Tai Chi Chuan at the Barstow/Alexander Summer Institute

We have included Tai Chi Chuan in the Barstow/Alexander Summer Institute as a gentle and graceful movement art. The classes meet for 30 minutes each morning before breakfast, and are an ideal way to greet the day. The instructor, Stacy Gehman, began learning Cheng Man Ch’ing’s short-form in 1973 and has studied with a number of Professor Cheng’s "first generation" teachers in the US. In the classes at the Institute Stacy teaches the movement sequence known as "Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail." This sequence is at the core of almost all Tai Chi forms, and is repeated a number of times throughout a complete form. Learning these movements provide a solid foundation for a new student’s subsequent study of Tai Chi. For the experienced Tai Chi student, this sequence also offers an opportunity to explore how F.M. Alexander’s discoveries about ease and efficiency of movement can illuminate their understanding of the principles of Tai Chi Chuan.

What is Tai Chi Chuan?

Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese movement art that has spread rapidly around the world in the past 30 or so years. It is practiced by many as a moving meditation - Tai Chi’s emphasis on relaxed, balanced movement, founded on the principles of Taoist philosophy, make it an ideal way to explore the link between a spiritual path and activity in the world. Tai Chi practice also gently strengthens our bodies without stress - energizing and balancing our bodies’ natural healing processes. And as a martial art, Tai Chi masters are known for the subtlety and power of their relaxed movement.

The term "Tai Chi" is translated as "supreme ultimate," in the sense of the primal beginning of our world. It is the name of the well known symbol of the circle divided into yin and yang, light and darkness. As such it represents differentiation itself. Tai Chi Chuan is a study of the differentiation of our weight - of the movement of our weight from one leg to the other - and how that movement manifests in the movement of the rest of our body. Every movement we make is seen as a movement of the whole, which, with study, can be directed by our minds in a subtle and gentle manner. The power of the movement comes from moving as a coordinated whole - similar to the power of a multitude of raindrops collected into a tidal wave.

The movements of the Tai Chi form are composed apparently for martial application, but at a deeper level they move the Chi - or energy - through our bodies in a balanced, harmonious manner. It is this movement of the Chi that produces the many benefits of Tai Chi practice. Excess tension, or even egoistic striving, are seen as hindrances to the flow of Chi, and Tai Chi practice is aimed at helping us remove those hindrances.