Learning the Cheng Style Tai Chi Chuan
The first time I learned Tai Chi Chuan was in the summer of 2011. The high school in my town in the United States offered a course in the simplified 24-move Tai Chi Chuan. I convinced my husband to take the course with me. It was a fun 8-week class. In the following year, we decided to join a local Tai Chi club that teaches the Yang style short form (24 moves) and long form (108 moves) Tai Chi Chuan. The instructors at the club are very nice with passion for the martial art. In addition to teaching the moves, the instructors also demonstrate the usefulness of every move in a fighting situation. By the end of 2012, I had learned all the moves in the short and long forms, but still needed a lot of refinements for my posture.
I took a sabbatical leave to visit the Institute of Economics at Academia Sinica for 6 months from January to June, 2013. My husband and I were eager to continue our study of Tai Chi Chuan in Taipei. I found the Chi Club at Academia Sinica that offered Cheng style and Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan. We signed up for the Cheng style class to study with 林老師. It turned out to be a great experience in learning Tai Chi Chuan.
In the first beginners’ class, 林老師 demonstrated and asked us to practice the three levels of reverse circular breathing. I learned the breathing exercises in the United States as warm-up exercises, but did not know how to do them correctly and how they were used in Tai-Chi Chuan. It was a revelation to know that reverse circular breathing lays the foundation for all moves in the form. Once I tried to incorporate the reverse circular breathing into all moves, I could feel chi (氣) in my hands almost every time when I practiced the form. It was amazing.
Right from the start of the beginners’ class, 林老師 emphasized the fundamentals of Tai Chi Chuan. The instructors at our US club also emphasized frequently to relax and turn from the waist, but they did not emphasize sinking (落跨) before turning. Once I sank first as instructed by林老師, I could turn much easier and wider. The other important thing that I learned from 林老師 was to separate the solid and empty (分虛實). Also, for every move, as soon as the moving foot is grounded, relax the shoulders and do reverse circular breathing to expand the lower back and link vertebrae one by one all the way up to the head to keep the center of the body straight (中正) with chin slightly tugged (頂頭懸). I am still working on relaxing (鬆) all joints then linking (串) them back in each move, and trying to remember the principles such as “there must always be an up move following a down move.” Even though I am unable to do all the fundamentals that林老師emphasizes yet, it is important to know the goals so that I can continue to work towards after returning to the United States.
The other thing to make the class so great was the highly skilled teaching assistants who were enthusiastic and eager to help. There was always someone nearby to help correct me with my posture in class. It would have been difficult for林老師to run the class in this size without the TAs.
The videotaping at the end of the first term was a bit nerve wracking, but it was very helpful to see myself doing the form so I knew how to improve my posture. I strongly recommend to make the taping part of the regular program.
林老師 is an experienced and dedicated Tai Chi teacher. I have learned so much from her. Her passion for Tai Chi Chuan is inspiring. Her classes have helped me see the spirit of Tai Chi Chuan, way beyond getting every posture correctly. It has been a great experience. Thank you, 林老師.