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TEACHERS, this page is a great resource for your new students. Items like the "TC Challenges - Resistence to Change," "Your Internal/External Hygiene," and "Wrongness is Our Culture's Resistence," sections encourage students to see clearly through the challenges of learning T'ai Chi, and to not fall into the trap of "BLAMING THE TEACHER." By having your new students read through these helpful tips below, it can help you relax and enjoy your classes more as your students "lighten up" on themselves, and on you the teacher.














The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.

Chapter 8
Be Prepared: Your First Day of Class


In This Chapter

           

> Picking your T’ai Chi wardrobe

> Preparing mentally and physically for class

> Knowing what is expected of you

> Learning the terms

In this chapter, you will learn what to wear to do T’ai Chi. Yet beyond fashion concerns, this
chapter also prepares you mentally, emotionally, and physically for your first day of class. Even
those currently involved in T’ai Chi will find these mental and emotional insights into T’ai Chi
challenges helpful.

This chapter will provide you with many ways to get the most out of T’ai Chi training by explaining
class structure, what is expected of you, and clarifying terms you may encounter in class.



Choosing Your Tai Chi Wardrobe

Ultimately you can do Tai Chi in any kind of clothing, but certain clothing is suggested for class. Typically, Tai Chi students wear anything they want. It is helpful to wear something loose and stretchy and to leave jewelry at home; however, the rest is often up to you. The most common Tai Chi suit is a T-shirt and sweat pants. Spandex or body suits, although not prohibited, are not typically worn in Tai Chi.

Also, longer dresses can make it more difficult for an instructor to see posture or leg placement, but if your class is in an office environment, don't worry about it.

If you practice Tai Chi at the office, everyone will likely be wearing office clothes, but they will kick off their heels. If you go from the office to a studio or community class or if your company holds classes in an exercise area, bring some sweats and tennis shoes to change into.

Some studios, especially martial arts studios, may require more formal attire. If they do, they will direct you to a martial arts supply store that sells the appropriate garb, or the studio may provide them.

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Ouch!

Some Chinese masters caution against practicing T’ai Chi barefoot because it opens the feet up to “pernicious influences.” This sounds sinister, but it may only mean that you could chill if the ground is cold or pick up an infection if the ground is dirty. Conversely, others say it is good to practice barefoot because it connects you to the earth, whereas your rubber shoes electrically isolate you from it.

Footwear depends on the location. For most T’ai Chi classes, tennis shoes are fine. However, some studios
that offer T’ai Chi, such as martial arts or yoga studios, will require bare feet. It is not advisable to wear only socks
in these studios because socks can be slippery. If you need arch support and attend a class in these locations, you
may be able to wear tennis shoes that have never been used on the street or Chinese kung fu shoes. These nonstreet
shoes will not damage the floor, but check with the instructor before purchasing them.

The only hard and fast rule that all instructors follow on footwear is that you cannot wear heeled shoes. This is hard on
your back, makes balance difficult, and changes the way the whole body moves. If doing T’ai Chi at the office, just kick
off your heels, or bring tennis shoes if they feel more comfortable.

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.









Considering External and Internal Hygiene

T’ai Chi has very few external hygiene rules, but internally, it is good to prepare yourself mentally |and emotionally by letting go of some myths about yourself and exercise.



External Hygiene

Unlike most other martial arts, Tai Chi usually requires no contact between participants. Therefore, hygiene rules are pretty much like daily life. You will be in fairly close proximity to others, so if your job leaves you a little ripe, you may want to shower prior to Tai Chi class. However, if you come to class from the office, there shouldn't be a problem. The only concern might be if you attend class at a studio that requires you to go barefoot. If you go straight from the office to one of these classes, you might just buy some handy-wipe wet towelettes and clean your feet off prior to going into class.

Don't wear heavy cologne or perfume into class because the deep breathing in Tai Chi may make it overwhelming to others. Again, jewelry should be left at home, especially jangly jewelry.

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You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.












Internal Hygiene

The clutter in our mind, heart, and body is the most important thing to cleanse prior to attending your first, or one hundredth, Tai Chi class.

In the long run Tai Chi will help relieve allergy problems, but if you have heavy allergies and are heavily medicated, it may be helpful to lighten up on the medications prior to Tai Chi. That is, if your medications make your balance more difficult or make it harder to focus. However, never adjust prescription medication without your doctor's approval. If you haven't tried acupuncture for your allergies, try it. It can be a terrific nonpharmaceutical way to alleviate allergy symptoms with great results. Acupuncture treatments cannot harm, but can enhance your clarity or balance.







"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.






Tai Chi and Massage Therapy

Tai Chi is meant to loosen the mind and body and increase internal awareness (see the beginning of the DVD insert's Moving QiGong Warm Ups Excerpt for more on internal awareness). Tension disconnects the mind from the body. Therefore, you may find it very complementary to begin massage therapy prior to your first Tai Chi class and to continue massage therapy for the rest of your life. Most good Tai Chi teachers will advocate massage therapy as part of your Tai Chi training, just as many good massage therapists will recommend Tai Chi to their clients. You also will find that massage therapy will be helpful in relieving chronic problems such as allergies.

Sage Sifu Says

As T’ai Chi teaches the body to move and change more easily and effortlessly, it provides a model for the mind and heart to change more easily, too. Therefore, as you continue with T’ai Chi, you may discover you eat healthier, drink more water and less soda, get better rest, adopt habits like regular massage therapy, and spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.


"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.



Resistance to Change

Tai Chi helps us change. Our mind and body get accustomed to the way we have always
done things, even things that are not really that good for us. Therefore, on a subconscious level, parts of us resist good changes that Tai Chi fosters because we don't want to let go of the way we have always been. Part of us likes to be a "couch potato" and doesn't like the way Tai Chi is getting us more involved in an active life. Resistance to change may manifest itself in many ways.

Resistance may do the following:

> Cause you to scold yourself, to tell yourself you are too clumsy, too uncoordinated, too slow, or too tired to do Tai Chi.

> Tell you Tai Chi is for other people who are better, smarter, stronger, or more coordinated than _you are.

> Tell you that the teacher doesn't like you or that Tai Chi is dumb and useless.

> Tell you that it would be much more fun to watch TV and eat potato chips tonight,
    rather than going all the way out to your Tai Chi class.

> If you miss a class, resistance will tell you, You're already too far behind; don't go back there.

If you hang in there long enough, however, you will discover that after nearly every Tai Chi class, you will feel much better than you did before going. If you become conscious of the voices of "resistance," you will be more likely to stick with Tai Chi.

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Ouch !

Students often obsess on remembering each detail the instructor tells them; some even bring a pad and pencil to class. Don't do that. Relax. Good instructors will repeat important things over and over. Let yourself enjoy the class. Don't make Tai Chi class another "important," "serious" thing in your life. Let it be playtime.

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.








"Wrongness" Is Our Culture's "Resistance"

Your Tai Chi progress will be held back by something that affects our entire culture. If you understand this, it will take a great deal of pressure off of you and your instructor. Most Western students are obsessed with learning the Tai Chi movements "perfectly," and this causes them stress, which slows their ability to learn and enjoy Tai Chi. In fact, we often convince ourselves that our attempts to learn are so "imperfect" that it is pointless to continue with our study.

Tai Chi will show you on a very basic level that you are never "wrong." You are growing and learning how to do things better and better each and every day of your life. Tai Chi is simple enough to use the very first day of practice, but its richness is so subtle that you can refine your Tai Chi movements for the rest of your life. Therefore, you do not need to "perfect" the first movement before learning the second. You learn a layer of the movements, and learning that layer changes who you are and how you function. Your new and improved self can then learn the movements at yet a deeper, more subtle level, and so on for years and years. Tai Chi leaves you in an endlessly blooming state of perfection.

"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.












Attending Your First Class


When entering your first class, you probably aren't sure what it will look like, how to treat the instructor, or what is expected of you. So let's look at these expectations one at a time.

Mainly, you will be expected to relax and enjoy yourself. You will also have a little homework, but as you'll see, this could be the best homework you ever had.









"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.









How to Address Your Instructor

The question of how to address your instructor has several possible answers. The safest way to find out what is right for the class you enroll in is to simply ask the teacher how they would like to be addressed.

The formal Chinese term for Tai Chi teacher is Sifu (pronounced see-foo), meaning "master of an art or skill." However, many Tai Chi classes in the West are very informal. Most instructors simply go by their first name.

If a Chinese teacher asks you to call him or her Sifu, this is not because of an ego trip. Actually, this is a great compliment. This means that they consider you a worthy student, and that is an honor.

Sage Sifu Says

You can get all the benefits from T’ai Chi without straining. You don’t have to memorize all the terms, or do the movements exactly like your teacher does, or read any certain books. T’ai Chi’s amazing benefits will come to you by simply breathing deeply, relaxing your mind, and playing T’ai Chi in class and every day at home. Play T’ai Chi every day, and everything else will take care of itself.

"In doing nothing . . . all things are done."
Lao Tzu - The Tao te Ching


"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.









Class Structure

Tai Chi is informal, and each class is different. Some classes begin with a sitting QiGong exercise, using chairs forming a circle. For this relaxation exercise, the instructor will likely lead the group through an imagery exercise as they sit quietly with their eyes closed. Other classes will not use chairs and may begin with a standing relaxation exercise, also with the student's eyes closed. Still other instructors may begin the class by leading students in warm up exercises without practicing a QiGong or relaxation exercise.

Ouch !

Your main goal in Tai Chi class should be to relax and breathe. By not trying too hard, you learn more easily. Students who frustrate themselves by mentally repeating that they "can't get it" usually prove themselves right. If you really can't learn the movement, just follow the other students as you breathe and relax. You'll feel good after class, and you can repeat the session again, and you'll be the expert in class the second time around.

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Once relaxation exercises are done, the physical class structure will probably have students staggered
throughout the room facing the instructor in lines. The instructor usually faces the class, which forms lines
throughout the room, giving each student enough space to swing their arms without striking one another.
However, smaller, more informal classes may form a circle. An instructor may alternate facing the class or with
his or her back to the class, and may move around the room as well giving students different angles to see from.

In a class formed in lines facing the instructor, find a place where you can see what the instructor is doing. Many
large classes will have advanced students to help, and you can watch them if you can't see the instructor. If you
can't see what's going on, ask questions or change places. Be clear of your needs. The teachers want to help
you understand the movements, but in a larger class, they may not know you need further explanation. Don't be
afraid to speak up—they want to help you understand.

The following list gives you an idea of the process a Tai Chi class might go through; however, each instructor has
their own format.

> Sitting or Standing Relaxation Exercise (if your class performs this).

> Tai Chi warm-up exercises—gentle, repetitive movements that prepare you physically and mentally
    for Tai Chi (many warm ups are moving QiGong exercises and are discussed in detail in Part 3,
    "Starting Down the QiGong Path to Tai Chi").

> After warm-ups, the instructor may teach individual movements to practice, or if she teaches by exhibition,
     she will begin performing the entire Tai Chi set and you will be expected to follow along.

> Your homework is the movements themselves, although it is highly recommended to begin using the QiGong
    relaxation exercises at home for your own health and pleasure.

Tai Chi usually does not require anyone to sit or lie on the floor; however, some instructors may have warm up or
    cool down exercises that require it. If you are unable to do so because of an injury or physical limitation, discuss
    alternatives with the instructor.

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.











How Are Tai Chi Movements Taught?

Tai Chi forms involve a series of choreographed martial arts poses that flow together like a slow motion dance. How these movements are taught can vary. Some classes are taught by example. Meaning, the instructor will lead the group all the way through the entire Tai Chi form, and the students mimic until over time they remember all the movements.

However, many classes are taught for different levels, whereby the movements are broken down into one or two movements per class. If you are an average learner, these classes are preferable. It is much easier to learn one movement at a time and practice it all week than it is to try to assimilate an entire Tai Chi form. I'll mention here that your learning will be much easier if you don't miss classes. It's easier to memorize movements in smaller bites. For each class you miss the bites get larger. View the Lesson Excerpts on this book's DVD insert to get a feel for how movements may be broken down in classes.

The following points lay out how Tai Chi is taught or might be studied, in an effort to help you get the most out of your classes.

> Warm-ups and relaxation techniques are usually repeated weekly, although if you practice these everyday on your own you will be all the better for it.

> The actual Tai Chi movement of the week must be learned and practiced on your own that week.

> Each week a new Tai Chi movement will be added to your growing form or repertoire.

> The form will get longer and longer each week until you learn the entire form.

> Long forms of 20 minutes take between 6 and 8 months to learn.

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> Short forms of 10 minutes may take 2 to 6 months to learn, depending on the instructor and the form.

> Advanced students often repeat beginning or intermediate classes for years to refine their performance of the Tai Chi forms.

> Advanced students may serve as assistant instructors in class.

> As an advanced student, you may be asked to assist new students learning the forms for the first time.  Tai Chi, like all martial arts, is based on a mentoring system. As an assistant, you'll usually teach the first of the following three stages of Tai Chi instruction.

> Tai Chi's taught in these three stages.

> First, the movements are learned.

> Second, the breath is incorporated into the regimen by learning an inhalation or exhalation that is connected to each movement.

> Third, a relaxation element or awareness of the flow of energy through the body is learned. Although the first step offers many benefits from the first day, the benefits get richer and deeper with each level you learn.

Sage Sifu Says

Normal T’ai Chi exercises can be easily adjusted to conform to your living room’s size. Also, the more advanced sword or fan forms that some styles teach, although more challenging, can easily be done indoors, too. For example, retractable swords are available and can be left retracted when practicing indoors. The bottom line is, you can always practice T’ai Chi, no matter what style or where you are.

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.










You Mean There's Homework!?!

Tai Chi class exposes you to the movements, then you must practice those movements at home. There are two ways to look at this: either as another burden on your life's full plate or as a chance to take a break from the rat race and let all the weight of the world roll right off your shoulders.

The very first movement you learn on the very first day of class is a fantastic QiGong relaxation exercise that can help you begin to dump stress, if you do it in the right frame of mind. If you only do the Tai Chi movement to prepare for the next Tai Chi class, it won't be that relaxing. However, if you breathe deeply and let every muscle of your body relax, allowing the burdens of the week to roll off your shoulders each time you practice the movement, it'll feel great! Refer to Tai Chi Long Form Lesson 1 Excerpt on this book's DVD insert to see how the first movement can be used as a relaxation therapy, even as you learn it, by including deep full breaths. Learning in this spirit can make all the movements become relaxation therapies even as you learn them. More on deep breaths in the DVD insert's Moving QiGong Warm Ups Excerpt section.

To learn Tai Chi, you will need to practice at home. But the reason we learn Tai Chi is because it feels good, so why wouldn't we want to practice something that makes us feel good?

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Ouch !

At first it will be difficult to discipline yourself to practice daily. If you fall behind in class, just play along and repeat the multiweek session again. There are no deadlines. You'll get it eventually. Don't sabotage yourself into thinking you just can't get it. Regular attendance and daily practice make Tai Chi effortless and fruitful. If you miss class, although some instructors may help you catch up individually, you can't expect it.

The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.













Tai Chi Etiquette

Most instructors are happy to get questions during class. The rest of the class, or at least some of them, are probably facing the same uncertainties or challenges as you. A good instructor has been studying many years and may not remember all the challenges new students have, so your inquiries help him to help you and the other students. If your questions are criticisms of the format or structure, it would be best to offer them to the instructor personally after class. The instructor may not be able to fix it, but he may explain why it is done the way it is.








"MARKETPLACE ITEMS"
You can help support these FREE WTCQD resources, including our free global School Directory, which connects tens of thousands to teachers in their local areas.
The information provided is courtesy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi and Qigong, now in fourth edition, with nearly 150 web video support videos to compliment the 300 illustrated instructions.

This overview of Tai Chi and Qigong has been heralded by Booklist Magazine, the nation's premiere library journal, by the United States Tai Chi Forms Grand Champion, Sifu Hong Yijao, and by Team USA Senior Coach, Dr. Michael Steward, Sr., who wrote that although he had studied and taught Tai Chi for over 30 years, he read this book 7 times, and found something new from it each time.

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