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Also spelt Tai Ji Quan, and loosely means ‘Grand Ultimate Boxing’ from approximate translations of ‘Tai’ – Great, ‘Chi’ – Ultimate, and Chuan – ‘Fist’. Tai Chi originally proved its worth on battlefields, street fights and organised fighting bouts and challenges, which were an active part of Chinese martial culture. To a lesser extent they are still part of this heritage to this day.

Tai Chi gained huge popularity in the 1930’s when first taught publicly in China, this was the start of its emphasis from health building rather than fighting. It made its way to the West in the 1960s where it gained mass appeal along with Yoga and other exotic imports. This was a time of looking towards esoteric eastern solutions to perceived and existing faults in society at a time of great social change. For some it was just another fad, for others it took them on incredible journeys of self discovery fro many decades after.

Whilst still in essence a martial art, a milder version of Tai Chi is thus today often used purely as an effective antidote to modern stress related disorders, hectic lifestyles, health problems, and recuperation from illness. The genius of its creators in its potential for healing the mind and body is now being established and recommended even by the western medical community. Tai Chi as a useful life tool for many at a time of unprecedented change in our world, and social upheaval on massive scale, can not be under estimated.

Easily recognizable by its usually slow, beautifully choreographed movements (the ‘Forms’ of Ta Chi) are usually first encountered by westerners through the media or seeing the Chinese communities in parks across the world practicing early in the morning.

This encompasses only a small part of the available Tai Chi curriculum. These ‘Forms’, a series of movements performed in a pre-set sequence, are also performed at fast or dynamic speeds depending on the style and/or the level of proficiency.

There are also beautiful Forms with traditional Chinese weapons including the sword, sabre and spear and varying length sticks. John teaches these, plus Forms he has created, including double sword and sabre and Wind and Fire Wheels {Feng Huo Lun}. What ‘powers’ these movements regardless of speed, empty handed or not, is a relaxed abundant vitality and degree of physical control and biological self knowledge that isn’t apparent to the untrained eye, or known or even suspected in the untrained.

USA07TAIJI NEIGONG WF P12 MIST TXToday with the present emphasis often being health cultivation, many people leave off the word ‘Chuan’ {Boxing} and teach or practice ‘Tai Chi ‘ without Martial or Taoist methodology, knowledge or content. Its not necessary to know these parts for the average practitioner, but many seasoned exponents often develop an interest where originally there was none.

Having learnt these additional traditional parts of its curriculum over many years, and his original interest when he started training as an adolescent, John prefers to teach the Martial and Taoist aspects when and where possible or suitable. Though not compulsory for gaining Tai Chi’s great health benefits, learning the Martial and/or Taoist perspective has far reaching implications in terms of developing individual confidence, assertion, discipline, relaxation under pressure, and insight. Self defense against the ravages of modern stress is the most self defense the majority of individuals will ever need any way.

Tai Chi is often described as a form of moving meditation. By focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form, a state of mental calm and clarity can be achieved. Tai Chi Chuan (both the health and ‘Self Defense’ aspects) incorporates the premise of ‘relaxation response’ to stress as its mindset rather than raging hormonally like an animal. Basic to advance physical and ‘energetic’ or ‘Chi’ {meaning vitality or life force, also spelt ‘Qi’} based techniques and approaches to stress and disease are explored, as within modern self-defense scenarios.

Tai Chi Classes-what to expect:

TAI CHI WYE 05 TXClasses are taught from basic through to advanced and “energetic” Tai Chi Chuan. Initial classes focus on repetition of a given movement or series of movements, and include basic alignment of body structures while moving or stationary. This is especially important for students with knee and back problems. Principles of Tai Chi movement and methodology are taught i.e. the physical techniques of using leverage and whole body movement based on co-ordination in relaxation, rather than muscular tension and isolation, with Tai Chi practice evolving systematically with the students understanding.

John utilises his training in Yang, Chen and Wu styles to give a broad introduction to this vast discipline and its possibilities. He teaches both traditional ‘Long’ {forms with 108 postures} and modern ‘Short’ Forms {forms with only 5, 24, 37 postures}. There are no ‘instants’ or ‘magical’ abilities promised, just approaches that could make a difference in real daily life. please see ‘Students Testimonials’ section for experiences regarding health and tai chi practice}

Once basic understanding and proficiency is mastered the the martial heritage of Tai Chi can really foster personal development. John introduces safe aspects of this aspect from the very start with beginners to give them some insight into why movements are as they are and where they came from. These parts of the classes are fun and get people to interact in mutual co-operation, they are not about violent posturing or aggressive behaviour. {please see ‘Students Testimonials’’ section} Intermediate and above students learn the more interesting ‘Chi’ {also spelt Qi’ meaning ‘vital force/energy’} based methods of Tai Chi.

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Women’s Self Defence

For women’s’ self defence, John focuses more on techniques that are not dependant on stature or force, but footwork positioning and whole body movement. As all classes a mixed there are always ways to show how techniques can work against larger and stronger person. He draws from teaching New and Old (more martial) Yang, Chen, and Wu styles, No previous experience in martial Arts is necessary. Please wear loose clothing to allow full range of movement.

Grading

Students are welcome to choose whether or not to train to be graded. While it is not compulsory in any manner, those wishing to train to be instructors or class assistants are required to be formally or informally graded to maintain a high quality of ongoing tuition. There are no belts or sashes, but certificates are awarded to those who wish to take formal grading.

Tai Chi Chuan Five Modes of Practice

The Tai Chi taught by John falls under five categories, or ‘five modes’ of practice. For greater clarity on these aspects please see Bruce Frantzis website and publications. John’s preference in practice is now on the Health and Meditational aspects, where as he entered into Tai Chi training in the 1980’s purely for its excellence and reputation as a practical martial art. He includes Martial aspects in his classes to highlight the aspects of health, meditation and self defence.

An expert may move through or emphasise one or all aspects in a cyclic manner either over years, a month, week or even one practice session. The five modes are like inter linked layers, rather than completely isolated facets. They provide the tools to access the desired or needed attributes. It all depends on an individuals preference. These also relate to the Five Element theory.

1. Health Tai Chi

Tai Chi practiced purely to gain all round good health and rejuvenation. Suitable for anyone regardless of age or need. Characterised by smooth and slow flowing movements, with large or medium circular movements of the arms, and large, medium or small steppings distances with the feet. Only requires regular daily practice with little need to learn complicated internal aspects. Relaxation of all physical tension and complete fluidity of movement is the prime method. Deeper aspects are available if aptitude arises for instance Chi awareness, but are not compulsory.

2. Medical Tai Chi

Tai Chi practiced for particular conditions, or general convalescence, infirmity etc. Characterised usually by smooth and slow movements of various sizes, but could include vigourous movements. Greater emphasis on following the Chinese Acupuncture model of well-being and contacting ones Chi. This type of Tai Chi specialising in prevention, alleviation and sometimes cure of particular disease states is used like chi kung in Chinese Hospitals and Clinics for a range of health disorders. Requires more effort physically and energetically, and greater practice time is required. In China its not unheard of practice including Chi Kung to exceed 6-8 hours per day to exact the alleviation of extreme disease states. This level of commitment is virtually unheard of in the west and is not wise unless supervised.

3. Martial Tai Chi

Tai Chi practiced purely for maintaining and improving martial power and abilities. These can also make one very healthy if practised correctly, very unhealthy both mentally and physically if not. Emphasis is on energy understanding, creation, direction, and maximising potential of ‘intelligent’ power. Requires a lot of practice time, a mind set many find too intense, difficult and arduous physical training, and very particular and precise in depth training. The method was so severe two members of the Yang Family tried to run away in their youth, one attempting suicide, to escape the rigours of daily training. Most if not all Martial Tai Chi nowadays is a some what watered down version of the original Arts martial training.

4. Spiritual/Meditational Tai Chi

The traditional practises that exist in Buddhist and Daoist and practices incorporated and looked for in Tai Chi. In Tai Chi mostly it is Taoist even though its origins are Buddhist Martial Arts. Some of these practises survived the Cultural Revolution in China and its destruction of the ‘old’, many didn’t. A similar thing happened to the Shaolin Kung Fu Tradition which is now without its traditional Buddhist training. The Wu style of Tai Chi has meditation in its training, Yang style traditionally not. Practices here are similar to those also taught by John in his Yoga, Meditation, and Chi Kung classes {please see separate section}.

5. Scholarly Tai Chi

Methods similar to those historically used in ancient China for people who had for instance to undergo the extreme conditions of the imperial examination system. These harsh conditions included been isolated in an exam booth not much bigger than the individual, for weeks on end until the exam was completed. In these streets of booths, one would eat, sleep and use the toilet with a servant to take care of your needs. Modern offices may in hind sight not be as bad! This kind of Tai Chi has similar practises and aims to medical and health Qigong. Very relevant to modern computer and office workers, their strained nervous systems and misaligned bodies while sitting.

Tai Chi Forms presently offered by John

John presently only Teaches Yang and Wu styles of Tai Chi Chuan. He does not teach Chen Style unless by request and if the student has a strong foundation in Tai Chi {any style} and an aptitude for the demands of Chen training.

Definitions: Suitability of Tai Chi Forms is defined in the following two ways.

1. All Ages & Abilities (AAA)

Generally practise for healthy 16-80 years, dependent on experience or aptitude. Younger or older participants are welcome after evaluation.

2. Age/Health Fitness Restrictions (AHR)

Material of these sets or at these levels may be unsuitable for some individuals. Dependent on experience, aptitude and abilities of particular individuals

Tai Chi Hand Forms

1. Yang Style Tai Chi Chi Kung Form (AAA)

Five movements in Eight Directions. As taught by Master Mantak Chia.

2. Yang Style Tai Chi Short Form (AAA)

24 movements in a basic linear direction. Also known as Simplified Tai Chi, the 24, or Peking Style. John learnt this from the late Ken Homan who studied this in China.

*There is a DVD title available on Yang Style Tai Chi Short Form by John, available from the Vital Arts Shop

3. New Yang Style Tai Chi Long Form (AAA / AHR)

Yang Family Form modified by Yang Cheng Fu in the 1930’s. 108 Postures. John learnt this from three teachers. Firstly Yang Family Disciple Chu King Hung, and subsequently Chu’s senior students Rupert Shonaike and the late Erle Montaigue.

*There are two DVD titles available on Yang Style Tai Chi Long Form 1 by John, available from the Vital

Arts Shop

4. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Long Form (AAA / AHR)

Yang Family Form modified by Yang Shou Hou in the 1930’s. 108 Postures. John learnt this from the late Erle Montaigue who studied with Chang Yiu-chu, a top student of Yang Shou Hou, making it is his primary Tai Chi method.

5. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Form . Pao Chui Form (AAA / AHR)

Yang Family ‘Cannon Fist’ Form modified by Yang Shou Hou in the 1930’s. John learnt this version from the late Erle Montaigue who studied with Chang Yiu-chu, a top student of Yang Shou Hou.

Tai Chi Weapons Forms

John presently only Teaches Yang and Wu styles of Tai Chi Chuan Weapons Forms. He does not teach Chen Style Weapons Forms unless student has a strong foundation in Chen Tai Chi{with John or other instructors} The most popular weapon amoung Tai Chi practitioners is the Sword, with its large graceful movements.

He presently offers {2012/13}:

Yang Style Weapons

1. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Sword {Tai Chi Jian}

2. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Sabre {Tai Chi Dao}

3. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Stick {Tai Chi Gunzhi}

4. Old Yang Style Tai Chi Spear {Tai Chi Qiang}

*There is one DVD title available on Yang Style Weapons Forms by John, available from the Vital Arts Shop

Tai Chi Weapons Forms created by John

John has created since 2007 three demonstration forms he has created based on Yang, Wu and Chen methods. These are available to students who have studied the other main weapon forms {at least Sword and Sabre} with John.

1. Double Tai Chi Sword {Tai Chi Shuang Jian}

2. Double Tai Chi Sabre {Tai Chi Shuang Dao}

3. Tai Chi Wind and Fire Wheels {Tai Chi Feng Huo Lun}