Tai Chi Beginners

 

 

What is Tai Chi: An Introduction

Tai chi, which originated in China as a martial (self defense) art, is now usually referred to in terms of a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine. (Complementary and alternative medicine or CAM: A group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine). Complementary medicine is used together with conventional  and alternative medicine in place of conventional medicine.

Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”—practitioners move their bodies slowly, gently, and with awareness, while breathing deeply. This next section provides a general overview of tai chi and suggests sources for additional information.

Key Points

  • Many people practice tai chi to improve their health and well-being.
  • Scientific research is under way to learn more about how tai chi may work, its possible effects on health, and chronic diseases and conditions for which it may be helpful.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

 

What is Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi

 

Overview

Tai chi developed in ancient China. It started as a martial art and a means of self-defense. Over time, people began to use it for health purposes as well.

Accounts of the history of tai chi vary. A popular legend credits its origins to Chang San-Feng, a Taoist monk, who developed a set of 13 exercises that imitate the movements of animals. He also emphasized meditationA conscious mental process using certain techniques—such as focusing attention or maintaining a specific posture—to suspend the stream of thoughts and relax the body and mind. and the concept of internal force (in contrast to the external force emphasized in other martial arts, such as kung fu and tae kwon do).

The term “tai chi” (shortened from “tai chi chuan”) has been translated in various ways, such as “internal martial art” and “supreme ultimate fist.” It is sometimes called “taiji” or “taijiquan.”

Tai chi incorporates the Chinese concepts of yin and yangThe concept of two opposing yet complementary forces described in traditional Chinese medicine. Yin represents cold, slow, or passive aspects of the person, while yang represents hot, excited, or active aspects. A major theory is that health is achieved through balancing yin and yang and disease is caused by an imbalance leading to a blockage in the flow of qi. (opposing forces within the body) and qiIn traditional Chinese medicine, the vital energy or life force proposed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. (a vital energy or life force). Practicing tai chi is said to support a healthy balance of yin and yang, thereby aiding the flow of qi.

People practice tai chi by themselves or in groups. In the Chinese community, people commonly practice tai chi in nearby parks—often in early morning before going to work. There are many different styles, but all involve slow, relaxed, graceful movements, each flowing into the next. The body is in constant motion, and posture is important. The names of some of the movements evoke nature (e.g., “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain”). Individuals practicing tai chi must also concentrate, putting aside distracting thoughts; and they must breathe in a deep and relaxed, but focused manner.

 

Use in the United States

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 2.3 million U.S. adults had used tai chi in the past 12 months.

People practice tai chi for various health-related purposes, such as:

  • For benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise
  • To improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility
  • To improve balance and decrease the risk of falls, especially in elderly people
  • To ease pain and stiffness—for example, from osteoarthritis
  • To improve sleep
  • For overall wellness.

 

The Status of Tai Chi Research

Scientific research on the health benefits of tai chi is ongoing. Several studies have focused on the elderly, including tai chi’s potential for preventing falls and improving cardiovascular fitness and overall well-being. A 2007 NCCAM-funded study on the immune response to varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes shingles) suggested that tai chi may enhance the immune system and improve overall well-being in older adults. Tai chi has also been studied for improving functional capacity in breast cancer patients and quality of life in people with HIV infection. Studies have also looked at tai chi’s possible benefits for a variety of other conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and osteoarthritis. In 2008, a review of published research, also funded by NCCAM, found that tai chi reduced participants’ blood pressure in 22 (of 26) studies.

In general, studies of tai chi have been small, or they have had design limitations that may limit their conclusions. The cumulative evidence suggests that additional research is warranted and needed before tai chi can be widely recommended as an effective therapy.

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Side Effects and Risks

Tai chi is a relatively safe practice. However, there are some cautions:

  • As with any exercise regimen, if you overdo practice, you may have sore muscles or sprains.
  • Tai chi instructors often recommend that you do not practice tai chi right after a meal, or when you are very tired, or if you have an active infection.
  • If you are pregnant, or if you have a hernia, joint problems, back pain, fractures, or severe osteoporosis, your health care provider may advise you to modify or avoid certain postures in tai chi.

 



 

Tai Chi (taiji ) For Beginners – Lesson In English

Say this is cool – This guy combined graphics, demonstration, and explanation in English.  It is quick but adds a wonderful piece to the puzzle as he explains what he is doing.  This one needs to be watched by all who are new at Tai Chi.

 

 

 


 24 Form  With Ian Sinclair

Lesson 1 & 2 – Great Place To Start Learning Tai Chi

I have spent hours searching YouTube for just the right video series to feature for the basic 24 form, and I keep coming back to Ian Sinclair’s series.  I like to give equal time to other instructors by featuring their products too, but either they don’t allow the videos to be shown on a website, or they get the viewer started only to leave additional parts somewhere else, they go too fast, or something.

In this series Ian has published a complete set of videos precisely for the Tai Chi beginner wanting to try a basic beginners 24 form.  And, he does it in such a way that you feel almost as if you are a student in his classroom – very thorough, repetitive, anticipating our mistakes (he has probably seen enough of them!), and slow enough to follow along easily.

Here is what I found out – once you start with this series, you will want to know more!  That’s when you start looking for CD’s, books, local instructors with a class you can attend, etc.  So at least in my experience (and I bet there are many more like me), we want to “taste” this to see if we like it before we jump head-in.  Once you jump in though, you find it just gets deeper and deeper – there is SO MUCH more to learn than you every imagined!  But I digress…

This is the introduction to Tai Chi for beginners 24 form, Lesson 1 video.

Here Ian offers short and interesting information about how the 24 form developed:

 

Next is the Tai Chi for beginners 24 Form Lesson  2 Video:

 

 

 


 

Lesson 3 & 4, Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane

In today’s lesson  Taijiman Ian Sinclair teaches us the first posture after commencement which is Parting The Wild Horse’s Mane.  Tai Chi ( taiji ) beginners as well as other instructors will all find these lessons helpful.  It is actually 3 postures of the tai chi 24 form,  since we first perform it first to the left, then right, then left again.  This is broken down into two videos, with the first video devoted to teaching us Parting the Horse’s Mane LEFT.

Once we learn how to do the left version, the 2nd video teaches us how to apply our knowledge to perform the RIGHT version, then repeat again to the LEFT.

If you are a tai chi beginner who is brand new to Tai Chi ( taiji ) you may want to focus on the first video, then try the 2nd video on your 2nd or 3rd day.  Remember, play Tai Chi every day to really learn it.  Like Chris Pei tells us in Tai Chi for Beginners Starring Chris Pei , practicing TC once a week is like an ill person taking all their meds in one day and expecting to get better.

 

Lesson 3-  Parting The Wild Horse’s Mane Left:

I appreciate Ian’s demonstration of how to correctly shift weight, maintain balance, and cautions against what not to do.  I found in this video he addresses questions I didn’t realize I had, yet I was doing wrong.  For me, I found I was shifting my shoulders rather than rotating the torso.

 

Next we learn how to apply what we learned in the previous video to the next two postures; parting the wild horse’s mane right, then left again.

Lesson 4: Parting The Wild Horse’s Mane Right, then Left:

If you have always wanted to learn Tai Chi but didn’t have resources, time or nearby instructor, stick with us here and we will all learn together – online!  And be sure to join in the discussions over on our FB page  too.

 

 


Lesson 5 – White Crane Spreads It’s Wings

 

This next posture to learn in the 24 form after “parting the wild horse’s mane left, right then left” is White Crane Spreads It’s Wings.  I think this will be helpful for all beginners to have a website where they can access not only a demonstration the complete 24 form, but a thorough explanation to accompany each part.

If you are learning the 24 form from an instructor, great! These videos will help augment your instruction.  While you play TC at home, you can refer to these videos for additional help.  However if you are new to Tai Chi and learning this 24 form here on the internet, please remember this important point.  It is always best to learn any kind of martial arts through group or 1-on-1 instruction with a qualified instructor.  S/he will be able to find nuances to your practice to help you perform each posture correctly, as well as answer your  questions as they arise.

But for some (such as myself) that is not possible due to schedule, location, or other factors.  “But they say, when the student is ready the teacher will appear”.

 

Tai Chi for Beginners 24 form Lesson 5 – White Crane Spreads its Wings

 

 

 


24 form Lesson 6 – Brush Knee

One of the frustrations tai chi beginners have is in finding one resource for all the Tai Chi form steps; just watching bits and pieces here and there is confusing.  That’s why I want to get as much on the Tai Chi for Beginners series with the full 24 Form lessons together in one place as possible.  Today I will pick up where we left off last week (before the big website / server  problem!) .

Last post was lesson 4, titled video 5.  The reason for the difference in “numbering’ is because one lesson last week I doubled and added 2 videos, so starting today I am going to use the name of the video.  That makes today’s lessons number 6.

So here we go  starting with lesson 6, as Ian Sinclair (aka taijiman) teaches us Brush Knee:

 

 

 


 24 form Lesson 7 – Play The Lute

After the fourth posture that we learned yesterday, White Crane Spreads its Wings, comes the fifth posture called “Playing the Lute”. It is also known as Strum the Lute or Play Guitar.  The name helps remember how to perform this posture because in it you actually look as though you strum a guitar.  The left arm is held out extended, as if holding a guitar neck.  The right hand will move up across the midline as if performing an “upward” strum over guitar strings.

Follow along with Ian as he slowly and effortlessly teaches us the fifth posture in the 24 form, Strum Lute (or Play Guitar).

Tai Chi for beginners 24 form- Lesson 7:

How did you do?  Feel like you are ready to practice on your own?  Try this lesson #7 Strum Lute several times throughout the day today then check back tomorrow for the next posture.  Before you know it you will be performing the Tai Chi 24 form with ease and comfort.


Lesson 8 – Step Back To Repulse Monkey, Left

Following along with Ian Sinclair’s video series Tai Chi for Beginners 24 Form, today we get to lesson #8 where we learn the 6th posture, Step Back To Repulse Monkey, Left.

The Tai Chi 24 form is  a simplified version of the Yang Style Tai Chi, developed in 1956 as part of the People’s Republic of China National Fitness Program.    It is one of the best forms for tai chi beginners to start with as it is relatively easy to learn via YouTube and CD’s while still holding on to core concepts and movements in the more advanced forms.  This is the most universally recognized form, often practiced in large outdoor groups around the world.   If you missed the other 7 lessons, click on the drop-down arrow under categories, or look on the Front Page under 24 Form.

This 6th posture is called Step Back To Repulse Monkey.

Know someone wanting to learn Tai Chi or a Tai Chi Beginner?  I invite you to SHARE this page with them and bookmark this page.

 


 Lesson 9, – Grasp Birds Tail part A

In this video you are taken from where we left off after lesson 8 (posture 6 Repulse the Monkey) into the next posture which is known by several names but I am referring to it as Grasp the Birds Tail.  Grasp the bird’s tail is a Chinese expression that translates “paying attention to – or understanding the details”.

Posture 7 has 4 basic parts to it so Ian has “chunked” these 4 parts into easy-to-learn short segments.  This video concentrates in the first part also known as “peng” or “Warding Off”.  Model this video while he is going through the instruction and you will easily transition from posture 6 to posture 7.


 Lesson 10 – Grasp Bird By The Tail part B

Yesterday we started learning the 4 parts of posture 7 in the 24 form, called Grasp Bird By the Tail. As mentioned yesterday, there are actually several names for it but this is the one I am using because it’s most descriptive and frankly, as a beginner, it helps me remember the movement.

Grasp Bird By the Tail is broken down into 4 parts for clarity of learning. The first part we learned is called “peng”; today in this video we learn the 2nd part called Roll Back, or “Lu”.

So let’s get right into today’s lesson – here is part 2 (of yesterday’s lesson 10) of Grasp Bird By The Tail.

I really like this part of the posture – it reminds me of doing a Hawaiian dance.

I am glad Ian broke this posture down into 4 parts.   How did you do?  Is it coming together for you?  Don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can come right back to it later.


Lesson 11 – Grasp Bird By The Tail Part C

This video is “part 3” of the seventh position, Grasp Bird By the Tail.  This one position, Grasp Bird By the Tail is broken down into a total of 4 parts to make learning it easier.   If you missed the others, just look in the categories (at the side of this blog) under Tai Chi for Beginners to find all the tutorials.


Lesson 12 – Grasp Bird By Tail – Right side Part D

 

We have taken the better part of this week just breaking down this one posture, Grasp Bird By the Tail, into 4 parts  and learning them individually.  Actually there are 3 parts to the form, since the 4th is actually the 8th posture which is repeating on the opposite side.

Thank you Ian Sinclair for making this series available to those of us who are learning this form online.


Lesson 13- Single Whip

Are you ready to learn the next posture in the 24 form?  This video features posture 9 in the Tai Chi for Beginners 24 form series; the Single Whip posture.   Hang in there, you are now over halfway there!

 

 

 


 Lesson 14- Cloud Hands, Single Whip

Next is lesson 14, where taichiman (Ian Sinclair) demonstrates and teaches “Cloud Hands”. Cloud Hands is one that can be confusing – Ian does a good job of clarifying how to step out, bring feet back together, and how to align / orient the body. I found what I was doing wrong (and this video helped me correct) is, I was trying to bring-feet-together-and-step-out all in one movement, with each rotation from right to left – that is wrong. I needed to bring the feet together first, then step out when I moved to the next side. See if this clarifies some problems you are having with Cloud Hands.

Cloud Hands is wrapped up with the 11th posture, another Single Whip

Thanks Ian ( taichiman). I especially appreciate your sense of humor – folks, be sure to watch this all the way to the end and you will see what I mean.


 Lesson 15-  High Pat on Horse

In this next video are learning the 12th posture of the 24 form.  Though this is the 12th posture, it is the 15th lesson because some postures were broken down into several segments / videos.

This  24 form series that instructor taichiman (Ian Sinclaire) is teaching us, is usually considered one of the most widely known “introduction” forms practiced in the world of Tai Chi.   I appreciate the fact that Ian has taken the time to break the 24 form down for us Tai Chi Beginners, and videotape the steps along with very thorough and easy to follow instructions.   So in today’s post we are covering High Pat on Horse.


 Lesson 16 – Kick With Right Heel

Ready to start a kick?  If you have ever taken Tae Kwan Do, you will recognize similarities to this kick, since we are actually focusing on the heel.  However this is not a snap-kick but more like a “pushing” of the heel.

Ian discusses how as beginners we are not to concentrate on kicking high, but the main point is to concentrate on doing this with balance and proper form.  If we make kicking “high” as the main goal, we most surely will lose balance and perhaps fall. Not to mention we will be encouraging improper form from the beginning.  So don’t be afraid of the word “kick”, and don’t be intimidated by some of the other videos we have seen with beautifully executed kicks.


 Lesson 17 – Double Wind to Ears

In this video, Ian demonstrates and teaches us how to properly do “Double Wind To Ears”, also known by a couple other names he mentions too.  As if he could see me practicing this for the first time, he cautions us about inadvertantly drawing our shoulders up when first learning this move.

I am certainly ready for this easier posture after a couple difficult ones, how about you?

 


 Lesson 18 – Turn and Kick With Left Heel

 

Here in lesson 18, Ian teaches us how to “tai-chi-24-form-lesson-17-18 Turn and Kick With Left Heel”. Like the lesson with kick to right, but as he mentions the preceeding and following moves are different.

Remember too that as a new learner, we are not expect to learn this and be proficient at it right away. Instructors say it takes much time so be patient with yourself!


 Lessons 19, 20, & 21-  Snake creeps & Rooster Stands

Today’s post Ian teaches Snake Creaps To the Left.  Personally, I think this is the most beautiful position, as well as the most difficult. Ian emphasizes to do what you can and over time with practice you will be able to drop lower.  In fact, start by not dropping very low until you have built up strength and flexibility.

Here is Snake Creaps To Left:

 

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Next, is lesson 20 where we learn Rooster Stands On The Left Leg. This is the move that transitions between Snake Creaps Low to the left then right. Remember, modify moves according to your strength, flexibility and fitness level.

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I am posting this Lesson 21 today with the other two because in it he concentrates on the right side more, and ties all 4 moves together.  So this one is focus lesson, as well as the full sequence:

 


Lesson 22 – Fair Maiden Weaves the Shuttle

 

Moving right along with the 24 form being taught by Ian Sinclair. Here we are winding down with Fair Maiden Weaves the Shuttle.  After the challenging moves of the previous day, we get a little break with this move.  Time to gain energy for the final finale.  So This lesson, Fair Maiden Weaves The Shuttle, is a bit “easier” on the muscles:


 

Lesson 23 – Needle To The Bottom Of The Sea

We are coming close to the end of the 24 form, and this move is slightly more challenging.  Ian gives great advice regarding how to perform this move without losing balance.  I found this helpful in answering my question about foot placement during this move:

 


 Lesson 24 – Fan Through The Back

 

This move doesn’t look very difficult at all; maybe it’s just me but I found the minute details in this to be of great importance.  If you don’t do it just right, the movement becomes more difficult than it need be (and looks sloppier). Pay close attention to the detailed description from Ian and he will walk you through it:


 

 Lesson 25 – Turn, Twist, Deflect, Step, Parry, Punch

We are winding down now with the basic 24 form, which is the starter for everyone in Tai Chi.

In this video Ian will cover the 21st movement with a name of ” turn, chop, twist step, deflect downward, step forward, parry and punch.”  Not poetic but still descriptive.


 Lesson 26 –  Apparent Close and Counter With Push

“Apparent close” does not mean closure of the 24 form, it refers back to closing a book, which is what the movement resembles.  This is a shorter video than the others, being just under 5 minutes. The movement is easier than those we have been doing, this being primarily an upper body movement.


 Lesson 27 – Conclusion

Wow – if you have followed each form up to now, this is the wrap up and finale.  Congratulations for completing the 24 form.  Practice this once or twice per day – it’s a great way to start your day, and before retiring in the evening.  After mastering these movements, the next step is to start the inner work of Tai Chi.  You thought you were finished?  Nope – you are just starting!


 

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