Originally developed as a form of self-defense, Tai Chi is much more than a martial art. Tai Chi is a complete system of physical, mental, and spiritual development. The Tai Chi form is a series of postures that are performed at a very slow pace. What appears to be just a series of exercises is actually a profound method for cultivating the body's life force or Chi. Chi is hard to define but easy to experience. A living being has Chi a dead body does not. By concentrating the mind and performing the various movements with the body, the Chi is increased and circulated. Blocked energy leads to disease; free-flowing energy provides health and vitality. Practiced regularly, Tai Chi produces a healthier body, an aware mind, and a centered spirit.
The physical benefits of Tai Chi are the most notable. As with most exercises, Tai Chi improves the balance, coordination, and muscular strength. One learns to use the body in a bio-mechanically correct way thus insuring correct posture, flexible joints, supple ligaments, and firm healthy bones. Correct breathing leads to complete oxygenation of the tissues and strengthens the cardiovascular system. The blood pressure is normalized and the circulation is increased. The subtle movements of the waist help strengthen the internal organs that facilitate digestion and elimination. This leads to normalization of the weight.
By concentrating on the form, one develops both sides of the brain. The logical step-by-step left and the spatial "spacey" right side. This improves learning capabilities and attention span. One also learns emotional quiet that leads to peace and happiness. As one becomes more and more familiar with the form one can relax more, this develops a calm centered, peaceful awareness that is carried into everyday life. As a moving meditation, Tai Chi teaches moderation and flowing with life rather than resisting all of its changes.
Welcome to the Tai Chi class. This guide is intended to familiarize you with the class and its teachings. Please read through these rules and reminders and ask questions if necessary.
The most important rule is to be SAFE. Don’t do anything that is uncomfortable or unsafe. While all of the moves in Tai chi are natural and safe, it might take awhile to get use to them. Try to understand the correct way of performing the exercises so that they strengthen rather than hurt the body. All of the exercises can be modified to suit your particular body type and fitness level. If you have pain STOP! Ask for help and make the necessary adjustments. If you get tired, relax, slow down, and come up a bit in your stance. You can always just stand, walk, or even sit if you have to.
The second rule is RELAX and HAVE FUN. It takes awhile to learn Tai Chi and there are students of various skill levels in the class. As a beginner just concentrate on learning the form. To help you learn the form you can download the names of the moves, as well as how to do the moves (Choreography of the Long Form) listed under Notes. You can also purchase a DVD of the form, listed under Products.
We always start class with a bow. This ritual helps to focus the mind. If you arrive late just warm up on your own then bow in and join the class. If you need to leave early, just bow out.
There are several styles of Tai Chi. The style we practice is the Yang style named after the Yang family.
To progress in Tai Chi you need instruction (come to class), practice, and contemplation. You can download tips and guidelines under the suggestions for practice. For a deeper understanding of Tai Chi principles and philosophy, read the Tai Chi classics. There are many translations. The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan: The Literary Tradition by Lo, Inn, Amaker and Foe is highly recommended.
Practice a little (or a lot) every day. Chi Kung, form, standing. Play push-hands with a friend. Apply what you learn to everyday life. Relax, stay rooted, be aware, flow with change, and DANCE!
Starfire is a scientist, educator, and healer who has studied the martial and healing arts for 30 years. His lifelong fascination with energy led him to study Physics at U.C. Berkeley where he was an alumni scholar. After graduating with a B.A. in Physics he spent several years working as an engineer in Silicon Valley. A meeting with a Cal Tech professor sparked an intense interesst in the study of how subtle energies in the body cause health or disease.
Studying an extensive array of healing modalities led to certifications in herbology and massage therapy, as well as a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science from the College of Life Science. Starfire received specialized training in Applied Kinesiology, a system of healing that restores balance to a person's unique energy field, allowing them to heal from many different conditions. He has worked with many people, some of who were considered "incurable". Starfire is certified by the California Board of Education to teach this form of holistic healing known as Touch for Health and has taught hundreds of people, including doctors, psychotherapists, dentists, chiropractors, and bodyworkers at community centers, colleges and massage schools in Hawaii and California.
Starfire's martial arts training started with Tai Chi in 1975 and has included training in Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and Kickboxing. He holds a blackbelt ranking in Hapkido from U.C. Berkeley where he competed in mixed martial art tournaments. He began teaching Tai Chi in 1983 and has taught over a thousand people ranging in age from 9 to 94. His philosophy of exercise is, "use safe, natural movements that create harmony and health for the body. Learn a form that is enjoyable and interesting so it can be practiced for a lifetime. Make the movements a meditation so the mind is trained in addition to the body.