Home   |    Tai Chi and Health   |    The Forms   |    Classes   |    The Academy   |    Contact   |    French Site   |    Blog


    Input to Instructor Workshops - a personal point of view
After recently conducting a number of general and Instructor workshops, I wanted to capsulize what I suggest our focus and objective might be in our near term Continuing teaching. My wish is that Instructors will consider this suggestion to support and encourage discussion.

My current key focus is mastering the art of sitting. Sitting implies standing which implies up and down, which is a key differentiator of Mr. Moy's Tai Chi from other styles. It is the key criticism other tai chi schools have of our style. Isn't it funny (paradoxical) that the key criticism is exactly what we know drives the health benefits of Mr. Moy's Tai Chi.

I don't want to give the impression that the other two key differentiators of Mr. Moy's Tai Chi, namely stretching and turning, are not equally important. But we stretch in some manner. At some point our attention will be turned to "how" we stretch and "where" we stretch from. Mrs. Kwan's demonstration at our June celebration was an excellent example of a more advanced approach.

But note without knowing how to "sit", advanced instruction on stretching has little hope of being sensed or understood. This also applies to turning. We turn in some manner, but the effect of turning is only truly realized when one sits and begins to drop the front hip as we turn.

Sitting is sitting. Techniques such as a balance step are a great tool on the road to sitting, But let us be clear, it is not sitting. A picture is worth a thousand words so here is sitting (head is down in first pic because he is verifying his posture, - hips balanced, heel down, toes up on the lead foot).

To be able to sit you must first be balanced and relaxed. That means evaluating standing up. And then after we sit, staying balanced and stepping with the front foot, grasping the ground in a heel-toe order (toe-heel order if we are going back, such as in Repulse Monkey).

In workshops Susan Carson and I have led over the past few years (starting in Vancouver in 2016), we have focused on the four stages that occur between the moves, - standing up, sitting, stepping with the foot, turning and stretching. Each is a workshop in itself!

These elements, to our mind, form the basis for all continuing instruction and are how we evaluate the "level" of a student. The four stages comprise the background to each "correction" that we provide (correction in the sense of enhancement, not being wrong or right). So, as an Instructor, I first look at can this student sit, are they standing up or lurching forward, are they setting the foot or plopping it on the floor (you are then double-weighted momentarily, - read off balance), are they then turning at the back or partial turning as they fall forward, is the stretch pushing out from the body or reaching awkwardly into the space before them? There's the menu. Which correction is most likely to lead to a noticeable improvement? That's the instruction challenge we face.

We don't necessarily have a plan when we lead a workshop. We do an "analysis" first, observing the students in front of us. Then the workshop topic becomes apparent and we have specific objectives with associated techniques to guide us. Students seem to gravitate to this more structured format. They see themselves what area they need to work on. Their feedback is what has guided our methodology.

In summary, use the moves in whichever set (tai chi, lok hup, sword, sabre, tsing yi,) as tools to develop these concepts. At the same time you can polish the externals of the form. But always keep in mind, we are trying to develop an INTERNAL EXERCISE. So while these elements seem external in their design, their impact develops internal movement. The brilliance of Mr. Moy's design is one actually senses (feels) these internal movements as we change and progress.

    Personal Practice
There is no substitute for frequent practice. And within that practice, you should have some sense of "what am I working on? "What am I trying to improve?"" As you practice you are then self-correcting.<

Nothing beats danyu and toryu. You don't need to do a ton. Just try to do them well. I do 25 danyus and 12 toryus (each side) as an example. I'm not just doing them but trying different things, being mindful of what I am "working on". Throw in some snakes, and some of your favourite exercises, that's a good warmup. Special attention to kicks and snake creeps low movements are likely warranted in practice, difficult movements to master.

Finally, for sets, no matter tai chi, lok hup, sword, saber, tsing yi, concentrate on sitting properly. No more walking through a set. Develop sitting as a given and your tai chi will change significantly. Many doors open.