Debunking the Myths: You Can Learn Tai Chi from a Video/Book

Tag: tai chi

I’m just going to come straight out and say it: you cannot learn Tai Chi from a video or a book.

Before you consider arguing with me, let me qualify that statement.

Learning Tai Chi is unlike learning many other forms of exercise, or many other skills for that matter. In fact, to say that you “learn Tai Chi” might not even be an accurate statement. A similar concept might be learning a language; you can learn the words and their meanings, phrases and correct grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure, but to become proficient or fluent in that language, you need to immerse yourself in it with other fluent or native speakers. Only in this way do you discover the nuances that go with using language that simply learning the words and phrases cannot give you. You have to experience it, and the only way to truly experience it is with someone else who is more proficient than you.

It is the same with Tai Chi. Tai Chi is more than just performing a slow exercise. It is more than just choreography. It is something you have to feel and experience. It’s something you need to be guided towards, yet discover for yourself. To do that, you need someone to guide you. To help you understand not just what you’re supposed to do, but how it should feel. You need someone to help you know what to look for.

What you need to learn Tai Chi is: feedback.

Even the best book or video, by the most expert Master, with the most detailed instructions and hundreds of images for you to compare yourself to cannot give you any feedback on your performance. Without having someone in person to guide you, you can’t know whether you need to (for example) sink a little deeper, relax more, extend more, direct your focus, or any one of numerous other adjustments that you might need to make. Even if you are able to copy the Instructor’s movements exactly like they show you, at best you are imitating Tai Chi, not performing it.

That isn’t to say that books and videos are without value. In my own practice I have (and continue to) read many books and watch many videos to help deepen my understanding and overall development of Tai Chi. I also make videos available to my students and encourage them to read from books on a recommended reading list I maintain. The difference is, I use these resources to supplement my learning and instruction, not substitute for it. These resources are there to enhance and expand knowledge and understanding of Tai Chi. The learning occurs in the class, with the Instructor. At best, a book or video can only show you what the path looks like. Only the Instructor can tell you if you are on the right path, and if not, help guide you towards it.

If you are interested in Tai Chi, by all means pick up a book or watch a video and discover what it is all about. However, if you want to learn Tai Chi, find an Instructor and attend classes, as well as reading the book and watching the video.


Tag: tai chi

Much is often said about the benefits Tai Chi has for a person’s physical health: strength, balance, coordination, even specific physical ailments such as arthritis and blood pressure. Yet Tai Chi also has many benefits for your mental and emotional health and well being.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)1., as many as 1 in 8 people around the world – 970 million people – are diagnosed as having some form of mental health issue. In the US alone, 4% of the population suffer from a serious mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia2.. The global impact of mental health is staggering: from an economic standpoint alone it is estimated that the cost of mental health-related issues – not just in terms of medical care but flow on effects, such as lost wages, etc. – is about $5 trillion USD annually, and rising3.. Clearly, any intervention that can have a positive impact on mental health and reduce the burden to individuals, families, and the broader community can only be beneficial.

There has been a great deal of research into the benefits Tai Chi can have on mental and emotional well being. across a variety of populations. Many of these studies have found that Tai Chi can:

  • reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression, both in terms of self-reporting and physiological responses, for example, reduced presence of cortisol (a stress hormone) in saliva4.;
  • improve sleep quality, as indicated by standardized, evidence-based tests such as the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)5.;
  • improve quality of life, as indicated by standardized, evidence-based tests such as Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL)6.

A number of studies further indicate that Tai Chi may be more effective than other forms of exercise in terms of the overall and lasting benefits to mental and emotional well being.

Though it would seem obvious that the slow movements, calm disposition and subsequent relaxed state a person finds themself in when practicing Tai Chi would produce these results, researchers are investigating the specific physiological effects that Tai Chi has on the body that would account for these changes. One theory is that Tai Chi encourages the production of chemical mediators such as serotonin and dopamine, which in turn releases the body’s natural opioids (endorphins), in much the same way as certain forms of moderate intensity exercise have been demonstrated to do (eg: the “runner’s high”)7. The caveat being that Tai Chi is very much a lower intensity form of exercise, and therefore may be more accessible to the average person.

Another theory is the prefrontal cortex hypothesis proposed by Yao and colleagues8. The basis of this theory is as follows: one of the main functions of the prefrontal cortex of the brain is to regulate our emotional behaviours and responses through its connections to other parts of the brain – it is sometimes referred to as the “immune system of mental health”. Functional MRI studies have demonstrated changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain of Tai Chi practitioners compared with control groups, which enhances the function and response of the prefrontal cortex, similar to that seen in studies involving meditation and aerobic exercise. Though Yao and colleagues admit that more specific research is required to prove/disprove this theory, the supporting evidence looks promising.

While clinical research supports the evidence that Tai Chi practice is beneficial for mental health, it generally only reflects the approach from the view of the Western medical model. Increasingly research is being conducted to support the Eastern concepts of health and the role this affect this might have on mental and emotional well being. For example, in their book, The Tao of Trauma, authors Duncan and Kain explain the relationship between polyvagal theory – the theory that our behavioural state is regulated by the autonomic nervous system primarily through the vagus nerve – and Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), as a means of understanding how our biological systems respond to our environment and how, if this response is interrupted or not allowed to run its full cycle, the system becomes imbalanced and the result is a traumatic response, such as anxiety and other mental health conditions9.. Within this model, Tai Chi would be seen to be a means of restoring and rebalancing the flow of qi within the body, thereby potentially allowing our system to complete the interrupted cycle and return the system to its normal resting or ready state – like hitting a reset button for the heart and mind. Though there is little clinical evidence to support this theory, more research into this area is being conducted.

Whatever the underlying reasons, it seems there is no doubt that regular Tai Chi practice can have great benefits to a person’s mental and emotional well being. The best way to determine if it can have these benefits for you is to try for yourself.

References

  1. World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders, accessed 6/13/2023
  2. Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm, accessed 6/13/2023
  3. Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health: https://chds.hsph.harvard.edu/quantifying-the-global-cost-of-mental-disorders/, accessed 6/13/2023
  4. Esch, T. et al. (2007). Mind/body techniques for physiological and psychological stress reduction: Stress management via Tai Chi training – a pilot study. Medical Science Monitor, 13(11): 488-497.
  5. Zhu, D. et al. (2018). Long-term effects of Tai Chi intervention on sleep and mental health of female individuals with dependence on amphetamine-type stimulants. Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 1476-87.
  6. Sprod, L. et al. (2011). Health-related quality of life and biomarkers in breast cancer survivors participating in tai chi chuan. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 6: 146-154.
  7. Zhang, L. et al. (2012). A review focused on the psychological effectiveness of Tai Chi on different populations. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 1-9.
  8. Yao, Y. et al. (2021). The effect of Tai Chi Chuan on emotional health: potential mechanisms and prefrontal cortext hypothesis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2021: 1-12.
  9. Duncan, A. D. and Kain, K. L. (2019). The Tao of Trauma: A Practitioner’s Guide for Integrating Five Element Theory and Trauma Treatment. North Atlantic Books.

Tag: tai chi

If you put the words, “Tai Chi” into a search engine, you’ll get a thousands of different results from different schools, organizations and instructors saying they teach “Tai Chi”. To someone unfamiliar with Tai Chi, it might seem you’re spoiled for choice: they all teach the same thing, so just pick one, right?

Well, it’s not that simple. For starters, there are many different styles of Tai Chi, and finding the right style – the right introduction to Tai Chi – for you can be a challenge. However, even more than that, these days there are many programs calling themselves “Tai Chi” that may, in some ways, resemble Tai Chi, but are in fact not.

So how is the newcomer to Tai Chi supposed to know the difference? Below is a guide to recognizing whether the “Tai Chi” you’re doing is ‘traditional’ or ‘non-traditional’.

What’s in a name?

The name, “Tai Chi” can be confusing, even in some instances misleading, as it seems to have become a catch-all moniker for any form of exercise that is performed slowly. So the first question you should ask is: what is it you’re actually doing?

Taijiquan (tie-gee-chwan – sometimes also spelt Tai Chi Chuan or T’ai Chi Ch’uan) is the traditional form of what today is often shortened to Tai Chi (T’ai Chi, or Taiji). Taijiquan is a martial art: all the movements (forms) within a sequence have martial applications for self-defence. Some schools/instructors still make a point of referring to what they teach as Taijiquan (as opposed to Tai Chi) in order to emphasize they are teaching traditional Tai Chi, as opposed to non-traditional alternatives. However, many schools now use the simplified English name, “Tai Chi”, because it is more recognizable and identifiable to the broader public, and because many people seek out Tai Chi for its health benefits as opposed to its martial applications.

There are some who argue that Tai Chi and Taijiquan are two different things. This is at best, inaccurate, and at worst, misleading. If you are learning Tai Chi from a traditional sense (see below), you are actually learning Taijiquan.

What is Traditional Tai Chi?

Let’s make one thing clear straight away: at of the time of writing, there is no formal classification (that I am aware of) of “traditional” Tai Chi. I am using the term “traditional” as a way of contrasting Tai Chi with other forms of exercise that may be based on Tai Chi, but are not necessarily Tai Chi (this contrast will, I hope, become clearer as you read on).

With that in mind, traditional Tai Chi, regardless of style, follows the instruction, principles, theory and philosophy of Taijiquan. It is a martial art, whether the instruction or practice specifically focus on the martial aspect, or not. If the instruction does not focus on the martial aspect, the instructor should at least understand and be able to convey to students the martial application to help them understand why forms are performed a certain way. Many known Masters of Tai Chi have argued that if the martial aspect is disregarded, it is no longer Tai Chi*.

However, Tai Chi is much more than a system of self-defence. The principles of Tai Chi are derived from Taoist philosophy, which also forms the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). To fully understand the relationship between Tao, TCM and Tai Chi is a discussion far beyond the scope of this article; however two main concepts which are present in Tai Chi practice is the idea of qi (chee – also spelled chi), a lifeforce energy that provides the underlying basis of our health (or lack thereof), and the idea of contrasting but complementary universal forces, Yin and Yang, the balance of which also helps us maintain good health – for that matter helps bring about the natural order of the universe. (Please note: this is an exceedingly simplified explanation of these two concepts and you are encouraged to read about these concepts further in order to understand their significance). This is where the idea of Tai Chi having health benefits beyond simple physical exercise came about: because Tai Chi focuses on understanding and developing these energies, a person can use Tai Chi to help maintain optimal health and increase their lifespan, amongst other benefits.

In line with this, there are many theories and principles that have been developed by Masters over the years – often referred to as the Tai Chi Classics – that guide the Tai Chi student to develop their understanding and practice – and thereby gain the benefit – of Tai Chi. It can be said that these particular principles and theories are what differentiates Tai Chi from other styles of martial arts. Again, it has been argued that anyone practicing Tai Chi who is not also striving to understand and follow the teachings of the Classics is not really performing Tai Chi. My own Master would often comment, “it’s good kung fu, but it’s not Tai Chi.”

Although this is a simplified and brief outline of what traditional Tai Chi is, what should be apparent is that traditional Tai Chi is not just a form of ‘slow exercise’ (in fact, there are many forms and styles of Tai Chi that use rapid or explosive movements), or a ‘moving meditation’. There are many facets to understanding and practicing Tai Chi, and for the committed student of Tai Chi there is always more to learn and develop.

What is Non-Traditional Tai Chi?

Again, understand that at the time of writing, there is no formal classification (that I’m aware of) of “non-traditional Tai Chi”; it is simply a term I’m using to differentiate between traditional Tai Chi and other “Tai Chi” practices.

At the risk of stating the obvious, a simply explanation of non-traditional Tai Chi would be anything that isn’t traditional Tai Chi. However, if you don’t have any experience with traditional Tai Chi, how could you be expected to know the difference?

Non-traditional Tai Chi is often, at best, a ‘filtered’ form of Tai Chi. Often, the martial aspect will be entirely disregarded because it is only being practiced for “health benefits”. Instead, the focus will be on slow and gentle movements. In some instances the sequences or forms themselves may be modified from the original in order to make their instruction “more accessible”. The underlying theory and philosophy will often be ignored (assuming it is even known by the instructor), or only referred to in a casual or off-hand way; a historical reference or quirk, as opposed to a guide or instruction.

This is not to say that non-traditional Tai Chi is not beneficial: in fact the opposite is often true. Any form of exercise can have benefit to people, if it is performed safely and effectively. What is at question is: is it really Tai Chi if it is missing many of the essential elements of traditional Tai Chi? Should it even be able to be called “Tai Chi”? This is something that increasingly being debated as more and more non-traditional Tai Chi schools and instructors commercialize “Tai Chi”.

As a general guide to determining whether a program is non-traditional Tai Chi, you should be aware of the following:

  • use of the terms, “modified”, “variation of” or “based on” when referring to the type of Tai Chi that is being taught, or “combined with” where the exercise claims to combine Tai Chi with some other form of exercise (yoga and pilates are common). I would also caution against claims of the instructor’s “own style”;
  • encouraged use of adaptive equipment, such as walkers or chairs, to facilitate a student’s ability to perform the exercises (while very useful to enable participation in exercise, this is more suited to Qigong practice than Tai Chi);
  • specificity of what the Tai Chi is “for” – eg: “Tai Chi for [insert health or medical condition]” (traditional Tai Chi is beneficial for many health and medical conditions and there is no variation that specifically targets one over the other) – or modification of the actual name – eg: “Tai Chair” (see above) or “Aquatic Tai Chi”; and
  • instructor qualifications, especially those who have become instructors by doing a course as opposed to engaging in traditional Tai Chi instruction – be especially aware of anyone offering to qualify you as an instructor by taking a “weekend” or “two week” course (traditional Tai Chi instructors have often devoted years, if not their life, to learning Tai Chi and have been specifically selected – often graded and/or certified – by their instructor/Master to teach).

Traditional or Non-Traditional: Which One to Choose?

The only way to answer this question is to ask yourself: why are you interested in learning Tai Chi?

If you are interested in finding a light, easy form of exercise that you can attend either regularly or semi-regularly, similar to a light aerobics or stretching class, where you can turn up and follow along with the instructor without the need to have a deeper understanding of what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, you would probably benefit from joining a non-traditional Tai Chi class or program.

If, however, you are wanting something deeper, something that requires you to learn, and practice, and think about, that can have far-reaching benefits for all aspects of your health – not just physical – that presents a constant challenge that enables you to continuously develop and grow over your lifespan, you would do well to seek out a traditional Tai Chi school or instructor.

For further guidance to finding a suitable Tai Chi instructor I recommend one of my previous articles: Six Tips Before You Start Tai Chi Class.

* examples include but are not limited to: Wong Kiew Kit, Dr Yang Jwing-Ming, Waysun Liao, and Yang Cheng-Fu. Discussion of this can be found in many of their own respective publications.


Tag: tai chi

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy is please to announce that its Founder/Head Instructor, Ray Gates, has successfully joined the USA Wushu-Kungfu Federation (USAWKF).

USAWKF is the official US representative to the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), currently composed of 146 member nations worldwide. Their mission is to organize the sport of wushu and extend its joy and benefits to the American people. They are primarily involved in developing and organizing regional and national competitions and events for Wushu and Kungfu styles, including Taijiquan, and maintain a national ranking system, for both adults and juniors. They also manage the US Wushu Team, which represents the US at international competitions.

“Having previously been a competitor at State and National levels in Australia, I can tell you that participating in competition is not only a great way to develop your Tai Chi skills, but an enjoyable way to explore the many different styles and teaching methods of Tai Chi, and meet lots of great people who share your passion and interest in Tai Chi,” said Founder/Head Instructor, Ray Gates. “It would be wonderful to see WTCA students representing themselves and our school at competition. And if wushu is eventually accepted as an Olympic sport, perhaps one day a WTCA student will represent the US Wushu Team at the Olympic level.”


Tag: tai chi

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy is pleased to announce the opening of a new class in Whitewater, WI.

Commencing April 22nd, 2023, WTCA will be offering classes at the Whitewater Seniors Center at Starin Park, Whitewater. While this is a new class to Whitewater, it represents a transfer of the Evansville class to this new location. The relocation of the Evansville class is seen to have a number of benefits, including the ability to offer Beginners weekly rather than bi-weekly classes as well as being more accessible to people living in this region of Wisconsin.

“There has been a lot of interest from the public in having Tai Chi available in Whitewater and surrounding areas, and that, coupled with the great facility we’ve been able to secure, has been the main influence in our decision to move our Evansville class to Whitewater,” said WTCA’s Founder and Head Instructor, Ray Gates.

Registrations for the next term of classes for all locations including Whitewater are now open and details can be found on our Classes page.


Tag: tai chi

I’ve been an Instructor of Tai Chi for a number of years now, and a student of Tai Chi much longer than that. Over that time my knowledge and understanding of what Tai Chi ‘is’ has changed and evolved from the first time I stepped into a class, and certainly from my idea of what it was before I took my first class. In hindsight, I can honestly say I had no idea what Tai Chi ‘is’, or what to expect from attempting to learn it. Today my only regret is that I didn’t start learning it many years before that first class!

Over more than 20 years involvement in Tai Chi I’ve seen a lot of students come and go. Of the ones that go, there is, in my observation, a lot of leave because the class they attend turns out to be something different than what they expected, or what they are looking for. Similarly, many people who I talk to about Tai Chi and encourage to take it on don’t because they’ve already formed an idea (bias might be a better word) of what it is and determined it’s not for them.

I’m known for saying, “if I had my way, everybody would do Tai Chi.” I say this as a Tai Chi Instructor, as a physical therapist, as a friend and colleague, as a parent, as a member of the community. In my personal and professional opinions – biased though they might be – Tai Chi (and Qigong) is one of the few things that can benefit everyone who does it.

So if you’re debating whether to try a Tai Chi class, or maybe you’ve just started or just about to start a class, I’d like to offer you six pieces of advice so that you can get the most from your introduction to Tai Chi.

Keep an Open Mind

Many people who begin Tai Chi usually do so with an idea of what it’s going to be like – and often, that idea is not at all what it turns out to be. I feel this is because our broader society has developed a preconceived idea – a stereotype, if you like – of what Tai Chi ‘is’. For example:

  • Tai Chi is just for “old people” (it is not, it’s for everybody and the younger you start the more benefit you’ll get);
  • Tai Chi is just slow movements/exercises (it is not; not only are there sets and styles where at least some movements are performed very quickly, Tai Chi requires attention and focus to understand not just the movements but the affect they have on the body, the mind and the spirit);
  • Tai Chi isn’t a real martial art (it is – taijiquan, the Grand Ultimate Fist – even if the martial aspect is not always emphasized, the martial art is still there);
  • Tai Chi isn’t really exercise (it is, and research is finding it’s just as, if not more, effective as other forms of low- to moderate-intensity exercises for building strength, balance, endurance and improving flexibility, reducing weight, benefiting mental and emotional states, etc.);

and the list goes on. The fact is: if you’ve never experienced Tai Chi for yourself, chances are you really don’t know what it’s about – and that’s a good thing! Even if you have undertaken some form of Tai Chi class, depending on the quality and experience of your Instructor, you may not have really been exposed to the essence of Tai Chi.

You must keep an open mind, and be willing to learn what Tai Chi is, and is all about. Forget the stereotypes. Understand that Tai Chi is as much about the experience as it is about performing the movements. In that respect, what Tai Chi ‘is’ becomes a very personal thing: you will come to realize that the question is not “what is Tai Chi?”, but rather, “what is Tai Chi to me?”. That way, you will get as much as you want to get from it – maybe even more.

It’s About Learning, Not Imitation

Starting a Tai Chi class is not like starting an exercise class. If you go to an aerobics class, or a spin class, or even some yoga classes, you are essentially just following along with the instructor or presenter. While there is an aspect of learning, especially if, for example, you need to follow a routine or perform an unfamiliar exercise, that learning often remains within the classroom. Few people would go home and practice what they did in class. Some might not even think about what they did once they walk out the door. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s more that these classes are structured in a way that you don’t need to learn the routines, because each time you come to class, you can just follow along with the the instructor says or does.

Tai Chi is different. Like any other skill set, getting the most out of Tai Chi means that you need to learn it; not just the what or the how but the when, where and why as well. This involves more than just practice (though as you’ll see below that’s important as well!) – it always requires some absorption and reflection of each lesson you take. If you only attend class and try to follow along with what the Instructor or the other students are doing, without giving the time and attention to learning for yourself what needs to be done, then ultimately you might be engaging in some useful exercise, perhaps even practicing some good Kung Fu, but you will not be performing Tai Chi.

Be Patient

One of my favorite sayings related to Tai Chi is: “How long does it take to learn Tai Chi? More than one lifetime.” Your initial reaction to this might be, “why bother then?”; hear me out.

Now more than ever, our society has instilled in us a sense, dare I say a need, for instant gratification. So many things can be offered and provided to us on demand, that it’s become an expectation that anything that we want or need we can have right now. This isn’t just about information: if we’re hungry, there’s drive thru, or microwavable meals, or snacks. If I want something, I go to a store and buy it, or better yet, order it online and have it delivered to me, sometimes within the same day. No money? Get it on credit. Want to lose weight? Don’t spend months or years on exercising – take this drug. While these things benefit us in many ways and can make our lives easier and more enjoyable, it also skews our expectations when it comes to things that take time and effort to gain.

As an Instructor I see it a lot. There are always people who join the class and are constantly wanting to move things along, to learn the next movement or next section or next form, even though they don’t know what I’ve already shown them! I call this the “I want Tai Chi now” mentality.

It doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately, there are people out there who take advantage of this mentality in society and promise to be able to teach you Tai Chi in weekend, or become an Instructor in two weeks. Again: it doesn’t work like that. Yet for some people, when they don’t get Tai Chi “now”, they get frustrated, and then discouraged, and then give up.

Learning Tai Chi is a process, and as your understanding of it deepens with experience, you will come to realize it’s an ongoing process. There is always something more to learn, something more to explore, something that can be improved upon or refined further. I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime and experience to have worked with a number of martial arts Masters who, after 40, or 50, or even 60 years of practicing their art still refer to themselves as “students”. As my Master often said, “when you think you’ve got it, go deeper.”

Understand this: you are not expected to understand everything, and perform your Tai Chi at a Master level, after your first class. Or even after your tenth, or hundredth, or thousandth class. It is not about “getting it right”. It’s about growing, developing, and improving over time. A good Instructor will understand this and demonstrate the patience needed to achieve this by allowing you to work at your own pace. You just need the patience to continue to want to strive for it. I often tell my students that every time I perform my Tai Chi, I learn something new, and my hope is I never stop learning.

Ask Questions

Were you one of those people at school that didn’t like to ask questions? Either because you thought you already knew it, or your classmates would laugh at you, or your were afraid of looking stupid, or for some other reason that probably seemed important at the time, but on reflection really wasn’t? I was, and it took time and effort for me to overcome that. However, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this article for you to read today.

The only way to learn something, to strengthen your understanding and become proficient at something, is to ask questions. This is more than just putting up your hand in class and asking a question, though that is important and something I definitely encourage. It’s about seeking out the information that you need in order for the thing your learning to become meaningful to you. This might mean putting up your hand, however it might also mean having a discussion with your Instructor and/or your other classmates, or reading a book or online article, or watching a video, or even just some self-reflection. It might also mean that instead of an answer you’re left with more questions – that’s great! It’s that kind of thinking that will lead you to more knowledge and a greater understanding.

If you want to learn Tai Chi, ask a lot of questions. As I often say to my students: the question you have is probably one that ten other students have, yet if none of you ask it, all of you miss out on the opportunity to learn.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

A previous Master of a different martial art style used to reflect on his Master’s response when he got something correct: “Good! Now, do it ten thousand times!”

If you want to learn and become good at anything, you must devote time to practicing it, and Tai Chi is no exception. Elite sports agencies – those involved in top-level professional sports or events such as the Olympics – have determined through research that to achieve an ‘elite’ or ‘master’ level in a sport, an athlete needs to train for at least 10,000 hours. To put that in perspective, if you practiced for one hour every single day, it would take about 27 years and 4 months to achieve ‘elite’ or ‘master’ status – and that’s before we even look at the quality of your practice. I can assure you that blazing fastball you see a pitcher deliver came about from thousands of hours and tens-of-thousands of pitches prior to that one. Similarly, that stunning ballet performance that looks so strong and graceful and effortless came from thousands and thousands of hours practicing different positions and learning new choreography.

I’m not saying you have to devote that much time to your Tai Chi, however it is important to understand that you do need to practice in at least some capacity in order to be able to learn it effectively.

In the first instance, you need to learn the movements, and the sequence they are performed in. A typical Tai Chi class will seek to teach you more and more of the sequence with each class. This means that with each successive class, you are expected to remember (at least for the most part) what the previous movement you learned was. Unless you have an exceptional talent for learning new skills, or an eidetic memory, you are going to need to practice what you’ve learned in order to be able to retain it and then build upon it from class to class.

Once you know the sequence well enough to perform it from start to finish, the real work of finding your Tai Chi begins. There is always refinement to be done, always things that can be improved. My Tai Chi today is different from the Tai Chi I was doing when I was competing years ago, which was far different from the Tai Chi I was doing when I first started. You can only achieve this growth through practice.

Enjoy

Though I put this last, in could also be the first thing to consider. Arguably the most important piece of advice I can give you to learn Tai Chi is: enjoy it. Take pleasure in learning something new, in performing your forms, in seeing how the Tai Chi affects your body, your mind, and your spirit over time. Enjoy the challenge that comes with learning Tai Chi. Make attending class the highlight (or at least one of them) of your day. When you can enjoy doing something it becomes less of a chore or a task and more something you want, even desire, to do. It becomes part of your life, part of who you are. Your Tai Chi should be a positive thing in your life, something that you look forward to, and feel great for having done it.

I look forward to seeing you in class!


Tag: tai chi

Category : News

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy is please to announce it will start hosting workshops in 2023.

It is anticipated that up to six workshops will be held in 2023, with the first two schedule for January 14. WTCA’s workshops will focus on specific aspects of Tai Chi/Taijiquan and Qigong practice, and are aimed at giving attendees a deeper understanding of the principles and practice of Tai Chi. Most workshops will be open for public attendance although some prerequisites may need to be met in order to attend.

The first workshops will focus on an initial examination of the Thirteen Postures and the martial applications of Tai Chi forms. While only these two workshops have been formally announced, future workshops will build on these initial ones, while others will examine other aspects related to Tai Chi theory and practice including qi and Qigong practice.

Further information can be found at WTCA’s workshop page under the ‘What We Offer’ menu or by clicking here.


Tag: tai chi

Let’s face it: being a student, especially at high school or tertiary level education, can be an extremely stressful time of life. Workloads, exams, and maintaining course requirements, in addition to the social and emotional pressures of being in a new environment and trying to maintain and enjoy a life both within and outside of school, places a tremendous amount of stress on a student, and maintains this stress for a significant amount of time. Long-term or chronic stress has been shown to have a detrimental affect on physical, mental and emotional health, and students who struggle to manage these stressors effectively often suffer from issues ranging from poor concentration and productivity, through sleep deprivation, weight gain, and poorer immune function, to more serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, and impaired social interactions. Managing these stressors and minimising their adverse affects are critical for a student to be successful not only in their studies but in their future life.

Tai Chi has been well researched as a means of promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety, and researchers have been examining whether Tai Chi could be specifically beneficial for high school and college students. Much of the research does suggest that Tai Chi can be beneficial in many ways, and at least one systematic review of these studies1. has demonstrated a high level of evidence supporting Tai Chi as a means of reducing stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as improved interpersonal sensitivity (such as coping skills) and flexibility. It also demonstrated significant moderate level evidence (termed “secondary benefits”) including decreased compulsive behaviour, somatization symptoms (focus on pain, weakness, shortness of breath, often linked with subsequent physical and mental disorders), hostility and symptoms of phobia. These benefits alone had the researchers calling for higher education institutions to consider including Tai Chi with their provided services as a means of promoting students’ physical and psychological well-being.

Other studies have focused on specific benefits, such as perceived stress, task attention, mood, sleep quality and self-esteem. For example, a study by Calwell and associates2. showed that increased mindfulness through the practice of Tai Chi accounted for changes in mood and perceived stress, which in turn improved sleep quality. A review of the literature will find numerous other studies supporting these benefits and others associated with health management, such as reduced blood pressure and improved immune function.

A summary of potential benefits Tai Chi can have for students is as follows:

  • improved mental acuity (eg: attention, focus, clarity of thought);
  • improved and more stable mood and interpersonal sensitivity;
  • improved general health and fitness;
  • better sleep quality;
  • decreased perceived stress;
  • decreased anxiety and depression.

With these benefits in mind, Tai Chi should be considered as an effective complimentary activity towards an overall successful study program. Students are one of many groups of people who can gain great benefits from practicing Tai Chi.

References

  1. Webster, et al. (2015). A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education. Preventive Medicine Reports 3: 103-112.
  2. Caldwell, et al. (2010). Developing Mindfulness in College Students Through Movement-Based Courses: Effects on Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy, Mood, Stress, and Sleep Quality. Journal of American College Health, 58(5): 433-422.

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy offers a number of Tai Chi classes and has a Corporate and Community Qigong program to help more people access and enjoy the benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong.


Tag: tai chi

Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy strives to make Tai Chi and Qigong accessible to as many people as possible. While we always try to keep our fees as low as possible, in the current economic climate it can still be challenging for people to afford engaging in activities which are additional to their regular monthly expenses. To try and ease financial burden on people and continue to make Tai Chi affordable, WTCA is now able to take installment payments using Afterpay.

Afterpay offers the ability to split payments into 4 installments to make payments easier to manage. Payments are made via our secure Square site and details are provided upon request.

Afterpay may include its own fees or charges separate from your payment for using this service, and anyone using this service are advised to be sure they understand all the terms and conditions of Afterpay’s service prior to establishing a payment agreement with them.

Currently use of Afterpay is for class term fees, however WTCA plans to extend this to other services in due course. Information about our classes can be found here.


Want to know what Tai Chi is like? Come to one of our Come N Try Tai Chi events! We have events scheduled in Brookfield, Cedarburg and Glendale!

Can’t make it to any of our current locations? Let us know where you would like to see us start a new class.

Are you a community group or business that would like to offer Qigong to your members/community/employees? Check out our Corporate and Community Qigong program.


Tag: tai chi

The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts has hosted a space for Wisconsin Tai Chi Academy to hold Tai Chi classes since 2020. This was our first official class in the Greater Milwaukee area, and we now hold Beginner and Intermediate classes at their facility.

WTCA is helping Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts celebrate their 20 years of making the arts accessible to the Greater Milwaukee community by holding two Come N Try Tai Chi for Free sessions during their Summer celebrations. These sessions will be held on Saturday mornings on June 25 and July 2 at from 8am. Following these sessions, attendees can continue the celebration with coffee and live music from 9am.

More information about the Come N Try Tai Chi sessions and our upcoming new Term of Tai Chi classes can be found on our website.


Want to know what Tai Chi is like? Come to one of our Come N Try Tai Chi events! We have events scheduled in Brookfield, Cedarburg and Glendale!

Can’t make it to any of our current locations? Let us know where you would like to see us start a new class.

Are you a community group or business that would like to offer Qigong to your members/community/employees? Check out our Corporate and Community Qigong program.