Q: How can new students get started?
A: The good thing about the school’s set-up is that students do not have to wait for an enrollment or orientation period but can start when they are ready. We have tai chi classes 7 days a week. All you have to do is check the class schedule in this web site. Those classes are ongoing. You may begin with by attending any class of Eternal Spring (sometimes abbreviated as ES on printed materials) or Tai Chi. These two classes have no prerequisite. When you are ready, come about 15 minutes before the class so that you can register. For class fees, call our office: 212-221-6110. Wear something comfortable and loose: regular workout clothes will do. No outside shoes are allowed in the studio: cotton sole kung-fu slippers are recommended (sold at the school for $12 for registered students, $14-18 for non-students), or barefoot or socks are fine.
Q: Do you have an orientation?
A: Starting in 2014, we will be offering a Tai Chi Orientation Workshop. This occasional workshop will teach students about the history of tai chi and Taoist self-cultivation as well as explain the CK Chu Tai Chi curriculum. Then, students will be instructed in Set I of the Eternal Spring Program. Students should work on making this set a daily routine for the first six months of their tai chi study.
Q: What is the structure of classes?
A: The structure of classes varies. Eternal Spring, as well as Nei Kung, classes are instructor-led: an instructor sets the pace of the workout for all participants together. Classes are for training not for asking questions. The time for asking questions about Eternal Spring or Nei Kung is during a workshop or during a tai chi class.
In Tai Chi Class, students receive individualized instruction as they work at their own pace through the 65-movement CK Chu Tai Chi Short Form or the postures of Eternal Spring or Nei Kung. Attendance numbers vary from class to class. Typically, the instructor will begin with the beginner students, giving them one-to-one instruction in the movement they are on and then move to the next student, thus working his or her way around the room. Students work on the movements, or counts, the instructor has given until the instructor returns. Each time students attend a tai chi class, they will learn one or two movements. Students learn the Tai Chi form individually and proceed at their own rate. They can come once or twice or three times a week. At first, the emphasis is placed on how to do the movement correctly: don’t arch your back, so that your knee should be in the right place. As time goes by people can learn more about theory of Tai Chi. The beginner should emphasize practice, correct alignment and movement.
Q: I’m a beginner who wants to learn Tai Chi. Should I start by learning Eternal Spring Chi Kung?
A. Studying Eternal Spring Chi KungTM is the best way to begin a study of tai chi. It is designed for people that have no background in tai chi, or are physically weak or recuperating from something or undergoing physical therapy. However, this does not mean it is “easy.” Eternal Spring is a one of the four core disciples necessary to the creation and maintenance of a tai chi body. Eternal Spring training emphasizes relaxation, deep diaphragmatic breathing, opening the joints, hip-knee-toe connection, and developing internal energy, or chi. By learning Eternal Spring, in other words, you are learning the tai chi principles and this learning will make your Nei Kung and tai chi form practice much better. It’s highly effective and very healing. It’s beneficial to beginners as well as advanced students. The exercises are good for daily practice for students of all levels. Do it as a warm-up routine and your Tai Chi will be much better. In terms of daily routine for every student, they should do Eternal Spring Chi KungTM first, then Nei Kung, followed by tai chi. Weapons practice comes last.
Q: I’m a beginner interested in Tai Chi and Nei Kung. Which should I take first, Tai Chi or Nei Kung?
A: We recommend you take Eternal Spring first. Although there is no pre-requisite for taking the Nei Kung workshop, the exercise is quite difficult for the average beginner without experience of the correct body alignment. We recommend not forcing your body to do something it is not quite ready for. Train Eternal Spring for awhile and then start taking a few Tai Chi Classes. By the time you reach the end of the first section of the form, your muscles will be stronger and you will become more familiar with the basic body alignment required for Nei Kung. Moreover, Eternal Spring contains several Nei Kung exercises, like the Frog Stance. As designed by Master Chu, you should be able to do a good Frog Stance first before venturing further into Nei Kung. Then, when you take the Nei Kung workshop with some foundation of Eternal Spring and Tai Chi, with the correct alignment and body posture, you will get more out of it. If you take Tai Chi first, the teacher can evaluate when you are ready for the workshop. After taking the Nei Kung workshop, you can take one Tai Chi class per week or two, depending on your schedule. The more classes you take per month, the price will be discounted accordingly. You can join regular Nei Kung classes the following week (check the workshop schedule for the next workshop opportunity).
Q: Can I take Fighting 1 and Push-Hands right away?
A: We are often asked to help people learn how to defend themselves right away. However, it takes time to learn tai chi because the tai chi way of responding to situations comes down to correct body alignment. Fixing old injuries or adjusting poor posture from bad habits takes a long time. Think of the turtle and hare - the turtle wins. Fighting 1 & Push-Hands are advanced practice and can be taken only after completing the Tai Chi short form. For an average student, it usually takes about 6 months to complete the short form if he takes two classes a week. Then, students should learn Push-Hands, which is a class in two person drills that function as the bridge to fighting. You cannot learn how to fight in the tai chi way without a solid basis in Push-Hands.
Q: What is Push Hands?
A: Push Hands is a two-person training that makes Tai Chi unique from other styles of kung fu. It is a practice based on the principle of four ounces deflecting a thousand pounds. The exercise shows you how to neutralize an opponent’s attacking force and position yourself for a counter-attack if necessary. The emphasis here is on sticking to the opponent’s attacking arm/hand, while using shifting and twisting techniques, flowing with the opponent’s movement without resisting his force. It is a great exercise for training to fight, as it helps you develop the body’s coordination, sensitivity, and responding power. There is no other exercise quite like this. It’s an exercise to also train your body awareness, sharpen your nervous system, sharpen your feeling, and later on you’ll sharpen your sensitivity of your opponent’s chi and his strength and weakness just by touching his hand. It’s a training that enables a weaker or slower person to overcome a much stronger, faster opponent, by emphasizing on yielding and feeling. It’s very good for overall development of health. It uses the whole body: your mind, nervous system, as human beings are supposed to do.
Q: What is the structure of the Fighting 1 class?
A: In Fighting 1 class we drill on a few techniques during each class stationary and in line drills. Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art that also improves health, since one needs to have a healthy body to be a good fighter. Each Tai Chi movement is designed for a self-defense application. Some are attacking, some are neutralizing, some are controlling, seizing. In Fighting 1, we try to deliver ging, to maximize striking power from the Tai Chi posture -- for example, through rooting, balance and the connection of the body. We practice how to get rooted and maximize the power; how to use the tan tien, etc. Fighting 1 is the application of the solo exercise of Tai Chi, and it is also a solo practice. After completing the Tai Chi short form, you can take Fighting 1 to learn how the moves are applied in fighting situations. In Fighting 2, you practice these moves with a partner in sparring and other 2-person exercises. Fighting 2 is a two-person workout using Tai Chi and related techniques: how to advance, attacking, how to get away form an opponent, working on coordinating your opponents attack, how to respond. We use different hand and foot techniques, etc. Fighting 3 is the beginning of sparring, and also the correct application of the form to free sparring. And many times we use mouthpieces and gloves to emphasize that we don’t hold back punches. Fighting 3 also includes throws, circuits, conditioning, and mat work.
Q: What Special Classes are offered?
A: Special classes, such as weapons forms, Tai Chi form improvement, meditation and Taoist philosophy, are offered periodically. Some, including weapons classes, require completion of the Tai Chi short form, while others, such as meditation or Taoist philosophy, are open to students at all levels, including beginners. Classes vary in length as well: 10 weeks for a form improvement class, 18 weeks for double-edge sword, 16 week for broad sword. These classes are typically taught when there is an interest and demand among the students. Look out for announcements of upcoming new classes on the Web site or inquire in the office. Advance registration is requested for these classes.
Q: Tai Chi is called an internal style. What are differences between internal and external martial arts?
A: To be precise, Tai Chi is categorized as an internal soft-style kung-fu. “Internal” means that the emphasis is on strengthening the internal body, the muscles, tendons, bones, internal organs, and it follows a quiet, meditative training that lets the body do the job without forcing it. While external training, such as in gym exercises and weight lifting, works on certain groups of muscles separately, internal training works on the whole body and the mind as one. The mind needs to be empty, clear and calm. The internal system takes longer to achieve, but it is very powerful -- and deceptively so, with no obvious or flashy moves like high jumps and kicks. It offers a more practical and economical approach to fighting. At the same time, Tai Chi has a greater healing effect on the body than other systems. Nei Kung also strengthens the body from within and is important for the development of internal martial arts. High-level Nei Kung training is called “iron vest” or “golden bell,” because it develops the ability to withstand a strong force. “Soft” means yielding, pliable, responding. The characteristics of Tai Chi are deep breathing, circular movements, smoothness, and the capacity to be slow-yet-fast, with the nervous system completely attentive. The practitioner of Tai Chi doesn’t try to use force against force, as in other styles. Shing-Yi, for example, is a popular internal style kung-fu that is harder rather than soft. With the sensitivity training of Push-Hands, a Tai Chi practitioner learns to yield to an opponent’s force while keeping in contact with his body and seeking an opportunity to strike, instead of matching force against force. This best illustrates the Tai Chi principle of four ounces deflecting a 1,000 pounds, and is the essence of Tai Chi’s power.