We maintain a close connection with the Tai Chi Foundation and utilize the curriculum developed by the TCF. A carefully-designed sequence designed to help students develop their tai chi to a deep level, the TCF curriculum provides a clear, time-tested path.
We use team-teaching in most of our classes. This has several advantages. Firstly, students have at least two teachers to watch and listen to during class. Secondly, our teachers work together to improve the learning experience, ensuring that each class gets just what it needs. Working in a team also helps to keep the focus on passing the art to the students, rather than being an ego trip for any individual teacher.
The first level, Beginning Level, teaches the Yang Style Short form of Tai Chi as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-Ching. The form is taught in 32 one-hour classes, divided into three separate courses called B1, B2 and B3. We teach the entire sequence of movements, where the hands go, where the feet go, and the principles (softness, straightness, relaxation) that motivate these movements. Each class hour provides teacher demonstrations, lots of practice repetitions, hands-on adjustments by teachers, and verbal guidance. Students are asked to practice what they know at home in the morning and the evening. Practice is the heart and soul of learning the tai chi form.
In the next level, Integration, we review the entire form from beginning to end, working to embody the tai chi principles at a deeper level. We refine our balance, relaxation, and overall awareness through each posture and transition. Integration is divided into three 10-week courses: I1, I2, and I3.
After this level, we begin to learn Push Hands (also translated as Sensing Hands), a partner-exercise that expands our awareness beyond our sense of ourselves to include others. We become conscious of how our partners are standing and moving and their state of relaxation or tension. We also become more conscious of how can we be relaxed and rooted while we deal with force coming towards us.
At the Intermediate Level, we progress to a deeper and more internal understanding and practice of tai chi chuan. New concepts are introduced that enable us to integrate our form and push hands practice as one body of knowledge with all movement initiated and guided from our tantien.
Coursework at advanced levels helps us to internalize more and more our awareness of tai chi as exercise, meditation, and non-aggressive self-defense. Tai chi sword and fencing is also taught.
Other TCF coursework brings tai chi benefits outside of the study of the form itself. Courses like The Eight Ways of Tai Chi, and Roots and Branches Qigong ™ may be taken by those who have not yet learned the form, and are at the same time an invaluable aid to the serious student of tai chi.
We teach three class terms a year starting in January, April, and September. Each term is 10-12 weeks long and class offerings vary based on the current needs of the students. Most years, we host a week-long Summer Retreat at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island in late July. This event is staffed by TCF instructors from Europe and around the US. We also host a Winter Retreat, which is non-residential and takes place in Seattle at the end of December. Additionally, visiting teachers present weekend classes at various times of the year.