Description of Classes
Tai Chi Elements
Our Tai Chi Elements class is the place to start in learning Tai Chi. Elements is an ongoing class suitable for drop-ins and requiring no previous experience; it is appropriate for any student -- beginner or long-term. It provides students an immediate experience with the essence of tai chi -- we practice Five Animal Frolics qigong and sequences from the First Third of the tai chi form. With 2-3 months of consistent practice in Tai Chi Elements, students are ideally prepared to continue in Beginning Form.
Beginning Form classes run for 15 weeks; we start Beginning Form classes about 3 or 4 times a year: at the beginning of the year, in spring, and again in fall. We begin by teaching the Five Animals Qigong set: this gives students an immediate basis to develop a personal practice. We then introduce the basic Form Sequences that are the building blocks for the tai chi form. (We also work with the Five Animals and Form Sequences in Tai Chi Elements. Students who are able to join Elements before Beginning Form will have the benefit of already being introduced to these exercises.) Once students have developed a personal practice and learned the building blocks, we connect those together and teach the remaining portions of the first section of the tai chi form.
Form postures are taught in order, each class reviewing the previous postures and then learning the next one in the series. If you miss a class you will have a chance to catch up, but it is best if you can commit to attending every week of the session.
The First Third is a standalone form that is a subset of the full 37-posture form. It gives students a foundation for personal practice and exercises all the core tai chi principles. Students can join a Beginning Form class without having taken Tai Chi Elements, but in that case, we recommend that you also attend Tai Chi Elements if you can. Once you have learned the First Third, you are welcome to join an Intermediate Form class or one of our Form Refinement classes to learn the rest of the moves in the form. You can also repeat the beginning class again (some students really like doing this). And you can join our Focus On Practice class to deepen your understanding of tai chi principles using the First Third.
When we finish a beginning class, we usually continue in that same time slot with an Intermediate Form class. This gives students who are interested the chance to continue learning the form in a setting dedicated just to teaching the rest of the form. It's also an opportunity for other students to join and review the form, posture by posture, from the first section through the end of the form.
Since we work through the form posture by posture in this class, it's best if students can attend every week. If a student needs to attend on a more variable schedule, our Form Refinement classes support learning the rest of the form without the need to come every week at the same time. Students can also attend both Intermediate Form and Form Refinement for additional practice opportunities.
This is an ongoing class that covers the entire 37-posture form and is primarily intended for students who already know the full form and want to refine their practice. We encourage students who have learned just the First Third to join our Intermediate Form Class to learn the rest of the postures or to join the Focus On Practice class to deepen understanding of the First Third. But, if for any reason, such as scheduling, that doesn't work, these students are also welcome in Form Refinement. With the help of our assistant instructors, we are able to give careful attention to students still learning the form while also helping long-time practitioners deepen their study. This class is also appropriate for students returning to class after being away for a time who want to remember the form and revitalize their practice.
This class meets three times a week, and attendance requirements are more informal than in our Beginning Form classes. Once you have learned the First Third, you can come to any or all of the Form Refinement classes as fits your schedule and preferences: some people pick one or two days a week to attend, others come when they can. Depending on the needs of the individuals in the group, we may work on postures that are new to students who are learning the choreography and/or we may work on a specific skill or principle; the structure of these classes is dynamic in the moment.
Focus on Practice: The First Third
One of the wonderful things about Tai Chi is the way the first section of the form (“First Third”) contains everything needed for a deep and thorough practice. For years, when Ben Lo came to town, he never got past correcting the First Third, and he always reminded us that to correct one posture is to correct them all. In that spirit, we’ve created a class that focuses on the principles and core skills of Tai Chi using the first section of the form. Students who have learned the First Third can use this class to deepen their practice without taking on the choreography and physically more demanding postures of the form past the First Third. It is also appropriate for longtime students who can use the First Third as a basis for focusing on Tai Chi practice and principles.
This is also our first class based in the Hygiene Studio. If you haven’t been to our Hygiene Studio, contact us for directions.
For students who want to explore the interactive aspect of tai chi -- and who have learned the whole form and have gone through at least a round of refinements -- push hands is the next step in the curriculum. The class is ongoing, but we start new sessions for beginners twice a year, in January and September. If you are an ongoing student and interested in learning push hands, let us know! If you already have push hands experience elsewhere and want to join us, talk to us first. Our approach is more structured than in many schools: we do both choreographed practice and a lot of free practice, but we usually have specific goals for skill development in any one class. People from other schools may find it useful to begin attending at the start of one of our twice-a-year push hands sessions.
Students learn the Grasp Sparrow's Tail push hands form and its standard variations, using cooperative exercises to explore and develop skills such as responsiveness, listening, lightness, discharge or issuing, rooting, sticking and following. These drills also form the basis for free pushing practice. Continued form refinement is encouraged to get the most out of push hands, as the two practices complement each other.
See Approaching Push Hands for details about our approach.
Like push hands, sword class is ongoing, with a new session starting in January. The solo sword form and fencing round out the practices that form Cheng Manching's "tripod" of study (form, push hands, and sword). This class is for students who have learned the whole form and have gone through at least a round of refinements. Of course, we encourage you to continue refining the empty-handed form as you study the sword. Ongoing students who are interested in sword should let us know!