Yang Style Tai Chi (Chuan)

太極(Tai Chi)

October 2007, I joint a Tai Chi (Chuan) class taught by Mr. Bill Wong. I had wanted to learn Tai Chi since I was in high school. One time I joint a class offered through company gem, but did not finish it because I changed job.

Mr. Wong emphasizes using Tai Chi for the fitness and exercise purpose, instead of "precision" motions. It suits me well. He has different number of moves, 64 and 108, from others, 24, 37, and so on. From the web, they say that the smaller numbers are to avoid intimidating beginners. If they count as Mr. Wong does, their moves are as many. At bottom of this page are links to the lists of his 108 and 64 moves and 37 moves from the web. Comparing Bill's 108 and web's 37 shows that they have almost same move names. (Since the names for 37 moves are in (traditional) Chinese only, the comparison must be in Chinese. Also some names are not exactly the same, but the main phrases can tell they are about the same.) I do not know how the 37 moves work, but I trust Mr. Wong makes the transitions of moves more natural. At minumum, there are more for me to exercise. Incidentally, it worried me in remembering the 108 moves at beginning. Now it is not that hard after 10 weeks, 20 meeting later.

One comment on a Tai Chi video clip on the web is the concern that those movements are not for people with arthritis. The movements in the clip demostrated by an expert, if not a master, are difficult even for most people. It is not the case in Bill's class. Tai Chi Chuan, like most Chinese martial art, should make house stand (蹲馬步). However, Bill simply asks us to do as much as we can and be sure not to hurt the joints. Most moves are walking around. They are fine. But for some that require crouching down, keep spine straight. Do not risk to hurt the back. Doing the hand and body motions is enough, if the knees cannot handle bending and crouching.

After the sports injury warning is clear, here is one major priciple, if possible, between Tai Chi biginning (which is to bend the knee) and Tai Chi end (which is to stand straight), keep knees bended. The description from Mr. Wong is: The ceiling collapses down at the height of your head after the first move and the head should never pass the (imaginary ceiling) height. Again, it is if possible. Do not force it. On the other hand, I would try to do it. One, to increase exercise and two, to see whether it can improve my knees.

Now, take away the horse stand, where are the exercise? Well, hands swings, forward, backward, upward, and downward. To increase the effectness, large circular swings. Constant weight shifting between legs. Constant turning waist along with the weight shifting. Palms and wrist turning. Feet pointing left and right. Legs stepping forward, backward, and sideways. These are all gentle motions, yet all your body are involved. Also most moves have symmetric ones. It balances (equal exercise) for hands and legs.

During the writing of this article, it is December. At beginning of practice, my hands get cold when they are moving around the cold air. But they get warm after couple cycles. After about 45 minutes practice in the class, I could sweat a little.

I still remember when during the first meeting, Bill asked us to swing hands around at last 10 minutes or so of the hour as a "warm up" for the next, teaching meeting and my shoulders got sore. That shows how little I exercised. Now, I could practice Tai Chi for 45 mintues and the shoulders have not problem. It only means that I "found" those muscles.

It is not clear to me whether this is only from Mr. Wong. Middle setion of moves can be "looped". Bill kind of divides the moves in 3 sections, beginning, middle, and end. The middle section can be looped over and over. It is obvious that Tai Chi can start over at the end, but it is interesting to know it can repeat just in middle section. There are 8 and 9 moves in beginning and end sections, respectively. The rest, 47 or 91, moves are in middle sections. It can also partitioned as loop moves (excluding the first, beginning move) and end moves. Check the move lists to determine yourself.

While on the subject of looping, my preception of a set of martial art should end at the beginning. The posts (hand and leg positions) of first and last moves of Tai Chi are the same. Therefore, I looked into where the feet end. Luckily, with software tools and with reasonable errors, the foot work analysis shows that only 2 moves, Punch under the Elbow (手底捶) and, in 108 moves only, Turn and Sweep Left Knee (轉身左摟膝拗步) need to be changed from the instructions of Mr. Wong. Actually, first one was modified by him during reccent years. The class material, instructions for 64 moves and a DVD showing the 64 moves, shows that the move was as good. On the other hand, the modification did make the next move smoother. The other move is added by him for the 108 moves. Personally, I feel my adjustment will make the move easier.

The foot work analysis assumes that very foot movement ends at sqare grid point. The grid size is the shoulder width. Below is the slide show of the foot work for 64 moves. The reasonable errors are in 9 - Raise Hands, Right (提手上勢) and 12 - Raise Hands, Left (手揮琵琶). Because those two moves step foot together first, which causes a feet (in comparision to shoulder) wide difference. Interrestingly, those two moves correct each other. I have to say that I admire the person design these moves.

Below is slide show of the foot work. Again, it is not intended for precision foot work. I know I will never achieve that. It is just for the sake of making sure after number of loops, should I get there, I would not at neighbor's yard or other company's parking lot (where I practice now.) Of course, either way, I wouldn't. Obviously, it is very easy to make adjustment when I am farther and farther away.

Tai Chi 108 Move List from Mr. Bill Wong (English and Chinese)
Tai Chi 64 Move List from Mr. Bill Wong (English and Chinese)
Tai Chi 37 Move List from Web (Chinese Only)