Tai Chi Styles – Finding the Right One

Are you interested in learning Tai Chi? If so then you are making quite the wise choice. Tai chi has long since been a great way to meditate, relieve stress, and even learn some basic self-defense tips. There are scores of Tai Chi schools out there and they all have quite a bit of value to offer. The one thing you need to be aware of is that not all Tai Chi classes and instructors follow the same methodologies. Understanding that there are differences will allow you to make the proper selection when seeking to enroll in classes.

So, let’s move on to the basic steps needed to select and instructor or specific class program…

First and foremost, you need to understand that there are three focuses a Tai Chi program may take. The first would be holistic. In a holistic program, the focus will be on health, proper breathing, and meditation. The second method would be a self-defense program. Yes, Tai Chi was once primarily a classic martial art that dealt primarily with throws, locks, and strikes. Pure self-defense programs are rare but they do exist. Double check before enrolling to make sure the program aligns closer with your goals. And the third would be a program that mixes holistic training with self-defense.

Actually, you could even break down the training of Tai Chi into two more spheres: traditional and modern. The traditional approach is more akin to the classic Chinese method of instruction. Modern training is a more westernized version of the training. On a side note: traditional training can be found in the west and western style training can be found in China. So, the names are not always to be taken geographically literal. They do, however, provide an accurate assessment of how the classes will be conducted.

That means you can mix and match among holistic, traditional, modern, and self-defense programs. How is that for a lot of choice?

As the great Ron Popeil once said, “Wait! There’s more!”

Tai Chi actually branches off into different styles and schools of training. There is Yang Style, Chen Style, Wu Style, and the Sun Style.

All of the Tai Chi systems are rooted in martial arts. Yet, how the martial aspect is presented is indicative of the style. Yang is primarily geared more towards holistic training and it uses forms based on martial arts movements but generally does not promote self-defense. Chen style is far more martial and puts more emphasis on hitting and throwing which is why it is rarely used in holistic programs. Wu (a Yang derivative) and Sun style deal with self-defense but will invest a lot of emphasis on health and meditation.

Ultimately, most systems of Yang, Wu, and Sun offer holistic and meditational programs. Chen also does to a lesser degree. Since most Tai Chi schools promote health and meditation, the odds are strong that you will mainly come across a course based on one (or more) of the other three styles.

Then, there are the Wushu versions of Tai Chi which modify the four methods into more performance art displays. Wushu versions of the art are more competition oriented and rely on attributes and athletic skills. So, Wushu variants of Tai Chi are generally not considered “real” Tai Chi.

All of these systems have a component of push hands training which are two person energy training designed to promote the development of energy, physical movements, and moving meditation facets of the art. Some classes may offer a great deal of push hands training, some may offer none, and some do a little.

So, how do you know which style to select, which class to enroll in, and which instructor to sign on with? Basically, you will examine the classes, look at the ones that fit your own particular likes, dislikes, and needs. From there, you make your selection. It is as simple as that.

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