Newbie to Tai Chi looking for some advice

Discussion in 'Beginners Corner' started by snapping_turtle, Jan 9, 2018.

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  1. snapping_turtle

    snapping_turtle White Belt

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    Not sure whether to post this in beginner's section or the Chinese MA section, so I hope it is okay here.

    I took a Tai Chi class when I was in university, and have wanted to get back into it ever since. I was particularly intrigued with the teaching style of my second teacher. He would tell us about the different applications of each motion (blocking, striking, etc). It was fascinating. He also taught Kung Fu; I don't know if that had anything to do with it. He also made sure that we got the basics of each move reasonably well before we advanced to the next move, which meant that we were advancing through the moves relatively slowly. I believe he was teaching Yang-style.

    I am now in a position where I work evenings, live in a rural area and cannot drive. The only place I can get to is a Taoist Tai Chi group, but this seems very different from the Tai Chi I took before. They talk only of health benefits and repeatedly state that they will not discuss any martial applications. We rushed through the entire 108 moves in 3 months, and all of the beginners still have a lot of parts where we are totally lost. Even people who have been doing it for years seems to rely heavily on the corners and can't remember a whole set on their own. The people are nice and the teacher seems to know his stuff (as much as I can judge as a beginner), but he is also suffering back problems and often does not even lead the class in a full set. I went to an intensive and got a weird culty vibe that made me uncomfortable, and which I did not notice in my regular group. It also doesn't seem to be quite Yang-style, but something else?

    So in short, I would like to learn Tai Chi, but the only class that I have access to is not offering the things that attracted me in the first place (martial applications, emphasis on quality and mastery). I am not sure what to do. Should I stick with the mediocre (to me) learning that I am getting because it is not possible to learn without a teacher? Could I learn from books and videos, and maybe use the money I saved on classes to go to workshops outside of my local area? What would you do in my situation?
     
  2. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    What area of the country are you in?

    As for the Taoist Tai Chi group, is that the Taoist Tai Chi Society? If it is the Taoist Tai Chi society I highly recommend not going there. They will never teach you applications and they really do not know taijiquan IMHO

    It is hard to find teachers that are willing to teach the applications, and it is also hard to find teachers that know the applications and it is harder still to find a teacher that knows how the applications are supposed to work and be taijiquan

    There are those teaching Taoist Taiji that will teach applications, but many of those either come from Wudang or come from someone extensively trained at Wudang. There is also another branch of Taoist Taiji that is not exactly Taoist and I have only meant one who knew it and knew the applications of it and he was in Canada.

    Yang Taijiquan is also hard to find someone who knows applications these days as well. Most that do either come from Fu Zhongwen or Tung Ying Chieh lineages.

    Chen Taiji you can find more possibilities for someone teaching applications. Wu Taijiquan form Eddie Wu also deal in applications and if you ever find a Zhaobao guy, and tha tis rare outside of China, he WILL teach applications.

    But your teacher was correct, you need to get the basic move down before you advance.
     
  3. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Welcome to Martialtalk, SnappingTurtle. :)
     
  4. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Welcome to the world of Tai Chi. There are two types of Tai Chi Practitioners.
    1. Martial Artists
    2. Non Martial Artists.

    The non Martial Artists Tai Chi practitioners take all of the "Martial Arts" out of the forms so it just ends up being a bunch of movements without purpose other than exercise. The problem with many of the groups like this is that a lot of injuries and ineffective training occurs. When movement has no purpose then it usually results in injuries and always results in fewer benefits.

    The martial Artists are different because the moves have purpose. When we give purpose to movement, we structure ourselves better. For example, carelessly lift a 30 pound box without purpose of movement other than to pick up a box. This may result in a back injury. Now lift the same box with purpose of movement, such as movement must provide good structure so as not to injure oneself, and the movement should allow you to maximize your efforts so that you do not struggle to lift the box. The guy who carelessly lifts has no purpose for how he moves to lift the box. The person who has purpose for how he lifts the box would be the martial artist. Tai Chi is sort of like that. You have people who just move and people who move with purpose.

    The ironic part is that if everyone just train Tai Chi as a functional martial, then they would maximize the health benefits that they claim to "focus on."


    Avoid places like this all together.

    This would be very difficult to do. For Yang Taijiquan (internal martial arts in general) you'll need to have an instructor that can actually see what you are doing, so he or she can repeat to you 1000 times that you need to relax and not be tense.
     
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  5. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    For those "Taiji for health" groups, the truth is not they don't have chance to learn the application. They just don't want to learn the application.

    One of my friends told a Taiji group in California that I was willing to teach them all the Yang Taiji long form 108 moves application for free. None of their members was interested in my offer even it was 100% free.
     
  6. snapping_turtle

    snapping_turtle White Belt

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    I am in Eastern Ontario, near Ottawa. Unfortunately, I am far enough out that cannot make it into the parts of Ottawa that have Tai Chi classes (unless there just happened to be someone local who went and it just happened to be when I wasn't working).

    Yes, it is the Taoist Tai Chi Society. I have gathered that they will never teach applications as they have said as much repeatedly, but is there another reason to avoid them?

    Thanks!

    That makes a lot of sense. This group treats it more as a moving meditation, so non-martial artist practitioners. I mean, I know that that is part of it, but the moves have a purpose (even if you're not using them for offense/defence) and I would like to learn them (and push hands, eventually, would be great).

    Yeah, I'm not going back for any of the intensives. I didn't like the atmosphere. Is this common in the Taoist group? Or other Tai Chi groups, for that matter?

    That is very disappointing. To get into where there are established groups (or to a bus/train station) would cost me probably about $50, which I could swing for a weekend intensive session (assuming these exist) every so often, but not once or twice a week.

    I am still unsure what to do. My membership in the Taoist group is coming up for renewal and the message I'm getting here is that that group will not help me grow in Tai Chi, but that a regular teacher is also a must, and that is the only place I can get one. It sounds like Tai Chi might not be an option for me after all. :(
     
  7. snapping_turtle

    snapping_turtle White Belt

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    I don't think the other people I interacted with would care about them either. Even with my first teacher so long ago, the other members of the class couldn't care less. The Taoist group, though, specifically states that they will not teach any applications, so at least they are up front.
     
  8. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Taiji was my 1st MA style. I learned Taiji when I was 7. Unfortunately My 1st Taiji teacher was a "Taiji for health" guy. When I was 8, one day I got into a fight. I didn't know how to use the Taiji he taught me. I lost confidence in him. Later on I learn Taiji from another lady. She was also a "Taiji for health" person. The 3rd time that I learn Taiji, my teacher was a "Taiji for combat" guy. I stayed with him until he passed away.

    This is my 3rd Taiji teacher.

     
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  9. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    There may be a student of "Chen Zhonghua" (Chen Taiji Practical Method and Hunyuan Taiji) in your area and from what I see on a map of your area there are 2 taijiquan school on either side of the Taoist Taiji society called Tai Chi Ottawa which appears to be traditional Yang style

    As for the Taoist Taiji society. Their claims to lineage are highly questionable, what they teach is rather wrong and although they are not a cult, they sound close IMO
     
  10. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    I agree some people don't want to learn. Some people think that they can take apart the whole and only capture the "essence" of what makes Tai Chi a health benefit. What they fail to realize is that it's the whole that gives the full benefits, not the part.

    This goes back to the muscle weight lifting training where it used to be that people would try to isolate muscles to make a person strong. Then they learned the hard way that it's better to work groups of the muscles and to train the body as a whole vs isolation. Tai Chi is going through this same issue.

    Me telling someone how to do an application is not the same as learning how use the application. For example, Saying extend the arm with the edge of the palm facing outward does not generate the same movement as:
    "Extend your arm outwards towards and imaginary person as if you are trying to hit his/her face with the edge of your palm." Now the movement has structure and it requires more than just an outstretched arm to hit someone in the face (even though it's just a visualization). It doesn't mean that the person is going to use the application but now they understand the movement better and how they should be moving.

    I don't know how it is in other countries, but in the U.S. many Americans want to take bits and pieces of stuff that they think are the health elements of an activity, and assume that they are getting more of a health benefit simply because they think they are specifically training the "health part" of a martial arts. Some people say that they don't want to do the hard conditioning exercises and that they only want to just do the form, but they fail to understand the conditioning exercise are part of the healthy aspects of the martial arts. Some people say that they don't want to learn the application, they only want to do the form. But learning the application gives a better understanding of what the movement is and how the body should move. One day it will change.
     
  11. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Are there any kung fu schools near you that also teach Tai Chi. If there are then I would check those places. Just call up a Kung Fu school and ask if they teach Tai Chi. Sometimes the school may not advertise it as an separate class but they may do it as part of their training.

    My kung fu forms take on a similar movement of looking functional vs looking pretty. I probably have really ugly Jow Ga Kung Fu forms and I don't think they will ever be beautiful because the movement to make them look "pretty" is not the same movement that is used for "combat function" Whenever I look at old martial arts form footage of masters doing their forms, their movement doesn't look "pretty" in comparison to those who do form competition now. Many of those who do from competitions and have that smooth look that looks cool and awesome always look better than what I see in the old film footage. I always have to remind myself that it's not that one is better than the other, and that the way the form looks highlights the purpose of the movement. Those who have cool looking forms are not moving for the purpose of having function. They are moving for the purpose of showcasing the form and showing a "cleaner" look to function.
     
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  12. KabutoKouji

    KabutoKouji Green Belt

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    I'm a bit biased here but I would say that YMAA in my experience have a very high emphasis on the martial applications of Yang Long TaiJiJuan Form. As far as people practicing the form for 'health', I still think that is without a doubt beneficial healthwise, so is still a 'good thing', however I don't think the movements can be done correctly without knowing and feeling the intent, and in addendum to that I believe the health benefits are higher when the intent and martial applications are there. I often wonder how the kicks and in particular the kick to 270 degree spin bit are done in 'health' type classes as they genuinely are quite athletically difficult, as is a low Snake Creeps Down, Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain etc.

    I genuinely love TaiJiJuan, even though I utterly suck at Pushing Hands. I would not be able to practice Long Fist and White Crane (or any martial art) tbh without it, as everytime I tried in the last 10 years my back and/or hips gave in, but doing TaiJiJuan and Primary Set, and Coiling Set and Embrace Moon To Chest have completely fixed these issues for the most part.

    Thinking about it I would also say that even the standing Qigong is in itself a preparation for the movements in the form, and rocking and TaiJi Ball practice definitely are.
     
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  13. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    Are you a student of YMAA?
     
  14. KabutoKouji

    KabutoKouji Green Belt

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    I am yes, I originally practiced ITF Tae Kwon Do, that was a long time ago though.
     
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  15. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    I did some training in push hands at YMAA, many years ago, when Dr Yang was still in Boston and I trained some Xingyi there when his son Nicholas was running the place. And a couple of years ago I went and relearned the Chen 19 in Roslindale.

    Dr Yang approach to push hands is a bit different that what I learned in the Tung Yong Chieh lineage I'm in, but I did like the way Dr Yang broke it down
     
  16. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    How much have you learned from Dr. Yang in the following list?

    1. Lien Bu Chuan,
    2. Kung Li Chuan,
    3. 10 roads Tan Tui.
    4. 1st road Maifu.
    5. 2nd road Maifu.
    6. Pu An 2 men form.
    7. Little 5 hands 2 men form.
    8. Si Zi Tan.
    9. 3rd road Pao Chuan.
    10. 4th road Ben Da.
    11. Shao Hu Yen.
    12. 4th road Cha chuan.
    13. Tai Zu long fist.
    14. Kun Wu staff.
    15. 7 star knife.
    16. Bagua kinfe.
    17. San Cai sword.
    18. Kun Wu sword.
    19. Single edge knife vs. spear.
    20. Guan Dao vs. spear.
    21. ...
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I am trying to understand why this is relevant?
     
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  18. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Most long fist teachers won't teach their students Taiji until after their students have 3 years of long fist training. By using that list, it's easy to tell how many years one has invested in the long fist training. Just wonder whether Dr Yang still followed that old rule or not.

    IMO, to train long fist before Taiji is a very good idea. You already know all the stances used in Taiji such as horse stance, 4-6 stance, bow-arrow stance, empty stance, 7 star stance, golden rooster stance, striking tiger stance, twisting stance, ... You also are good in weight shifting from one stance to another.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  19. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng Sr. Grandmaster

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    No, no he didn't back in his Boston days. You could study Long Fist, or Qinna, Or Taijiquan, or White Crane. They were classes and/or seminars offered that you signed up for.

    What he does in California these days could be, and appear to be, very different.

    As for Long Fist before Taiji, I can see it could help, but my Taijiquan Shifu would likely not agree and he has been at taiji and only taiji for well over 50 years
     
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  20. KabutoKouji

    KabutoKouji Green Belt

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    As I am only 'Blue Shirt' (which is a grading system we have here in Ireland which divides up the international 'stripes' into chunks) (Blue Shirt = roughly 2/3rds of first stripe), there is a lot on your list I have not trained in yet. I have graded in the first part of Lien Bu Quan (up until the first low mabu twin forearm block looking part). Fundamental Stances in Longfist and White Crane. Tan Tui Number 1, 2 and 3. Fighting Forms 1 - 5. I have started training in White Crane Staff, but am at the moment only really learning the switches etc. and hand positions.

    I have not learned these from Master Yang himself, and in recent years he has not been coming over to Europe at all once the Retreat Centre was setup really.

    Our TaiJiJuan class is a seperate class, though occasionally in our Kung Fu classes elements may be brought in. For example ending the class with the first part of the Yang Long Form or practicing the Coiling Set and/or main Standing Set.

    In TaiJiJuan I can 'do' all of the first part of the form (this is not in anyway implying I'm good at it), and know most of the second part, and can 'follow along' during the third section for the most part. We practice Pushing Hands a lot, and also in 'rocking' stance style on bricks etc. We also practice the Coiling Set, Standard Set, Embrace Moon To Chest and the Bubbling Wells/4 Gates Breathing positions.
     

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