We’re Growing – Help Us Decide Where

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy currently has two great classes and in 2022 we’re looking to add more to give greater opportunities for people to learn and enjoy Tai Chi and Qigong. What we need to know is where the best places for us to look to open new classes are.

Below is a list of potential areas we are looking to open classes in. Please let us know where YOU would be interested in joining a class by checking as many locations and times as you would be willing to come to.

Where would you like us to open a Tai Chi class?

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What time(s) would be best for you?

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Don’t see a place or time that works for you? Leave us your suggestion in the comments section below.

We are hoping to add more classes in Spring and/or Summer this year (assuming we can find suitable venues – we’ll also take suggestions on that in the comments section below).

Thank you for your help and support and we hope to open a class near you soon!

Debunking the Myths: “Tai Chi Knee”

Have you ever heard of “Tai Chi Knee”? I first heard about it years ago when I saw a promotion for a book claiming to explain why Tai Chi knee is a ‘normal’ part of Tai Chi practice, along with tips on how to ‘minimise’ the risk of developing Tai Chi Knee. The basic premise was that the positions that some Tai Chi stances require students to put their lower limbs in put a significant amount of strain on the knee joint, and this in turn will cause pain and eventually joint problems. While it is suggested that appropriate strength and conditioning of the knee can minimise these effects, it is accepted that “some” degree of pain is to be expected through learning and performing Tai Chi – a ‘sacrifice for the art’ if you will.

I’m here to tell you that is a complete fallacy. Tai Chi Knee is nothing more than poor understanding and instruction of Tai Chi. It is not something that should exist.

Before becoming a Tai Chi Instructor I was (still am) a Physical Therapist. Throughout my experience with Tai Chi it has always amazed me the level of understanding the old masters had of biomechanics and kinesiology. Every stance, or ‘form’, in Tai Chi is a carefully considered combination of structure and position which results in strength, balance and effective distribution of external forces (eg: gravity) acting on the body. There is no form in any style of Tai Chi that allows or accepts pain or dysfunction as a result of adopting that position. The very notion that such a thing would exist is absurd as it goes against the very principle of using Tai Chi as a way of moving energy (Qi) around the body as part of developing optimal health.

How does “Tai Chi Knee” happen?

In theory, Tai Chi Knee often occurs as the result of either poor alignment of the knee relative to the rest of the body, or applying torsion through the knee while bearing weight through it. I say “in theory” because with correct Tai Chi practice, neither of these things should occur.

The knee is often referred to as a hinge joint as it’s primary movements are to bend (flex) and straighten (extend). However, because of its anatomy, the knee can also be rotated very slightly. Rotation usually occurs in a ‘closed-chain position’, that is, with the feet in contact with the ground or some other surface. In this position the femur can turn slightly over the tibia, creating a torque (rotational force) through the knee. Depending on the alignment of the knee in relation to rest of the leg, it can also flex on one side or the other (lateral flexion). This results in one side of the knee being stretched, while the other is compressed. This movements are often minimal, however they do create strain and wear on the knee.

Excessive and/or repetitive torsion and/or lateral forces can lead to wear and tear on knee structures, especially the ligaments and cartilage. Tai Chi practitioners are at risk of experiencing these forces if:

  • the alignment of the knee is incorrect relative the rest of the leg, especially in relation to the foot (often causes lateral forces);
  • body-weight is applied through the knee while attempting to change position, for example, when turning to change direction (often causes torsion); and/or
  • the joint is being overstressed, as may occur if the student is attempting to move through a range, or at a depth, that their musculoskeletal system has not been conditioned to (often occurs when attempting to perform movements that are too deep or too long).

How to avoid “Tai Chi Knee”

The good news is that with correct instruction and careful practice you never have to experience Tai Chi Knee. While it’s beyond the scope of this article to suggest the correct practice for every Tai Chi form in every set across all styles, here are some general considerations:

  1. work to your current ability: particularly important if you are new to Tai Chi, or new to exercising in general. Your body needs to adapt and make changes in order to perform at its best. No movements or positions should be forced. A good instructor will not expect you to over strain or stretch your body in order to make things look “correct”; rather, they will help you work within your capacity while showing you how to challenge yourself to make improvements over time;
  2. align your knees with your feet and your hip joints: generally speaking, your knee should not fall inside or outside of your foot or hip joint as this causes excessive lateral forces. If you are unsure, have your instructor check your alignment while performing your form;
  3. anytime the foot needs to turn, the weight should be coming off that foot: a position change is generally associated with a weight shift; this is important as it allows the foot to be able to turn freely and avoid torsion through the knee. If it isn’t easy to move the foot, chances are you have your weight distributed incorrectly – have your instructor check and correct;
  4. some movements may cause strain, but none should cause pain: some forms in Tai Chi can be challenging, and this challenge is what encourages our bodies to adapt and improve. No forms should cause pain. I differentiate between pain and strain as follows: strain should be mildly uncomfortable, however relieves immediately upon cessation. Pain is anything strong that a mild discomfort, and/or persists after cessation. It is important to clarify what you’re feeling with your Tai Chi practice with your instructor.

Of all the things that can result in knee pain, Tai Chi should not be one of them. In fact, Tai Chi is well supported through clinical research as a means of reducing knee pain. Tai Chi Knee should not ever be a thing. If any Tai Chi instructor tells you to expect to develop Tai Chi Knee, my advice would be: run! While your knees are still healthy!

Life Lessons from Tai Chi: Decompress

During an in-class discussion on one of Yang’s Principles, Suspend From the Crown, a student asked if this was something that they should apply to everyday life as well. I often tell my students that much of what Tai Chi offers has benefits outside of the practice of Tai Chi; as my Master has often stated, “Tai Chi is not what I do, it’s how I live.” This question and my reflection on it have inspired me to share my own thoughts on how Tai Chi can benefit our lives beyond being a form of exercise.

It’s a symptom of the modern world that many of us live what I would term, ‘compressed lives’. Demands of work, society, family, friends and other extraneous factors tend to ‘weigh’ on us, and unfortunately many of us don’t realise just how ‘compressed’ we are until something in our body starts to fail.

Take a moment for yourself right now to check to see how compressed you are. Are your teeth clenched together? Are your shoulders getting closer to your ears? Are you hunched over your keyboard, tablet, phone? Can you feel tension in your body? Aches or pains? Stiffness? When was the last time you stretched your arms above your head, or out to the side? Or took several deep breaths? Have you done it today? This week?

An important component of Tai Chi practice is the ability to be ‘open’; to open the joints so the energy – qi (chi) – can flow and allow the body to move freely. The idea of Suspend From the Crown, in simplified terms, encourages Tai Chi players to ‘open’ their joints while maintaining a relaxed posture, in effect expanding rather than compressing the body. (To gain a deeper understanding of this as it pertains to Tai Chi, I encourage you to attend one of our classes, or a class near you.)

The concept of ‘expanding’ the body – to decompress – is something we can, and should, apply to everyday life. Tai Chi is one way we can learn to recognise when we are feeling ‘compressed’, however there are others. Go back to those questions I asked at the start. Tension and stress often first manifest physically as a clenched jaw, something that often goes unnoticed until attention is drawn to it. However we can also be ‘compressed’ mentally and spiritually; feeling overwhelmed, unable to order your thoughts, or focus on the task at hand, feeling “out of sorts” and so forth can all be indicators that you are ‘compressed’. You can identify this by taking moments in your day to do a quick self-examination: how do I feel? Physically, mentally and emotionally.

When you can identify the effects ‘compression’ on yourself, you have the opportunity to do something about it. While I would of course advocate for Tai Chi as a way of decompressing, there are other simple things you can do. Here are three that I recommend:

  1. Breathe: we take breathing for granted, and so we underestimate its importance in helping us decompress. It only takes a few seconds so there’s no excuses not to do it. I suggest at least one of two methods: take 4 – 6 deep breaths, in and out, without holding the breath at any time; or, take 20 – 30 seconds to just focus on gently breathing in and out continuously, not holding your breath;
  2. Stretch: this doesn’t have to be vigorous or Yoga-like to be beneficial. Simply stretching your arms above your head and/or out to the side and/or behind you, turning your head gently side to side and/or up and down, even standing from a sitting position can all help to decompress. The important thing is to move, to change the position that you’ve been in, regularly;
  3. Move: again this doesn’t have to be strenuous or require pain and sweat to be beneficial. The benefits of regular exercise on physical, mental and emotional health are well-documented. While it doesn’t necessarily matter what you do, my suggestion is to make sure it is something that is not related to work/chores/other stressors in your life; make it something you enjoy. For some that might be the gym, for others simply a walk, or some gardening, playing with the kids or dancing in your living room. Whatever it is, make it part of your day.

And of course, as always, I recommend Tai Chi!

WTCA Announces ‘Tai Chi for All’ Inclusion Policy

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy has formally released its ‘Tai Chi for All’ Inclusion Policy as a means of promoting a safe and accessible environment for everyone to be able to enjoy the benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong.

“… we believe that Tai Chi and Qigong have great benefits for all peoples, and we aim to make Tai Chi and Qigong available and accessible to anyone who would like to join us … regardless of age, gender identity, race or cultural background, sexuality, spirituality, or any other form of differentiation.”

The policy is supported by WTCA’s Code of Conduct which all members and participants in WCTA classes, events and other activities are expected to adhere to.

New Come N Try Tai Chi Sessions Announced!

Always wanted to try Tai Chi? Now’s your chance!

New Come N Try Tai Chi sessions have been announced for July! Come N Try sessions are a great way to experience Tai Chi and Qigong for those with no previous experience and is open to all. No booking or reservation necessary – just show up on the day!

Details can be found on the Events page.

Updated COVID-19 Policy – May 2021

In accordance with the recent changes to CDC Guidelines, WTCA has updated its COVID-19 Policy which applies to all attendees at classes and events. You can find this policy on the website under Classes and Events.

Key changes include: vaccinated attendees are no longer required to wear masks or socially distance unless required by the venue, per CDC guidelines, and temperature checks are no longer required at classes and events. Please refer to the policy for specific requirements.

Updated COVID-19 Policy

Given the high increase in Covid-19 cases in Wisconsin, WTCA has implemented a new Covid-19 Policy that will apply to all attendees at classes and events. You can find this policy on the website under Classes and Events.

This policy has been implemented in an attempt to ensure Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy can continue to provide classes and events while minimizing any risk to attendees during the pandemic.

You Can STILL Enjoy Tai Chi During the Pandemic

We’re masking up and social distancing and still enjoying our Tai Chi!

Thanks to our venue hosts allowing us to continue classes, and by following CDC and Wisconsin State Government mandates and recommendations, we’re still holding classes and practicing our Tai Chi!

Tai Chi offers many benefits that can help you make it through this pandemic. Not only is it a safe and easy way of maintaining physical activity, it can boost your immune system, ease stress, and clear your mind.

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy welcomes all ages and all levels of experience to its classes. Find a class for you at our classes link.

New Class Starting in Brookfield, WI!

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy is pleased to annouce a new class being established in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Term 1 will commence Tuesday July 14, 2020 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Brookfield, at 6pm. Classes will run for one hour and be grouped into ten week terms. WTCA expects to run four terms per year at this venue.

Initially WCTA will teach the Beijing 24 Forms to new students, however advanced classes are expected to commence in 2021.

WCTA looks forward to welcoming new students to this class!

New Class Starting In Evansville, WI!

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy is please to announce a new class being established in Evansville, WI.

Term 1 will commence Saturday May 25, 2019 at the Porter Town Hall, Evansville, at 8:00am. Classes will run for 2.5 hours and be held monthly with 4 months to a term. WTCA expects to run 3 terms per year at this venue.

Initially WCTA will teach the Beijing 24 Forms to new students, however advanced classes are expected to commence in due course.

WCTA looks forward to welcoming new students to this class!