Come to Practice Classical Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi)
To Tai Chi Practitioners – from Tina Zhang
To Tai Chi Practitioners – from Tina Zhang
I am not a “Chi” (Qi, 气) politician, or “Chi” psychologist; and, neither am I a mysterious “Chi” teacher, nor a believer of “Chi” that can fix all kinds of illness without consulting health professionals. I am just most willing and professionally teach the wonderful art of Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi), that has always philosophically supported the balance of life and forever benefits human being’s health as well as teaching self-defense through this high quality internal martial art.
Please note: I'll use Chinese mandarin "Tai Ji Quan" 太极拳, instead of "Tai Chi."
We have to understand that it is very important to live a high quality of life by choosing a type of exercise that we can practice until a very old age, so, it is never too late to start. The Classical Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan is famous for its health benefits. In China, it's famously called: "A longevity Ta Ji." This is because many Masters of this style had very long, healthy life in the history and current time!
Tai ji Quan (Tai Chi) practice begins with spending a lot of time on learning the form, which cannot be understood as "dance". The form training focus on soften the stiffness of the body, opening and nurturing the joints, this is the most important part of training that make Tai Ji as a health art, which builds the flexibility, adjusts the posture, balances the body energy through principles and structures, and calming down the mind is a special benifit gained through practice. These basic functional internal martial arts motions develop the sensitivity as well as understanding the harmony of the mind and body - all of these should be achieved through slow motion of Tai Ji form practice as the most important part of beginning of training in Tai Ji Quan. Slow motion also is Tai ji Quan's primary foundation that conditioning the body by controlling the motion and the mind, and building up the "Gong Li" the power in Gong Fu (Kung Fu). The further trainings of push hands, fighting methods and sparring are steps towards the higher level Tai Ji Gong Fu training and deeper understandiing in order to develop true Internal Power - Nei Jia Quan skills.
However, here we do not practice any short, modified forms, in which some techniques have been cut off from the original one. We only do classical 83 posture long form in our school. You do not have to rush to finish the leaning of the long form; the point is that you can practice the part you have learned and gradually learning the entire form and take your time to enjoy the process. The classical long form training is, probably, one of the best natural anti-aging medicines, which take your brain out of the comfort zone to make further connections and remain stimulated. It connects the activities the cells, nerves and muscle that your mind/body is not usually connected with in its specific Tai Ji Quan way – a way to defend against memory loss common with age, and helps enhance mental sharpness and general brain performance by remembering a longer form. It does take longer time to learn, and longer time for each section of practice, but that is a great way to work from the external movement into deeper internal energy cultivation. There is no comparison between the short forms, or a 10 minuets work-out and the longer form practice. The shorter time exercises make you feel good, but the longer practice session stimulates the power of function of the internal organs and central nervous system, which bring the better and positive health results that internal martial arts has to offer.
When you begin your Tai Ji Quan journey, you realize that Tai Ji Quan is not an easy- to-do as what you think. Well, just like every other thing with a great value, Tai Ji Quan is never so easy to get... You start with learning the form to condition the body and mind with all the postures and transitions that compose the form systematically step-by- step. Getting the basic body mechanics should be focused on, such as breathing, body alignment, coordination, balancing, and relaxation as well as concentrated mind. In the processing of learning the form, the philosophy of the Yin and Yang will be absorbed by your heart through the practice of your physical movements.
Oh, yes, some of the postures are very difficult to learn, for example, “Snake Creeps Down” - this is one of the most frequently asked questions among the beginner Tai Ji Quan practitioners:
Does everybody do the low stance (aka. Snake Creeps Down) in Tai Ji Quan practice?
One of the significant postures in Tai Ji Quan, regardless styles, is called “Snake Creeps Down”. This is a posture in which about 70% of the body weight bears on one crouching down leg, and other leg is stretched out to the side with the knee slightly bent. Most people seem have a little trouble learning to do this stance at the beginning of their Tai Ji Quan training.
Why do we do this stance:
For health: We all understand and appreciate the benefit from “Opening the joints” that Tai Ji Quan practice brings to us. The hips are the biggest joint in our body and there is no reason to only want to open or exercise those smaller joints, such as neck, shoulders, elbow, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles, and toes, we also wanted to open this big hip joints. or, opening the “Kua” in Chinese. The “Kua”, is the connecting joint between our upper body and lower body. We want our energy flow through this Kua area which helps cultivating the energy into lower Dan Tian, in which allowing the Qi support whole body’s blood circulation. In addition, the “Kua”, as it is a big energy region of the body, that is not covered by most exercise programs.
The Snake Creeps Down stance helps all other stances because of its maxim opening and increasing of energy circulation. Through practicing this stance, you will soon realize how much and how quick your energy has boosted! The muscles of the legs and the general strength of the lower body will quickly build, since your waist, belly, lower back, "Kua", inner sides of the thighs, and legs/feet all get involved. This is one of the most hidden internal “secrets” for obtaining looseness, softness, strength, and power in the middle section of the body. This posture opens a door for you on your journey to the higher level of achievement!
For martial arts skill training: This stance, of course, is not really used often in any type of fighting, but, it gives you the choice of increasing the range of motion, and of pulling your opponent into a direction and position which is below their common expectations. With this special level of flexibility and strength, you may also defend yourself when you in this rare position during the fighting. You definitely find your kicking power improved dramatically through this low stance training simply because your kicks are more connected with the waist and hips, that directly generate more power than kicks from other trainings that don’t have power from twisted hips. Chinese Internal Martial Arts ability is not just built by simple punching and kicking, it involves a lot of body positioning, movements, and conditioning that require a higher capability of flexibility and relaxed focus.
How to train:
Remember this: Flexibility just like one’s balance is trained. Many people say that they do not have the flexibility. Well, no one has if he/she does not train. The mental concept of “I don’t have the flexibility” is a killer, who stops you from thinking positively. You may not have that much flexibility now, but that never means you will not able to improve your flexibility. All you need is to work on it, day by day, and you will
see the difference soon. You can simply follow these training steps:
1. Make a Riding on the Horse Stance (Horse Stance) by having your feet apart wider than your shoulder width. Make sure the toes are pointing as forward as you can get them. If you have trouble with this, point your feet (toes) outward at 10-30 degree angles, depend how loose of your hips joints.
2. Lower the center of gravity a little bit. You “Kua” is open, your tailbone tucked under slightly – do not tuck too much, you back is straight, lower spine is loose, belly is relaxed, the upper body is straight, upright.
3. Lower your center gravity little by little in your horse stance.
4. You shift your body weight side by side in a horse stance without raising your level, that will build stronger legs.
5. When you feel comfortable enough, make the horse stance a little wider, shift most of your body weight
into one leg, and continue to lower the center gravity by squatting down. Pay an attention to your lower back position, which always keeps tucked and do not lean forward too much, instead use a natural slightly leaning position, and do not forget that the knee of stretched leg is slightly bent and never locked. Now, you can form a decent low stance.
Natural comes first:
If your physical abilities never allow you to train in this classical way, don't worry about it. You 'd rather go with the energy flow in learning Tai Ji Quan, instead of overly struggling with your limited physical conditions. Following the Tai ji Quan principles of the posture, your mind will tell you how much you can practically do. Slowly, precisely, effortlessly build up a healthy body through Tai Ji Quan practice!
Rita Leung is a 66 year old Chinese woman who lives in Confucius Plaza in Chinatown, New York City.
Seven years ago, when she first joined my Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan class, I had noticed that she could not stand straight and the right side of her body collapsed ll the time. Later, I found out that she had serious medical problems dating back to 1970s.
When Rita was 22 years of age, she had a disease called “Bronchiectasis of Lung” and she had right lower lobe of her lung lobectomy in the early 1970s. Unluckily, her health decreased badly later on. She also had decreased esophageal mobility that affects her life, so she had to get 4 operations during the past 30 years. She has been lying on the bed a lot. In some of the slightly better years of her health, she spent a very limited time trying slowly walking around when she felt that she had a little energy for even this practice.When she gradually felt better in her recent years, she joined Chinatown YMCA 5 years ago and immediately started to try the Tai Ji Quan class. I recall the beginning year of her Tai Ji Quan study, she obviously looked weak and could not follow well with the movements. After a few classes, she started to feel better, and after a few months, she was getting stronger and gaining confidence through Tai Ji Quan practice. She has almost never missed any classes, which enabled her to practice Tai Ji Quan 3 times a week. The better she feels, the deeper she loves Tai Ji Quan, and everybody was so happy for her with her healthier body and happier attitude. Tai Ji Quan practice really helped her and much improved her general health. Therefore, she continued her practice, and became to a very dedicated practitioner who is interested in learning applications and understanding the principles and philosophy within Tai Ji Quan. She happily lives in her life as she says: “I have never been happier and healthier at any point of my life than now, I feel a lot younger and have much more energy than I felt in myself when I was in my late 20’s, thanks to Tai Ji Quan!”
I have some photos of Rita who practice Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan after a few years of weekly classes. You can see how she does the “Snake Creeps Down” stance, and also “Double Lotus Kick!!! How can she do these? Her answer is “just practice.” I'd like to add: "practice smart with understanding the fundamental principles."
This summer (2014), Rita challenged Tina Zhang to do a full-split, so we did together after the class.