T'ai-chi ch'uan Ta Wen 
T'ai-chi ch'uan, aka:Tai Chi Chuan, Taiji quan 
Questions and Answers

Copyright NWTCCA 2002

These are questions have been asked of our teachers and are listed here in no particular order. Always check with your Dr. before starting a new exercise program.

This is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition, check with your Dr. about any medical treatment.

For Articles go to resources in the main directory.

In general we teach the Traditional art with emphasis on good health and correct technique.


What is tai chi? Why was it started?

T'ai-chi ch'uan was developed as a martial art and longevity exercise between 700 and 300 years ago. It still is taught as both a martial art and longevity art. As early as the 1930's it was found to have varied and profound health benefits. Today it is primarily practiced as a "Mind-body" and Health Promotion exercise. It is one of the best stress reduction methods. It is a low intensity exercise, low impact, suitable to people of all ages and fitness levels. If you can walk, you can practice tai chi. See History article.


What is the purpose of learning t'ai chi?

People take our t'ai-chi classes to Improve their Health, Reduce Stress, Improve their Balance and just feel better about themselves. T'ai-chi is shown to help some people lower their high blood pressure. Many of our students have told us that their blood pressure is now under control after their first series of tai chi and our O'mei chi kung classes. Very importantly increased balance is reported, even in people of advanced age. This better balance provides better mobility, self-assurance and will prevent serious injury to the oldest participants. See article Tai chi Cornell Medical College & New Form of Exercise.


Is tai chi a martial art? How can the slow motion movements be used that way?

Some students study it as a Classical Martial Art. Some use it to help improve performance in other activities such as equestrian, tennis or golf. When done as a martial art the students move at very fast speed just like in other martial arts. We usually refer people wanting to just learn self-defense to specialized classes taught just for that purpose. We have had many black belts taking our classes and they claim it helped their other martial art skills. See article tai chi san shou


Is t'ai-chi considered an aerobic exercise?

T'ai-chi is a low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise. CTCCA Chief Instructor, Harvey Kurland, as director of an Exercise Physiology Laboratory, did a number of studies of aerobic capacity and blood pressure responses of CTCCA t'ai-chi students. He presented his results to the American College of Sports Medicine, showing it was a "Low Intensity" aerobic exercise. Other researchers found similar results to Kurland's work. They studied various Yang Style slow forms. See article Tai Chi In Cardiac Rehab. See Aerobic Abstract.


Will Tai Chi help me to improve my balance?

Yes, It has been proven to improve your balance. A number of research studies including a major study done by the NIH showed significant improvement in balance, 47.5% less falls, and found it superior to other exercises. CTCCA Chief Instructor Harvey Kurland has done workshops for the VA Hospitals and medical personnel in how it improves balance, prevents falls and the proper way to do the techniques so as to prevent falls. Many of our students remark how much better their balance is, just after a few sessions. See Balance and article Tai Chi Chuan - a new form of exercise


I have arthritis, will tai chi help me?

T'ai chi has been shown to help reduce symptoms of some people who suffer arthritis. It has also been shown to help those with Fibromyalgia. Local pain specialists have referred their patients to our classes for this condition.  See articles on arthritis and fibromyalgia.


Where do you teach classes?

CTCCA Classes are located in Southern California: Corona, Riverside: Loma Linda, Cerritos, Moreno Valley, California; Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, etc., Washington; Ashland, Oregon, Vancouver, Kittimat, Terrace, Nelson, British Columbia, Ontario, Canada and other locations. Go to Class information page or go to www.ctcca.org for Washington and Canadian classes


Do you teach Qigong?

Yes, we teach qigong (ch'i kung) "Energy work" as part of the Tchoung system. Ch'i Kung (qi gong) is a form of mind-body exercise that takes many forms ranging from calisthenics to meditation. T'ai chi ch'uan (taji quan) is considered a form of ch'i kung as are hundreds of other exercises developed over the years. The O'mei method is the foundation exercise for all CTCCA classes which includes Tchoung's 24 methods of relaxation and breathing ch'i kung. The O'mei method is very good for stress reduction and very easy to learn. Some CTCCA Schools also teach bagua qigong, Kuang Ping, Tien Shan, Wild Goose, Soaring Crane, Fragrance, tree ch'i kung, standing post, Spinning Dragon, and other methods. Some teachers also practice healing hands, tuina and etheric healing. T'ai-chi ch'uan is only a ch'i kung if done correctly. We teach the safe methods as some forms of ch'i kung may be dangerous. See article Chi Kung Illness


What is the Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association and Northwest T'ai Chi Ch'uan Association?

The Chinese Tai Chi Chuan Association (CTCCA) was the Official t'ai-chi ch'uan umbrella organization in Taiwan. Tchoung Ta-tchen was a delegate of the CTCCA. He formed the CTCCA chapter in Vancouver, B.C., Canada where it grew to 3000 students and spread across Canada and to the USA. The Northwest T'ai Chi Ch'uan Association was formed in Seattle as the United States counterpart to the CTCCA. Currently L. Lee is president of the CTCCA in Vancouver. See History of NWTCCA


I am on a fixed income and cannot afford to take classes, do you have less expensive classes?

Yes, For example, Riverside Community College "Young At Heart Classes" in Riverside CA are FREE for Seniors who live in Riverside County. These classes are geared for Seniors, so they move through the material more slowly through the material than the other younger age classes. You must sign up for each class you attend, even though it is free. There are 8 to 10 classes per week per semester. You must sign up within the first three weeks of the beginning of the semester. In other cities check with your local Senior Center. Go to RCC Link UCR Student Recreation Center has a quarterly class which is very inexpensive as well. : UCRSRC Leisure Classes Contact your local classes for prices.


Does Tai Chi give you a longer and healthier life?

Hundreds of years ago the Chinese developed tai chi for this reason. Sifu Tchoung added particular exercises to improve the health to his curriculum. It has been shown to help balance, agility, and well being. T'ai chi reduces stress and has aerobic benefits that are good for your heart. Combined with a good diet and not smoking, these benefits add up to a better, fuller and longer life, maximizing your genetic potential. See article Tai Chi for Health; and article Tai Chi Lowers Blood Pressure


What type or style of t'ai-chi do you teach?

The t'ai chi ch'uan we teach is called the Symmetrical Version of the Old form of Yang Style and goes through the lineage of Yang Chien-hou and Yang Shao-hou. The method was taught to Tchoung Ta-tchen. Tchoung Ta-tchen taught us. We teach the complete system as taught by Grandmaster Tchoung including O'mei (Emmei) Ch'i kung, Standing post practice, long form, san shou, fast form, pushing hands, sword, knife, stick, pa-kua chang (bagua) and Hsin-I Ch'uan (Hsing-I), etc. See Tchoung Article Some classes, such as UCRSRC, teach the Kuang Ping (Guang Ping) form another Old Yang Style Form throught Yang Pan-hou. Some CTCCA classes also teach Chen Style, Fu Style and Wu style in addition to the Tchoung Form. Check class listings for descriptions.


How long will it take me to learn t'ai-chi?

Usually you should give yourself at least 21 lessons, not days, but actual formal classes, to get the feel of it. Usually the first 10 lessons are relearning how to move and getting familiar with the techniques. You are expected to practice in between classes as well. After 21 lessons you will have the feel for it and will know if it fits your or not. You should be able to do it by yourself at this point. That is our goal for students, being able to practice on their own. Most important thing is to keep practicing on a regular basis. See article Progressing in tai chi, And Guard Against the Three Faults


Is there a video that you recommend, to learn tai chi?

We have not seen a good video for self-study for beginners. Most videos are best used for helping to remember what you learn in a class as a review. Videos are not very good for learning forms on your own, if you have no previous experience. You need a live teacher for immediate feedback. We have several tapes for our students. For our long form the NWTCCA Level 2 video is the only one at this time that we recommend for reviewing what we teach in the long form class. It is not useful for self-study but, like most tapes, it is only for review of what was covered in class. For the Ch'i Kung we recommend Andrew Dale's O'mei Chi Kung Tape. Both are available for purchase in our classes.


What book do your recommend for your class?

For our classes we recommend the book by Tchoung Ta-tchen, The Annotated Theoretical and Practical Tai Chi Chuan. It is available in Vancouver and Riverside classes. That book has the ch'i kung and the Tchoung short form in it. It also features some unique "Tai chi classics" and the san shou form. There are many good books on other forms of t'ai-chi. See our suggested reading list.


I visited one of your classes and what you did was very different from what I learned before. Why is that?

There are several major styles and hundreds of legitimate versions of t'ai-chi ch'uan out there, and some not so. There are many different ways of doing the forms, which make them look different as well as variations on individual techniques. See articles History of Tai Chi Chuan; and the article Comparisons are Difficult.


How do I find a good teacher?

See progressing in tai chi article Determining if the teacher is teaching a legitimate method or if they are competent, is difficult to do for a beginner. As beginners have no frame of reference as to what is correct. Find a group you feel comfortable with and then after you get a taste of it you can explore other options to find a style that fits you. Also make sure you have a legitimate teacher. Does a reputable organization or a master certify them? Check their references, find out who they studied with and how long. They should have several years of formal training under a master. Ask other t'ai chi teachers if they know of that teacher and if they are competent. Do they primarily teach t'ai chi ch'uan or do they do a number of martial arts with t'ai chi as a sideline? Those who teach many arts may not be the best teachers as t'ai-chi is a specialty. Ask for a referral from advanced students or other teachers. Very important: Figure out why you are taking the class and make sure the class is suitable for your needs. See Instructors page for CTCCA certified teachers. See progressing in tai chi article


I am part of an organized religion and do not want to perform any exotic religious practice. Do I have to perform any religious practices or learn about spirituality as part of the class?

T'ai-chi ch'uan is taught as an exercise & martial art and no religious doctrine are taught in our classes. Though some classes do teach secular standing meditation methods. Often a t'ai-chi teacher's individual philosophy or "spirituality" becomes the basis for their "Tai chi Spirituality" ideas, when in fact it has nothing to do with art of t'ai-chi itself. We believe these should be held separate and the teacher should not impose his/her own spiritual beliefs on the students. All t'ai chi ch'uan philosophy and concepts comes directly from the "T'ai-Chi Classics" and they have nothing to do with religious values. See article "Religion and the Martial Arts".


I teach Aikido, if I do the Aikido slowly am I doing tai chi?

No, you are doing "Aikido slowly", you are not doing t'ai-chi. Aikido is a wonderful art and though there are some conceptual similarities, the mechanics of the two arts are very different. T'ai-chi has specific characteristics that make it unique. See article Nimble and Lively


I studied 8 treasures, is that what you are doing?

That may be the "8 Pieces of Brocade" exercises, which are health promotion exercises done by a lot of people. They are very simple to learn and some of our classes do them as part of our basic exercises and warm-up. But they are not t'ai-chi ch'uan. We also do several versions of Ch'i kung, including O'mei, Soaring Crane, Bagua, Tien Shan, O'mei, Tao Yin, etc., depending on the school. Most focus on good health and reducing stress.


I went to a few classes and the teacher did what she called the "Form" and we all followed along. I can't remember how to do it when I get home. Do you teach this way?

No, that method is called "Follow the leader" method and is the worst way to teach t'ai chi. It is only suitable for groups who already know how to do the form so as to do group exercise. We use a systematic curriculum to teach students. Using our NWTCCA 2 tape can help you remember what to do at home. See Article Progressing In Tai Chi


I studied tai chi from other people and just want to learn the sword form, will you teach it to me?

We do offer workshops on occasion where you could learn the sword, as well as san shou, pushing hands and stick. Workshops are open to the public. BUT, We would not do an ala Carte approach in our regular classes. In general most CTCCA schools teach in a specific progression and do not teach out of that order. Even if you have previous training to take the regular class you will have to start from the basic class, as our form is different than most. See Article Tai Chi Chien/Tao


I am an aerobics instructor and would like to be able to teach t'ai chi. How long does it take? Can I take a weekend workshop to get certified?

There is No weekend teaching certification workshop like there is for aerobics teachers and personal instructor's certification. Any such program is suspect. T'ai-chi ch'uan is a totally different idea than aerobics, t'ai chi is an Art form. Ranking and time spent in study is similar to learning classical dance, aikido or karate. You will have to put in a significant amount of time in classes and learn the methods properly. Aerobics instructors are usually very fit and flexible, and have had much training to be in that kind of shape, but we have found that does not help with learning tai chi. You still will have to put the hours in the studio learning the art form. We have a certification program where there is a "Level One Assistant Instructor" geared for teaching basic beginning classes. You can qualify to test for Level One after taking 40 classes, if you have mastered the material. Chief Instructor Level may take 10 years or longer. See the certification page for more information; And article Beware of the Three Faults


Have you studied other styles?

Yes, Most of the CTCCA and NWTCCA Teachers have a varied background in the Arts. For example Andrew Dale also studied in Canada and the USA in Dao Yin and Tien Shan chi kung with F. Yueng, Chen Style (with Gao Fu and Feng) as well as bagua zhang and aikido. Jim Kuhn also studied Wu Style and Tien Shan Chi kung with F. Yueng. Harvey Kurland has studied in the USA, Canada, Japan and Taiwan, and has studied several of the major styles with reputable masters. Kurland studied Kuang Ping (Guang Ping) style with Kuo Lien Ying, as well as four versions of the Yang Cheng-fu form, the Wu style form, Chen style, Cheng Man-ching form, and several version of Ch'i kung (qigong) and meditation. Ruth Villalobos studied Cheng and Tchoung forms. Dan Venditti studied Sun style in China and Tchoung form with Kurland. Jeff Herda studied Wu style in China, Fan, Modern forms, and Tchoung form. So most of the instructors have a wide variety of training. NOTE: Most CTCCA Teachers Bios are covered on the Instructors Bio page.


I have heard there are differences in opinion of what is the correct or better style of tai chi? Do you have an opinion?

There are many legitimate Styles and Versions of the art. You see we are not into mystification of family names or of the art. We are very happy with the Tchoung system we teach. According to Grandmaster Tchoung, "If the style holds to the classics then it is correct." He had many friends who practiced other styles and never said a bad word about their arts. Even with different styles, advanced students have more in common than not and petty differences should be put aside. Often when one person says their style is better than any other it shows they have some emotional issues to deal with. There are some subtle energetic differences and aesthetic differences in forms, which attract people. Usually the traditional systems are well balanced. See Article Reality Testing, Mystification and Learning.


Why do I see so many different experts claiming they are the true Yang Style?

There are many high level masters who teach Yang style. Though their forms may look slightly different from each other. Interestingly there is a major family split in Yang style, both sides claiming to have the true teaching. Yang Zhen-do on one side and Fu family on the other, but there are other groups too. It is all an ego trip/ economic game, and that kind of bickering is something we shouldn't want to waste our time on. Both are perfectly fine systems as are many other versions of Yang style.

According to Tchoung Ta-tchen, there are many versions of t'ai-chi ch'uan out there and his view was that if they hold to the basic concepts, which includes the ten essential points, they all are good. T'ai-chi ch'uan is an art form and as such is subject to artistic variations. (See Tchoung's book for more information) A stagnant art is against the Tao.

Based on Chinese culture, the Lineage is passed down through a son or son in law, independent of if they are the most qualified. Others are not considered in the official lineage, e.g. Tung Yieh Chieh was one of Yang Cheng Fu's top students but his family style is not mentioned as often as Yang Zhen Do's. Yang Zhen Do's form can be called Yang Family Style and others who are not Yang family members are called Yang Style or Yang Version as they are not family members. There are very good teachers in each group. We often refer people to Yang, Tung, Kuang Ping, and Cheng style schools when asked for a referral to legitimate teachers. Even though those styles are different from ours, they are perfectly fine and valid versions of the art. If we respect the teacher's skill, then we have no hesitation in referring to them, no matter what style. See History Article


Do you teach other forms of t'ai chi?

We teach the system of the Tchoung symmetrical version of the Old Form of Yang Style in all CTCCA Schools. Then depending on the teacher other forms may be taught. Though the Tchoung system is very complete and no other style needs to be added to make it complete, still some schools also teach Chen style, Wu Style, Kuang Ping, Cheng form, as well as others. See In Matters of Taste there is no dispute - Kuo Article


I talked to one master who told me I would just do the basic form with him for Ten years before he would teach me the sword form. Is this a common practice?

There are wide varieties of curriculums in schools. Some of the very best "Old School" teachers would do that, as well as teachers that were just scamming their students. The old school had valid reasons. To us, ten years sounds like a long time, as we have students with us for a year or less who study the sword form. Mastering it is another thing altogether. For Example, We usually teach the long form then pushing hands, san shou, fast form, then the sword, knife and walking stick. We also have workshops for students who want to learn other things such as sword or pushing hands out of order. These workshops are also open to students from other schools were they do not teach these forms. In Riverside they are held at UCR Student Recreation Center, in Seattle they are at Dale's Studio. Workshops are also held in Spokane. WA and Nelson, B.C.. (see UCRSRC link). See Article Reality Testing, Mystification and learning. And T'ai Chi Sword


My Karate teacher said that if we do the Karate Kata slowly we are doing tai chi, do you agree?

No, what you are doing is Slow Karate. Moving slowly does not make t'ai-chi. T'ai-chi ch'uan is a specific art form with a different conceptual base. Speed has nothing to do with it, as there are fast forms of t'ai-chi ch'uan too. Some styles of karate do have slow forms and training methods but those are considered karate training. See article Nimble and Lively


I have heard some bad things about Cheng Man-ch'ing style? How does it compare to other styles? Do you have an opinion of Cheng's form?

We are familiar with the Cheng form. Grandmaster Tchoung was a friend and practice partner of Grandmaster Cheng's in Taiwan. He felt Cheng's pushing hands was top rate and probably the best in Taiwan. Kurland also studied with a Liang Tung-tsai who was a student and head instructor for Cheng in Taiwan. According to Kurland, Liang was a very nice and humble man and had wonderful skills and was also a friend of Tchoung and Kuo. Cheng was a student of Yang Cheng-fu and was well respected in that lineage. His very soft form, which appears different than the Orthodox Yang Family forms, puts some people off. People who like to see muscle and physical energy are usually don't like his form. That is a personal opnion. BUT, In the seven t'ai-chi ch'uan tournaments at UCR, Cheng Man-ch'ing stylists seemed to do very well at pushing hands, they seemed to have the best internal work for pushing hands, especially in advanced divisions. Other stylists that won often had Cheng style backgrounds in pushing hands. Interesting the more martial looking, muscular calisthenics type, elaborate forms and Chen forms, usually got washed out early and only did best in beginner's division. We don't know if this is the case in other tournaments or not. Our view is that Cheng's version is very good, but very different from Kuang Ping or Chen styles in energy and flavor. It appeals to some people and not others. In matters of taster there is no dispute. The most important thing is that you find a form that you enjoy and "fits" you. There is no "One size fits all" t'ai chi ch'uan style. See Article Comparisons are Difficult. And article No Dispute as to taste.


Do you follow the ten important points as taught by Yang Cheng-fu?

Yes, we follow Yang's Ten important points. All Yang style t'ai chi ch'uan schools do, but other styles may not. We also follow the 12 points of Tchoung.


Do You Teach Bagua as part of your school?

Bagua zhang (Pa-kua) is the "Eight Trigrams Palm" method of internal kungfu. It is one of the major Internal Family Arts, the other being Hsing-I ch'uan. Some of the CTCCA schools do teach bagua, including Riverside, CA; Seattle, WA; and Nelson, B,C.; and Vancouver, B.C. Canada. Bagua is part of the Tchoung System. The Shantung version of Cheng Ting Hua Ba gua was taught by Tchoung Ta-tchen (Canada) which comes from Wang Shu-jin (Taiwan). Some CTCCA teachers teach a more elaborate bagua curriculums, such as the "Cheng Ting Hua 9 Palaces Style" as taught by Zhang Jie (Seattle) and Liu Hsin-han (Beijing); and Andrew Dales' version from T.Y. Pang. In general, we teach bagua zhang (pa-kua chang) as a supplement to our t'ai-chi ch'uan class. Emphasis is on the ch'i kung emphasis and how is helps the t'ai-chi. T'ai-chi ch'uan is the primary focus of our classes.

Most of our students are older and do not want to be thrown or do the rough stuff so we are gearing classes for them. Pa-kua was taught through the recreation center on UCR campus as a separate class for University Students. Link for UCR Student Recreation Center.


What kind of Hsing-I do you teach?

The Hsing-I ch'uan (xing-yi) that is part of the Tchoung system comes from Yuan Tao and includes the 5 Elements, 12 Animals and Linking Form. Some teachers also added the method of Wang Shu-chin and others. Some schools teach Sun Lu Tang's Combined bagua and hsing-I form. The Hsing-I is done as a supplemental training to the tai chi and is done softly.

The Curriculum in all CTCCA schools is the Tchoung System, then on top of that some schools teach other forms as well. Contact each school directly for their specific curriculum.


I heard some people go around challenging teachers to see who they will train with?

Today there are some fighting schools who might go with that but most teachers would not accept any challenges and probably call the police on someone like that. If one wants to prove a point one should go to the tournaments and compete with those who are interested in that part of the art. It seems some prefer to challenge only those who they think they can beat and rarely ever go up against an equal or someone who can beat them. Isn't that called a "Bully?" After all if one thinks they are tough they can always fight in the UFC or other full contact tournaments, but we don't see many of these types in that situation. One of our members from Taiwan said the following, "From what I understand, in the old time, masters will not accept a challenger to be their student. Normally they look for a person who respect them and has talent, good personality, kind, humble and polite. A challenger will not have the respect they look for. The way I look at martial arts is they are designed for fighting. It does not matter what era we are in, the fighting skills are for fighting. However, they should be used for the protection instead of provoking or showing off. They should be taught to those who have good nature, peaceful mind and interested in the arts for the arts themselves not for bullying around."


Is Tai Chi Spiritual?

According to Andy Dale, "SPIRITUAL WORK"
This is very individual, but we still have a tendency to look for someone else to explain or make us spiritual. Or follow someone we see as spiritual, trying to rest on their shelf instead of finding our own spiritualness. Sometimes storing up things as special objects, statues, emblems making them more important or sacred than our health or own sense of being. In Zen there is the saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him"  The idea that the Buddha nature is inside ourselves and there is nothing more "out there" to be found. Spiritual is our core, it's our own uniqueness and each of us must discover it. Each year as we study mindfully we peel the artificial layers of accumulated learning away and get closer to our own wisdom."


Send any questions to the editor Ron@dotaichi.com, and if deemed appropriate they will be answered on this page.

There is more information on what we do at: SW-CTCCA site www.dotaichi.com,  Andrew Dale's site: www.wuji.com Spokane NWTCCA http://www.northwesttaichichuan.org/




Please direct any questions or comments to Ron@dotaichi.com