Brandon Smith (Redwoodtwig)

Tai Chi for Health

Once COVID restrictions are gone, I will again offer an ongoing class through the Capital Ritz Dance Studio, 573-893-7787.   Thursday Evenings at 5:30 p.m.   This class is for people who are primarily interested in the health benefits of learning Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan. There will more emphasis on the balance and energy flow work than on the martial aspects of the art. However, the essential core of Tai Chi Chuan is martial in nature.

Also once the COVID stuff is over, I''ll be starting a  28 week class on the Cheng Man-ching's 37 posture Yang Style sequence in the studio.  

Clothing: Wear whatever you are comfortable in. Since you will be bending and turning, your clothing should not bind or be too tight.

Shoes without high or built up heels are best though you may want to work in socks. We'll  usually be working on a wood floor; but could be concrete or gravel or forest or even grass.  High heels, Army or Cowboy boots are ridiculous, but if you can do the Tai Chi stepping in them, fine.  But not on the studio floor.

Instructor: My name is Brandon Smith, and I've been learning, practicing, and teaching various forms of Tai Chi Chuan   and Chi Kung (Taijiquan and Qigong) since 1981. My primary focus is on mind-body coordination and control -- balance, awareness, and tone. Some theory is needed, but mysticism is not required. Taijiquan is spirit, not spiritual. Taijiquan is not "moving meditation," though it certainly looks like it.  I would rather call it "contemplation of movement" and reserve the term meditation to what I do in the closing part of my daily practice.  

One aspect of Taijiquan being a martial art is the fact that in any fight (or dance) with another person, it is of utmost importance that you know where you are both internally and externally.  You need to have an accurate sensory perception not only of your external environment (floor, walls, things on the floor, cats) but also of your internal environment (all body parts in proper alignment, moving the right direction at the right speed).  

Your mind needs to be working at capacity just keeping track of the internal alignment -- the longer you keep learning any particular Taijiquan form, the more detail you can perceive and therefore control (or at least influence).  

My teaching style is more like an athletic coach than anything else.  I have developed a 20 lesson curriculum that includes plenty of good learning in Yang Style Taijiquan.

The Tai Chi Eight, a Yang Style drill

Tai Chi Chuan means "grand ultimate fist fighting" and the health benefits of this slow and intensely controlled sequence of moves requires that mindset to some degree.  When you can do a Tai Chi Chuan form from beginning to end as one continuous movement, your body and mind will experience the health benefits.

Chi Kung means "energy work" and there is a much wider variety of manners of doing it.  Some forms of Chi Kung are meditation, some are simply breath/movement coordination exercises.  Sometimes it is a sequence of moves that are done much like a Tai Chi Chuan form, but without the martial orientation; even then, a martial artist can usually find applications with the Chi Kung movements.  At other times it is more like a set of calisthenic or stretching exercises, a warm up or cool down.  

Both Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung are based on ancient Chinese concepts and philosophy relating to energy fields in the body.  Understanding those concepts and philosophy is not required to learn either one, nor does it prevent the health benefits from arriving.  Simply doing the form correctly will work.  However, it is well to remember that the land of pure reason is not the land of reality, and once you leave the realm of measurement you enter the realm of speculation and idealism. 

Very useful for mind and spirit training, but when actively used while trying to learn or perform a Tai Chi form, it falls into the category of "monkey mind."

The minimal martial aspect required for even the most peace loving person is simply the turning off of the "monkey mind" and turning on the "total awareness of the situation mind." A warrior in combat cannot afford to be distracted by random thoughts and very much does need to exactly where he or she is in terms of the immediate environment as well as the exact position and alignment of the body and how one is moving the body.  This is why the eyes are not only open when doing a Tai Chi form, but they are shinning with bright spirit, as Master Peter Moi used to say.