Master Chen Zhonghua of Chen Style Practical Method Tai Chi demonstrates the idea of "how to keep the centre". While this is an advanced concept, it is vital that even beginning students understand that Tai Chi is a martial art. Master Chen is worried about the loss of the self defense component of Tai Chi. He states that "By removing applications from Tai Ji, Tai Ji becomes fake Tai Ji, it loses its intrinsic nature. Moreover, if you don’t understand the application, the external movements will be wrong." Though I study a different style of Tai Chi, a teacher of mine echoed Master Chen's concerns and warned about wrong external movements, which he refered to as "wavy hands Tai Chi" - external movements that are disconnected from the spine, and are without purpose or strength.
The hardest part of learning Tai Chi as a martial art is finding a good teacher. So how do you know whether your Tai Chi teacher is the real McCoy? What's the fastest way to find out? Ask questions!
Here are the top three questions you should ask your Tai Chi teacher:
1. What is his/her training background? While this isn't a guarantee of a good teacher, you certainly don't want to be learning from someone who's training is limited to videos and books.
2. How is this move used in application? Every Tai Chi move has a martial arts application. Usually they're blocks, strikes or kicks. If your teacher can't explain application it's a serious warning sign.
3. Will you be learning Push Hands, meditation and Qigong? These are three important components of any Tai Chi practice. Missing pieces indicate a lack of experience.
A good teacher will welcome these questions. If your teacher is hesitant to answer, or if the answers you get don't satisfy you, it's time to move on. Whether you're looking for your first, or your next, Tai Chi teacher, click here for Tai Chi classes in the Hamilton area.