Tai Chi: 6 – 7pm ThursdaysAn open-floor, all levels class where you can work with a peer group or get individual guidance from instructors and senior students.
Tai Chi (or taijiquan) is a refined movement meditation practice and martial art based on the grounding and redirection of incoming force. Unlike “external” styles of martial arts, which rely on forceful movement of the limbs, tai chi is an “internal” style that derives its power from the core and hips while the limbs remain loose and relaxed. It’s practiced slowly, with attention on the movement of energy and consciousness through the body, borrowing force from the body’s interaction with the earth and tracing it through the joints with precise timing. Tai chi comes in a variety of approaches, called “styles.” We teach the Wu style of Tai Chi, a compact and practical approach that is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. The stances are relatively short, and the practitioner need not dip into extended or deep stances to perform the techniques properly. Pedagogically, we place a heavy emphasis on proper body alignment so as to protect the knees from overuse injuries.
While tai chi does not require extreme range of motion, it is nonetheless a challenging and intricate movement practice, and builds a surprising amount of strength and cardiovascular endurance. Instruction is open and inquisitive, and instructors use a variety of teaching approaches. We often begin with standing meditation practice to deepen spatial awareness, refine body movements into slow, relaxed arcs, and improve the body’s ability to sense the flow of energy through it. We then move on to the tai chi forms themselves. At times you will follow along through a string of movements with a focus on flow and relaxation. Other times we’ll get deep into internal body mechanics and power generation, focusing on only a few movements but with great specificity. At still other times we’ll work in partner-groups and “test out” the movements to get a better understanding of how they are applied through a series of games called “push hands.” Questions are always welcome.
Despite claims in popular media that tai chi is an “ancient” practice, its current iterations are in fact quite recent in origin, having evolved in Northern China during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912). It also exhibits substantial variety in its many sub-styles, though tai chi is ultimately unified by a common set of movement principles. The earliest known styles of tai chi come from the Chen village, but many other styles developed throughout the 1800s in the vibrant Beijing martial arts community. The world’s most popular form of tai chi, Yang style, developed at this time, followed by the Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun styles, which together with the original Chen style form the five “orthodox” styles of tai chi. Wu style developed as a small-frame, more compact version of Yang style under Wu Quanyou (1834-1902), and then was further modified under his son, Wu Jianquan (1870-1942). Wu style tai chi varies regionally according to the particular branch of the Wu family involved. Beijing Wu practitioners remain faithful to the original movements developed by Wu Quanyou. Shanghai and Hong Kong practitioners follow Wu Jianquan’s revisions. The Hong Kong branch follows the male descendants of Wu Jianquan, while the Shanghai school follows his daughter, Wu Yinghua (1907-1996) and her husband, Ma Yueh-Liang (1901-1998). Sifu Adam’s teacher, Grandmaster Johnny Kwong Ming Lee, is a disciple of Grandmaster Ma Yueh-Liang, and thus West Gate teaches the Shanghai branch of Wu style.