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Tai chi can be practiced as a healing exercise and as a martial arts.
Those who do NOT wish to learn the martial components, but want to improve health and fitness, should register for Tai Chi Level 1.
Students who wish to learn the martial components should register for the Comprehensive Tai Chi program.
The health benefits of tai chi are so well known and documented that most people who practice tai chi do so for their health and fitness, with little or no desire to be involved in what is referred to as the "martial component" of tai chi. For those students, we offer the Tai Chi Basic program. This will include all the parts of the adaptive tai chi curriculum that do not include two-person training, martial applications, tuishou, or other self-defence practice.
Tai Chi for Health
Tai chi chuan (Tai chi) is practised by millions around the world as a means to better health, fitness, and long life. What many do not know is that this relaxing and invigorating exercise is also practised by many as a martial art. Students who are seeking the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of tai chi often do not want to learn the martial aspects of the art. So, most teachers do not teach the martial aspects. However, since the health benefits are a direct result of the art's martial history, the best health benefits are achieved by learning from a teacher who at least understands the martial elements. The teacher doesn't need to teach the student combat skills. But the teacher should understand them.
Whether you are looking for an effective way to feel better, relax, and improve your fitness, or you wish to learn a profound martial art, then tai chi chuan has a lot to offer you.
The masters who created tai chi chuan recognised how important it was for a martial artist to strengthen mind, body, and spirit. They also considered it self-evident that a martial artist should have a profound awareness of mind and body, and be skilled at constantly seeking peace and harmony in an inherently violent world.
These are essential qualities of high level martial artists. But they are also valuable for everyone else. That is why tai chi chuan exercises are part of China's national fitness program, and have become immensely popular throughout the world.
Tai chi chuan has become so popular, in fact, that it has often been watered down and simplified to make it easier to teach to large masses of people. Today there are even many teachers don’t fully understand the true nature of the art. It is common for people today to see tai chi as nothing but a gentle exercise for old people. However, since the initial wave of popularity, the standards for teaching are increasing, and there are a growing number of schools endeavouring to teach the complete traditional art.
Tai chi has traditionally been popular with people of all ages. The gentle grace and power, as well as the subtle and mysterious nature of this ancient art appeals to a very wide demographic, including men and women of all ages and fitness levels.
In addition, people of different ages are attracted to tai chi for a variety of reasons. Some people like it because it gives them strength, flexibility, agility, and the power to defend themselves against bigger, stronger opponents. Some like it because it helps them to be healthy, and even formidable, no matter what their age. Some like it because it is safe, is graceful, is empowering, tones the body, doesn't require big muscles, and teaches the use of suppleness and sensitivity to overcome brute force.
Athletes of all ages appreciate the intense workout that tai chi can provide, while being adaptable to any fitness level. The will also find that traditional tai chi can strengthen the core, increase flexibility, co-ordination, strength, power, and speed. Many athletes cross train in tai chi for the improvements in performance it offers in such sports as golf, running, skiing, swimming, tennis, football and rugby.
The many health benefits of tai chi chuan are a direct result of the search for an effective martial art. Tai chi chuan grew from an ancient bed of knowledge that included traditional medicine, qigong (Chinese yoga), northern Chinese martial arts, daoist philosophy, and the insights of several very dedicated and gifted people.
Many health benefits of tai chi are now well documented. Some research now suggests that regular practice of traditional tai chi:
- Improves cardiovascular function
- Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol
- Improves balance and reduces falls
- Is safe for arthritis sufferers
- Improves symptoms of some types of arthritis
- Slows the rate of Osteoporosis
- Reduces risks of injury
- Aids with asthma and other breathing problems
- Improves immune function
- Improves flexibility and strength
- Improves endurance
- Reverses symptoms of ageing
- Can aid in weight loss
The Mariposa Method
A more effective way of teaching tai chi.
It is not about a style. The Mariposa Method is a way of organizing the traditional curriculum. It draws on the proven methods of current and past masters. It includes the “lost secrets” which are often omitted from modern classes. The goal is to present a curriculum that is efficient, comprehensive, accessible, and appropriate for students of varying degrees of commitment, ability, and resources.
Over the past 100 years, there has been an increasing trend in tai chi towards simplification. The idea seems to be that by making the teaching more simple, it will become accessible to more people. But this has had the opposite effect. It has resulted in generations of tai chi students and teachers who have no idea about what the art is capable of doing for them. The complete art barely exists at all, in some places. Where it does exist, the expectations of the market are so low that no one even bothers to ask for the complete transmission. With no demand, the traditional knowledge has no place to go.
I want to teach in an environment where every student and potential student knows what a feast the art is able to provide, even if most students are happy with just the appetizers.
The knowledge base of each successive generation has become weaker and weaker, while stories of the great masters of old continue to be told. Ambitious teachers with little knowledge have been able to trade on the power of tai chi mythology to enrol vast numbers of student.
In at least one case, a vast international empire was built by a teacher whose only real training consisted of 4 months of instruction. The attrition rate for that school is nearly 99% over the first year. I have taught several former instructors from that organization who declare that they learn more from me in the first week than they did from a decade at their formal school. I know that I am not the only instructor to have this experience.
I blame this partly on the fact that the popularity of tai chi has grown faster than the number of qualified instructors. But this situation is not helped by the fact that some teachers believe that the art can be preserved by keeping it secret. That is like trying to preserve a species by disallowing the species to breed.
Tai chi has never been just a martial art. It incorporates profound internal training for mind, body and spirit.
One can accept that there would be a call for secrecy surrounding such a profound art, but not for the reasons that most would expect. In the past, the secrecy of a martial art was a product of clan warfare and personal security. Later, it may have been the result of nationalism or racism. But the ultimately, the reasons for the apparent secrecy are probably less offensive than that.
With an art as profound as tai chi, there are concepts and skills that cannot be taught to beginners. There are skills that cannot be taught to intermediate students. There are skills that cannot be taught to any but a few exceptionally skilled students. The reason is that students who lack a particular experience are incapable of understanding the more advanced instruction, and to give the profound knowledge away will be like throwing pearls to the pigs. The students will fail to hear, or fail to listen, or fail to understand. In the worst scenario, the student will fail to understand but will remember how to repeat the instructions. These students then go out and teach beginner classes, quoting the wisdom they heard the day before. The tai chi world has many people who are teaching and making claims that they can’t prove or understand. It is like the person who, with no knowledge of quantum physics, reads “The Secret” and then claims that they can use string theory to win the lottery.
The ignorance of the instructor can be mitigated, concealed, or compensated for by a well organized style, or curriculum. There are many teachers around the world who teach by rote. Many such teachers will serve, at best, as place-holders for more advanced teachers who travel the world giving seminars. They depend on the visiting teachers to fill in the knowledge gaps of the dedicated students. That is one way to go. Such a curriculum does not need to misrepresent the skill or knowledge of an instructor.
Over the past two decades, I have (along with fellow instructors around the world) attempted to develop a coherent and progressive system that will provide students with a clear path to mastery. My goal as an instructor, is to offer a program that will teach in a few weeks what many teachers never get the opportunity to teach. I hope to enable my students to reach, in 1 - 5 years, what took me decades to learn. For this to happen, students must have a road map for the progression of both knowledge and experience.
To this end, I have been developing the “Mariposa Method.” This is not a style of tai chi, but a unique approach to pedagogy. The Mariposa Method integrates new inventions with proven approaches, and includes older esoterica that has been mostly forgotten by modern teachers. I have changed some things, but have been careful to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Tai chi is an art and a science. As such it is meant to change and evolve. The Mariposa Method is not the ultimate system. It is, and will continue to be, a work in progress. It is my hope that my students will be able to make the art their own, and to take it to places of which I cannot dream.
- Ian Sinclair