What Is T’ai Chi Ch’uan?
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a Chinese internal martial art that promotes good health and formidable fighting skills in equal measure. Originally a secret fighting art until the 1800’s, today T’ai Chi Ch’uan is taught all around the world mostly for the health benefits that it brings.
To gain the maximum benefit, you should aim to practice your T’ai Chi Ch’uan morning and evening every day for the rest of your life.
The Major Styles Of T’ai Chi Ch’uan
There are five major styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan recognised today, named after the Chinese families that created each style: Chen style (??), Yang style (??), Wu or Wu/Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang) (??), Wu style of Wu Ch’uan-y (Wu Quanyuo) and Wu Chien-ch’uan (Wu Jianquan) (??), Sun style (??), and the simplified 24-step T’ai Chi Ch’uan created by the National Physical Culture and Sports Commission of the People’s Republic of China in 1956.
Each style has evolved from the original Chen Style.
The Style That We Teach
The style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan we teach is called Ng Family Yang Style T’ai Chi Ch’uan. It is based on the Yang Style taught by Yang Cheng-fu, and incorporates cultural exercises, a 54-part form (or moving meditation), and internal energy work. It is a very traditional form of Tai Chi.
Dr. Louis Ng, a Chinese acupuncture doctor, brought his family’s art to the UK in the 1980’s, teaching students the traditional way in all weathers 6 days a week, every week. Robert Earl Taylor introduced Dr. Ng’s art into Adult Continuing Education courses in the 1990’s, where it continues to be taught today.
Here is a demonstration video of our style, shot in January 2009:
Although we do not teach this style as a martial art in our public classes, we do place an equal emphasis on both the health and martial aspects of each part of the form.
To the best of our knowledge, our school is the only one teaching this specific style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If you choose to train with a different school in the future, what you learn there will differ from what we will teach you.
How Long Does It Take To Learn?
On average, it takes two years to learn the fundamentals of the art.
- Year 1 is the beginner’s class. Over a 30-week course, you will learn the cultural exercises, the 54-part form, standing meditation, and internal energy work. At the end of this course, you will be able to play the form daily.
- Year 2 is the intermediate class. Over a 30-week course, you will learn each of the ten principles, plus basic push hands drills. At the end of this course, you will have an understanding of the principles behind the form, giving you the tools to continue your own exploration and enjoyment of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
Your success on the course will greatly depend on how much practice you put in between classes. During Year 1, we recommend a minimum of 10 minutes a day practice, rising to 30 minutes a day as you learn more of the form.
Those who wish to go on to qualify as instructors or wishing to further explore the martial aspects of the art will be able to join our private classes, which are normally held on weekends.
Can I Join The Class Part-Way Through The Year?
Yes. You’ll be asked to start from the point that everyone else is up to, and to follow as best you can the moves that you’ve missed. There’ll be opportunities to pick up those moves before the end of the course, and you’ll be most welcome to join the beginner’s course at the start of the next year to get the full instruction.
What If I’ve Already Learned A Different T’ai Chi Style?
We ask all of our students in our public classes to learn the Ng Family Yang Style, because we use the form together as a teaching aid to explore the deeper aspects of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. We’re also aware that there are important differences between the principles of our style and those of other styles.
That said, if you’re an advanced T’ai Chi Ch’uan student looking for like-minded people to practice your push hands and martial arts with, and to examine and debate the philosophy that underpins all T’ai Chi practice, then you’d be most welcome to our private classes.
How We Teach
Our teaching philosophy is that stances and shapes make the form. The movement between shapes comes from daily practice between classes. Once you have the form, we use the form together to explore each of the underlying ten principles of our form.
Your instructor will open each class by leading the group through the cultural exercises to ensure everyone is properly warmed up. This is followed by a standing meditation exercise, and then your instructor will lead the group through all the parts of the form that have already been taught.
After that, your instructor will review and correct the parts of the form that have already been taught.
After a short break (there’s normally a kettle available, so feel free to bring your own tea and coffee along!), your instructor will demonstrate the night’s new moves before breaking the moves down into smaller chunks for the group to practice and learn.
Finally, each class closes with your instructor leading the group through all the parts of the form that have already been taught, including the night’s new moves.
Questions are welcome and encouraged throughout each class. Don’t be afraid to ask at any time, and don’t feel that your question is silly in any way. The only silly question is the one that never gets asked!
The principle method of teaching is demonstration by your instructor. We back that up with additional resources to help you both between classes and to be a reference for the rest of your life.
- We provide handouts for the cultural exercises and each part of the form. The handouts are broken down into the chunks that you learn each week.
- We offer an audio CD containing the same instruction for playing the form that is used in each class. This CD costs a nominal fee to cover copying costs.
- We offer a DVD containing a complete demonstration of the form. This DVD costs a nominal fee to cover copying costs.
- We create regular mini podcasts on Audioboo, discussing whatever important points have come up in each class.
- Additionally, we are working on creating video lessons for students to download and view on their computers, iPods and so on.
We’re always looking for additional ways that we can help and support our students. If there’s anything you can think of that would help, please let us know.
What To Wear To Class
There is no need to purchase any sort of martial art uniform. We recommend loose, comfortable clothing such as T-shirts and jogging bottoms. In the winter months, classrooms can be cold when we arrive, so a comfortable jumper or fleece during the winter months can be a good idea!
Footwear is particularly important. Shoes or trainers should be flat-soled with little or no raised heel at the back. Traditional kung-fu slippers are best, available from martial arts supply shops.
Your First Class
In your first class, your instructor will take you through the information in this handout, and learn what prior experience you have, and what in particular you want to get out of the course. Your instructor will also ask a few health-related questions, to assess any needs that you might have.
He or she will then take you through the cultural exercises, and through the four basic stances used throughout the form.
If you are joining the course at the start of the year, you’ll then start learning the standing meditations, internal energy work, and the first moves of the form.
If you are joining the course part-way through the year, you’ll then go on to join the existing group in their practice. It can be a bit daunting at first, but you’ll find no shortage of willing help and assistance to help you settle in and enjoy yourself.
In all of our classes, our aim is to get you up on your feet and practising for most of the two hours that each class takes. All of our exercises are slow, gentle, and low-impact. You’ll often hear your instructor say that no pain, no gain does not apply in our classes!
Basic Health And Safety
Don’t be under any illusion; practising T’ai Chi Ch’uan incorrectly can cause painful and long-lasting physical damage to you. The effects build up over time, and should be taken seriously.
Your instructor will point out the important health & safety aspects of each new move before you attempt it, and he or she will continue to monitor and review how you’re doing in each class.
Where To Go For Further Information
We hope this short introduction has answered any questions you have before joining the course. If not, please ask your instructor, or visit our website: