With the advent of Covid we have had to adapt the way we teach Tai chi and Qi-gong, moving out of a physical class environment to a home environment with teaching taking place across a digital platform such as zoom. This has led to the need for adaption of the curriculum and the way the postures and form are taught.
Qi gong is the underlying basis of all Tai Chi it develops breathing technique and teaches how to combine movement and breath together in one continuous flow. Qi-gong also stretches the body both linearly and circularly stretching every major muscle group from head to toe.
The bulk of the class is dedicated to the qi-gong because working on the core basics never ends and over the years I have seen how practice of qi-gong prepares and increases the students strength and flexibility and coordination when doing the form.
So why learn the form you might ask? The qi-gong strengthens and increases flexibility of major muscle groups, but it is in the details or the form that we find the more subtle and detailed flexing of all muscles in the body from every angle possible. The form also works on your balance through controlled shifting of your weight which increase your overall stability.
Deep breathing is a kep component to both Qi-gong and Tai Chi and it takes some time to develop real deep breathing skills. The Qi-gong is the perfect introduction to the deep breathing as the repetitive nature of the movements makes it moe straight forward to time the breathing with. As yo devleop the coordination of movement an breath, you ability to deepen and conrtol your breathing increases.
The Tai Chi is a set of predefined movements contained in what we call a fom, and the style for form we practice is called Shuang Yang/ This form has 66 movements/postures and it takes about 9 months to learn the basic and then a lifetime to work on perfecting the postures. We have developed and indoor-form using resets that makes it possible to do the form indoors or in a limited space environment. This enables the student to work on the form in its entirety and in its own way increases a student’s spatial awareness beyond the normal hall situation where space is less limiting.
Once a month in a workshop (included in online student fees and government covid restrictions permitting) we get together in person and perform the whole form together several times and this gets you more into the full continuous flow of the form.
My teaching philosophy is to pass the form on to my students in such a way that you can go and do the form any time and anywhere you like outside the class environment. This usually takes a new student about 18 months of study to get to this stage, and then you have it for life.
Knowing the form is a real skill which enables you to continually stretch and strengthen your body without the need for any external apparatus or guidance and, it really can be done for the rest of your life.
The teaching block works in a 16-week cycle. A new student would expect to go through the teaching cycle a number of times in order to get to the stage of knowing the form without needing to follow the instructor. This will also depend on the amount of time the student comes to class and the use they make of the online resource.
The Online Tai Chi resource has over 50 videos detailing all aspects of the qi-gong and the form which is to support a students learning. It has detailed teaching videos of all the postures as well as showing the whole form. This means the student can study all the different parts of the form in their own time as well as coming to the classes.
Individual class struture:
Qi-gong and stepping work – 40mins
Tai chi individual posture teaching/form – 15mins
Handwork – 5mins
On a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I teach a new posture from the form each day. This is an iterative process and over 16 weeks we work through the whole form from start to finish (For example, week 1 is postures 1 -3 then in week two go onto 4 – 6 etc until we get to posture 66). On a Wednesday we recap on the postures taught on preceding three days and examine the flow aspects while practising them together. On a Friday we do the indoor-form where a student gets to practice the postures we have covered in the week in the context of the form.
If a student is still learning the form then on a Friday they join in and follow up to where they have learnt to and then they watch the remained and this gives them a feel of what’s to come and the continuous flows in the form.
Every month (covid restrictions permitting) we do a workshop where the student will do the form several times in a row and this really helps the student understand the flow and structure of the form.
During the week there are 19 live online classes a week from Monday to Friday. Students can attend as many classes as they like when they like. The class times are Monday to Thursday – 7:30, 13:00, 17:45, 19:00 and Friday 7:30, 13:00 and 17:30.
The online resource is available 24/7 and students are given a login and password. The is a recorded class in the system for a student to access over the weekend.
Qi-gong part only (all classes):
Students participate in the first 40mins of the class and have access to the online resource. Students may want to begin with just the qi-gong to get a feel and to develop their basics. Also the Tai chi form needs to be started from the first posture and so a student may only enrol for the Tai Chi form every 16 weeks.
Starting off with just the Qi-gong will really help the student to get the hang of of co-ordinating whole body movement and the breath together at the same time. This may sound straight forward but it is worth getting a good understanding before moving onto the Tai Chi form. This is because then you can focus more on the complex movements of the form as you already understand the breathing body coordination aspects.
Tai Chi and Qi-gong (all classes):
Full class and access to the online resource. Students enrol for the form when the teaching cycle comes back to the start of the form (every 16 weeks or so). Many students will start with the qi-gong to build up the basics for doing the form. This makes it easier to then move into learning the form as the body and mind are used to the breathing-moving synchronisation that the qi-gong is developing that is so important in the form