My View On The Tai Chi Ruler and its Practice



So what is a Tai chi Ruler? It is a Tai Chi practice tool and comes in slightly different executions. But in general looks like a short staff with rounded edges. The most common shape resembles two sword handles put together. The hand doesn’t grip the ruler, but instead it rests in the hands by the palms gently squeezing the ends.

As the Tai Chi ruler is a rather uncommon practicing tool, I thought I would first try to give  brief introduction to what it is. But I will also try to give you an in-depth view into my own practice, so to give you a better understanding of different purposes with the practice.

Introduction to the Tai Chi Ruler

There are different executions to be found, but this is the most commonly seen ruler, with its standard size and proportions, usually 30 CM long as here:


There are different opinions about the origin of the Tai Chi ruler. Some people say that it stems from very old Daoist practice. Others say that it is a modern thing and comes from Chen Tai Chi, some of those people claim that it was invented by Chen Fake. I myself believe that it’s older than Chen style, and this for various reasons. In Chen style it’s most commonly seen today amongst large frame teachers. But I believe that it originally could have been connected to Small Frame practice, which would suggest that in Chen style it would at least be older than Chen Fake.

Why? One reason is that the ruler itself is a small frame tool, not something connected to large frame Tai Chi practice at all. The practice is not even remotely close to anything that could be considered as large frame practice. For instance, some Old Wu (Yuxiang) Tai Chi schools put quite a lot emphasis on the Tai Chi ruler practice. If you look at videos on the small frame form in Wu/Hao style, you can see a very strict sort of frame, the hands mostly kept at the same distance to each other, and one hand’s movements are always corresponding exactly with the other. A lot of the modern Hao form looks similar to someone keeping a Tai Chi ruler between the hands throughout the form practice. And if you don’t know it already, I can inform you that even if Wu Yuxiang was also Yang Luchan’s student, he created his Wu style and form directly from  Chen Xin’s Small frame, or Chen Xiaojia.

But I suspect that the tool itself is quite older than Tai Chi Chuan, and that it has a connection to older Shaolin traditions from where we also can trace many of the traditional Tai Chi postures.

My own Tai Chi Ruler(s)

Well, let’s leave history and go to my own practice and experience with the Tai Chi ruler. I myself haven’t hardly touched a Tai Chi ruler or practiced with one for about 20 years. I had planned to order a Tai Chi ruler already for more than ten years. I was uncertain about from whom and about who could make something that matched a certain standard. But recently I ordered a couple of Tai Chi rulers from Charles Tauber in Canada, a wood carving expert and guitar builder. He is a long time Chen Tai Chi practitioner and has published some interesting videos about body mechanics well worth watching.

Probably anyone who can carve wood could make a Tai Chi ruler, so why order something from another continent when I can get something closer to me in Europe or probably easily find someone in my own country? When I made the order, I wanted someone who has a good understanding of the functions of the shape and appearance of the Tai Chi ruler. As I had some special requirements and wanted to do some changes to the commonly known design, I knew that I could communicate with Charles and that he would understand what I wanted.

So, these are the two rulers I ordered:


If you haven’t guessed it already, the wood is rather expensive. The longer one is my favourite and made from Macassar Ebony, a beautiful, heavy type of wood. The other one though has a length that is more useful for practice and it’s made from Katalox. The wood is also beautiful, but has a bit lighter weight and the texture is finer.

I wanted a rather heavy type of wood, and also a dark wood. I wanted a dark color because I thought that it would feel more relaxed, having a more calming effect for practice. The two rulers I bought are both longer than the commonly seen length. In my tradition, the length of the Tai Chi ruler in is individual and measured individually. The ruler is measured accordingly to certain angles where the “frame” of the practitioner is as strong as possible.Usually the length will be slightly longer than the length between the shoulder tips, which is most often considerably longer than the modern standard length of 30 cm.

So if there is one perfect individual length, why did I order two rulers of different lengths? Well, I think you need to know a bit more about the ruler before I can give you a good answer on that. As you can see, if you compare my rulers with the commonly shaped ruler, I added two parts next to the ball in the middle. In my tradition we focus on the precision of movement. The ball in the middle as the center of the staff is often the center of the movements. For many exercises you need to pay attention to the center and control the smoothness and exactness from the center. In some exercises there are movements you should keep the center still while moving the rest of the ruler around the center. The two extra parts give me even better control of the movements, as I can see the slightest movement more clearly.

The practice within my own tradition

More than 20 years ago, when I met the Tai Chi ruler for the first time, the teacher emphasised the importance of this type of practice. His teaching in general was very much focused on structure, alignment and the stability of the frame. The first time I used the rulers, as I practiced some very basic exercises, I remember that I felt the muscles between my shoulder blades very clearly. But it felt pretty tense.

The practice and exercises we do look quite different compared to the Chen style exercises you can find on YouTube. What we do is not for relaxation. Instead the practice is about to learn how to draw strength from the spine, how stabilise movement directly from the spine. It’s for the precision of movement, about learning to stabilize the frame or posture, directly from the spine. One of the key features is to relax the hands and push the ends of the ruler together by the use the muscles in the back, trying to use muscles as close to the spine as possible. If you practice with the Tai Chi ruler this way,  you will activate these muscles and learn to feel them better, and to use them in a more active manner.

So back to the question about why did I order two different sizes when only one is the exact size I need. I ordered two different sizes because I can use them to practice different muscles in the back. The larger one will not be an exact match for my own “perfect” length, but I can use it to “get in touch with”, to better understand to move and use, different muscles than only those that will be activated by the other ruler, the ruler of my perfect length. You will find similar ideas in other Chinese practicing tools and methods, as in the common Chinese health balls, those clink sounding metal balls you move around in your hands. Actually one size is not enough, and instead you should have two or three different sizes that you play with regularly, small, medium and large sizes, because this way you will practice  with and activate different muscles in your hands.

But it’s not really necessary to have rulers in different sizes. One regular size will be well more enough to use for a long time forward. But as I have studied different exercises for the back, scapula/shoulder blades for well more than two decades, I thought that I would need something extra to gain as much as possible from the ruler practice. I was more than satisfied with the work Charles did. Still I didn’t get that same effect as I experienced 20 years ago. I didn’t feel that pressure in the back, that tension that I experienced the last few times. There is nothing wrong with the rulers, but as I have practiced exercises for similar purpose as the rulers, I guess that my whole back is already soft and supple enough. Maybe I should have guessed this before I ordered them. This doesn’t mean that I have no use for the rulers, but maybe less than I thought. Or rather that the focus of the practice will be different than what I had expected.

Why is the Tai Chi ruler an uncommon tool?

Why the Tai Chi Ruler is not more commonly seen might have several answers. There are not many teachers who know about it. And many of the commonly seen exercises could be done with any kind of staff or with a ball. So why should you order one? The exercises I myself do cannot really be replaced by something else. There is a certain length required and the shape and different parts all has a purpose. But this type of practice is very rare. I would suspect that many exercises are kept by small frame teachers. For beginners, or people focusing solely on medium and large frame formats, there is really no need to study the ruler. And small frame practice itself is often regarded as something you study after years of large frame practice. Sometimes small frame practice is considered Inside the Door practice, something the most students of a well recognised teachers hardly know exists. I suspect there is often something similar with the Tai Chi ruler. At least som of what you see “out there” is something done for the masses, maybe slightly adjusted to not give away the full potential of the tool. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise other types of practice with the ruler. It’s all good for its own reasons.

Anyway, I really do recommend Tai Chi Ruler practice wholeheartedly regardless what kind of Tai Chi school you belong to. The practice itself can be different to what I propose here or closer to it. The different practices all have their special benefits. It’s also an excellent tool to practice with for very old people who are not very movable, who cannot walk very much or not at all. Here the Tai Chi ruler will activate more of the body than just the arms.

If you want to get your own ruler, you can easily search up different homepages, stores that sell standard sized Tai Chi rulers. But of course there are also those individuals who can create what you want according to your own wishes and demands. And again, I recommend Charles Tauber who was kind enough to make mine.
Here is the webpage:
Or directly to the rulers:
You can also take a look at his YouTube channel:

Why Making Tai Chi a Habit Can Improve Your Entire Life


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Creating good habits is a powerful way to improve your entire life. If you build certain habits, this in turn will create other habits that might have an effect on your daily life, which means that you can use a set of habits to structure your whole life.

To organise your life, you don’t need to organise everything. You can start with one or a few things. Charles Duhigg speaks about “keystone habits” in his book The Power of Habit. Unlike normal habits, keystone habits create positive effects that spill over into other areas. They will start a chain reaction which shifts other patterns. And over time, this effect might transform your entire life.

So what are these Keystone Habits? It can be about going up earlier, eat more healthy,  starting to exercise or taking up art or writing. One of those keystone habits you create will force you to change other things in Life. Dieting usually have the effect of exercising better. And Exercise will usually make you more aware about what you eat and create better habits.

Michael Phelps trainer Bob Bowman answered on questions about how Phelps prepared himself mentally before a competition:

“… He’s just following the program. But that’s not right. It’s more like his habits have taken over. The stretches went like he planned. The warm-up laps were just like he visualized. His headphones are playing exactly what he expected.
… The actual race is just another step in a pattern that started earlier that day and has been nothing but victories. Winning is a natural extension.”

As shown in this example, creating corner stone habits and following certain routines creates chain reactions that will have certain effects. Regardless of activity, in normal life or in business, progress will be easier to calculate and the outcome predictable.

So how can Tai Chi Chuan become a corner stone habit and spill over good effects to your daily life? Arranging time for practicing Tai Chi routines will make the practitioner more aware about time and how he or she organise the day in general.  There are quite a few things that we could mention as having positive effects regarding Tai Chi practice, but one of the greatest powers of Tai Chi has not much to do with practicing movement itself, but rather has to do with a change of self-image and becoming aware about your own self. As it turns out, it’s not the exact act of a corner stone habit that causes the chain reaction that improves other habits, but rather the intent behind the act.

As Duhigg writes, “The power of a keystone habit draws from its ability to change your self image. Basically, anything can become a keystone habit if it has this power to make you see yourself in a different way.”

Most Traditional Tai Chi teachers will tell you that you can practice Tai Chi Chuan anywhere and all of the time in your daily life. Just by being aware about your balance when you do things, how you use your body, or organising your body movements consciously when you do things in common life, as opening a door or lifting a coffee cup, will have an impact on your relationship to both the space outside of you and inside of you.

As a Tai Chi practitioner, you will become aware about yourself and your own body in ways you can not imagine. The Tai Chi practitioner will usually become more aware about how life is organised, as well as become more disciplined and handle problems in life more consciously. Eating healthier and getting enough sleep will become the most natural habits for any Tai Chi practitioner.

In fact, I cannot see how Tai Chi could not create a great effect on the awareness of the own Ego, the relationship to Self and Life in general. Awareness and being conscious about yourself and how you live is the very first step to make an incredible improvement in life. This awareness is the foundation and makes up the first conditions before you can change. And then the habits that will improve and transform your life will become a natural extension of your Tai Chi practice.

Related articles/suggestions to further reading:
Body Awareness – The Real Key to Success in Tai Chi Chuan
Be a Friend With Your own House

Tai Chi Small Frame Practice and Why You Should Learn Large Movements First and Small Movements Later


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In traditional Tai Chi Chuan there’s a saying that you need to begin learning large movements first and small movements later. But what does it really mean with large and small movements? And how are those different movements taught in practical practice?

This saying, about learning big first and small later, is generally said by many, but is also something that is taught and practiced by only a few. Sadly, this saying has become more of a kind of catch phrase and not always something that is put in a practical curriculum of learning and teaching. What is large and what is small is often not something perfectly understood. Sometimes the students  might develop what should be developed and sometimes not. As always when things become fussy, the students own talent and wish to understand, plays a big role in the individual’s development.


What is Large movements / Large Frame in Tai Chi Chuan?

Large movements or Large frame is usually the first, and foremost basic method taught in the traditional Yang, Chen and Wu (Jianhou) styles. Many of the schools within these styles do not go beyond Large Frame and do not teach smaller frames or other frame variations.

However, there’s often a discrepancy about the meaning of what Large Frame actually is. Personally I regard what is usually called medium frame in Yang and Large frame in Wu (Jianhou) styles as Large frame. What is taught as Large frame in modern Tai Chi Chuan, what is often seen in short form variations, I consider as something else. The thing is that if movements become too large, as what is often seen nowadays, the roundness of structure and the integrity of alignment all becomes lost. The result is a transition from Tai Chi Chuan to merely Qigong, or rather a quite bad form of qigong, based on shapes that lack balance and without any kind of practical use. So real Large frame should be movements that are big and bold. But not stretched, lazy, limb driven movements without practical purpose.


Why does Large Frame matter?

The idea of Big movements is not for the sake of just doing something big. Instead this is an issue of teaching Jin. In the internal martial arts we learn to use skilled strength, or Jin instead of the common strength based on muscular tension. In the internal arts it is said that: “Strength comes from the muscles, Jin comes from. The sinews.”

But then, what does it means, that Jin comes from the sinews? It means that the joints must be loose and have the freedom of mobility. Large frame movements teach a great range of joint movement. From large frame we study and learn how to stretch the whole body all the way from the feet through from the core, and out to the fingertips. Whole body stretching, though controlled and not too large, it is  round, like spiraling movement through the whole body.

The joints become loose and movable. Through this kind of practice, moving with whole body connection using wide, generous stances, while making full use of every part of the body, also builds a certain strength. The result from a long time perspective of practice means for the practitioner that he be maintaining good health.


Large Frame means developing Changjin, or “Long Energy”

Except for learning a more full use of the body through large frame practice,  the special type of Jin though, that will be developed more than any other type of Jin from , is Changjin, “long energy”, something crucial for Tai Chi push hands and pushing skills. This Jin is what gives the Tai Chi practitioner a good tossing ability as well as a deep, penetrating kind of power. 


What is Tai Chi Small frame Practice?

Small frame is usually learned after big frame. Chen style has Small Frame, some people believe that this form is older than the other forms taught today. Wu (Hao/Wu Yuxiang) style is based on Chen small frame and Sun style is also a small frame style and derived directly from Wu. Yang Style has large, medium and small frame practice. There is also a fast frame taught in some non Yang Chengfu schools that is also a sort of small frame. As for my own knowledge, Wu (Jianquan), also known as large frame Wu or “leaning Wu” style, has no small frame practice.

The obvious similarity between these different small frame schools is obviously that they focus on smaller movements, smaller circles. They also have a higher, more upright posture and a different footwork, often based on following steps or “huobu”, lively stepping. The higher stances means that they are less demanding for the legs and knees compared to large frame practice which is an advantage for elderly people or those who have developed knee practice. Thus small frame Tai Chi practice is in many ways ideal practice for older people in general.

Mostly Small frame is regarded as for more advanced students only, and sometimes even kept for indoor students only. This is probably the reason why Small frame Tai Chi practice is rather unknown practice except for the two outspokenly small frame styles of Wu/Hao and Sun.


Small frame means Martial frame?

Many regard small frame as “more martial” than large frame. This has some truth to it. When you fight for real, you need to be able to do movements smaller, with angles and leverage smaller than in practice. Real fighting will be faster, more direct, more diffuse and you will be able to change very fast. From this POV, small frame is crucial for developing martial Jin. In small frame you need to have the same body connection and stretch the movements from the core in the same way as in Large Frame practice. The whole body movement and freedom of joint movement from large frame are preserved. But in small frame, spiraling movement becomes more obvious and pronounced, and spinal movement and waist mobility become more important.


The importance of Connected Structure in small frame practice.

What is especially developed in Chen and Wu styles small frame practice is not really the opposite of Changjin, which would be duanjin or “short energy”. Instead what is practiced is a very exact frame with precise angles. This precision will teach the practitioner where the angles of the shapes are as strong as possible, and how to move and change shapes while keeping a naturally strong structure.

To learn this type of structural integrity, large frame should always be taught first as the open, stretching quality of the large frame must be preserved in the small frame connected structure. To get a sense of what I mean, you can try stretching your arms out to the sides, and then while still trying to keep on stretching, round the arms and point the palms towards each other. You will probably be quite tense, and what should be achieved is a more relaxed and natural feeling.

Some Yang schools seem to have preserved the idea of a precise, naturally strong structure in their small frames practice. But Sun style as it is usually and most commonly practiced as in the Sun Jianyun lineage has lost the roundness of angles that is the main idea of posture of the Wu style that Sun was derived from. Also, most Wu schools start with teaching medium and even large frame just as Yang and Chen schools. But Sun style has no medium or large frame practice. Instead it is usually combined with Baguazhang and Xingyiquan which can become a compensation for the lack of Tai Chi large frame practice. However, as I myself has studied Sun style for many years, I would recommend people who want to learn Sun style to also study some traditional Yang, Chen or Wu (Jianquan) Tai Chi Chuan.



In general, large movements practice is the basis of and beginning to understand real Tai Chi Jin. To understand what small frame truly means and what types of Jin that can be developed from small frame practice, you need to first understand large or medium frame. 

What Tai Chi Style Should I Choose? A Short Guide to Tai Chi Styles


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Here is a brief guide to the different styles of Tai Chi Chuan. There are five main styles, five big ones and then there are also a whole bunch of several lesser popular arts. Some of the smaller ones have quite a big amount of followers as well.

(Please, don’t get offended by my intentional ironic and disrespectful tone in this post.)

The five main styles

The five big traditional styles are Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu (Hao) and Sun. They are all recognized, well known and has many practitioners throughout China and the whole World.

Chen Style Taijiquan

Chen style is said by Chen stylists to be the oldest of the modern Tai Chi styles found today or the original art of Tai Chi, something that is usually accepted by Yang stylists as Yang style creator Yang Luchan admitted that he had studied with the Chen family. In the first half of the 20th century it was suddenly decided by the government that Chen Wangting (1580-1660) should be regarded as the inventor of the whole art of Tai Chi Chuan, a person suddenly discovered that no Chen Tai Chi master knew about and no one had mentioned anytime before in any text about Tai Chi Chuan. Chen style was later popularized in the 20th century by Chen Fake (1887-1957) who was very upset and got revengeful when other Tai Chi masters told him that what he was doing was Shaolin and not Tai Chi.

Chen style has both slow and fast movements, often performed with sudden outbursts of “fajin”. It also has Shaolin movements not found in any other of the five main styles so that other stylists often says that Chen Style is just Yang Style with Shaolin stuff infused.

The main idea of body mechanics in Chen style is summarized into “spiraling silk reeling” where spiral movements are initiated from the belly area and connected throughout the whole body.

There are several big popular formal and informal lineages and traditions in Chen, As “the Village style” represented by Chen Xiaowang, “the Beijing style” represented by people as Chen Yu and Chen Practical Method lead by Chen Zhonghua. Chen Small Frame is usually practiced in other lesser well known lineages.

Maybe the easiest style for development of strength and power.

Might be harder to and take longer time to develop calmness and deep relaxation compared to the other five big ones.

Chen Style Taijiquan is recommended for:
Anyone who wants to keep fit and healthy and everyone who wants to study a smart and very powerful martial art.

Yang Style Taijiquan

When people think about Yang style Tai Chi, they mostly think about slow, large movements performed in an even pace. large Yang Style was created by “The Invincible” Yang Luchan (1799-1872) who killed a younger female relative with his spear when practicing, and popularized wildly as a health exercise by illiterate grandson Yang Chengfu (1883-1836) who sold his name to a ghost writer and got really obese and died young by eating way too much.

Yang Style is the most popular Tai Chi style, widespread “all over the globe” (citing flateartherners expressing the popularity of their own movement), much due to several lightweight watered down versions with shorter and less demanding forms. Those are taught rather fast with little attention to detail. In the middle of the nineties for instance, going to Beijing to learn the 24 form in a few weeks and teach it in the west was rather popular. But fortunately the traditional Yang long forms are very popular as well.

Don’t be fooled by the calm, harmonious movements. Yang Stylists can be pretty good fighters and like to toss their opponents far away rather than offering a good punch, something that is mostly given to and restricted for the stupid ones who tries to attack them again.

There are also several off springs and sub styles of Yang Style as Cheng Manching’s version and Dong variant, sometimes recognized as an individual Tai Chi styles.

Quite easy to find somewhat good traditional teachers and very easy to find teachers from various health only variations.

Hard to find people who teach anything similar to power generation for punches and other finishing methods necessary in any complete martial art.

Yang Style Taijiquan is recommended for:
Anyone and everyone on this planet without exceptions.

Wu Style Taijiquan (Quanyou/Jianquan)

Wu style is characterized by large movements performed with whole body leaning, something many Yang stylists say is wrong and contradicts basic Tai Chi principles. Wu Quanyou (1834-1902) was one of Yang Luchan’s students but became a disciple of Yang Banhou, and Wu Jianquan was his son and taught it publicly. Wu Jianquan was also one of those guys who popularized Tai Chi for the big masses together with Yang Chengfu.

You’ll been hearing all of the times from people from other styles about how wrong you do things.

Has everything that Yang Style has, isn’t as watered down and much easier to find good traditional teachers.

Wu Style Taijiquan is recommended for:
Anyone who is interested in traditional Taijiquan

Hao/Wu (Yuxiang)

The creator of this art, Wu Yuxiang (1830-1880), was a scholar and disciple of Yang Luchan who also studied Chen style small frame from Chen Qingping. Wu Yuxiang based his own Tai Chi form on the Chen small frame instead of Yang Luchan’s medium frame. He also collected older texts about Tai Chi and wrote a lot of stuff, and is responsible for the collection of essays nowadays known as The Tai Chi Classics. Wu style is recognized by Its higher stances, following steps and with a very strict frame using precise angles.

Very hard to find a good authentic teacher.

You are very lucky if you can.

Wu/Hao Style Taijiquan is recommended for:
People who likes to focus their practice on basics and principles and wish to attain a deeper understanding of general Taijiquan principles.

Sun Style Taijiquan

The youngest of the five main Tai Chi styles is a slightly modified and re-branded version of Hao/Wu (Wu Yuxiang) created by Sun Lutang (1860-1933) who studied Tai Chi a short period from Hao Weichen. Sun’s form is slightly influenced by much longer periods of Xingyi and Bagua study as well as a brief exchange with the Yang family. Sun Lutang is also one of those chaps who together with Yang Chengfu promoted Tai Chi for the masses as a health art. A very peaceful man who’s main occupation in Beijing was to educate bodyguards and security personnel.

High stances makes it harder to develop good rooting. Complimentary stance work together with form practice might be necessary.

Less demanding practice for the knees makes Sun style excellent for older people.

Sun Style Taijiquan is recommended for:
People who like more dynamic and faster Taiji practice as well as older people.

Other smaller styles

There are even more than those mentioned here below. But I either know too little about them or they are just too silly to write about. And there are probably versions I don’t know at all. For instance, there are one or two Japanese variations that have reached some popularity in Japan, mostly based on Yang style, so if they should be considered own styles or Yang offsprings I am not Really certain about.

Zhaobao Taijiquan

Apparently based on Chen small frame from Chen Qingping and maybe mixed up with local IMA-similar tradition, Zhaobao practitioners claim that their style is in fact older than Chen style. The history of Tai Chi might be more complicated than either Chen or Yang stylists realize, however, if the truth is exactly as this tradition claims can certainly be discussed.

Chang Style Taijiquan

Chang style or Shuaijiao Taiji is Tai Chi on the surface and Shuaijiao (Chinese Wrestling) in application.

Li Style Taijiquan

There are two different Li styles, one more athletic and mixed with Bagua and Xingyi and somewhat popular in Wushu competitions. Their practitioners say that this is the original Tai Chi style and has an origin from 1000 BC. The other Li resembles more traditional Yang and was created by Li Rui Dong (1851-1917), a student of one of Yang Lu Chan’s disciples.

Fu Style Taijiquan

There are two different “Fu styles”. One created by a student of Sun Lutang. It looks like recent Hao and Sun style, but has a great focus on spine movement and core strength. The other one is a very rare Buddha style with Shaolin influences. Once, maybe twenty years ago, I saw a VCD of this Buddha Taiji in a Chinese department store and today I am annoyed that I didn’t buy it. I haven’t found many traces of the style recently, so maybe it has disappeared?

“Wudang Tai Chi”

There are several variants called Wudang Tai Chi Chuan. As Wudang is a Taoist place, this mountain represents internal tradition in general. Very little under this label is old or genuine.

Wudang Taijiquan is recommended for:
People who likes fake Daoism. And I guess people who like their long robes…?

He Style Taijiquan

A super, super secret family tradition claiming that it has kept things intact that are lost or extinct in other Tai Chi styles. The movements resembles Yang, but the body method resembles Old Wu (/Hao) and Medium frame Yang style.
… In fact, it’s so super secret that I would probably had to kill you if I told you more about it…

Who should practice it?
(This is left unsaid)

Complicating the Simple. Simplifying it Again.


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My own teaching style is to keep everything as simple as possible, trying to simplify and make things that look hard or complicated comprehensible in simple ways. This might sound great and maybe seems to make sense. But still, this is not always the best way to communicate Tai Chi Chuan. Many people are locked in their own complicated thinking, their own way to look at things. As they have their own preconceived ideas they constantly try to reaffirm and verify their own preconceived view on the world. To reach these people, simplifying things is not an option.

This is why Chinese Zen (or more accurate Chan) masters invented the Ko’an (originally Gongan) as one of several methods trying to force students to simplify their thinking. If they couldn’t simplify the answer on a riddle in the simple manner of a child, they wouldn’t be allowed to proceed with any teaching. In some ways, as a Tai chi teacher, I try to do the same way. But it’s not easy. You cannot force a complicated mind to change. People must be willing to change themselves and understand how to change themselves. So the ball, here the willingness to understand what it takes in order to learn, is always in the hand of the student.

We can not transform anyone’s mind if it doesn’t want to transform itself. Thus, simplifying the world does not always work. Often, to have a chance of doing this, we must speak in an intellectual language that the intellectual, complicated mind can understand. We can use math and science, we can use metaphors and images to paint pictures with words. We can use different methods that will satisfy the intellectual or logical mind. We can also engage a person’s fantasy and creativity, to activate him or her to change the way of doing and acting. All of these ways are complicated, detours to help someone to understand things that are in their nature most simple. A student who spend a long time learning, trying to understand an art as Tai Chi, and finally reaches a stage of real understanding, will inevitable be surprised, that everything he or she strived to develop, was in fact something very simple.