Sunday, 16 November 2014

How many forms are enough?

In my time as a student of Taiji, I have had the privilege of being trained by highly regarded and highly skilled Masters. Their approaches to what to train their students however are poles apart in some respects. One focused on learning just one form for each discipline i.e. one barehand, one sword etc. The other teaches a range of different forms e.g. Yang style 8 step, 16 step, 24 step etc. This is not a discussion about which is the best. In my view both of them have contributed immensely to my Taiji practice and still do today. There are however "arguments" in the Taiji world as to which is the best way. I would like to put forward some pros and cons for both systems.
In the first option we have the one form teaches all. The pros for this system means that there is no distraction about how many forms do you know and this enabled time and practice for the deeper levels of Taiji e.g. more push hands and internal training of which there was plenty practice. It also took the pressure off having to know a wide range of forms. It very much focuses on the principles of Taiji and the internal aspects that make the art what it is. The second option of learning a wide range of forms from 8 - 88 steps also has its benefits. Although the same moves are used, training them in different patterns and from different angles gives a person a broader view of the way these moves can be used. It highlights that you won't always follow a brush knee twist step with a strum the lute posture, for example. Another benefit I find is that by learning a range of forms then the moves are done on both sides. This is something that I personally struggled with initially and I know my students do too but with patience and perseverance it is possible to make both sides as equally good.
The dangers of both options for me are as follows: the first option of just one hand form means that the moves are always done in a set order and it is easy to get too comfortable with that pattern. Usually where someone is learning just one form it tends to be the long form of whatever style. In Yang style (the style that I learned)not many of the postures are done on both sides. I feel this is a disadvantage to learning just one form. The main disadvantage to the second option is that the Taiji focus can become about how many forms can you do. There is a view sometimes taken that the more forms you know the better that person is at Taiji. I don't agree with that at all. It also makes the form more competitive in an unhealthy way. The only person we really need to compete with is ourselves. In the end it all comes down to the attitude of the individual but no one system is better than the other. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to learn under both options.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The form is not Taiji!

That sounds like an outlandish statement but I read something by Michael Gilman the other week that said just that. I read this to my students before we headed off for coffee and cake at a local cafe and asked for their comments and thoughts. I can't recall specifics but the conversation that took place around the table was incredible and for me very spiritual. So before I give my take on the form not being Taiji can I just say that giving people time to talk about their Taiji has been a really good move. I remember watching a video about a Taiji master and after each session he and his students would go and have tea and talk about what they had been practising and although it is essential to physically practice, it is also essential to analyse and discuss experiences that occur in Taiji. I am loving our conversations just as much as the practice.
To go back to the title of this post. I agree with this statement if the form is just a sequence of moves performed or copied in a ritualised way. There is so much more to Taiji and without the intention and focus of the mind and movement of the Qi then the form is just a set of movements. Nothing different from doing an exercise class. However that is where we all start and although at times it is difficult to grasp a move it is actually the easiest bit of Taiji to learn. How far we take our Taiji is a personal choice and for some doing the form is Taiji and it goes no further but there is so much more out there to discover if we want to take the trouble and we have the time and commitment to do so.
For me it is so important to keep pushing myself. I love exploring what this art has to offer and I am so satisfied with the fact that I will never know it all but that I can keep trying and digging deeper. I find the whole thing exhilarating and exciting. I've done lots of types of exercise in my time and nothing comes close to what Taiji has to offer. I am so lucky to have found Taiji and to have the opportunity to share it with so many wonderful people. It would be great to see your comments about Taiji and the forms so please share your thoughts and lets keep the conversation going!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Tai Chi or Qigong - Which do you prefer?

My experience is that most people have never heard of Qigong when they set foot in a Tai Chi class. I certainly hadn't but I instantly fell in love with the Qigong and I am convinced that is what kept me coming back to the class. I am not the most patient person (better since doing Tai Chi) and I found Qigong easier to pick up and practise at home although it took several months before I confidently could remember the routine. Nonetheless I would try it each night after the children were in bed and loved the feeling of relaxation and calm it gave me.
Tai Chi was definitely a bigger challenge and a much slower process but I loved the Tai Chi because of that and there was nothing else like it that I had ever done. Having asked the question I'm not sure which I prefer. I love both systems but I know that some students are not as keen on the Qigong as the Tai Chi. I have taught classes that are just Qigong and just Tai Chi. I think Qigong classes can survive quite easily without any Tai Chi but I'm not sure that Tai Chi works as well on its own. The Qigong is a great system to get in the right frame of mind for doing the Tai Chi although I guess that might depend on which Qigong we are doing. In any case all my Tai Chi classes include Qigong. The question isn't really about which is better as they both have proven benefits - its a personal question and one which I can't answer!!! I love them both.
So come on, any thoughts or comments?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Tai Chi qualifications - how important are they?

This was not the post I originally had in mind however as I am going to Wolverhampton tomorrow for an instructor module and assessment some other thought/question sprang to mind - namely, "How important are Tai Chi qualifications?" On a personal note I find the training and instruction for them extremely useful. Certainly from the organisation that I train with - The Deyin Taijiquan Institute. The training is very good and thorough. Both Masters Faye and Tary are experienced practitioners and excellent teachers. I also think that having these qualifications gives me some credibility. It is also good to belong to an organisation that reviews your training and supports you in your development.
Interestingly though in the time I have been teaching Tai Chi, no-one has asked me for my credentials except one student who found himself apologising once I started to rattle them off. I actually didn't mind him asking but I think he thought he had been a bit cheeky - not at all. I worked hard to achieve what I have so far so to be asked is a refreshing change. When working for other organisations I have never been asked to produce my certificates or prove who I was (except for a school who wanted to see my passport and CRB). They had seen my website and that seemed to satisfy them. So are qualifications important? - does it matter whether your instructor has been through a training programme or has just decided to impart their knowledge of Tai Chi to anyone willing to pay? Tai Chi is not a regulated activity so basically anyone can set up a class. When I hire a hall I'm rarely asked for my public liability insurance let alone asked to prove that I am actually a qualified teacher. I guess students can decide for themselves what makes for a good Tai Chi teacher and use their feet if need be - or can they? If you don't know what Tai Chi is how can you make that judgement? Or maybe it is enough for some just to be out in a class with other people. If the Tai Chi isn't quite right, it doesn't matter, does it? I never want to get in a slanging match about good or bad teachers of Tai Chi although I have seen examples of what I would call bad teaching/Tai Chi but the question does get asked among instructors. I have to think about myself - I can't change other people but I can ask the questions and put it out there for discussion. Personally I feel better as a teacher having the qualifications behind me. It gives me confidence to actually share what I know (or think I know!). It would be good to hear others points of view. So please don't be shy, let me know what you think by commenting to this post.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Long time, no posts!

As you can see it has been 9 months since I posted anything on here so I have decided to rectify this. I already have a website ( and a Facebook page (/Angelas-Tai-Chi-School) which I keep up to date with things that are going on and photos of events etc so I have decided to use the blog in one of the ways I think a blog should be used and which is different from the aforementioned media. My plan is to post a thought, comment, quote etc each week to try and stimulate some discussion on here. I will use the website and Facebook to direct people here and hopefully start up some comments and feedback to what I post. I'm hoping that I can put up something in the next week, so watch this space!

Monday, 20 January 2014

WTCQD meeting

On Saturday we held our first meeting of the year to discuss putting on another WTCQD event at Festival Gardens, Liverpool. There were seven of us at the meeting: Barbara, Liverpool; Pat, St Helens; Stephen, Liverpool and Warrington; Jane, Leigh; Steve, North Wales and Gaynor, North Wales. And of course myself! Steve and Gaynor are going to do their first WTCQD in North Wales so won't be joining us:( but it is fantastic that they are spreading the news of Tai Chi and Qigong through this wonderful idea, set up by Bill and Angela Douglas, USA. A great afternoon was had which included a chilly walk to the gardens and further photos can be viewed on my Facebook page.

Monday, 6 January 2014

International Women's Day

I have been at a meeting today at Bluecoat in Liverpool to finalise arrangements for Tai Chi at this event - International Women's Day. The event takes place over the weekend of 8th and 9th March and the School will be kicking it all off with a Tai Chi taster session. The start time is yet to be confirmed but should be a great event. Once publicity is available I will post further details on here. Cycling back along the prom the water was very choppy but some great views and spotted a range of different birds. See if you can tell what the ones in the photo are.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

2014 looks like being another great year for Angela's Tai Chi School. There are already a number of events planned for the first half of the year with more to be added as we move through the year. So keep checking the webpage or my facebook page. This month I am holding another charity Tai Chi coffee morning. This will take place on Wednesday 29th January. A separate post will be included here in the next week or so. Other events to look forward to are two new Qigong classes starting later this month; Chinese New Year in February and World Tai Chi Day in Festival Gardens on the last Saturday of April. So keep looking out for details of what is going on. Have a fabulous year especially anything that is Tai Chi related.