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The Master Tai Chi Classes

The Master Tai Chi Classes:
By Erle Montaigue

It's not enough to know the movements of Taijiquan and then go out and begin teaching. Knowing the set of movements does not mean that you can actually move! A ballet dancer for instance cannot simply learn Swan Lake and then say that they can move or claim to be a ballerina. They must first spend many hours doing exercises to turn themselves into a ballerina who can move. And it's exactly the same with Taijiquan where so many students simply learn the postures of Tai Chi and then practise the whole set thinking that they can then move. It takes a special set of exercises to learn how to move correctly for the self defence art of Taijiquan. Many students tell me that they do not need to learn how to move in this manner as they only wish to teach it for health etc. How wrong they are as you cannot even begin to teach Taijiquan until you have learnt the martial side of it as both are inextricably linked to form a well balanced set of movements which when combined are excellent for health. Even if one only ever wishes to teach a lunch time class for the local CWA where the average might be 60 and blue rinses abound, it is important to be able to show them the martial applications.

As an instructor you have to be able to impress students and even old ladies and old men are impressed with the martial knowledge that you should possess. And it is very important to be able to show the applications and more importantly be able to use them in a realistic situation, as this gives all students a much better understanding of what they are trying to achieve. You must however be able to explain exactly why you are showing the applications, in that the Qi is activated along certain meridians when these are know etc., So when I teach one of my Master Tai Chi Classes, I always begin with movement and almost always even seasoned Taijiquan practitioners have difficulty with even the simplest of the Wudang Movement Exercises. Basically, these exercises embody the very essence of Taijiquan but in a much simpler way. They will teach you how to activate 'Spine Force', that great power that comes directly from the accumulative additive effect of each vertebra being joined in power to release when necessary. They will also give you great calmness and stillness in all situations, physical or mental. When someone first begins to learn these exercises, they often think that they are too easy, however, when they are corrected, they soon realize that they are not as easy as they seem and indeed they find that it is very difficult to even take one step in the Taijiquan martial manner. It's all the internal stuff that makes it difficult, however, once achieved; one wonders how it was so difficult.

You can do these Wudang stepping exercises at any time of the day in any situation, even so that people looking on cannot notice that you are doing something weird, as they are just moving steps. A huge amount of energy is generated while performing the steps in the way and a great calmness comes over the body so they are excellent for any stressful situation. And more importantly, they teach you how to move the body and always maintain balance and to gain great power, always maintaining the upper hand in any situation.

It is very important for the prospective teacher to know how to move as it is impossible to teach others correctly without knowing it yourself. Like a guitar teacher who cannot play the guitar, you cannot teach Taijiquan without knowing the very basics of movement. The next thing that I teach in my Master Tai Chi Classes is not the form and how to teach it but rather how to punch! This may sound strange, however, if you cannot punch, then you cannot teach Taijiquan because although you may never in your life need to punch, knowing exactly how to punch with great power from a very short distance, teaches us how to use the Qi and how to move the body to gain the greatest healing effect or self defence. Without fa-jing, you know nothing. That is a saying told to me by Chang Yiu-chun and he always taught fa-jing even before he taught form.

The mechanics of correct punching or striking with any portion of the body is so complex but at the same time simple that not many have ever achieved true fa-jing. And whether you like it or not, you must seem as if you know what you are talking about when teaching and you have to impress the students. Fa-jing punching is a way of not only getting their attention, but also to keep their attention up and giving them something to strive for. And this is why I teach these areas first up in my Master Tai Chi Teacher's Classes. It not only gives the new or old teacher ammunition, it also shows them that perhaps they did not know it all after all.