Ng Family Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan

Stuart is both a student of, and instructor in, the Ng Family's take on Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, under the instruction of Robert Earl Taylor.

Follow his discussions on studying the art and also on his experiences teaching the art to the next generation.

Lighting The Way Home

Summer Classes List

Posted by Stuart Herbert on June 29th, 2008 in Classes, News.

As promised during class last Tuesday, here’s a list of our summer Tai Chi classes at the Barry Island Community Centre:

  • Tuesday, 8th July 2008; 7pm-9pm
  • Tuesday, 22nd July 2008; 7pm-9pm
  • Tuesday, 5th August 2008; 7pm-9pm
  • Tuesday, 19th August 2008; 7pm-9pm

There will be no classes in September until the next academic year’s classes start. I don’t have confirmed dates for those yet, but when I do, I’ll post them here. I do know that Intermediate Tai Chi will be on Tuesdays, and the Beginners’ Tai Chi will be on Thursday evenings.

Students from my Beginner’s Tai Chi Class 2007-2008 are welcome to these summer classes (whether you completed the year or not).

If you’re interested in joining the next Beginners’ Class (starts September 2008 for 30 weeks), you’re very welcome to come along and see what a class is like, and to have a chat about the course. You’ll not just be able to get my perspective on things; you’ll also be able to chat to existing students to find out how they found the class and my teaching style.

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Shanghai Camp 2007 Videos

Posted by Stuart Herbert on June 24th, 2008 in Technique, Video.

Over on the Qi Gong Videos blog, you can currently find some Tai Chi footage from Double Dragon Alliance 2007 Shanghai Camp, Masters Exhibition:

Well worth a look, to get an idea of how different Tai Chi styles look, especially for my students, as our style has quite a few differences that you should be able to spot 🙂

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I know I promised a different topic for this (much delayed) post, but I think it’s worth looking a bit more about why we possibly cross hands the way we do. And now that my camcorder has arrived, hopefully the accompanying video will help with the explanations and the questions. This is the first Tai Chi video that I’ve ever uploaded, and it’s also the first time in years that I’ve videoed myself, so be gentle 😉

Cross Hands – A Popular Move

Here’s a short video I’ve uploaded to YouTube demonstrating the different places where we cross hands in our form:

  1. Cross Hands after Shoulder Press
  2. Cross Hands after Box Ears (which is repeated again at the end of our form)
  3. Cross Hands Low after Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg, immediately followed by Cross Hands after Golden Pheasant Stands On One Leg (repeated twice, but not properly shown on the video)
  4. Crossed Guard in Fair Ladies corner #1
  5. Crossed Guard in Fair Ladies corner #2
  6. Crossed Hands in Fair Ladies corner #4
  7. Cross Hands Travelling Low after the Second Squatting Single Whip, immediately followed by Step Up To Seven Stars

In most of these moves, we’re in motion as we play Cross Hands. Normally we’re moving off to the side, which is consistent with the idea of using Cross Hands to bridge with an opponent before taking control of their energy and using it against them. But there are a couple of cases where this clearly isn’t happening in our version of the form, and I find that interesting.

Cross Hands As A Block

What’s going on with the Cross Hands Low immediately after Golden Pheasant Stands On One Leg, the third example in the video? Take another look at it. With my current understanding of Tai Chi, that looks like a two-handed block against a kick, in a very static position, followed by a block against a follow-up strike or punch.

This is where I had a better understanding of the fighting side of our art, for sure. The immediate question I have about this is one of practicality. Would the Cross Hands Low be strong enough to block a kick, and what is the likelihood of the kick causing serious damage to the hands and wrists in the process?

It stands out for me as something to investigate further because it seems quite the anomaly …

The Crossed Guard In Fair Ladies

In the first two corners of Fair Ladies Weaves Shuttles To The Four Corners, we almost cross hands but not quite. The left hand falls and the right hand rises, but they pass left hand inside right, as if guarding the right side of the head and body as one zone from attack. Lacking a better name for this move, I’ve started calling it Crossed Guard.

It shares one of the major characteristics of Cross Hands – the arm attached to the leading shoulder is on the outside of the move. Indeed, in corner #4, we actually play Cross Hands, which immediately separates out into a head guard and a body guard.

So my first question to investigate is whether or not we should Cross Hands in corners #1 and #2 before immediately transitioning into Crossed Guard (artistically, possibly, but from a martial perspective, I have doubts). And my second question? Where should the emphasis and explanation be for folks who are in it for the health benefits rather than the martial aspect?

Summing Up

Hopefully my video doesn’t suck too badly (I’m pretty sure my performance does!) and it gives you an idea of the different ways we play Cross Hands in the Ng Family Yang Style Tai Chi form that I study and teach.

The video shows two areas – Cross Hands Low and Fair Ladies corners #1 and #2 – where we play Cross Hands differently, and where I currently have questions about both form and function.

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Treasure Hunt

Posted by Stuart Herbert on May 28th, 2008 in Technique.

How well do you know your form? How well does your form, and indeed your practice, relate to the Tai Chi Classics? Can you find all of the Thirteen Postures in your form?

And, for my students, a treasure hunt … can you spot which of the Thirteen Postures appears where in Grasp Sparrows Tail? Especially the one I haven’t mentioned yet in my class? 🙂

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After the success of the first Tai Chi @ the Knapp on Barry Island last Saturday, we’ll be back there again this Saturday (and every Saturday onwards) to play the form down by the sea. I hope to see you there!

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As part of the Adult Learning week of events in Barry Library, Vale of Glamorgan, I’ll be doing two Tai Chi demonstration sessions this Saturday 24th May 2008, starting at 10am and 11am. Why not come along, see for yourself what Tai Chi is like, and have a go too?

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First Step Accomplished

Posted by Stuart Herbert on May 19th, 2008 in News.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday) is a very proud night for me. Tomorrow night, eight of my students will be taught the last remaining moves of the Ng Family Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, and will follow me through the complete form for the first time.

We’ve a lot of work ahead to get these students to the point where they are confident playing the form by themselves, without prompting from me. If they come back for next year, I’ll also be able to introduce them to the Ten Principles that guide and shape our particular tiny little school of Tai Chi.

But this is a major milestone, and I can’t congratulate my students enough for their hard work and dedication.

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Tai Chi Class Calendar Now Up

Posted by Stuart Herbert on May 1st, 2008 in News.

I’ve finally gotten my finger out, and added a page to my blog listing all my Tai Chi classes and practice sessions. At the moment, I’m just teaching the one class on a Tuesday evening, but starting from the end of May, I’m going to be doing an outdoor practice session (not a formal class) at the beautiful Knapp in Barry.

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Why We Cross Hands The Way We Do

Posted by Stuart Herbert on April 5th, 2008 in Technique.

Do you keep a training diary?

I haven’t, until today. That’s over eight years of experience with no reliable record – only the neurones of my brain as an unreliable witness. How much have I learned and forgotten, and how many questions have I come across that I no longer recall?

In my experience, practising Tai Chi is a series of personal revelations. No progress is made, sometimes for months, and then WHAM – the pieces fall into place and my understanding takes a tiny step forward. The progress comes not through answers, but by finding the questions. When you find the right questions, the answers don’t provide the information – they simply show you what you’ve already come to understand.

For example, take one of the most basic hand movements in Tai Chi – cross hands. For the first eight years of my training, all the questions (from myself, and from fellow students) were about “what is it for?” or “how does it work?” They’re important questions; the student needs to know that cross hands is used to block kicks and punches, and they need to know how the timing and distancing works. If the student is more interested in health than martial, then the answers need to be couched in those terms instead.

But I no longer think that they’re the right questions, not with the outlook on the question as progress. The right question is “why is it that so-and-so arm is on the outside?” The answer to that ensures that form and function falls into place as a result.

In our form (Ng Family Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan), it is always the arm attached to the leading shoulder that sits on the outside of cross hands. We move left, and it is the left arm on the outside. We move right, and it is the right arm on the outside. Every time. Without fail. We’re always looking to move into a block, and we’re always looking to snag an arm or a leg and take it with us.

We’re always in continuous motion (one of the ten important principles from Yang Chen’fu), and cross hands appears deliberately designed to ensure that the move maximises the benefits of being in motion.

It also gives me new questions (well, new to me anyway!) about the old saying of the needle in the cotton, which I’ll look at next time.

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In Memory Of Rhil

Posted by Stuart Herbert on April 2nd, 2008 in News.

After the class on Tuesday night, we learned that Rhil Haskins passed away recently. She was a big part of our class, and she will be sorely missed.

I’m always going to remember her for the way she applied herself, both to Tai Chi and to us all in the class.

She’d always complain about how she was mucking it up, but she was always first through the door every Tuesday evening, and she was always the last to leave. Whenever we had a break on an evening, it always seemed like she was going over the moves with someone. She even introduced a friend to the class, who she’d shown some of the moves to.

Everyone had time for Rhil, because she had time for everyone.

She knew the names of everyone in the class weeks before I did. As folks came in, she’d point them out to me and remind me who they were. Right up until she went into hospital, she kept coming to the class, and despite the obvious difficulty she was in, she wanted to be with us every Tuesday night, and she wanted to be involved. I don’t recall her once sitting out. They just don’t make them like that any more.

Rest in peace, Rhil.

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