What should I wear?
Isn’t Tai Chi just for old / young people?
Why are many of the exercises so vigorous?
What style of Tai Chi do you practice?
Will there be any fighting?
What is the secret of good Tai Chi?

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What should I wear?
It is best to wear loose fitting clothing and simple flat-soled shoes. Then, after practicing for some time, you might also like to invest in a pair of cotton-soled Tai Chi shoes. In addition to appropriate clothing, it can also be worthwhile bringing some water to class, and perhaps a small towel if you are planning to engage more intensively with the exercises. It is also advised that you remove any jewellery in order to avoid accidents.

Isn’t Tai Chi just for old / young people?
Tai Chi is fundamentally a set of principles which the practitioner attempts to realise within their own body in order to cultivate physical and mental wellbeing. As such, anyone with a body is already in a very good position to get started. Younger people bring with them the advantages and disadvantages of youth, and older students those that come with age. Through Tai Chi practice we seek to work with whatever our current physical and mental makeup might be, attempting to restore health and well-being in whatever capacity is available to us. In practical terms, we can increase the intensity of the exercises for those with more vigour, and can often modify them for those who find the exercises too demanding. Given the nature of group classes, however, anyone who would find it difficult to engage in gentle standing exercise for about one hour’s time, might prefer to attend a class specifically tailored to their needs.

Why are many of the exercises so vigorous?
Many people associate the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong with absolute relaxation, but this means that a number of the important healing aspects of these practices are being ignored. Stretching is also important as it can help us to become more flexible, correct physical misalignment, and open the body’s Qi meridians. In Tai Chi and Qigong practice we often talk about the importance of harmonising Yin and Yang, and one manifestation of this is the need to harmonise stretching and relaxation. If we stretch too strongly we might create tensions in our body which prevent us from moving as one harmonious whole; however, if we relax too much, we are likely to just fall down on the ground like a bag of old bones. When we achieve a harmony of stretching and relaxation, our body will have a whip-like elasticity which reveals the internal strength hidden in these gentle movements.

What style of Tai Chi do you practice?
We follow the teachings of Dr Shen Hongxun who regarded Professor Yao Huanzi (Yue Huanzhi), a proponent of Yang style Taijiquan, as one of his primary masters. Dr Shen’s other important Tai Chi teacher was his father-in-law Xia Zixin with whom he studied Nanpai Taiji Sa’qi (Southern School Tai Chi Thirty-Seven) – also known as Siming Nanpai Taijigong (Siming Southern School Tai Chi Cultivation) – which focuses on developing strong internal movement through the use of standing exercises. Another important influence on this style is the Emei Shi’er Zhanzhuang (Twelve Standing Exercises of Emei Mountain), a traditional Qigong system used by fighters and healers alike to strengthen their bodies, open the Qi meridians, and prepare themselves for meditation.

Will there be any fighting?
The Qigong exercises that we practice in class, whilst in some cases derived from Tai Chi, do not require that any reference be made to fighting or fighting concepts. When practising Tai Chi our emphasis is on developing subtle internal movements which stretch and open the body for the purpose of self-healing. In order to do this, we often discuss the martial intent behind each posture, but we do not engage in any kind of sparring or competition.

What is the secret of good Tai Chi?
Tai Chi practice can at times be very physically demanding, and can challenge us mentally in many different ways; however, as long as we remember to smile and enjoy ourselves, we are already well on the way to mastery.