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WWTC Curriculum and Video Tutorials

Tai ChiQigongBaguaXingyiTuina Bodywork

WaterWheel Tai Chi offers group and private instruction in Tai Chi, Qigong, and two other Chinese “internal” martial arts, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. Brief descriptions of each art follow, as well as video links to our youtube channel. These informal videos are offered as a student resource and employ a "mechanical" demonstration style to emphasize pertinent details.

The Internal Family of Chinese Martial Arts 內家拳
Since the early twentieth century Tai Chi, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang have often been referred to as the “three brothers” of the Chinese martial arts. While there are other so-called “internal” martial arts in China, these big three are the most famous. In this context, “internal” refers to Neigong (Qigong/Daoyin) training and its emphasis on core strength, full-body coordination, and highly efficient movement as opposed to the “external” strength and speed of the limbs. It is the "internal" quality of this training that also underpins the reputation of all these arts for improving health. The same principles are utilized by the practitioner when performing Chinese Tuina bodywork.

Tai Chi 太極拳
(also written as"Taijiquan" or "T'ai-chi Ch'üan")

Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that has gained a worldwide reputation for its therapeutic benefits and graceful appearance. Equally a mental and a physical practice, Tai Chi combines methods of regulating posture, breathing, intention and awareness for the development of strength, coordination, circulation, and acute sensitivity. The dance-like routine of flowing movements seen in parks all over the world continues to be the centerpiece of the system but does not exclusively represent the art of Tai Chi. The complete method includes a variety of stationary and moving, solo and partnered exercises as well as weapon training.

Tai Chi first won renown in the nineteenth century for its effectiveness as a martial art. The term “Tai Chi” is an abbreviation of the complete name, “T’ai-chi Ch’üan,” or in contemporary spelling, "Taijiquan." The word “T'ai-chi,” or "Taiji," refers to the interdependent relationship of the yielding and assertive principles in Chinese thought, "Yin” and “Yang.” The word, “ch’üan,” or "quan" denotes a Chinese boxing art, many of which have a long association with traditional therapeutic practices. While Tai Chi is popularly associated with slow, gentle movement, it can be practiced in a more punctuated, forceful manner as well. Thus, Tai Chi is a martial art designed to balance soft and yielding actions with forceful and aggressive ones, pivoting effortlessly between one and the other. An apt translation might be “Great Axis Boxing.”

One of the most common misconceptions about Tai Chi is that the slow movements are intended to make the exercise less demanding, where in fact the opposite is true. The slow pace is a training strategy to strengthen muscle and connective tissue, heighten body awareness, and develop a deep coordination at any speed. Stylistic variations of Tai Chi are associated with various family names: primarily Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao, and Sun. At WWTC, we provide instruction in the Yang family Tai Chi system. Yet while somewhat different in training methods, all styles embody the same underlying principles of posture and movement. Generalizations about styles will always find exception and any style can be practiced moderately for health or more assiduously for self-defense. For a discussion on how Tai Chi has drawn from the traditions of Chinese Medicine, see the Qigong section below.

While acknowledging that most of our students are not seeking to be martial artists, we treat the self-defense principles in Tai Chi as offering a widely applicable skill set for moving through life with grace and efficacy. We don’t offer any classes solely in “form.” Non-competitive partnered exercises are essential to learning the proper body mechanics that are the foundation of practicing for health and fitness. However, no student is pressured to perform any exercise that makes them uncomfortable.

UNIT 1: Postural Alignment and Strengthening

"Standing like a Post" (zhanzhuang), erect and rooted in the ground, is a traditional exercise that helps the student discover the fundamental postural strategies of strong support and relaxation that are interdependent in all Tai Chi practice. It also helps calm the mind, sink the breath to the abdominal center and free musculoskeletal obstructions that impede good circulation and coordinated movement. In the old days, new students were required to pursue this training for up to a year before learning the Long Form of linked movements.

Tai Chi Commencement: basics

Embracing Jar Standing-post: basics

Raise Hands: basics, walking , partnered

Strum the Lute: basics, walking

Tai Chi Advance-Retreat Standing-post: linked series

Tai Chi Breath Training: basics

UNIT 2: The Four Direct Body Dynamics

The "Four Sides," are the four primary applications of force in Tai Chi. They are "Push up/out" (peng), "Pull-back" (), Squeeze-in (ji) and Press-down (an), and are named the "sides" because they apply force in a direct forward/backward manner (though the partner may still be unbalanced on an angular trajectory). Four movements at the beginning of the solo form are named after each of these techniques, but the basic techniques are found in many other movements as well. According the Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, these four body dynamics massage activate all the primary channels and Yin-Yang organs.

Tai Chi Commencement: basics

Embracing Jar Standing-post: basics

Coiling Silk Body Strengthening basic circle, Tai Chi diagram

Horse-riding and Bow/Archer Stances: basics, walking

Grasp Sparrow's Tail: basics, walking

The Four Sides: Push-up (peng) and Pull-back (lu): basics

The Four Sides: Squeeze (ji) and Press-down (an): basics

Cross Hands and Tai Chi Conclusion: basics

Four Sides set: linked series, partnered

Push Hands: Four Sides routine

UNIT 3: The Four Oblique Body Dynamics

The "Four Corners," are the four supplemental or secondary applications of force in Tai Chi. They are "Split" (lie), "Pluck" (cai), Lean-in or Bump (kao) and Elbow (zhou), and are named the "corners" because they apply force in an oblique or diagonal manner with more overt twisting of the body. As with the Four Sides, these basic dynamics are found in many movements of the Long Form. Because the body twisting is more obvious, they help the student understand the internal dynamics of the Four Sides, both in creating whole-body power and deeply massaging the organs.

Tai Chi Commencement: basics

Horse-riding and Bow/Archer Stances: basics, walking

Single Whip: basics, walking

Raise Hands: basics, walking, partnered

Lean-in/Bump (Kao): basics

White Crane Shows a Wing: basics, walking

Four Corners set: linked series

UNIT 4: The Cross-body Stance

The "Cross-body Stance" (aobu), often translated "Twist Step," introduces a powerful new boy dynamic to our repertoire: advancing the body with the opposite hand and foot forward. In some ways, this is the most natural movement yet encountered since it mirrors our walking gate. However, the forward lunge stance is much more dynamic than walking, and from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine strongly moves Qi and Blood to clear obstructions to circulation. This series completes the first section of the Tai Chi Long Form, which can be viewed with detailed instruction here.

Tai Chi Commencement: basics

Horse-riding and Bow/Archer Stances: basics, walking

Brush Knee, Twist Stance: basics, walking, partnered

Strum the Lute: basics, walking

Brush Knee and Strum the Lute: in series

Casting-body Punch and Parry/Cover: basics

Block, Punch and Seeming Sealed: basics

Cross Hands and Tai Chi Conclusion: basics

Intermediate Level Resources

Complete Yang Family First Section: with repeats, straight through

Cloud Hands: basics

Fair Lady Works the Shuttle: basics, walking, 4 corners

Simplified Tai Chi: complete short routine

Complete Yang Family Long Routine: part 1 - part 2 - part 3

Yang Family Tai Chi sword: complete series

Taiji pole/spear: basics

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Qigong 氣功 / Neigong 內功 / Daoyin 導引
(also written as "Ch’i Kung," "Nei Kung" and "Tao-yin")

A therapeutic exercise system historically documented at over 2000 years old, Qigong has been called “the mother of the Chinese martial arts.” Ancient texts demonstrate that its practice was instrumental to the development of Chinese acupuncture. Although "Qigong," is a modern catchall phrase for a wide variety of exercises, the fundamental movements are seen time and time again in most training systems.

"Qi," or “Ch'i,” is a complex word that can mean something as simple as breath or as complex as the subtle animating force that indigenous Chinese Medicine perceives as responsible for health and vitality. And the term "gong," or “kung,” (as in "kungfu") connotes a well-developed, internalized skill.

Qigong exercises develop relaxed and efficient body alignment, well-integrated strength and movement, and mental awareness to promote the body’s innate self-maintenance and performance. In many ways, Qigong is at the root of many of the health benefits ascribed to Tai Chi practice. However, the wide variety of exercises allows more specific tailoring of practice to the individuals needs and many of the exercises are easier to learn than Tai Chi. For many people, Qigong may offer the most immediate opportunity to improve the way you feel on a daily basis.

Qigong can be divided into a number of categories. One method distinguishes “therapeutic,” “martial” and “spiritual” systems. However, the boundaries between these categories can be easily blurred. Still, we do not teach any overtly “spiritual” Qigong at this studio and make no claims to any
transcendental “truths.” All practices are grounded in the anatomical body.

Another manner of categorization differentiates the methods of practice (such as active/tranquil and internal/external) rather than the “goals.” Active Qigong appears more like exercise and can range from gentle and to physically demanding. Some tranquil methods are recognizable as meditation techniques, however, the emphasis is usually on correct body alignment. Giving the mind a simple goal makes it easier to set aside distractions. The “internal/external” distinction is more challenging to pin down but can refer either to the "active/tranquil" division or to “soft” v. “hard” methods of training. Most of these methods are mutually supporting, and we teach them together.

Tranquil Qigong (Ching-kung or Jinggong) develops the same qualities but with a greater emphasis on meditative calm and core strength by holding stationary postures. The goal is to reach a comfortable and profoundly calm state that remains alert and active.

Basic Body Alignment

Four Posture Standing-post

Active Qigong (Tung-kung or Donggong) develops skeletal alignment, flexibility, soft tissue integration and kinesthetic awareness through movement of the trunk and limbs.

Daoyin Fundamentals

1st principle exercises - 2nd principle exercises - 3rd principle exercises - 4th principle exercises
5th principle exercises - 6th principle exercises - 7th principle exercises - 8th principle exercises
9th principle exercises - 10th principle exercises - 11th principle exercises - 12th principle exercises

Eight-piece Brocade 八段錦

1 Both Hands Support The Sky - 2 Opening the Bow

3 Lift a Single Hand - 4 Look To the Rear

5 Shake the Head and Wag the Tail - 6 Both Hands Pull the Feet

7 Clench Fists with Glaring Eyes - 8 Lift the Head to the Rear

Five Element Qigong 五行氣功

1 Metal (Lung) - 2 Water (Kidneys)

3 Wood (Liver) - 4 Fire (Heart)

5 Earth (Spleen/Stomach) - 6 Three Burners

Eight Qigong Exercises

Swimming Dragon

Shaolin abdominal exercises

Five Animals Play 五禽戲

Bear (basics, walking) - Bird (basics, walking)
Deer (basics, walking) - Tiger (basics, walking) - Monkey (basics, walking)

Respiratory Qigong (Tu-na) develops strong, relaxed and integrated action of the respiratory diaphragm with the thoracic and abdominal portions of the torso through relaxed breath-centered exercises.

Three Longevity Exercises

Six Character Recipe

Self-massage (Anmo) encourages relaxation and circulation in the soft tissue through pressing and rubbing different areas of the body.

Channel Patting Qigong

Anmo self massage

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Xingyiquan 形意拳 (Form-intent Boxing)
(also written as "Hsing-i Ch'uan")

Xingyi (pronounced "shing-ee") is a development of traditional Chinese martial arts that emphasizes the development of clear intention, “yi,” directly translated into active form, “xing.” Like the famous Shaolin boxing style, Xingyi is characterized by clarity and directness. Its movements are inspired by the spontaneous action of natural forces (water, wood, fire, etc.) and animals. It strongly emphasizes the practice of tranquil “standing stake” Qigong practice, and in the 20th century, a derivative named “Yiquan,” or "Da Cheng Quan," was developed as a back to basics approach that promoted this practice almost exclusively.

For health promotion, Xingyi practice deeply massages the body tissues. In self-defense, Xingyi is forthright, direct, and elegant in its simplicity, developing a tightly coiled and efficient movement style that attempts to overwhelm any incoming attack virtually head-on.

UNIT 1: The Five Agency Body/Hand Forms

Three Body Posture

Splitting Form

Drilling Form

Crushing Form

Pounding Form

Crossing Form

Five Agency Linking Form

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Baguazhang 八卦掌 (Eight-diagram Boxing)
(also written as "Pa-kua Chang")

At an unknown date (possibly the mid-nineteenth century), the founders of Bagua adopted a Daoist walking meditation method as part of a new system of Chinese boxing. Possibly the youngest of the “three brothers,” Bagua is just beginning to enjoy popularity in the U.S., quickly outstripping its elder bother, Xingyi, though not yet rivaling the popularity of Tai Chi practice.

The name “Bagua,” or “eight trigrams,” can be most simply deciphered as a reference to the eight point of the compass traversed during circle walking practice. But though Bagua can most easily recognized by this circling method, as with the long Tai Chi series, this hardly represents its entire training system. However, circling and spiraling movements do form the core of its training strategy to unify a flexible power of the spine with uniquely fluid footwork. More broadly, the term “Bagua” connotes constant but systematic change and adaptability. In self-defense, Bagua emphasizes supple and unpredictable change that evades and subverts any incoming force.

UNIT 1: Postural Alignment and Strengthening (Bagua Neigong)

Ten Daoist Exercises: 1, 2, 3, 4, full set

Mud-tread Stepping

Eight Inner Palms (Fixed-position Walking)

Eight Fixed-position Standing

UNIT 2: the Single-change Palm

Single-change Palm: Rise, Up-drill, Fall, Overturn

Single-change Palm Standing-post: Square Stance

Single-change Palm: Simple Change circle walking

Single-change Palm: Conceal Flower Beneath Leaves

Single-change Palm: Close Door, Push Moon: circle walking

UNIT 3: the Double-change Palm

Green Dragon Tries its Claws: basics, walking

Double-change Palm: complete series

Double-change Palm: circle walking

UNIT 4: the Eight Mother Palms

(#3) Reversing Palm: complete form

(#4) Turning-free Palm: complete form

(#5) Back-facing Palm: complete form

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Tuina 推拿 (Chinese bodywork)

Tuina (manipulation of the acupuncture channels and points) and Dieda (trauma medicine) are branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine closely intertwined with the Chinese martial arts. Hand techniques, liniments and herbal poultices offer a simple way to treat common injuries that can impede training.

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