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WWTC Curriculum and Video Tutorials

Tai Chi 太極拳

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 art's complete name, “T’ai-chi Ch’üan” or "Taijiquan." The word “ch’üan” (quan) refers to the Chinese boxing arts, many of which have a long association with traditional health practices. "Tai Chi" refers to the familiar Yin-Yang diagram and the interdependent relationship of the yielding and assertive principles in traditional Chinese thought. 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 and health practice designed to balance soft and yielding actions with more forceful and active ones, pivoting effortlessly between these two poles. 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 our Qigong page.

An outline of our lesson plan with video links follows below:

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

Yang Family Long Form (complete 1st section): with repeats, straight through

Unit 5: Yang Family Long Form, 2nd section

Fist Under Elbow, Repel Monkey, Diagonal Flying: repeated series

Sea-Bottom Needle, Fan-open Back, Cast-body Punch: repeated series

Cloud Hands: basics

High Pat Horse, Dividing Kick: repeated series

Treading Kick, Hit Tiger, Double Winds Pierce Ears: repeated series

Yang Family Long Form (complete 2nd section): straight through

More Intermediate Level Resources

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

Yang Family Long Form (complete): section 1 - section 2 - section 3

Simplified Tai Chi: complete short routine

Yang Family Tai Chi Sword: complete series

Taiji Pole/spear: basics


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