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Everything You Need to Know About T’ai Chi Ch’uan

An ancient Chinese art, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, or T'ai Chi for short, is derived from the philosophy of Taoism and emphasizes meditation through movement. It is comprised of postures that are practiced with the intention of integrating the body, mind, and spirit.

It has been shown in recent research studies that this centuries-old practice has many health benefits. These include improved leg strength, balance and flexibility in the joints, strengthened immune system, and reduced hypertension. Its flowing relaxation will enhance emotional well-being, inner peace, and harmony through proper breath control and concentration.

No uniform or special equipment is needed. Students are asked to wear loose fitting clothes and flat soled shoes.

Relax and Stiffness Begins to Thaw

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Cheng Man Ch'ing Postures

Cheng Man Ch’ing has created T’ai Chi form postures which had been popularly known as the “Yang-style short form.” These postures are a shortened version of the “Yang-style form.”

The “shorter” version became more popular than the earlier one because it only takes a third of the original posture’s time. These forms are beneficial for health and self-development of a person. You can check out our list of postures in our postures page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my T’ai Chi is getting better?

This question is natural to ask since we devote so much effort to our practice. We sometimes feel that we aren’t making as much progress as we would like, especially after the large gains that occur during the first five to ten years of practice. The sometimes slow and irregular pace of progress that follows can cause frustration and even lead us to think about quitting.

I often say that you shouldn’t compare your T’ai Chi level to others but should instead compare your current level to your previous one. My teacher, Mr. Benjamin Lo, speaks about this comparison in another way. He says that if you get sick less often or recover more quickly from illness, then your health is being improved by your T’ai Chi practice and you are making progress.

You’ve also heard me refer in class to the various levels of T’ai Chi accomplishment described by Prof. Cheng Man Ch’ing which I have summarized below. They are discussed in Treatise 11 (pp. 75-81) in “Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan.”

You can find the complete reference on the REFERENCES page of our website. I encourage you to thoroughly study the Professor’s Thirteen Treatises if you want to deepen your T’ai Chi practice.

Prof. Cheng states that there are three levels of T’ai Chi accomplishment—Human, Earth, and Heaven. Human level relaxes the sinews and vitalizes the blood. Earth Level opens the energy gates and removes blockages in the meridians so that the qi can spread evenly throughout the body, thus creating balance and harmony and providing health and long-life.

Heaven Level integrates the two other levels and emphasizes the use of the mind to create balance and harmony with others. Each level has three degrees. Note that the first two levels of T’ai Chi accomplishment (Human and Earth) can be achieved by practice of the solo form.

The highest level of T’ai Chi accomplishment (Heaven), however, requires doing it with a partner. This is why push hands practice is essential for gaining an understanding of the deepest aspects of T’ai Chi. As one learns to maintain the T’ai Chi point of stillness while balancing yin and yang in all aspects of life, one begins to master the art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

Human Level

  • First Degree: Relax the tendons and ligaments from the shoulders to the tip of the middle finger.
  • Second Degree: Relax the tendons and ligaments from the hip joints to the bubbling well.
  • Third Degree: Relax the tendons and ligaments from the tail bone to the top of the head.

Earth Level

  • First Degree: Sink the qi to the dantien.
  • Second Degree: Use the mind to move the qi from the dantien through the arms and legs to the fingertips and bubbling well.
  • Third Degree: Use the mind to move the qi from the tailbone (weilu) to the top of the head (niwan).

Heaven Level

  • First Degree: Listen to the energy and strength (ting jin) of another.
  • Second Degree: Understand the energy and strength (dong jin) of another.
  • Third Degree: “Omnipotence Level.” The mind (yi) relies on the spirit (jing shen) not the qi to mobilize the body. Rely on “spiritual power” and “divine speed” rather than qi to move the body and maintain the T’ai Chi point of balance and harmony with others.
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