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Frequently Asked Questions


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The most frequent request we get is "can you help me find a class or teacher of Tai Chi Chuan in my area?". Well, sadly, not always. If you are not in an area covered by one of our classes the best bet is to try our links page, especially the links to the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain and the Zhong Ding Association, all of whom have instructor lists on their Web sites and cover large areas of the UK and even parts of Europe.

The next most frequent request is "can you enroll me on this or that Middlesex University course or find my results etc. etc." No. You want the Middlesex University main academic site. Click here to go there.

What's the story behind the change of name from Middlesex to Yongquan? Click here to find out.

How do I contact a YMAA instructor?
Go to the Contact Form, select the instructor you wish to contact from the dropdown list (default - Webmaster) enter your details and message and click send but don't forget to double check your e-mail address if you want a reply.

Can Tai Chi Chuan be used for Self Defense/Combat?
Yes! Though it is necessary to learn it as a combat art in order to use it in this way and it does take longer to be able to apply Tai Chi Chuan to combat situations than some more straight forward arts. The advantage though is that Tai Chi Chuan is far less reliant on: size, strength, speed and purely physical attributes than other, more quickly learned, arts.

Is Tai Chi Chuan suitable for people of all ages and both sexes?
No. Though it is suitable for both sexes and for a broader spectrum of people than most martial arts. Generally speaking Tai Chi Chuan is not suitable for young children. This is because it is slow and complicated to learn, requiring years of practice before anything really exciting starts to be possible. Indeed the Chinese generally teach more external styles to children before teaching Tai Chi Chuan. A better bet for young children is Judo. Judo is perfect for children as it gives confidence, teaches safe falling with breakfalls (which is one of the best ways to prepare for learning any martial art) and is ideal for teaching spacial awareness and the concept of correct distance.

Tai Chi Chuan is suitable for just about anyone else. Though it is necessary to be reasonably fit and healthy, or at least be prepared to get that way, if you intend to learn Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art. It's always advisable to see your doctor before taking up a physical activity, especially if you know you have any medical condition which may affect, or be affected by, your practice and always tell your instructor about any medical problem when you start a class.

What is Chi?
Ancient Chinese is a somewhat 'slippery' language. That is to say that single words often have more than one meaning or meanings on different levels. In its most literal definition Chi means 'air' but it also means 'the special or specially good rice you save to give visitors'. The combination of these two definitions gives us the concept of something intrinsically good within air. The term Chi in the martial arts is used to refer to the energy intrinsic to the breath. In classical Chinese thinking this raw Chi is stored in the Tan Tien (a point mid way between the navel and the pubic bone) and can be transformed by special breathing exercises to make Jin (Jing, Gin) which is a refined form of Chi energy that can be used to protect the body in combat, allow more powerful strikes with less effort and promote good health.

What is Tai Chi?
The term Tai Chi is usually translated as 'Supreme Ultimate' and is a major concept in the Chinese philosophical system Taoism. The Tai Chi is represented by the interlocking fishes, often called the Yin Yang or Yin Yang symbol (see below). The martial art is more properly called Tai Chi Chuan, Chuan means fist or form and is the term given to styles of boxing thus, translated, Tai Chi Chuan means Supreme Ultimate Boxing. A common misconception is that the term Tai Chi refers to health styles and Tai Chi Chuan refers to martial styles. In fact all styles of the movement are, or should be, called Tai Chi Chuan. Another common misconception is that the word Chi in Tai Chi Chuan is the same as the definition of the word Chi, used on its own as described above, this is not the case. In this respect the Pin Yin or Mandarin Romanisation of the Chinese terms Chi and Tai Chi Chuan (Qi and Taijiquan) is less confusing.

What is Yin and Yang?
The Chinese definition is 'the shady side of a hill (Yin) and the sunny side of a hill (Yang)'. The implication being bright and subdued light. These things are not absolutes. The shady side of a hill is not pitch black, it contains some light and the sunny side of a hill is not pure brilliance and may contain some shade. The concept displays the mutually dependent qualities of nature. Nothing exists in isolation it is always balanced by an equal and opposite force which it cannot exist without. A good example of this principle is pedaling a bicycle. You cannot push down on both pedals at once. As you lessen the pressure on the left side you can increase the pressure on the right. Neither can you remove one side from the equation. For the right to be full the left must be empty. To fill the left you must empty the right.

How often should I practice?
Ideally Tai Chi Chuan should be practiced every day. Traditionally the best time is first thing in the morning, and there are many sound reasons to follow this tradition, however if it is not possible for you to practice first thing in the morning it's OK to practice at another time. How long you need to dedicate to your practice depends on what you want out of the art. If all you require is to maintain and improve your health twenty minutes to half an hour a day is sufficient. If, on the other hand, you wish to learn Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art you need to think in terms of an hour or two a day (perhaps morning and evening) and two or three training sessions with your teacher and/or peers a week if you want to make good progress. There are, of course, many points in between these two extremes but, basically, you get out what you put in.

What is Choy Lee Fut?
Choy Lee Fut is a Southern style fighting sytem based on techniques developed in the original Shaolin Monatery before it was destroyed - some time between 1647 and 1732. It was founded in 1836 by Master Chan Heung, and named in honour of two of his teachers Choy Fook and Lee Yau Shan - his other teacher was Chan Yuen Wu, who was a devout Buddhist, so the final character in the name of the school became Fut (Buddha).

What is Bak Hsing Choy Lee Fut?
Bak Hsing Choy Lee Fut was founded by Tam Sam (1873-1942). A student of Liu Charn, he possessed a natural ability as a fighter and a fondness for sparring and challenge matches. He travelled North and established his own school of Choy Lee Fut at the Bak Hsing Kwoon in a suburb of Canton called Siu Buk. His art became known as Bak Hsing Choy Lee Fut. 'Hsing' means family, or style, while Bak means 'North'. Bak Hsing Choy Lee Fut is a fluid martial art that makes extensive use of "dynamic stability" and very flexible footwork. It is practiced mainly in Southern China, but derives from the martial arts traditions of both North and South China.

What is Hsing-I?
Hsing-I is the oldest of the well-known internal arts of North China. The origination of the art is traditionally attributed to the Chinese national hero, and martyr, Marshal Yueh Fei (1103-1142). Hsing-I retains a heavy emphasis on methods appropriate for use on the battlefield. Today the art of Hsing-I exists in two main variants: Five Elements Hsing-I, which is based on the Five Elements of Chinese philosophy, and Twelve Animals Hsing-I, which is based on the "Hsing", or hunting and defensive characters, of wild animals. It is not uncommon to find both Five Elements boxing and Twelve Animal boxing practised in the same school.

What is Hebei Style Hsing-I?
Hebei Style Hsing-I is the branch of Hsing-I handed down from Master Guo Yun Shen (1839-1911), a student of the famous boxer Master Li Neng Ran. It has a number of dissimilar sub-styles. Guo was a prizefighter who remained undefeated throughout his career. In later life he taught many of China's most famous martial artists, including Master Wang Xiang Zhai and Master Sun Lu Tang.

What is I-Chuan (Yi Chuan)?
I-Chuan is an Internal Martial Art developed by Grand Master Wang Ziang Zhai, a student of Guo Yun Shen, and is based on the Nei Kung method Zhan Zhuang (standing like a post) - a static Internal exercise - and a system of martial training to develop martial skill, including elements of Hsing-I Chuan. It is also known as Da Cheng Chuan (Great Achievement Boxing).

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