T’ai Chi Chih® is often referred to as Joy Through Movement by teachers and students.  The specific movements visually identify the T’ai Chi Chih® practice.  An open state of mind, sense of purpose, and sincerity enrich the practice.  The way we move, breathe, and maintain our posture are physical tools for circulating and balancing the Chi.   All the writing, reading, and discussion about T’ai Chi Chih® amount to nothing if you do not do the movements, consistently, with purpose, and to the best of your ability.

Chi - Chi is the intrinsic energy in all of us, also called The Vital Force.  The underlying explanation of Chi movement within the body begins with viewing the body itself as an energy system.   Chi flows along meridian channels throughout our energy system.   From this perspective, the body hosts a series of energy conduits which do not necessarily correspond with physiologic structure.  The key to health depends on the flow and balancing of Chi in our energy system.

As an analogy, visualize water spreading through an irrigated field, or electricity spreading energy through a circuit board.  The practice of T’ai Chi Chih® stimulates the flow and balance of Chi through a direct physical and mental approach, by relaxing the energy system and stimulating it with movement and thought.  We achieve benefits through this stimulus.  For those wishing more explanation, numerous books, tapes, and articles are available.  From the perspective of T’ai Chi Chih®, I suggest that you visualize the body as an energy system, and then practice the movements. As you practice, you feel the benefits.

Roots or fruit - The purpose of T’ai Chi Chih® is to circulate and balance Chi, the internal energy in all of us.  Another way to state the purpose of T’ai Chi Chih® is to use the energy we have today to begin changing our lives for the better.  With T’ai Chi Chih®, we use breath, posture, and movement to circulate and balance this energy.  There are many resources on the subject of Chi.  Where there is lots of information, there is likely misinformation and conjecture, and Chi Gong practices are probably no exception.   Jim Rohn, business mentor, used an analogy of a fruit tree that I feel relates to Chi.  He suggested that you can dig around the roots of a tree and spend your life trying to figure out how the tree works.  Or you can pick the fruit.  It’s the same tree.  You decide how you want to spend your time.  I pick the fruit of T’ai Chi Chih®.

Yin Yang - (pronounce “yin” and “yaun”) Yin and Yang represent two forms of energy, or Chi.  They are often expressed as opposing energy, such as cold and heat, male and female, or darkness and light.  Referring to health, Yin is associated with adequacy of vitality, and Yang refers to our resistance to disease.   The heart may be called the ‘great Yang’ (corresponding to the Sun and the Heavens), and the kidneys the ‘great Yin’.  Yin refers to the shady side of the mountain, Yang to the sunny side.  T’ai Chi Chih® seeks to circulate and balance energy, Chi.  Circulating Chi, we gently work to remove blockages to the flow of energy.

Softness and Continuity - It is important to relax as Chi flows more freely when there is a lack of tension.  Move slowly and without tightness or tension.  Allow ease of movement and looseness to prevail.  As you sense tension in your limbs, waist, neck, just “let go”.  If you feel tightness in the resting position, you may have been there too long, so move, move freely.  You want to learn how to do T’ai Chi Chih® properly, but it is not a competition against another student or your teacher.  Think of moving through heavy air, pushing through a mist or fog, or moving in slow motion like in a dream, and flowing from the center of energy in the body, the lower Tan T'ien.  Continuity means continuous motion, continuous and synchronized movement.  Allow your arms and hands to move in unison with your body, and to move smoothly, so with each part of each movement there is no catching up of one or the other.

Resting Position - The resting position is where we begin and end all T’ai Chi Chih® movements.  Heels are close together, feet and toes point outward in a comfortable V-shape.  Knees are bent, hands float at your side, palms facing down with fingers spread and held lightly.  Breathe comfortably, eyes forward.  Relax, lose tension as much as possible.  When you are ready, feeling balanced, begin your next movement.   Return to the resting position between movements.  You will decide how long to rest, either at the half way point or at the end.  Just take a brief respite to allow your Chi, your energy, to balance, for you to compose yourself mentally and physically before proceeding to the next movement.

Heel placement, stepping out on your heel – As you begin many T’ai Chi Chih® movements, take that first step, and plant your heel on the leading, “unsubstantial leg”.  Most of your weight remains on the base or substantial leg initially, the back foot remaining grounded flat on the floor.  When initiating a movement, take time to position your leading leg and foot, comfortably, without substantial weight imposed.  As you begin shifting your weight either forward or to the side, think of the weight shifting, flowing from the Tan T’ien.  Move slowly, allowing the weight to shift in sync with the arm movements.  Leg movements should be practiced initially without arm movements to develop a sense of slow, measured weight shift and balance.

Tan T’ien (pronounced, “don tien”) – Specifically, the lower Tantien situated 2 to 3 inches below the navel, inward toward the center of the body.  A center of energy, the Tan T’ien is one of the focal points during T’ai Chi Chih® practice.  We can mentally focus on energy settling in, flowing from, and passing through the Tan T’ien.  Tantien also may refer to energy centers in the chest and forehead, the middle and upper Tan T’ien, but for T’ai Chi Chih® the focus is on the lower Tantien, the foundation.  When beginning movement, think of shifting weight from the Tan T’ien.  Breathing from the Tantien refers to abdominal breathing.  Allow the diaphragm to expand downward and the abdominal area to expand outward as the lungs inhale.  Squeeze air out with the abdomen and lower back when exhaling.

Soles of the feet, the bubbling spring - A second point of focus during T’ai Chi Chih® practice are the soles of the feet, referred to as the bubbling spring.  We can center and balance Chi, and draw Chi toward and away from the bubbling spring.  Think of drawing the “heart fire”, Chi, down through meridian channels that lead through the Tan T’ien to the soles of the feet and back up again throughout the body.

Repetitions - Most movements are taught to be practiced in series of 9.  This is not a rule, does not apply to all movements, does not apply all the time.  Some days you may feel like cutting things short or extending the practice longer.   Sometimes we will want to take advantage of a few movements outside of our normal practice time, like just before a meeting, call, presentation, or other personal interaction.  Doing just some of the movements in any number of repetition can be beneficial.   Teachers will generally work in series of 9, 6, or 3.  You will find what works best for you.  Rocking Motion, the first TCC movement, is one I will usually practice either 9, 18, 27, or 36 times.  Feeling calm, loose, and aware should be your goal, not matching the repetitions to a specific number.

Other discussion

On mind, body and spirit -

We hear these words used in unison often.  Many people acknowledge interrelationships between mind, body, and spirit.   Yet it is easy to experience the disconnections:  no action in an area, or overwork in one or two, and neglect of others.  T’ai Chi Chih® moves the body, relaxes and stimulates mind and spirit.  Practicing TCC, especially at the start of each day, can set the tone, opens the mind, prepares the emotions and spirit, and stimulates the body.  You feel energized, refreshed, and confident.

Even as we experience the events of the day and may find ourselves knocked off balance, it is easier to regain calm, settle, and get back on track having begun the day with T’ai Chi Chih®.  TCC may not be the total answer to getting the most out of life, but the benefits of daily practice permeate every aspect of our life and help us to get more out of life.

Balance and Control - Balance and control can be related to both mental and physical aspects of our character, and both aspects can be impacted by T’ai Chi Chih®.  Physically, you become better coordinated, smoother in movement, and less cumbersome.  Mentally, one may feel more inclined to seek balance in their personal development, the execution of daily duties, and accepting of responsibilities.  T’ai Chi Chih® affects each of us in different ways, depending on so many personal variables.  Just follow Justin Stone’s advice, do the movements, practice daily, you will experience the benefits.

Breathing - Students should find that breathing becomes more relaxed during T’ai Chi Chih® practice.  When practicing TCC, one should never be out of breath.  As you learn the movements, you may want to try breathing in particular way for a particular movement.  However, as one person may feel inhaling going forward and exhaling on the return is best, someone else may feel just as comfortable doing it the opposite way.

There are specific movements in TCC that address using the breath (Joyous Breath and Six Healing Sounds), but outside of these, just breathe.  You may want to breathe from the abdomen, if you can remember to do this while getting the other concepts down, but usually breathing takes care of itself.  You were most likely breathing OK before you started T’ai Chi Chih®.  The inside joke at T’ai Chi Chih® training classes is when someone asks, “how about breathing?”, the teacher responds with, “yes, breathing while doing T’ai Chi Chih is highly recommended.”

Daily practice - We accumulate the benefit from good habit energies we develop.  You may decide to practice at a specific time each day and practice then consistently.  On some days, you will practice fully, other days a shorter practice.  Some days at your regular time, other days, when you can.  When you miss a day, just pick up where you left off.  When you miss several days, get back into the habit of regular practice.  Make a commitment to practice every day for a month and see what changes you feel.  I could tell you to practice every day if you want to see and feel the greatest benefit, but you can determine for yourself.

Anger, patience, tolerance - Many people are tolerant, patient, and able to control anger very well.  They may have never even heard of T’ai Chi Chih®.   Then there are the rest of us, or at least there is me.  I try to do my best in these areas.  I can still lose my cool from time to time, and even when I know I shouldn’t.   Perhaps the difference is that it happens less often, with less severity, and it is easier for me to reclaim a calmer state, show more patience, be a bit more tolerant and try to communicate and relate in a better way.  T’ai Chi Chih® helps.  If you suspect that you have a problem in this area, I would not dissuade you from alternatives for improving, but recommend you begin your T’ai Chi Chih® experience today.

Stress -

Will T’ai Chi Chih® help us to deal with stress?  I feel confident is saying it helps.  We all must deal with some stresses, and it is the “dealing with”, responding to, or handling of stress that each of us knows is key.   Stress is a big subject.  It has numerous causes, and requires dealing on various fronts.  Taking responsibility, planning, executing, releasing, side-stepping, expressing, repressing, relaxing, understanding, healing, adjusting, communicating, associating, disassociating, good nutrition, rest, exercise…. these thoughts and/or actions impact on our ability to deal with stresses.   Practicing T’ai Chi Chih®, with its intended effect of circulating, developing, and balancing Chi, has far reaching affect under or over all aspects of human nature.  It can positively impact our ability to deal with stress.

Justin Stone passed along to the TCC community advice a sage received centuries ago from his teacher, “don’t be the small hermit, be the big hermit”.  My extraction is that anyone may learn measures for improving our life, such as T’ai Chi Chih®, but we get and give the most benefit, not in our private practice a few minutes each day away from the hustle of the world around us, but by taking what we are learning and living it among other people, with whatever life might present us.

Clothing -

No special clothing required for T’ai Chi Chih®.  You do not need special pants, jackets, socks or shoes.  Whatever you feel comfortable wearing will most likely be satisfactory.   Loose fitting clothing is best.  Avoid clothing that pulls or binds.  Eliminate jewelry that you find distracting or tight fitting.  Gym shorts, jeans, khakis, tee shirts or golf shirts are as conducive to circulating and balancing Chi as anything I own.  I love practicing TCC outside, so of course, as weather demands adjustments, I adapt.  I can effectively practice T’ai Chi Chih® in a parka, gloves and hiking boots.

I prefer bare feet over shoes, socks in cold weather, or thin moccasins.  I like the closest contact with the earth or floor that I can get.

Group spirit might be enhanced by wearing TCC tee shirts.  There are no official T’ai Chi Chih® tee shirts, but a number of teachers and students offer various designs.   I like wearing a TCC tee shirt just as a conversation starter.

Practice locations -

When first learning T’ai Chi Chih®, it may be good to set up a regular place and time for practice to help develop a new habit-energy for consistent practice.  There are few limitations for where to practice.

I have practiced in hotel rooms, courtyards, parks, airports, ferry boats, meeting rooms, call centers, cubicles, parking lots, behind stores, just everywhere.  I love practicing TCC in natural environments and have strong memories of practicing in places with special personal meaning like San Juan Island, Ghost Ranch, Wepo Wash, Frijoles Canyon, Bahia Honda Key, along Crabtree Creek, and most certainly in my own backyard.  I have practiced in the US, Mexico, Hungary, UK, and Japan, and hope to add more locations. This web site is named TCC Everywhere, because that is where T’ai Chi Chih® should be, where we can take it together.  Be comfortable and bold with your T’ai Chi Chih®.

Dealing with afflictions - None of us get a free ride from physical issues.  I sincerely wish you the best of health all your life and hope you receive it.  Most of us will deal with some challenge(s) from arthritis, back pain, and muscle strains, through hepatitis, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, heart disease, cancer and other afflictions.  You may be in excellent health, but possibly just moments away from an accident or unseen event that will bring physical, mental, or emotional pain into your life.  You may be the afflicted.  You may be the care giver.  Practice T’ai Chi Chih®, especially during these times.  If unable to physically practice, mentally practice.   The benefits of circulating and balancing Chi will still be there.

Simplicity of movement / ease of learning - Can anyone learn the movements and practice them?  My first experience as a TCC instructor was in Lighthouse Point, FL working with students from the late 50s through the early 90s. I have since worked with younger people coping with the stresses of the daily grind, being pulled in different directions, and seeking to make a meaningful contribution.  They all were capable of learning, practicing, and deriving benefit.  As a realist, I recognize that only a small percentage of people will learn T’ai Chi Chih® and practice regularly.  However, even learning a few movements and incorporating them into your daily activities will help deliver benefit now.  Once the appetite is whetted, the student can always return to dig deeper.

Demonstrating a movement - We practice T’ai Chi Chih® intently, never in a slipshod fashion.  Early in my study, I was advised to always execute a movement fully and with intent, even if just doing one movement, on one side.  I may have questioned the need for this early in my study, but adherence is easy and pays dividends.  Even if, as part of a casual conversation, I demonstrate a single movement, I do it with full attention to proper execution.  I am no longer amazed at how demonstrating a single movement properly can quickly deepen someone’s interest and show the serious power of T’ai Chi Chih.

List of T'ai Chi Chih Movements -
  1. Rocking Motion

Bird Flaps Its Wings

Around the Platter

Around the Platter (variation)

  5. Bass Drum

Daughter on the Mountaintop

  7. Daughter in the Valley

Carry the Ball to the Side

Push Pull

  10. Pulling in the Energy

Pulling Taffy

Pulling Taffy, Anchor

  13. Pulling Taffy, Wrist Circles

Pulling Taffy, Perpetual Motion

Working the Pulley

  16. Light at the Top of the Head, Light at the Temple

Joyous Breath

  18. Passing Clouds

Six Healing Sounds
Spelling  Sound   Physical         Mental/Spiritual

Ho           Ho          Heart               Joy, calmness, communication

Hu           Who       Spleen             Self image, confidence, helpfulness

Szu         Tsue        Liver               Creativity, planning, organization

Hsu         Shhh       Lungs             Openness, emotional stability, attitude

Hsi          She         Triple Heater   Helpfulness, emotional interaction

Chui        Chtwee   Kidneys           Vitality, direction, courage, willpower

20. Cosmic Consciousness Pose