Yang Style Long Form
Tai Chi Chuan
Lesson 1: Series Introduction
Welcome to Gilman Studio Web Site and the Yang Style Long Form course. As far as I know, there has never been an attempt to teach a Tai Chi course over the internet, so as with all new beginnings, we will learn together.
The course will begin with some introductory material that will be limited in scope, as the history and philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan* is readily available in many books already in print or available over the Internet. I will only use what I feel is important for your learning the form correctly.
*Note: The name Tai Chi Chuan is spelled in many ways. This is the way I am most comfortable spelling it so I will continue in this way. I will most often use the term Tai Chi even though it technically has a different meaning. I will explain this to you shortly.
You will be required to study on your own, and that takes a great deal of persistence and will power. Usually, most students have the support of a class situation, which really helps, but for most of you, that is not a possibility. So it is up to you to do your best to learn and integrate the wonderful philosophy and physical benefits of Tai Chi into your life.
After the introduction, we will start with learning or relearning how to stand comfortably and correctly according to the basic rules of Tai Chi Chuan. We will then move into the basic stances and the ways Tai Chi players move their bodies. We will then start in on the movements, and as you work your way through them, the philosophy and practical applications of these movements will unfold.
I am planning on adding one, two, or three movements a week until the entire 108 movement Yang Style Long Form has been presented. In the class situation, we first review the movements from the previous weeks, then learn one or several new movements. I highly recommend practicing the old movements until you feel comfortable with them before learning new movements. This will take discipline on your part. If you print out the lessons as they are presented, you will end up with a good book that will help you for your entire Tai Chi life, no matter how deep your involvement.
The great benefit of learning Tai Chi in a class is being able to be with the teacher and senior students so you can get a true grasp of what Tai Chi looks like when performed correctly. In this course you will be given written instructions and pictures to illustrate how the movements are to be performed. It has many limitations, yet I feel we will be able to do this in such a way that you will gain many benefits. I have a video of the entire series done, so any time you like you can purchase and watch the video in order to see the flow of movements from one to another.
I am very willing to do whatever I can to help the serious student in his or her learning. You can e-mail me your questions and I will make every effort to answer them. I will have senior students help me with this. I think it is time to begin.
One last thing. I offer some extra learning tools to help in your studies. This entire course is on a CD Rom. On the same CD Rom is another book I wrote with more specific details about the movements as well as much more about the history, philosophy, Chi Kung, Push Hands and more. Together, these two learning sources present an incredible amount of information. Besides this CD, I offer an hour long reference video tape that shows the form as it flows, and also a section on breaking down the movements just like I do on this web course. Both of these are offer through my online store. Just go to the home page and click on the online store. Both are priced very reasonably.
Basic Introduction to Tai Chi Chuan
As you read about in your studies, Tai Chi was, and is, a martial art first and foremost . The name Tai Chi Chuan translates as Supreme Ultimate Fist, so you can easily see the main connection. If that element is not talked about in class the teacher has failed to do justice to what Tai Chi really is. Of course, most people don’t study Tai Chi in order to learn a self -defense system and for that reason most teachers place little emphasis on the martial side of the form. I can’t separate out the martial aspects, so my first response to the question of what Tai Chi is, is that it is a martial art.
Assuming that Tai Chi is a martial art, what would be important for an individual to know in order to be good in this art? I think it could boil down to a sound mind and body, and a calm spirit. Achieving this takes most of a lifetime. Yet our journey toward this goal of sound mind and body has rich rewards all along the way. Each step brings life more into focus so that one makes fewer mistakes and can rebound from them more quickly. Health and happiness can’t help but improve. Our relations with others take on a much more relaxed attitude as we gain self-confidence through constantly working on our self-knowledge. Life becomes an adventure.
Another way to look at Tai Chi Chuan is to translate the Chinese in a different way. Tai can mean Ultimate or Spirit, Chi mind or energy, Chuan body or form. So I sometimes translate it to mean the form (Chuan) that allows the Universal Energy (Tai) to express itself (Chi). We practice Tai Chi in order to become more integrated with the energy of the Universe, to open and strengthen the body so that this energy can be channeled in an appropriate fashion.
So Tai Chi is about focus. If you want to do something, the more focus you can bring to it, the more energy is made available to you. The goal of Tai Chi then is to learn how to increase our ability to deal with energy. We need to identify what energy is, how to bring it into our body, how to channel and focus it, and how to use it to accomplish our personal goals. We might need to defend ourselves from without or within, to heal ourselves or others, to increase our enjoyment of life through gaining sensitivity and awareness, to go beyond what we could ever imagine through meditation, or enjoy a new sport in the form of Push Hands.
Tai Chi Chuan is
- Martial art
- Exercise (Balance, Flexibility, Coordination)
- International Sport
- Increased concentration
- Self knowledge
- Understanding energy
- Chinese history and philosophy
- Rejuvenation and Immortality
The difference between Tai Chi Chuan and Tai Chi
Tai Chi Chuan is the name given to a specific martial art whose place of origin is China. Tai Chi Chuan is similar to many martial arts of the world yet retains its uniqueness because of the Tai Chi Chuan Classics written over the ages. Many books contain these classic teachings and I recommend the following: The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan, Jou, Tsung Hwa; The Inner Structure of Tai Chi: Tai Chi Chi Kung I, Mantak Chia; Taijiquan Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form and Qigong, Dr Yang Jwing-Ming. You may find these books at your local library, or use our Books & Links page to purchase them.
Tai Chi is the name for a specific symbol, the double fish, which is symbolic for the interaction of Yin and Yang. It is this balance of the opposing forces of nature, this inter-action, that gives Tai Chi Chuan its name. Before the formation of existence as we know it, according to the ancient Daoist theory, there was Wu Chi, or the Great Void. It is similar to the theory we have in the West about the Big Bang. There was a state before the Big Bang and it is only after the Big Bang that reality, as we know it was created. First there was Wu Chi and suddenly, for some reason, Tai Chi appears. Tai Chi is the polar opposites of Yin and Yang. Up and down, in and out, black and white, male and female, night and day, hot and cold, etc. Out of these two extremes, Yin and Yang, spring everything in existence. Between black and white lie all the colors of the rainbow. Between hot and cold are all possible temperatures.
What is important for our study of Tai Chi Chuan is the idea of Wu Chi or stillness, and Tai Chi as the interaction of Yin and Yang.
So Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art based on the interaction of yin and yang, the idea of balance. Many people, myself included, sometimes refer to the martial art as Tai Chi, which as I stated before is incorrect, but easier to type and speak, so we do it. Tai Chi Chuan is a dialog between the mind and the body. In order to remain injury-free, we need to be aware of some of the messages the body sends. Before continuing on with the formal lessons, please read the information provided below.
Injuries, Symptoms, and Treatment
The chances for injuries while practicing Tai Chi are very small. If you stay in your body, (meaning that your awareness is on the activity you are engaged in at the time), you will almost never suffer accidents. If your mind wanders or is distracted, you can suffer injury.
The first rule of staying healthy in sports is not to overdo. Know yourself, don’t try and compare yourself with others, feel what you are doing from the inside, make a little progress daily: these are all important to staying accident free. Also, being able to read the signals the body sends is very important. Let’s look at the most common.
- Dull Ache.
This is quite common when doing an activity you havenÂt done before or when doing more than you usually do. The feeling is caused by lactic acid build up as a result of muscles having worked hard and the body not being able to get rid of the waste by-products of energy exertion. Rest is the most common way to deal with this situation. Massage is another. In any case, when the work or exercise is done, there is a dull ache, which persists for a while and goes away by itself. This is to be expected.
- Sharp, shooting pain
This is a sure sign that something is wrong. As you are exercising you experience a sharp, shooting pain that stops when you stop. This means that the particular movement could cause damage if you persist. The body is saying, Don’t do that any more! The remedy for this is to stop and examine what you are doing, and how you are doing the movement. Try again and if the sensation comes again, stop.
- Pops, Snaps, Cracks
These sounds will always indicate an injury that will need medical care. Fractures, breaks, and torn cartilage are not something to mess around with. Immediately get help.
Strains and Sprains
These are the most common types of injuries that you might receive in martial arts practice. You can usually take care of them yourself. Fractures and breaks must be attended to by trained health care workers. Strains are tears in muscles or tendons (what attaches muscles to bones). They can be very small and quick to heal or large and slow to heal. Sprains are tears in ligaments (attaches bone to bone). Tendons and ligaments don’t have a good blood supply so their ability to heal is slowed. Almost any exercise will produce micro-tears in your muscles and connective tissue. This is normal and in the course of daily life, you will get the rest your body needs to repair any normal damage. The more flexible your body is, the less likely tears are, so you must stretch regularly, and more so before any amount of extra load you place on yourself.
When you receive a strain or sprain, your body will immediately start to deal with it. This is called the inflammation response and can be recognized by four primary symptoms:
If an area is especially painful when you stretch, but painless when put through passive movement (that is when someone does the movement for you) you will probably be able to treat the strain or sprain yourself.
Swelling occurs because the sprain or strain tears capillaries, and besides the small amount of blood that is released during the stress, the body sends extra to help heal the site. Local hormone-like chemicals are produced that increase the activity of pain receptors so you will be less likely to further injure the site. The fluid also acts to immobilize the site, bringing the feeling of stiffness and inflexibility.
As the body moves to heal the injured site, your metabolism increases and you will feel warmth.
Redness will be visible in the more severe strains and sprains, less so in the minor ones. Redness indicates significantly increased blood flow.
Whenever you have a minor injury, remember the word RICE. This indicates the best way to treat yourself and speed the healing response of the body. Remember, only nature can heal, but we can be of assistance and make the job easier for our dear Mother Nature. Start your treatment immediately!
As soon as possible, get off and stay off the injury. Your body needs time to heal.
Ice should be used every three to four hours for the first 24 to 48 hours. It chills the affected area so that the tissues constrict and squeeze out swelling like a sponge. When you remove the ice, fresh blood returns to the site with oxygen and other materials for repair. Ice also decreases the nerve impulses to the brain so you do not experience as much pain.
Ice is generally applied for periods of from five minutes to 30 minutes at a time. Wrap an ice source (can be ice or frozen vegetables, or a commercially made cold product) in a towel to keep it from being too cold.
Compression helps to inhibit swelling, and helps to immobilize the area. Wrap with an Ace bandage or other compression bandage, being careful not to wrap too tightly or you might restrict the circulation.
Try to keep the area above your heart, and do not put weight on it for one to four days. This helps drain the fluids out of the injured site, and also helps to limit the internal bleeding from the injury.
Most physical therapists only use heat during the rehabilitation phase of healing. In the early phases, heat can increase swelling and retard healing. So, be careful and don’t be in a rush to apply heat. When you do, use moist heat so as not to increase inflammation.
So, go slow and be patient. Allow the body plenty of time to heal and come back gradually, not going immediately to the level of practice you were doing before the injury. Work up to it. And remember to treat the injury as soon as possible