T’ai Chi and Qigong

CLASS DESCRIPTION

EVIDENCE-BASED QIGONG AND T’AI CHI LEVEL ONE
This course is the product of Dr. Yang Yang’s extensive training with grandmasters of the Chen style and his research studying the mechanisms and benefits of T’ai Chi and Qigong practice. The program focus is “the most important aspects of traditional training that will yield the greatest measured benefit in the shortest amount of time” and consists of essential static and dynamic qigong exercises & seven forms that are challenging yet adaptable to suit all levels. Curriculum serves as a comprehensive program for beginners and a solid foundation for further study in any style of T’ai Chi. The instructor, Greg DiLisio, is certified by and is a senior student of Dr. Yang Yang.


EVIDENCE-BASED QIGONG AND T’AI CHI LEVEL TWO
In addition to the Evidence-Based Qigong, focus is given to the essential 48 movements that comprise the first routine in Hunyuan Chen Style T’ai Chi as taught by Dr. Yang Yang, a senior student of Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang. In addition to the mechanics of the forms, the primary internal energetics & intentions are emphasized. Forms are characteristically very big & circular in the beginning. Class includes a variety of static & dynamic Qigong, agility training and simple push hands as they relate to skill development in the 48 Forms. Familiarity with basic T’ai Chi and Qigong is very helpful.

Click here for a schedule of classes


ABOUT T’AI CHI & QIGONG

T’AI CHI
The longer one practices and studies T’ai Chi, the more difficult it can become to answer the question “What is T’ai Chi?” Students of the art develop a general understanding, while each practitioner cultivates a deeply personal understanding and experience.

What follows here is meant to give you a general idea of T’ai Chi, to spark your curiosity, and open the way to further study. T’ai Chi is a Chinese internal art, practiced throughout the world by millions of people of all nationalities and ages for its health and meditative benefits, and for martial arts training. Often translated as “Great Ultimate Boxing,” or “Yin/Yang Boxing”,  “T’ai chi” literally means the balance of yin and yang, or complimentary opposites.  The principles of T’ai chi are represented by the Yin and Yang circle. The T’ai chi Classics say that T’ai chi springs from Wuji, the primordial state of the universe, also described as the void, the limitless, nothingness. Wuji, represented by an empty circle, gives birth to T’ai chi, the mother of the Yin/Yang polarity, the source of motion and tranquility.

The Yin/Yang polarity is the dynamic interplay of opposites, complementary parts of one whole. Yin, originally referred to the dark shadowed side of a mountain (the northern slope), and Yang was the bright illuminated side (the southern slope). The Yin/Yang polarity represents the harmonious balancing of soft and hard, storing and releasing, passive and active, etc.

Although historians dispute the exact origin of T’ai Chi, one legend states that a Taoist monk and martial arts practitioner, Chang San Feng, who lived in the Sung dynasty, (AD 960-1279) founded it. According to the legend, Chang San Feng was inspired to develop T’ai Chi after witnessing a battle between a crane and a snake. Developing movements that conformed to the Taoist ideals of softness and yielding, and combining them with Taoist breathing techniques, he is often credited for establishing the basis for T’ai Chi.

Another, (perhaps more accurate) version of the origins of T’ai Chi is that General Chen Wangting (1580–1660) devised T’ai Chi after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. An experienced military general, Chen Wangting is said to have combined his expertise of Shaolin forms with theories of Chinese meridian medicine and Taoist Qi cultivation techniques. From his home in Chenjiagou, Henan province, Chen Wangting devised the Chen style T’ai Chi from which all other styles have originated, including the Yang style founded by Yang Luchan (1799-1872).

T’ai Chi is generally characterized as an “internal” martial art. Internal arts are devoted to generating Qi (Chi), or vital energy, and to circulating it throughout the body.  The ability to produce and then control this internal energy can be useful for either fighting purposes or health, or both.  The flow of qi bathes the major organ systems, cleansing joints and strengthening tendons and ligaments.

The resurgence in popularity of the ancient arts of T’ai Chi and Qigong can be attributed to increased cultural exchange, non-traditional teaching methods to meet the needs of the wider audience, evolved scientific understanding of efficacy of methods, and the growing demand for low cost holistic wellness modalities.


THE PRACTICE OF T’AI CHI FORMS
T’ai Chi form is sometimes called a “moving meditation” and “meditation in motion” and is generally studied and performed as a series of choreographed movements, coordinating the mind, body and breath. Until recently, these arts were translated to the West in the context of self-defense practice, however in modern culture T’ai Chi forms are more commonly practiced for their integration of physical, mental and spiritual health. One aspect of T’ai Chi training involves two person exercises and drills known as Push Hands.

The five main styles of T’ai Chi (Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao, and Sun) share the same core principles, although each style is unique. Although each T’ai Chi style utilizes forms as a central aspect of practice, the emphasis, physical characteristics, auxiliary training methods, and purpose of each style differ.

Beginning students needn’t be too concerned which particular style of T’ai Chi they study, if the instruction is clear and the teacher’s understanding, intentions and methods are sound and appropriate for the student.

Most important when learning T’ai Chi and Qigong is to cultivate an openness and sensitivity: to sense changes happening in your physical body, to sense changes happening in your emotional being, and to sense changes happening in your cognitive abilities. The ability of a teacher to demonstrate and communicate insights that appropriately match a developing student’s ability to comprehend and appreciate, are very important.

Ultimately, no one individual can posses a complete knowledge of the art of T’ai Chi. T’ai Chi is dynamic, alive, and one’s understanding continuously develops over time, evolving uniquely for each person. This is part of the beautiful magic of the practice. It’s the quality of your practice that counts more than the quantity!

Students generally learn longer, more intricate forms after establishing a foundation of understanding through static qigong practice and simplified repetitive movement. In addition to learning the mechanics of form choreography, students continue developing awareness of internal energy and their ability to maintain physical and energetic integration while adding complexity and length to the form sequence. Through correct practice of any style, real power, efficiency, timing, and health are achieved through the union of opposites: yin and yang, hard and soft, fast and slow, assertiveness and yielding etc. We hope you will consider joining us in our study and exploration of this ancient, wonderful and transforming system.

 

CHEN STYLE T’AI CHI FORM CLASSES
Chen style is the original style of T’ai Chi from which all other styles derive.
This dynamic style is generally characterized by large, spiraling movements, eventually performed with fast and slow movements linked together in progression, alternating softness and hardness, often with clear intention and direction, illustrating the form’s self-defense potential. Large extension, complex spiraling, alternating speed, and slightly lower stances make Chen style more suitable for people without significant physical limitations.


T’AI CHI FOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS
T’ai Chi is based on certain principles and qualities of efficient movement and developed attention, to cultivate a sense of unity between natural motion, awareness, intention and the breath. T’ai Chi forms require the release of excess tension in the body and mind to develop a relaxed yet integrated state of dynamic balance that involves the interplay between pliant rootedness and fluid agility, and are designed to help balance the flow of Qi or energy in the entire body.

After internalizing the form movements through correct, mindful practice, many practitioners report a quiet meditative joy and deep tranquility as they experience the inherent naturalness and flow of the sequence of forms.

The health benefits of T’ai Chi are well documented. T’ai Chi helps relieve tension and stress and can help regulate blood pressure, improve circulation, and decrease insomnia and pain. T’ai Chi is said by some medical researchers to benefit people suffering from arthritis and injuries. It can also help facilitate proper digestion, improve the functioning of the kidneys, and develop deep, natural breathing.


T’AI CHI AS AN INTERNAL MARTIAL ART
T’ai Chi solo work and two-person work are complementary parts of one system. As one learns to develop greater awareness of his or her body, energy, and state of mind during conflict, he or she simultaneously and naturally develop a greater awareness of others. By cultivating sensitivity, and other essential T’ai Chi qualities, one can learn to more efficiently transform unpleasant or hostile interactions, making them more productive and reaching resolution in a timelier manner. Understanding the principles of T’ai Chi, along with adequate training, can afford the earnest practitioner substantial practical martial abilities when engaged with an opponent. Sensitivity, suppleness, yielding, neutralization and agility, along with solid rootedness, and precision and care when issuing force, are all qualities of T’ai Chi practice. The T’ai Chi system is designed to adapt and conform to the needs and proclivities of the practitioner, becoming a manifestation of each person.

 
T’AI CHI AS A WAY TO UNDERSTANDING
The more one studies the system, and the more one learns and understands, the more one realizes how much deeper the system is. With time, one comes to see T’ai Chi as a manifestation of one’s character, and can provide an authentic path towards self-discovery.

QIGONG
To begin to understand the nature of Qigong, it helps to begin with a translation, of which there are many. The shorthand translation we most often use is “life-force energy (Qi) cultivation (gong)” or “internal energy work.”  Though the term qigong was first widely used in the 1950s, qigong was developed over thousands of years in China. Qigong is sometimes called “Neigong” which translates as “the refinement and transmutation of the three treasures of Jing, Qi, and Shen,” or essence, vitality and spirit.

As a mind/body/spirit integrative exercise, Qigong is sometimes referred to as Chinese yoga. The Chinese concept of Qi is equivalent to the Indian “Prana”, Greek “Pneuma”, Latin “Spritus”, and Japanese “Ki”. As Master practitioner and researcher Dr. Yang Yang points out, there are many different kinds of qigong practices, and levels or depths of practice and understanding.

In general, Qigong is primarily used to:

1. Maintain or restore health

2. Achieve quality longevity

3. Deepen martial skill, and

4. Realize spiritual awareness through the integration of mind/body/spirit.

Different kinds of qigong practices may be categorized as either static or dynamic exercises:

1. Static (sitting, standing, lying-down meditation), and
2. Dynamic (simple repetitive motions, T’ai Chi form, push-hands, daily activity—all are qigong exercises if done with relaxation, tranquility, and awareness).

There are Qigong systems that are primarily for self-healing as well as Qigong systems that have powerful applications for both self-healing and self-defense such as T’ai Chi. We teach the art as both a martial and healing practice. In the end, qigong practice yields a sense of holistic well being that is difficult to communicate intellectually and must be experienced to be understood.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF QIGONG
Qigong is being used in all kinds of ways and places to promote healing and wellness. Respected and validated research has found that Qigong can improve posture and respiration, promote relaxation, improve blood chemistry, and foster greater concentration. It has also been found to be beneficial for a variety of illnesses, including asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, pain and other common ailments.

 Primary potential benefits of Qigong

• Immune function

• Arthritis pain

• Sleep quality

• Reducing stress

• Quality of life

• Flexibility, range of motion

• Postural control/balance

• Core strength, force control, agility

 
Secondary potential benefits of Qigong

• Digestion/bowel function

• Cardio-respiratory function

• Immune system function

• Prevention or treatment of arthritis

• Pain Management

• Cognitive function (attention, concentration, memory)

• Prevention of osteoporosis

Holistic potential benefits of Qigong

• Avoidance or repair of stress related injuries

• Social interaction/sense of community

• Awareness (cognitive & somatic, spiritual)

• Acceptance

• Resilience

• Spiritual development (calmness/tranquility/serenity)

Newsweek also discussed that Qigong and T’ai Chi were being used by patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to help them sleep better, cope with the pain, anxiety and depression, and to enhance their immune systems. The relationship between the mind and body is becoming more widely accepted and recognized, as Qigong becomes more widely known in the West. Qigong (and T’ai Chi) were mentioned in Newsweek magazine article entitled “The New Science of Mind and Body” (9/27/04).

Doctors from Harvard Medical School wrote: “Over the past three decades, scores of studies have confirmed the benefits of what we call the ‘relaxation response,’ a state of mental calm during which your blood pressure drops, your heart and breathing slow, and our muscles become less tense.” These doctors recommended T’ai Chi Qigong among other standard exercises and techniques, as a means to calm the mind and relieve stress, and thereby promote greater health and mitigate some of the ravages of chronic stress.

In other news, a recent study has found a link between stress and memory. Dr. Amy F. T. Arnsten, of Yale Medical School, reported a study in the journal Science, which found that stressful situations activate an enzyme in the brain that impairs short-term memory. Certainly, relaxation practices like Qigong can relieve some chronic stress and as such may help improve memory.

 
THE PRACTICE OF QIGONG
One may practice just breathing, incorporating visualization and physical techniques to deepen and soften the breath. One may practice different systems of standing and moving, cultivating one’s awareness of internal energy, relaxing and opening the body for improved health and serenity. One may also practice martial arts, including T’ai Chi, which is itself a form of Qigong.

The essential nature of Qigong is the developing of one’s ability to pay attention to what one is doing, and what is happening. The ability to be present, to join one’s mind and attention with one’s body and spirit provides the basis to cultivate internal energy, promoting greater health and vitality, more relaxation, and relief from chronic stress and anxiety. While amazing abilities and results have been attributed to the practice of Qigong on a daily basis we find that it cultivates:

•    A stronger sense of being calm and naturally energized.

•    A greater sense of being present within one’s body and improved awareness

of one’s surroundings.

•    Improved balance and greater enjoyment of the movements of the body, mind

and spirit.

•    A greater skill to release the stress and tension of life that can so easily get

stuck inside.

The myriad benefits of Qigong are now widely known and accepted. We would love to share our knowledge and love of the art with you.

For a complete schedule of classes please click here