How do I Learn Tai Chi?

Celeste Heiter

There are several effective ways to learn tai chi. The most intensive method of learning is one-on-one with a tai chi master. Another way to learn tai chi is through classes and group lessons at martial arts schools, fitness facilities, colleges, and continuing education centers. Tai chi may be learned by watching digital video discs (DVDs) or videotapes, and in some areas, tai chi instruction is offered on television. Tai chi may also be learned from one of the many books on the subject.

Some students travel to Asia to learn tai chi from world-renowned masters.
Some students travel to Asia to learn tai chi from world-renowned masters.

The ancient Chinese martial art known as tai chi chuan is a series of sequential movements that mimic the self-defense techniques used in combat with one or more opponents. Tai chi is based on the principles of yin and yang and the flow of energy within the body. The practice of tai chi is performed in sets that commonly number from 64 to 108 stylized movements. There are many schools of tai chi, each with its own unique style and names for the various movements. Depending on the style, a tai chi set may be performed slowly and deliberately, or briskly and vigorously.

Many community centers hold Tai Chi classes.
Many community centers hold Tai Chi classes.

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The most focused way to learn tai chi is through private lessons with a tai chi instructor. One-on-one instruction allows for individualized critique and hands-on demonstrations to help the student perfect the tai chi forms. This approach may be more costly than other methods of study. Some tai chi students even travel to Asia to learn tai chi from world-renowned masters.

Group classes are a highly effective and affordable way to learn tai chi. Classes are often taught by instructors who have mastered tai chi through years of study. In a group setting, students practice in unison, beginning with the first few moves and adding one or more new movements with each successive class. This form of instruction offers limited individualized critique and demonstration, but may be less costly than private lessons, or in some cases, free of charge.

DVDs by tai chi masters are another way to learn tai chi. DVDs are available at martial arts schools and fitness shops, bookstores, and online retailers. The benefits of tai chi DVDs are that they are convenient, economically priced, and may be used over a long period of time. There are also many books on the subject of tai chi, although they only contain still photographs, and therefore lack the continuity of tai chi movements seen in live demonstrations.

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