Tai ji Quan

 Currents events and lectures: 

1.   Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong Classes on shelter Island every Saturday from 9-10 am

near the Art show.

2. Seminar:  Living for health. Coming soon

Tai chi

As the name tai chi chuan is held to be derived from the Taiji symbol (taijitu or t’ai chi t’u, 太極圖), commonly known in the West as the “yin-yang” diagram, tai chi chuan is therefore said in literature preserved in its oldest schools to be a study of yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles, using terminology found in the Chinese classics, especially the Book of Changes and the Tao Te Ching.

The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form (ch’üan or quán, 拳), a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, abdominal breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of pushing hands (tui shou, 推手) for training movement principles of the form in a more practical way.

The solo form should take the students through a complete, natural, range of motion over their center of gravity. Accurate, repeated practice of the solo routine is said to retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout the students’ bodies, maintain flexibility through their joints and further familiarize students with the martial application sequences implied by the forms. The major traditional styles of tai chi have forms which differ somewhat cosmetically, but there are also many obvious similarities which point to their common origin. The solo forms, empty-hand and weapon, are catalogs of movements that are practiced individually in pushing hands and martial application scenarios to prepare students for self-defense training. In most traditional schools different variations of the solo forms can be practiced: fast–slow, small circle–large circle, square–round (which are different expressions of leverage through the joints), low sitting/high sitting (the degree to which weight-bearing knees are kept bent throughout the form), for example.

The philosophy of the style is that if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to tai chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. The collision of two like forces, yang with yang, is known as “double-weighted” in tai chi terminology. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and “stick” to it, following its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, the result of meeting yang with yin. Done correctly, achieving this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat (and, by extension, other areas of one’s life) is known as being “single-weighted” and is a primary goal of tai chi chuan training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.”

Tai chi’s martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent’s movements and center of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or “capturing” the opponent’s center of gravity immediately upon contact is trained as the primary goal of the martial tai chi student. The sensitivity needed to capture the center is acquired over thousands of hours of first yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low impact) and then later adding yang (“realistic,” active, fast, high impact) martial training; forms, pushing hands and sparring. Tai chi trains in three basic ranges, close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip depending on style. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. Joint traps, locks and breaks (chin na) are also used. Most tai chi teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained. There is also an emphasis in the traditional schools that one is expected to show wu te (武德), martial virtue or heroism, to protect the defenseless and show mercy to one’s opponents. 

China has one of the longest histories of continuously recorded martial arts tradition of any society in the world, and with hundreds of styles probably the most varied. Over the past two to four thousand years, many distinctive styles have been developed, each with its own set of techniques and ideas. There are also common themes to the different styles, which are often classified by “families” (家, jiā), “sects” (派, pai) or “schools” (門, men) of martial art styles. There are styles that mimic movements from animals and others that gather inspiration from various Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put most of their focus into the belief of the harnessing of qi energy, while others concentrate solely on competition and exhibition. Each style offers a different approach to the common problems of self-defense, health and self-cultivation.

Chinese martial arts can be split into various categories to differentiate them: For example, external (外家拳) and internal (内家拳). Chinese martial arts can also be categorized by location, as in northern (北拳) and southern (南拳) as well, referring to what part of China the styles originated from, separated by the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); Chinese martial arts may even be classified according to their province or city. The main perceived difference about northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork. Examples of the northern styles include Changquan and Xingyiquan. Examples of the southern styles include Nanquan and Wing Chun. Chinese martial arts can also be divided according to religion, imitative-styles (象形拳), and more. There are distinctive differences in the training between different groups of Chinese martial arts regardless of the type of classification.

Chinese martial arts training consists of the following components: basics, forms, applications and weapons. Each style has its own unique training system with varying emphasis on each of those components. In addition, philosophy and ethics are highly regarded by most Chinese martial arts. A complete training system should also provide insight into Chinese attitudes and culture.

Qi Gong

Qigong is an aspect of Traditional Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it as a therapeutic intervention. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the Neijia, or internal martial arts where the object is the full mobilization and proper coordination and direction of the energies of the body as they are applied to facilitate all physical actions.

There are currently more than 3,300 different styles and schools of qigong.[citation needed] Qigong relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as an “energy field” generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as qi. Qi means breath or gas in Chinese, and, by extension, the energy produced by breathing that keeps us alive; gong means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of technique. Qigong is then “breath work” or the art of managing one’s breathing in order to achieve and maintain good health, and (especially in the martial arts) to enhance the energy mobilization and stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration.

There is another, older meaning of “Qi”: energy. Before people became aware of air and its role in breathing, people understood the need to inhale and exhale something. That something was ‘Qi” or energy. Therefore, the original meaning of “Qigong” was Energy Skill.

Attitudes toward the scientific basis (or lack of it) for qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners, many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government view qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Others see qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that breathing and movement exercises can help one tap the fundamental energies of the universe.

Controversies within qigong

In the 1980s and 1990s, the increasing popularity of qigong and related practices led to the establishment of many groups and methods in China and elsewhere that have been viewed in a critical light by more traditional qigong practitioners as well as by skeptical outside observers. In their view, a large number of people started studying qigong under inadequate supervision, indeed, perhaps the majority of people today who study qigong work from books or video tapes and DVDs without supervision by a teacher. This laxness can lead to several problems, according to those who view themselves as representative of orthodox schools. Most traditional training takes many years of practice under the supervision of someone who has also learned over years, someone who can guide and prevent the student from taking an unbalanced approach to qigong practice. The othodox practitioners warn that improperly supervised practice can cause unbalanced circulation of inner energies that can eventually lead to unbalanced effects on the various systems of the body, both mental and physical.

Stories of unguided practitioners or inexpertly guided students developing chronic mental and physical health problems as a result of such training are not uncommon. [1] A term used by English speaking practitioners and teachers for one example of this syndrome is “Qigong Psychosis” (Now included in the DSM-IV as a culture-bound syndrome: Qi-Gong Psychotic Reaction: DSM-IV General Information: Appendix I, Outline for Cultural Formulation and Glossary of Culture-Bound Syndromes). Another aspect of improper training involves frauds and deliberate acts of charlatans who promote themselves as qigong “healers” and promise miracle cures of any conceivable affliction for the right amount of money. Traditionally, qigong is considered more of a health maintenance regimen, and any promises of miracle cures should, according to traditional teachers and practitioners, be viewed with suspicion and approached with great caution.

Criticisms of qigong

Much of the criticism of qigong involves its claimed method of operation. Both traditional Chinese and Western medicine practitioners have little argument with the notion that qigong can improve and in many cases maintain health by encouraging movement, increasing range of motion, and improving joint flexibility and resilience. However, the benefits of qigong become much more controversial when it is asserted that qigong derives its benefits from qi acting as a kind of “biological plasma” that cannot be detected by scientific instruments. Many biologists and physicists are skeptical of these claims and regard them as pseudoscientific.

Association of qigong with practices involving spirit possession have added to establishment criticism. Some experts in China have warned against practices involving the claimed evocation of demons, and practices involving the worship of gods during qigong practice.

Many proponents of qigong claim that they can directly detect and manipulate qi. Others, including some traditional Chinese practitioners, believe that qi can be viewed as a metaphor for certain biological processes, and the effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms of concepts more familiar to Western medicine such as stress management.

Qigong’s recent popularity has also led to increased attention for religious groups teaching their versions of qigong. Qigong has been associated in China with Taoist and Buddhist meditation practices, and this association has recently been popularized by different groups. Falun Gong is one such qigong[6] with an emphasis on what its founder calls the cultivation of virtue[7]. A recently popular practice, it uses many terms traditionally associated with Buddhism and Taoism, its founder stating that it is “qigong of the Buddha School.”[8


[edit] Uses

Today millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise. Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines practiced by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists, and their students. Once more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.

Medical qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989. It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China. After years of debate, the Chinese government decided to officially manage qigong through government regulation in 1996 and has also listed qigong as part of their National Health Plan.

Qigong can help practitioners to learn Diaphragmatic breathing, an important component of the relaxation response, which is important in combatting stress.

Yan Xin (嚴新), a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine as well as founder of the relatively popular Yan Xin Qigong school, suggests that in order for qigong to be accepted by the modern world it must pass the test of scientific study. Without such studies, Yan maintains, qigong will be dismissed as “superstition” (see “Criticism of Qigong” chapter below). In the mid-1980s he and others began systematic study of qigong in some research institutions in China and U.S. More than 20 papers have been published. Yan Xin’s research papers were never published in peer-reviewed journals of any international scientific standing and he has refused to demonstrate his results to sceptic scientists.