeung Chen, lived to be 99 and could do postures lower than most people a third of his age. I usually tell people that without access to traditional Tai Chi Training it is better to take up swimming, hiking or even cycling, as these exercises provide some of the same benefits without the risks.
Thursday Morning Tai Chi Class in Dobhair , North West Donegal.
Note this class is out for the summer.
Join us for Thursday morning Tai Chi class in Dobhair at 11:00. In the summertime we meet on the beach.
Beginners, intermediate and all levels, Tai Chi and Chi Kung. We practice the first part of the Yang 108 Public Form as well as the 8 Pieces Brocade, Ba Duan Jin, chi kung set. We focus on chi kung and health in this class, influenced by the methods and interests of the class founder Charlie Cullen.
Here are some of the health benefits of Tai Chi class, especially if practiced outdoors:
- Tai chi improves your balance, especially by increasing leg strength and improving posture.
- Tai chi warm-ups and form practice increase flexibility and range of motion.
- Yang-style Tai Chi breathing deepens and relaxes the breath.
- Tai chi push hands training develops the ability to use the ground as leverage.
- Dedicated Tai Chi training gently tones and strengthens the body evenly.
More about the benefits of Tai Chi and how to get them.
Read More about my experience as Tai Chi teacher in Donegal Ireland.