Chinatown Tai Chi Center

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Frequently Asked Questions

on the subject of Tai Chi:

What is Your Schedule of Classes?

The class schedule is available on our class schedule page.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi chuan literally means "grand ultimate fist." It is a Chinese martial art practiced for both its health and self-defense benefits. Tai Chi (the "chuan" is commonly dropped for brevity) is actually a style of kung fu.

Tai Chi can be practiced by people of all abilities because it does not require great strength. It uses a person's "chi," or internal energy, rather than muscular force. Because internal energy can be continually developed and strengthened, Tai Chi can be practiced well into old age.

Tai Chi is a powerful health art. It lubricates and stretches the joints, strengthens the body, increases the circulation of blood and internal energy, and is good for overall physical and mental health and balance.

Tai Chi is also effective for self-defense. Students learn how to respond to attacks without pitting force against force. Over time, they acquire the power of sinking, uprooting, pushing, pulling, and splitting.

The martial arts component of Tai Chi is itself a great health benefit, because it allows practitioners to defend themselves from bodily harm.

What forms do you teach?

The forms we teach are listed here in the order in which they are learned for advancement in the Plum Blossom International Federation:

We also teach the Eight Brocades and the 18 Lohan which are Chi-Kung forms.

Who are the previous masters? And why do we salute them?

Saluting the originators of Tai Chi is a way to honor the lineage of our art. Our saluting the framed portraits of these distinguished gentlemen at the start and end of each class is like classical musicians acknowledging Mozart or playwrights making a toast to Shakespeare.

Tai Chi was first developed in China during the early 14th century as a form of self-defense. The martial art changed over the next several centuries to include jumps and explosions of strength.

The masters we salute were among those who revised the art. In the mid-1800s, Tai Chi was simplified into a softer style by Yang Lu-Chan. This Yang style of Tai Chi was further revised by Yang Lu-Chan's son Yang Jian-Hou. It was revised again by Yang Cheng-Fu into the present style we practice today.

Yang Cheng-Fu was the first person to teach Tai Chi publicly in China. Previously the art was available only to members of the Yang family. Our direct link to this lineage is through Sifu Phyllis Calph, whose instructor is Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong. Grandmaster's instructor was Hu Yuen-Chou, who died in 1997 at age 94 and who learned from Yang Cheng-Fu.

A Chinese saying goes, "When you drink water, think of its source." Saluting the previous masters reminds students of the wellspring of talent that developed the Yang style of Tai Chi.

Is Tai Chi practiced barefoot like karate?

No. We wear shoes. We recommend you wear shoes with good support that fit snuggly so that your foot doesn't slide around inside your shoes. But don't wear shoes that are so tight you get blisters or jam your toes. Sandals and other open shoes or shoes with little or no support are not recommended. A solid sole that comes to the edge of your foot so you don't roll to one side or the other helps with balance and protects your ankles. To match your uniform, black shoes are preferred.

Do I have to wear a uniform?

In the summer, when it gets hot in the gymnasium, we relax our uniform rules. Shorts are OK and your sash is optional. When the days start to cool off, or in late August, whichever comes first, uniforms will again be required. We'll have to get used to wearing our uniforms then because they will be mandatory while Grandmaster Wong is here. That means the white jacket with black long pants and your sash. When he is not here, the red school shirt with black pants is also acceptable as a uniform. (Mirriam Webster's definition of uniform: Presenting an unvaried appearance of surface, pattern, or color.)

How do I address Mrs. Calph?

Phyllis Calph is the head instructor of our school. All students should address her as "Sifu." In September, when Doc-Fai Wong, Sifu Calph's teacher, comes to visit, he should be addressed as "Grandmaster" or "Grandmaster Wong."