Taoist Tai Chi?

mskeys

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I live on Big Pine in the Florida Keys, and suffer from multiple health issues. Tai chi is about the only form of physical exercise I am able to do. Several years ago I studied the Tai Chi for Arthritis form (one of Dr. Paul Lam's) with someone here on Big Pine, but she has left the area. I practiced for a while on my own, but lapsed. I have recently picked it back up but it is really hard working in isolation.

I was excited to see a flyer in my local health food store advertising that Tai Chi is coming to Big Pine. But now I find it is the Taoist Tai Chi Society, and I have read very mixed things about the forms they teach, including on this forum. And I watched a video of one of Moy Lin-Shin's high-level disciples and was kind of taken aback at the movements. They lean forward all the time! I thought Tai Chi was supposed to be done in as upright a manner as possible.

Anyone have any experience with the Taoist Tai Chi forms? The classes are starting up in the fall. I am at this point not sure whether to go. I know that Tai Chi for Arthritis is a modified style (based on Yang), but the movements conform as far as I know to recognized tai chi principals. I know nothing about the Taoist Tai Chi forms.
 
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mskeys

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No, I think actually Tai Chi for Arthritis and other forms by Paul Lam are based on Sun style. Just to clarify.
 

Xue Sheng

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I have no direct experience with the Taoist Tai Chi Society but I would not go there. IMO it is not Taiji nor is it truly Taoist.

If East Winds sees this post he has experience with them and from what I can gather not good experience.

Do an advanced search on MT for “Taoist Tai Chi Society” posts by “East Winds”

I did a web search and I see there is Yoga on Big Pine but no Tai Chi. However I did see Tai Chi on Key Largo and Key West
http://www.bodymindspiritdirectory.org/FL-Keys.html

However this does not mean there is none there. A lot of the older Chinese Taijiquan teachers don't advertise and are hard to find so you may need to look long and hard to find one.

 

mograph

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Here we go.

I practiced the Moy exercise for about nine years and stopped last year. Rest assured, it is not Tai Chi. It is a gentle, stretching calisthenic meant to prepare stressed-out stiff westerners for traditional Tai Chi. (whether it does so is another story) The original intention, as I was told, was to teach this exercise to the students then move them into Tai Chi when they were ready. This was told to me by a good friend who spent four years under Moy, then quit due to the "cult-like atmosphere". By the way, my friend speaks Cantonese, so his report has some credibility in terms of interpreting Moy. I trust my friend, at least.

However, for whatever reason, the vast majority of its practitioners and teachers never progressed past this "gentle calisthenic" stage, and as a result, the exercise never morphed into real Tai Chi. Maybe it was too difficult to teach real Tai Chi, or the temptation to spring up new locations (fundraising!) was too great. However, in my opinion, the students and teachers eventually wanted to believe that it was Tai Chi, so they created a mythology around it, even promoting the idea that it was better for your health than "martial" Tai Chi.

In beginner class, they teach you a variant of the Yang long form: 108 moves in three months with one more for review sometimes. Strap yourself in and hold on. Unless things have completely changed, none of Yang Cheng-fu's ten essences are taught or mentioned, qi is never discussed, nor is intention ever considered. It is all about positioning: feet at 0/45/90 degrees, square the hips, don't instep, straight line between heel and head, and so on. And of course, fundraising is a big part of the TTCS -- check out their massive temple.

If you're interested in real Tai Chi, I'd avoid them.
 
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mskeys

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Mograph, I thank you very much for your reply. You have given me very useful information.

I suppose if I just want a stretching class, TTC might serve. But you have confirmed my suspicions that they are not teaching tai chi.
 

mograph

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If you do take a class, here are my recommendations:

- Keep the ten essences of Tai Chi in mind as you practice. Eventually, the instructor will stop "correcting" you and leave you be.
- Relax and sink your qi, using your structure to hold you up (sink into your structure). Avoid the temptation to let your qi float up due to the focus on hand & arm positioning -- you'd feel kind of uncertain and nervous. Sink the elbows and shoulders.
- Their bow stance places the feet too close to the body's centerline, leading to instability. Place your feet where they feel most stable to you.
- Only stretch forward if the instructor is persistent. When he/she goes away, go back to a relaxed upright body, gently held up from the head. Check the essences.
- Practice your own way, at your own pace whenever you can.
- Be careful when stretching. Make sure you are relaxed and balanced, otherwise (say, if they ask you to lean) you may stress certain parts of your body, such as your lower back. And make sure you know what part you're stretching, and stop if it tenses something else up. Stretching should be slow and relaxed ... you should keep breathing, relax, and sink into the stretch.
- When they do the warmup exercise where the hands spread out left and right, try it with elbows down, palms turned out at the end. You won't be able to lock your elbows (or go all the way out), but you shouldn't lock them. You shouldn't lock anything. Anyway, you'd get a better stretch with elbows down -- from pectoralis minor out to the fingers. Relax and adjust until you feel the stretch. Keep your thumb in a normal open position, not bent in towards the palm.
- I have a theory about their bow stance: the students were told to line up the heel and head because they couldn't straighten the back knee and stay upright ... because their hip flexors were too tight. In time, if you practice on your own, you should be able to stretch your hip flexors so you can straighten (not lock!) the back leg and stay upright.

You might get a reputation as an oddball. :) To be fair, most of the grass-roots folks are quite nice. Just watch out for the True Believers -- you can spot them by the number of times they mention Master Moy. And don't agree to teach no matter how tempting it may be. You'd really have to toe the TTCS line, then.
 

mograph

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Looks great, Xue Sheng. Very stable, centered.

Regarding my earlier post, I'm not advocating straightening of the back leg per se, as that differs between styles. In time, you may need to express force through that leg, and the degree of straightness should be up to you and your style. As long as it's not locked.
 

East Winds

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mskeys,

Yes, mograph has it right on the money. If you decide to go (and there really is no other alternative) then look out for the zealots. Doing some of the stretches they advocate can seriously damage your spine (and your pocket!!!!). It is not Taijiquan they are teaching and some "instructors" are accredited within 18 months of starting!!!! Hope you find some other suitable alternative and if there is a Yoga class available, go for that instead.

Very best wishes
 
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mskeys

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East Winds, there really is no other alternative, but I am now convinced that it would be a mistake for me to go. The more I know about it, the less I like it.

The idea of someone being able to teach tai chi to others in 18 months is horrifying to me and I can't put my faith in any organization that would condone it. As a yoga student, even with my years of practice, I would never have presumed to call myself a teacher in any way.

It is frustrating. I wish I could do yoga. Before the onset of my present conditions, I did do yoga quite seriously, under the guidance of an excellent teacher. But that was in NY, and before I developed physical issues that make that unsuitable.

Tai Chi, done gently and with some adaptation for my particular needs, is really the ideal exercise for me. If only I could find a teacher!

It is very difficult to make progress beyond doing a pretty dance without someone actually watching you and correcting you. I have learned the forms my former teacher taught me, but I know it is no more than a pretty dance and I don't know how to go any further.

But I do thank both of you, mograph and East Winds, for sharing so generously your experience and advice.
 

mograph

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Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the swift promotions to instructor. East Winds, in some cases, I've seen that 18 months has been too long for the TTCS to wait!

Hmm ... mskeys, is there a small Chinese community down there? Maybe you could sniff around ...?
 

Xue Sheng

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Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the swift promotions to instructor. East Winds, in some cases, I've seen that 18 months has been too long for the TTCS to wait!

Hmm ... mskeys, is there a small Chinese community down there? Maybe you could sniff around ...?

Exactly

Like I posted...A lot of the older Chinese Taijiquan teachers don't advertise and are hard to find so you may need to look long and hard to find one.
 

mograph

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Yes ... but no matter how small the community in the US, it usually has two things: a bar and a Chinese restaurant.

True? ;)
 

Wing Woo Gar

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If you do take a class, here are my recommendations:

- Keep the ten essences of Tai Chi in mind as you practice. Eventually, the instructor will stop "correcting" you and leave you be.
- Relax and sink your qi, using your structure to hold you up (sink into your structure). Avoid the temptation to let your qi float up due to the focus on hand & arm positioning -- you'd feel kind of uncertain and nervous. Sink the elbows and shoulders.
- Their bow stance places the feet too close to the body's centerline, leading to instability. Place your feet where they feel most stable to you.
- Only stretch forward if the instructor is persistent. When he/she goes away, go back to a relaxed upright body, gently held up from the head. Check the essences.
- Practice your own way, at your own pace whenever you can.
- Be careful when stretching. Make sure you are relaxed and balanced, otherwise (say, if they ask you to lean) you may stress certain parts of your body, such as your lower back. And make sure you know what part you're stretching, and stop if it tenses something else up. Stretching should be slow and relaxed ... you should keep breathing, relax, and sink into the stretch.
- When they do the warmup exercise where the hands spread out left and right, try it with elbows down, palms turned out at the end. You won't be able to lock your elbows (or go all the way out), but you shouldn't lock them. You shouldn't lock anything. Anyway, you'd get a better stretch with elbows down -- from pectoralis minor out to the fingers. Relax and adjust until you feel the stretch. Keep your thumb in a normal open position, not bent in towards the palm.
- I have a theory about their bow stance: the students were told to line up the heel and head because they couldn't straighten the back knee and stay upright ... because their hip flexors were too tight. In time, if you practice on your own, you should be able to stretch your hip flexors so you can straighten (not lock!) the back leg and stay upright.

You might get a reputation as an oddball. :) To be fair, most of the grass-roots folks are quite nice. Just watch out for the True Believers -- you can spot them by the number of times they mention Master Moy. And don't agree to teach no matter how tempting it may be. You'd really have to toe the TTCS line, then.
Very nice post!
 

mograph

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It's been 11 years since I wrote that post, so they (TTCS/FLK) might have changed the form. At any rate, I'd advise the student to take all of it with a grain of salt, and follow Yang Cheng-Fu's ten essences.
 

Oily Dragon

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#10 is a doozy. Any time I am stuck trying to get a superior position, that's the one in my head.

That, and 甈脫蝮, the 16th Stratagem.
 
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