Tai Chi Introduction
Do you want to build focus, confidence, and overall physical fitness? Then, try Tai Chi. Tai Chi has brought benefits to millions of people all over the world. Tai Chi practitioners, or players, use its flowing postures to increase their concentration, energy level, and good health. An internal Chinese martial art, Tai Chi focuses on mental preparation and discipline while incorporating physical motion. In Chinese martial art traditions, internal martial artists utilize physical motions and mental discipline that focus on the development of Chi energy.
Chi can be translated as Life Force. The cultivation of Chi helps increase vitality and energy. Players utilize Tai Chi and its sister art, Chi Kung to generate Chi and to increase their health and wellbeing. Tai Chi practitioners also develop concentration and increase self-control and self-confidence.
Tai Chi players learn forms, which are stylized and flowing postures.Forms are sets of postures through which the practitioners move. Each form has a defined set of motions, and each posture describes what the practitioner is doing. For example, there is a posture called, “Cloud Hands.” This posture describes a motion of circling the hands slowly in front of the body as the player moves to the side. The posture appears as if the practitioner traces cloud shapes as she or he moves.
Although the word for each Tai Chi move is called a posture, Tai Chi has no stationary poses.Each posture flows from one to the next and part of the discipline and training in Tai Chi is to develop the ability to flow physically and mentally from one posture to the other. Concentration, focus, and slow deliberate movements increase overall health by strengthening muscles, joints, and bones. Additionally, Tai Chi calls for long, deep inhalations and exhalations to accompany the motions of each posture.
Izolda Trakhtenberg has been playing Tai Chi for over twenty years and she has been teaching it for over fifteen years. The workshops Izolda teaches allow students an in-depth introduction to the Yang style Tai Chi long form. The workshop focuses on alignment, breath and proper technique. Students will learn the first few postures and flow through them while focusing on their breath and moving peacefully to reap many health benefits.
Workshops are available in 45-minute, one-hour, and two-hour lengths.
These are the steps to follow for Izolda Trakhtenberg’s Introduction to Tai Chi workshop. This will take you through the first few postures of the Yang style long form. Please do the warm up before you begin to play Tai Chi.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Keep your feet bare if you are indoors. Remember to listen to your body and do nothing that hurts.
Stand with feet together. Weight is evenly distributed between each foot and between the front and back of each foot. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your palms are down and face behind you. Imagine that there is a ping-pong ball in each armpit and let your arms move slightly out and away from your body. Deepen and soften your breathing. Imagine your breath moving down into your Dan Tien (Sea of Energy). As you breathe, feel energy from the earth below come up through your feet, up your legs and let it rest in your Dan Tien. Soon you will feel a slight tingling in your fingertips. That is the generation of Chi. You are now ready to begin.
- [Inhale] Slowly, gently shift your weight over to your right foot.
- Bend your right knee as the heel of your left foot rises.
- Lift your foot off the ground and begin to place your left big toe shoulder-width apart directly to the side.
- [Exhale] As your toe touches the ground, begin to shift weight slightly and allow the ball of your foot and then the heel of your feet to connect with the ground.
- Finish the exhalation as you shift your weight to the center between your feet.
- [Inhale] Slowly begin to straighten your knees.
- Simultaneously, lift your arms up from the shoulder sockets until they are even with your chest.
- [Exhale] Begin to bend your knees as you lower your arms back down.
- [Inhale] Allow your hands to come fully down and then have them begin to circle to the outside as you shift your weight to the left foot.
- Allow the toes of the right foot to raise and with a straight leg, pivot on the heel to a 45 degree angle.
- Now shift your weight to the right foot as the right arm circles up to the palm (with palm facing down) and left arm circles down (with palm facing up).
- Hold the ball with your two hands while you bring your left foot in towards your right. (Right gwa is closed.)
- [Exhale] As you exhale, extend your left foot to approximately shoulder width apart and set the heel down first.
- Shift weight from your right foot to your left. Bend your left knee as you straighten the right knee (never bend to more than a perpendicular calf). (Left gwa is closed.)
- Simultaneously, “ward off” by bringing your left hand up to chest level (palm facing you) and your right hand to hip level (palm facing down).
- [Inhale] Begin to shift your weight back toward your right foot as you lift the toe of your left foot off the ground.
- With a straight leg, pivot on the heel of your left foot to a 45 degree angle.
- Simultaneously, begin to bring your hands into “Hold the ball” by scooping the energy with your right hand. Left hand stays on top and right hand on bottom (palms facing each other).
- Shift your weight fully to the left foot and bring the right foot in towards your left foot. (Left gwa is closed.)
- [Exhale] As you exhale, extend your right foot to approximately shoulder width apart and set the heel down first.
- Shift weight from your left foot to your right. Bend your right knee as you straighten the left knee. (Right gwa is closed.)
- Simultaneously, “ward off” by bringing your right hand up to chest level (palm facing you) and your left hand to hip level (palm facing down).
- [Inhale] As you inhale, allow your upper body to twist to the right slightly past the ward off motion.
- Let your hands come up and as if you are in water, allow them to float as you shift your right palm to face down and simultaneously shift your left palm to face up.
- Gently grab imaginary silk and bring it to your left hip as you shift your weight back to your left side. (Your left gwa closes as your right gwa opens.)
- Lift your right toes and you allow your right foot to pivot to the left and the toes of both feet face the same direction for an instant.
- Bring the left arm in a big circle behind you as the right arm gently waits for it.
- [Exhale] Allow the left palm to touch the inside of the right wrist as you begin to shift your weight forward for a push.
- The right toes now face 90° again as you complete the shift forward. The right knee is bent and the calf stays perpendicular to the ground. (Right gwa is closed.)
- [Inhale] Draw the left palm hand over the back of the right hand so that the arms are directly in front of you and shoulder height with fingers pointing down.
- Shift your weight back to the left (close the left gwa and open the right) as you bring your hands back up and over the ball.
- Your toes lift and the right foot pivots to the left to 45°.
- [Exhale] Switch your hands so that the palms now face forward as you push shift your weight forward coming back to rest with the right gwa closed and the right calf perpendicular to the ground.
To gain a better understand of Tai Chi and the manner in which Izolda approaches this ancient art, please read her article that appeared in Frederick’s Child magazine.