Our teaching is built on internal Tai Chi principles...
The benefits of Tai Chi come from embodying the internal principles – what we call being ‘in principle’.
Our goal is to stay ‘in principle’ not just during class, but in everyday life – when sitting, standing, moving, or interacting.
What are the internal Tai Chi principles?
Like most Tai Chi teachers, we believe that Tai Chi can only be fully understood when experienced in the body. And the internal principles of Tai Chi practice are transmitted best when demonstrated by a teacher who has developed them in their own body.
Attempts to put them into words, whether in the Tai Chi ‘classics’ or in Cheng Man Ch’ing’s own books, tend to use language that is difficult to follow and requires careful study to interpret correctly. That is partly because these texts try to capture the full depths of Tai Chi practice, and partly because the Chinese tradition of learning believes the struggle to understand the text is an important part of the process.
However, for those brought up in our Western style of learning, we also believe it is useful to have some simple words which are easily understood, even if they don’t capture the full depth of the Tai Chi practice. These words provide only the simplest understanding of the internal principles described by Cheng Man Ch'ing in his books (and by the 'classics'). But having them as a guide can help you make sense of even your first Tai Chi experiences. They ‘point the way’ towards the deeper understanding you will get through the experience of practice.
So, at Beginners level, we talk about 5 principles to start you on your journey (and, in class, we give you specific 'indications' to help you embody them):
We release physical tension and calm our mind. Ultimately, developing ‘looseness’ in body and mind helps us to feel more ‘at ease’
Moving from the centre (or Tan Tien)
We initiate all movement from our Tan Tien. Ultimately, developing the ability to rest our mind in the Tan Tien helps us to feel more ‘centred’
We are held from above and root into the earth below. Ultimately, developing our connection to heaven & earth helps us to feel more ‘secure’
We stay fully on one leg and empty the other. Ultimately, developing our ability to maximise both Yin & Yang helps us to feel more ‘powerful’ (‘full of Qi’)
Beauteous (or Fair Maiden's) Hands
Our hands are soft to allow a sensitive touch. Ultimately, developing our ability to ‘listen’ with all our senses helps us to feel more ‘aware’
You may hear other words to express these principles as you develop on your journey through the levels of teaching - and certainly you will hear new indications in classes at each new level. However, these initial words form a solid foundation to build on.