Tai Chi FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi (pronounced Tie-CHEE) is an ancient Chinese martial art and exercise for overall health and well-being. It was founded around 1200 A.D. but more established in the 1600s beginning with the Chen family. It is a combination of slow motion martial art movements and qigong breathing techniques. Tai Chi works with one's vital life force known as chi - a living energy field that permeates and animates the body. Depletions and blocks in this field occur regularly from stress, poor diet/environment, and negative thought patterns. Tai Chi regenerates and balances this field, thereby cultivating a healthier, more harmonious being physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This practice has now gained tremendous respect within the medical community for its natural healing abilities. Harvard Health Publications calls Tai Chi "medication in motion."
Is Tai Chi a Religion?
No. Though it is often allied with Taoism, originally a philosophy not a religion, that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (pronounced Dao), or "way," "path," or "principle." The tenets of Taoism are found in the Tao Te Ching by the 6th century BC philosopher, Lao-tzu.
What Does "Tai Chi" Mean?
"Tai Chi means 'the ultimate.' It means improving, and progressing toward the unlimited; it means the immense existence and the great eternal." - T'ai Chi Classics, Waysun Liao, Shambhala Classics
What Can Tai Chi Do for Me?
Tai Chi helps you to balance mind, body and spirit. If you are feeling overwhelmed with life, stressed out, and dealing with health issues, Tai Chi can provide a healing path. It helps to center your attention in the moment, and connect with your body so it can work more harmoniously. The proof is in the pudding, so come for a free trial class at Young Masters to see and feel its positive effects, which only compound over time and regular practice. Also, you may also want to check out The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi (Shambhala, 2013) for a comprehensive overview and scientific proof of Tai Chi's benefits.
How is Tai Chi Different from Yoga?
First, each modality differs in place of origin: Yoga is from India, Tai Chi from China. Yogic systems rely on static postures and stretches with coordinated breath. Tai Chi is a standing and moving form replicating martial art movements with coordinated breath. Yoga can require an array of equipment (such as mats, blocks, straps, etc.), Tai Chi requires none - you only need a little space, comfortable clothing, and depending on the surface you are practicing on, flat-soled shoes, socks, or bare feet. Yoga can be challenging for some with limited flexibility. Tai Chi is accessible for most all body types and conditions. As reported in The Times of India, September 18, 2013, Sensei Sandeep Desai says, "I have specialized in both tai chi and hathyoga. The stretch in tai chi is not done at the cost of causing discomfort. This is significant, as when you stretch beyond a certain point, the body goes into a shock and recoil state, this is bad in the long run. Tai chi does not encourage that, and usually follows the movements of a cat. Sleep and stretch just enough to spring back into action."
How Often Should I Practice Tai Chi (for best results/benefit)?
Most people begin with once a week (in class), and do feel a positive difference. However, the more often you practice, the better you feel, and the rewards keep compounding. It is best to work toward a daily practice, even if you only have 20 minutes a day. Making the time can calibrate you for a better feeling, more refreshed and centered approach to your daily life.
How Long Does It Take to Learn the Forms (sequence of movements)?
That varies by individual. The Yang 12 Form, our beginner level form, takes a few months to learn on average. The Yang 108 Form can take at least 3 years. After that comes lots of refining. It's a lifelong journey that continually returns gifts of health, longevity, and well-being on all levels. Plus, it's FUN, and each group that works together usually becomes a strong, supportive community of friends.
What does Yang "Style" mean? Yang is the family name that created the particular movement series, and style of moving that we teach at MoonWillow. There are many variations of Yang, so one teacher's style with this form will often not look like another's, which can be a little confusing to new students or students who change teachers. The core principles are the same in all styles, be it Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, etc. Chen style is the oldest, and more martial in its expression and execution. Yang was derived from Chen with more flowing, circular movements.
Do You Earn Belts in Tai Chi?
Though Tai Chi is a form of martial art, there are no belt rankings, only personal achievement.
How Can I Become a Tai Chi Instructor?
Traditionally, a Tai Chi student became a teacher once a master professed them to be. There is currently no national regulation in the United States. The American Tai Chi & Qigong Association does offer national ranking and certification for qualified applicants. Most Tai Chi schools offer their own training and certification programs which require a minimum number of hours to obtain liability insurance, a must for teaching the public at large. For more information on how to become a MoonWillow Certified Instructor, see our Teacher Training Program page.
"Felt so much better after your class, it was obvious I should not neglect Tai Chi."
- Rose Braido-Hall, Wauconda, Illinois