Chen Style, Laojia form
Tai chi is a gentle, slow-motion martial art from China. It has three main strands to it: it is a form of meditation in movement, it is an exercise that enhances well-being, and it is a martial art. It has a long, rich history and many layers so you never stop learning when you start Tai chi.
How does Tai chi Benefit your Health?
The slow, soft movements relax the body and calm the mind, providing relief from stress, anxiety and insomnia. Moving slowly improves balance and strengthens the legs - there is an old Chinese saying "strong legs, strong body". You learn to "sit" as you stand, so your back can rest. With improved posture and joint mobility comes relief from aches and pains.
Central to Tai chi is the concept of "Qi" (pronounced Chi), which means life force or energy. Practising Tai chi develops and enhances your Qi, which has a beneficial effect on your whole being, improving your resistance to disease and increasing your vitality.
The style of Tai chi we practise is chen style, which is the oldest style, and goes back to 1580s. The Chen lineage has been passed down through the Chen family for generations and is the root of the Yang style. The current Chen style grandmaster is master Chen Xiaowang, who is the teacher my teachers, Karel and Eva Koskuba of the Chinese Internal Arts Association (CIAA).
Chen Xiaowang's nephew is Chen Ziqiang, who is the international Chen style instructor. He is the teachers of my other teachers, Tom Collingridge and Helen Kingdon from Exeter School of Tai chi Chuan.
We study the Laojia or old form, which is made up four parts and divided into 74 patterns. The patterns are made up of postures, joined together in a continuous flow. The patterns have names to help you remember them. for example, White Crane Spreads its Wings, or Lazily Ties the Coat. Many of the sequences repeat, for example, Wave Hands Like Clouds occurs four times, Buddha's Warrior Pounds Mortar four times and Single Whip 7 times. There is a full list of the patterns here
Principles of Tai chi
According to Chen Xiaowang the main principle of Tai chi is that "When the Dantian moves, everything moves. When the Dantian stops everything stops". Your Dantian is your centre of gravity, in the centre of your belly. You move from your waist. You can imagine the Dantian it as a ball rotating inside you, or as a sphere surrounding you, or as a tiny dot, a single point right at your very centre. In Tai chi you learn to co-ordinate your movement through your centre. This in turn makes you more centred and more balanced.
The chen style fan form we study was created by my teachers, Eva and Karel Koskuba, It has 22 sequences and so takes a relatively short time to learn. The great thing about doing Tai chi with a fan is that it gives you a sense of how you extend your Qi or energy, further than your hand. The sequences are based on the Laojia form and so if you know the Laojia form, learning the fan form is relatively easy. This link will take you to a video of me doing the fan form at St Neot Community Garden.
We practise fan form on Wednesdays at the end of the Upton Cross class (2.15pm)
Tai chi classes:
I offer online and in person Tai chi classes suitable for all levels. For further details lease see the Classes page.
Free Tai chi in Westbourne Gardens, Liskeard every Sunday at 11am.
Here is a video of the first 5 patterns of the Laojia form, viewed from the back to make it easier to follow along.