The Joy of Tai Chi

Tai Chi Certification and the West

Some of you might have concerns about my "certifications" or "qualifications" to teach Tai Chi. Let me answer by first explaining that there is no universal certification in the United States. This is an eastern martial art, that developed into an exercise program for health and wellness based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Tai Chi has been passed down from generation to generation by tai chi practitioners in the east. The western practitioners who were fortunate enough to travel to China and take classes brought it to the United States, as well as teachers from China and elsewhere in the East. Until recently, not even the first teachers of Tai Chi offered certification. The recent certifications courses online for Tai Chi (Taiji) programs are very costly and are competing with each other for U.S. standardization. Tai Chi stays the same, each form if taught in its original style, does not change unless someone decides to modify it for their own financial benefit and call it something like..... Tai Chi for Better Abs.

There are also an endless supply of books, tapes and training guides available as well as more and more opportunities for Tai Chi classes. Yes, there are some good ones but how do you know? Understanding the basic tenants of Tai Chi will help. My personal recommendation for "western" understanding would be The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, by Dr.Peter Wayne. He lists the 8 Active Ingredients of Tai Chi as:

  • Awareness, Mindfulness, Focused Attention
  • Intention, Belief, Expectation
  • Dynamic Structural Integration
  • Active Relaxation of Mind and Body
  • Aerobic Exercise, Musculoskeletal Strengthening, and Flexibility
  • Natural, Freer Breathing
  • Social Interaction and Community
  • Embodied Spirituality, Philosophy, and Ritual

I believe only our basic understanding of Tai Chi is can be aided with books, tapes or online courses. You must have personal instruction with a knowledgeable instructor/trainer to truly learn or practice the art of Tai Chi. You can not learn Tai Chi overnight or in a month, but you can start reaping the benefits with your first class.