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Our answers are aimed at students attending Lighthouse classes. Other teachers and schools may have a different approach or answer.
What to Wear?
Shoes: thin soled sports shoes without strong grip on the bottom; such as standard pumps, tennis shoe or plimsolls that are clean and comfortable. Kung Fu slippers or Fei Yue shoes can be bought online if you prefer something specifically for tai chi. Some people wear socks.
Heeled shoes and walking boots are not suitable. Trainers are not recommended as they are designed to tip the body into a running position and will affect your balance, foot sensitivity and can damage the knees.
Clothes: should be clean, loose-fitting and comfortable, that allow you to move freely and easily without tangling your limbs or body. Trousers, leggings or shorts with a t-shirt or sweatshirt style top are best.
Dresses and skirts are not recommended. Tight clothing may affect your breathing. No dangly necklaces or jewelry that can get caught in your clothing or restrict movement.
Which Books are good for beginners?
watch the video
If my balance and co-ordination is poor can I still learn tai chi?
This is in fact why you absolutely should learn tai chi. It will be challenging at first, but you will improve both balance and co-ordination overtime with tai chi. The more you practice the better you will get.
Improving leg strength is another of the benefits of tai chi practice and has been proven to help prevent falls. As we get older balance can become a problem due to many factors including hearing loss, muscle wastage after prolonged illnesses and a more sedentary lifestyle. The slower movements of tai chi build up strength and develop awareness of the centre of the body with mindful focus
Do I have to attend every week or will I get behind?
Weekly attendance will give a solid basis and continuity to your learning. Most health studies are based on attending twice a week for 12 consecutive weeks. However our weekly sessions are not courses and we understand that people have busy lives and commitments that mean they cannot always attend as regularly as they would wish.
Our teaching methods allow you to layer the information given over time and missing a week now and again will not prevent your learning tai chi. The classes are all drop-in style. Learning tai chi will take longer if you miss many sessions but you will still learn and be very welcome when you can attend.
What does Qi feel like?
watch the video
How will tai chi and qigong help with stress-busting and feeling calm?
Stress caused the mind to wander off into the future or dwell on the past. Tai Chi and Qigong require you to focus your mind in the moment. Being in the 'now' is a form of meditation.
As with all meditative practices it will take time, patience and practice. When your mind has wandered off, you will need to be kind to yourself and gently bring the mind back to what you are doing in the present.
Slowing the breath and breathing deeper as you learning to move and breathe slowly also helps to calm the mind and boost the feeling of wellbeing.
Once I have attended a couple of classes can I just learn online?
Online resources and video clips are a tremendously useful as a reference for home practice, to help you to remember the postures you are working on in class and to progress from basic movements more quickly
Online classes are great if you have previously attended classes and want to put in extra training at home, or cannot attend a class at the moment. For total beginners it is not ideal but at least you can see if you would enjoy it.
Videos and DVDs to learn tai chi and qigong without instruction are not so useful, as the instructor cannot see you, nor can your posture be corrected or discussed. Relying on the internet to learn something as complicated as tai chi and qigong will not help you to gain the health benefits and you will probably get bored.
Why do we move so slowly?
Moving slowly gives you time to observe and adjust your posture and make corrections for yourself. Accuracy and precision are best acquired at a slow pace. At first you will move too much and too fast, because you will try to 'exercise' and burn energy rather than relaxing the body and conserving your energy.
Stretching and pushing creates muscular tension, which then blocks the flow of Qi energy. To open our Meridians and encourage the smooth flow of Qi, we need to relax and become aware of the core muscles and ‘dan tien’ area to feel the subtle movement of Qi overtime.
Many exercise routines also de-sensitize us to how our bodies feel, and we are encouraged to push through pain. This habit can take a while to undo. Beginners with stiff bodies or chronic pain will find relaxation a little more challenging and even painful as we can be unaware of chronic tension. Over time this will ease and will help manage chronic pain.
What music should I play for practicing?
watch the video
How long will it take to learn tai chi?
years and you never stop learning.
Each time you acquire a level of understanding and ability, you then discover the next layer to be studied. Tai chi is a lifestyle. It takes you and your body time to absorb and apply what you have learned along your journey.
There are always new challenges and directions in tai chi. It is not a workout routine or something you learn to perform for someone else. As an experienced tai chi player, it will still take months and even years to really learn another tai chi or qigong form. A even longer to study a style.
A good teacher will have 3-5 years intensive training as a student before even attempting to teach someone else.
So what’s the rush? If you are entering a competition or doing a performance for an event, you must tell your instructor so they can help you manage and achieve your goals.
However, we mostly are just putting pressure on ourselves and trying to acquire something the easiest way possible. Anything worth having is worth working for – so relax and enjoy the journey
What am I expected to learn?
The sequences or ‘forms’ of tai chi and qigong are designed to combine different movements into a flowing progression, to challenge balance, co-ordination, mental focus and memory.
Unlike other exercise classes, the forms will take many months, even years to learn. Patience and tolerance are the side effects of learning and achievement is measured by learning and applying the 10 principles, the 8 Energies and 6 Harmonies. Any movement or posture where these elements are present, then becomes tai chi or qigong. The form is a pathway to the understanding and absorption of these elements.
Once a student learns and has sufficient knowledge of the basic moves of a form, the emphasis of their tuition moves on to posture, alignment, breathing, energy flow and martial intent. Consequently one ‘form’ or even one move contains a lifetime of learning.
Lighthouse Tai Chi work to a term syllabus with a weekly lesson plan, using UK teaching methodologies. Unlike traditional tai chi ‘schools’ we do not follow Eastern esoteric teaching and use a selection of forms and styles with teaching methods that avoid trying to memorize long sequences and focus on exploring the essence and essentials of tai chi and qigong.
The focus for an absolute beginner is to learn the 10 Tai Chi principles
What if I can’t keep up with other students?
Many beginners worry that they won’t be able to ‘keep up’ and are nervous they will embarrass themselves in front of others. This is something we all feel once we try to learn something new. Tai chi is challenging for the first 2-3 years, but it is not competitive. A sense of humour is useful for overcoming your feelings of awkwardness and patience is most certainly a virtue.
We can assure you that nobody will be looking at you or comparing themselves to you. They should be concentrating on their own tai chi and applying their learning. It is also important to let go of ‘keeping up’ as a thought, because you will need to move slower than the instructor to see what is happening.
How do I progress?
watch the video
Can I use/learn tai chi as a martial art and self-defense?
If you have studied other martial arts, when you study tai chi most of the martial and self defense applications of tai chi will become quickly obvious and visible to you. The calm, focused, mindful aspects of tai chi allows experienced martial artists to develop internal power and accuracy to progress their fighting ability. This will take time and dedication to perfect but as with any martial art, you will already have the discipline and focus you have acquired in the past
If you have never studied a martial art it will take many years to develop the skills to use tai chi in this way. Everyone begins by learning and improving from a basic form. There are no short cuts or secret methods. Learning tai chi alongside another martial art would be helpful.
Self-defense is not the same as martial arts. Martial arts are what you use if your self-defense fails. A self-defense class is the best way to learn self-defense. We recommend Krav Maga or Geoff Thompson's methods. Be warned, if you are not prepared to fight or be violent you cannot learn this way.
Why can’t I remember the form?
The forms are designed to allow students to learn together in a coherent flow. They will challenge you mentally and physically. The best way to memorize is to slow down, learn one section at a time until you know it without reference and make your own notes after class.
Trying to learn a whole sequence will build frustration and you will probably need to unlearn parts of it. The movements and postures are not what makes it tai chi and do not bring the reported health benefits on their own. Therefore, you should only learn tai chi and qigong from an experienced, professional instructor.
Memorizing things is harder as we get older. Tai chi specifically challenges the brain to stimulate new growth and neural connections. Keep trying and your brain will allow you to learn more over time. Tai chi is more like learning a new language or musical instrument than doing a fitness class. You will not be fluent or able to perform pieces by heart quickly unless you are very gifted and even then, it takes time.
Patience and kindness to yourself is key.
How does tai chi help my health condition?
There are many studies for a variety of health conditions where tai chi has been proven to help. Tai Chi and Qigong are practices based on Traditional Chinese Medicine but there are many 'Western' Medicine studies to support the use of tai chi and qigong to boost wellbeing and to empower people in controlling their own health.
From experience, we find people have their own unique challenges with a health condition, but come to tai chi and qigong thinking they will find a simple cure all that is easy.
The moves or postures are not useful in themselves. The benefits come by learning a new way to move, improving your posture and breathing, with mindful relaxation applied. Placing your hands and feet in a certain position will not cure or help any condition.
Learning, applying and practicing the principles, energies and harmonies through a form or sequence of movements will do much to improve most health conditions. Improved balance and co-ordination is the first indicator that you are learning correctly and on your way to better health.
Which Tai Chi class is best for me?
watch the video
How does Daoism (Taoism) relate to tai chi? Is it religious?
Tai chi is based on Daoist principles. However, you do not need to understand Daoism or Taoism or become a Daoist to learn and enjoy tai chi or qigong with us.
Understanding the principles and background to tai chi helps to deepen your knowledge but there is no religious teaching or practices in our classes. This is not part of what we teach and we have anti-discrimination and safeguarding policies in place.
If Taoism interests you particularly there are many books and online resources, Please be wary of following ‘gurus’ and intensive Daoist training if you are mentally and emotionally vulnerable. Always check exactly who someone is and what their background has been. Some Qigong classes are cult orientated and can be exploitative. Google searches can quickly reveal interest things about people, charities and other organizations.
If you have any other questions please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org