Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A New Instruction Series is Being Released

We have good news for those who enjoying learning Taiji from our YouTube channel.  Shifu Plitt has begun posting instruction videos for the Yang Style 108 Long Form and will try to release a new video every week until the series in complete. 

Below is the first video in this series. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get instant updates every time a new video is uploaded. We hope you find these videos useful and we wish you the best in your training!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tai Chi Tip: Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan?

When I was first introduced to the Chinese martial arts I was constantly confused by the various spellings that were used to describe each art.  I would wonder if a difference in spelling indicated a difference in style, teaching methods, or practice.  Or were they the same thing spelled differently?  To a young American boy who had no real exposure to Asian languages and no understanding of the major styles of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts (TCMA), I was often left thinking that things like Pa-Kua Chang and Baguazhang were two different styles, or Wing Chun Chuan and Yongchunquan were different arts all together, when in reality they are not.  And yes, this confusion even extended into Tai Chi Chuan and Taijiquan.  In my mind I somehow came to the conclusion that if it was spelled Tai Chi Chuan (Often written T'ai Chi Ch'uan) it was more authentic Tai Chi and could be used for fighting, but if it was spelled Taijiquan, then it was for performance only.  Needless to say, that conclusion was absolutely incorrect.  I'm sure this confusion was not limited to my own experience and I would like to take a moment to help clarify this topic for others, at least as far as Tai Chi is concerned.

First of all, when referring to the martial art, the terms T'ai Chi, Tai Chi, Taiji, Tàijí, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Tai Chi Chuan, Tàijíquán, and Taijiquan are synonymous.  They are all referring to the martial art of Tai Chi regardless of style, or even whether one is practicing it for health, fighting, or competition performance.  So why all the different spellings?  Well, one of the first systems for the romanization of Mandarin Chinese written characters, for English speakers, was the Wade-Giles system, from which we get the spelling T'ai Chi Ch'uan.  This system used apostrophes to indicate specific pronunciations of words and, while some people find it to be a more troublesome system, it appears to have worked well for those who understood it.  Sometimes, for simplicity, those apostrophes would be dropped by those who did not know that the apostrophes were necessary for specific pronunciations and this practice led to spellings like Tai Chi Chuan.  However, there is a standard romanization of Chinese characters used in mainland China which is far easier to use for correct pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese words known as Pinyin.  In the Pinyin system the correct way to write Tai Chi Chuan is Tài jí quán (or Tàijíquán).  Accent marks are used to indicate the correct tone that should be applied to each word.  However, once again, English speakers who are not familiar with the tones in Mandarin Chinese often remove the accents for simplicity leading to the spelling Taijiquan.

In other words, it's pretty confusing and messy and the only real way to know for sure that two words written in Pinyin or Wade-Giles are the same, is to compare their original Chinese characters.  The good news is, in most western writings about Chinese martial arts, with a little familiarization of the various spellings of various arts, it can become fairly easy to know what art is being discussed.

The point of this post, however, was to emphasize the fact that all of the above listed spellings for Taiji, are referring to the martial art of Taiji and the spelling does not indicate anything about the style, practices, legitimacy, or principles of the art nor of the practitioner writing about the art.  For example, I know that the "official" way to spell Tai Chi Chuan is Tàijíquán, but that is a very unfamiliar spelling to most westerners.  So, I elect to use the spelling Tai Chi Chuan or even Tai Chi frequently because it is more easily recognized by people who are not familiar with Pinyin or Mandarin Chinese, and by using a term that is more easily recognized, it is easier for curious individuals to find information like this that will introduce them to Taiji and things like Pinyin.

I hope you all found this information useful and I hope it helped you understand why there are so many ways to spell Tai Chi.  Thank you for reading!

To Your Health,
Shifu Andrew Plitt

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Experience Promo Ending Tonight

Hello All,

I just wanted to let you all know about a promotion we are having on our Online Health Store (Andrew.PureTrim.com) for the product Experience.  Below is a screen shot of our site showing the buy 2 get 1 free deal we have going right now.  It ends tonight (7/27/16) at 11:59pm, though, so jump on it while you can. ;)

To Your Health,
Shifu Andrew Plitt

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tai Chi Tip: Music?

A question that has come up a lot in the past is whether or not one should listen to music while practicing Taiji. Some people say it's fine, some say it doesn't matter, and other shun the idea of listen to music while practicing altogether. Does it really matter all that much? If you listen to music while training is it actually going to hinder your progress, or will practicing in silence really advance your training at an increased rate?

It is very common for new Taijiquan students to prefer listening to music while training. It helps them find the flow in the movements, keeps their minds more focused, and helps drown out the mental and emotional noise pouring in from the outside world. In fact, while I was teaching I always had tranquil, instrumental music playing in the background during each class. I found that it helped set the mood for the class and allowed my students to stay focused a little better.

With such obvious benefits arising from listening to music while training, why would anyone discourage this practice in training? There are many reasons that could be given, everything from it hindering your ability to focus on your own without musical aid, to it creating an artificial sense of flow that stunts you in finding the flow of the movements within yourself. However, instead of giving a list of reasons why music should or should not be used during training, I would like to view music as a tool that can be used during training and examine the point at which music becomes a stumbling stone in training.

Using music during practice is an excellent starting place for a beginner, for all of the previously mentioned reasons. The focus, the flow, the tranquility it provides, aid new students in letting go of everything else and becoming present within their training. However, this tranquility is artificial and as a student progresses it is important that they learn to develop tranquility, to find their flow, and to become present without the aid of music. A sort of weening period may be necessary, in which music is used less and less during training, until the student is able to find all of the flow, tranquility, and presence within her/himself. When a Taiji practitioner can find all of these things within, then music does not matter because the art is coming from inside and the presence or absence of music will not effect the source of the student's abilities.

For beginners music may be necessary, but for students who have been training a while, music becomes a hindrance at the point at which it is a crutch used to find a flow externally, that should be coming from within. But why does it matter whether the peace that one experiences during their Taiji training is because they have developed tranquility and flow through training his/her mind and body, or whether it is because she/he has some really good music on? It matters because finding things that are easy to find is not a skill worth training to acquire. In other words, if one can become peaceful in a peaceful environment, then he/she has not learned any new useful skill that can be applied in a stressful environment. When soft music is playing, it is easy to feel tranquil and stay focused, but when soft music is not playing it can become more difficult and when the environment as anything but peaceful it becomes even more difficult. Therefore, if you want to be able to use your Taijiquan skills to manage stress levels at work, handle social situations, or even to defend yourself, you need to train yourself to access those skills and draw them up from inside of you in any setting. This can be done by learning to train without the use of music and even can be carried further by occasionally training in noisy or busy areas.

In conclusion, I recommend the use of music during Taiji training, so long as the practitioner does not become dependent on it. So long as music does not become a crutch, it should not hinder any advancement in training and beginners will probably benefit more from the presence of music during training, than it's absence, while they are becoming familiar with a whole new world of movement and ideas that is wrapped up in Taijiquan.

To Your Health,
Shifu Andrew Plitt

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Update to Terminology Page

We have posted the Yang Tai Chi 13 Saber Form poem as well as links to the instruction videos for each segment of the form on our Chinese Terminology page.  We hope this will make it much easier to access this video series.  Stay tuned for more updates over the summer!