Frequently Asked Questions answered by chief instructor Robert Agar-Hutton
What do you want to know?
Below are some questions that people often ask. Hopefully you will them find useful. If you have any other questions please do feel free to contact us directly.
Online learning questions
Your online courses are available 24 hours a day, every day.
Your courses are only as far away as your internet connected PC or Smartphone.
Train every day, or once a week, or whenever you want. It's your choice.
With online training, YOU are in the driving seat. Do more of the things you enjoy and less (or none) of those you don't. Of course if you want to discuss your likes, dislikes, and progress, support is just an email away.
Being just an email away, we will absolutely do our best to answer your questions. In fact, often a member's question results in additional video material being added to a course to explain the question. So all students benefit.
About Tai Chi And Exercise
We have had students from the proverbial 80 pound weakling through to power lifters. It is fair to say that excessive weight training or body building may conflict with some of the aspects of Tai Chi but it is your body and only you should be the judge of what training you want to do.
Yes. Indeed, as long as you are fit enough to take part in aerobic exercise (gym classes, running, whatever) I would strongly recommend it. Tai Chi will generally not improve your aerobic capacity (there are some exceptions to this, especially with people who are unfit or recovering from illness) so to add this to the mix of things that you do to keep healthy - things like getting enough sleep, eating sensibly (some of the time), and etc... - can only be of benefit.
My answer is yes. There are instructors who would say no, but I've never understood why. You wouldn't expect a school to say you can't learn two languages or two science subjects so why should learning two martial arts be any different.
However, it would probably make learning more difficult if you started two or more martial arts at exactly the same time, I'd suggest doing one for six months before starting the next simply so that you have the basics memorised.
Will learning Tai Chi be difficult
No you are fine. A fuller answer is that almost certainly you are not too old. We have trained people into their 90s and regularly, people in their 70s and 80s. The simple thing to do is for you to give it go and see if you enjoy it and find it worthwhile.
Tai Chi moves are all natural but many of them require you to move your body in ways that are unusual to a beginning student (like stepping sideways). So, like any new thing, some students take to it quickly and some take longer. The really great thing about learning Tai Chi is that it is an individual pursuit and you can take as little or as much time to learn it as you need to, and that is just fine.
The rest of your life and then a long time more 🙂
Seriously, Tai Chi is an enormous field of study. One that you could spend all day every day studying and still only know a relatively little about it. There are different styles and different sub-styles and much much more to learn if you wanted to.
So perhaps a better question is 'How long will it take me to learn enough Tai Chi so that I start to get some benefit from it?' The answer to that is much kinder. You should start to derive some benefit from your first session onwards, and within a few months be able to see that there are changes in the way you utilise your body. You should find that normal movement should start to feel more relaxed and 'smoother'. If you are subject to stress then once you have learned even the first beginners form (Eight Move One Step Form) then you should be able to practice and perform that and find that it helps reduce stress. There is much more, but a chat with Robert Agar-Hutton is probably the most efficient way to answer additional questions.
You will have to learn new things but hopefully many of the things that you learned in your previous style will still be useful. Give it a go and then you will be able to see if our way of doing things meets your needs.
Health questions related to Tai Chi
Yes of course you can (I bet you weren't expecting that answer). You can injure yourself doing ANYTHING, even just sleep the wrong way and you can wake up with a sore neck!!! However, in general Tai Chi is VERY safe and you will be instructed in how to perform the movements and exercises correctly. Tai Chi is also safer than many forms of exercise as so much of it is done deliberately and slowly.
Hi, Robert Agar-Hutton here, I have arthritis in my left foot and it can be painful at times! But yes people with arthritis, even quite severe cases can and do practice Tai Chi. It may or may not alleviate the pain but it will probably teach you how to relax the muscles that tend to tense up, so you may extend your range of movement. Obviously, talk to your doctor as you should before starting any new exercise regime.
You have a medical condition and you are wondering if you can learn Tai Chi. Obviously first speak to your doctor. Then as an informed adult decide if you want to give it a go.
Over the many years we have been teaching we have trained people with a wide range of minor and serious ailments both physical and neurological. Will Tai Chi help you? I don't know, but give it a go and see what happens.
This is a GREAT question. It's great because the answer is so complex that many, many books could be written about it. (And as I have authored a few books, that looks like a bit of an opportunity to me). However, I want to give you a quick and concise answer, so here goes...
NO and YES.
Maybe I should explain, there is not much likelihood of Tai Chi directly curing any ailment, however one of the benefits of practicing Tai Chi is increased mental and physical relaxation. Physical relaxation gives the body time to heal itself (and the body is capable of some amazing things) and mental relaxation reduces the amount of stress that you suffer from - being stressed inhibits the body's immune system, so being more relaxed allows the immune system to act more effectively.
How much is your health and wellness worth? If you are not willing to invest in yourself, if you don't value yourself, then that's another reason why you really should be learning Tai Chi. It's mind-body benefits include improving your sense of self worth.
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About Tai Chi ‘Forms’ and ‘Styles’
Tai Chi comprises many different aspects. One of these are movements that are put together into fixed sequences called 'forms'. A form is a learning aid so that you can remember what to do; a repository of knowledge in movement for the self defence aspects of the art, and it is the means of training the body in the particular Tai Chi way of movement that helps you to gain the fitness and health benefits of the art.
Forms are prearranged movements in a specific order they range from 8 move forms all the way up to (and past) 108 move forms.
A lot of people considering Tai Chi, will see someone performing a form (maybe on TV) and think 'That looks easy, I'll be able to do that' and then when they start training they are appalled at how difficult it seems to be. I always explain to new students that nothing in Tai Chi is unnatural but the moves are new (to them) and unusual. So it will take time to learn them and that time will vary from person to person.
Taking as long as you need to learn a form is exactly as it should be. Tai Chi is not a race, it is a process of gentle and continual development.
There are many different styles of Tai Chi like Yang, Chen, Sun, Wu, Hao, CMC, and others. You will learn primarily the Agar-Hutton variant of Yang style with, for advanced students, some Sun style too. All the different styles of Tai Chi are interesting and worthwhile and if you want more information about the differences, please ask me.
The best style is the one you are learning. All are good, but it is the practice of Tai Chi that leads to the benefits. Think, if you will, of all the different makes of cars 'Ford', 'Volvo', 'BMW' etc... all have their differences but all of them will drive you from 'A' to 'B' and if you need to go from 'A' to 'B' then the car that you have (the style of Tai Chi that you practice) is the best one.
Aspects of ‘Tai Chi’
It is gentle like some forms of Yoga are but it is more relaxed and uses the body in a different way. Also the origins of Tai Chi were as a means of self protection and it still has those capabilities. Yoga was never intended for fighting.
The Five Elements (Fire, Water, Metal, Earth, and Wood) are part of Chinese culture and they are referenced in some of the moves in Tai Chi and Qigong, but there is no need to understand anything about them unless those cultural references interest you.
This is an interesting and somewhat complex issue. There are multiple layers to ‘meditation’ from simple relaxation through more intense practices that will put you into a deep state of relaxation and all the way to deep religious and spiritual practices. We do NOT teach the religious and spiritual side of meditation because that depends on what religion you belong to.
We DO teach meditation through movement, the forms in Tai Chi can be used, in and of themselves, to help you relax. And we teach Qigong exercises, combining breathing techniques with either specific physical movements or certain static postures to allow you to bring about a meditative state.
What a great question. One that I have been asked a number of times. The answer is another question... "Is knitting a religion?" The answer is not a simple 'No', the answer is 'It depends' - if your Tai Chi (or knitting) instructor wants to infuse their teachings with their personal religious beliefs then yes, what you learn will have those influences. However I don't have any religious beliefs (I'm an atheist) so there is no religion taught in my Tai Chi.
It's my hope that all my students are mature and sensible enough to make up their own minds on the subject of religion. All you should come to the Agar-Hutton Tai Chi Academy for is to learn Tai Chi.
There are multiple definitions of 'Chi'. Most generally it is the name given to the Chinese concept for an all pervading 'force' that permeates everything and that animates us (gives us life and energy).
It is a very useful if you think of it as a metaphor for the physical feelings and experiences that you will encounter as you practice Tai Chi. Of course, if you are more of a science geek, then you may prefer (as I do) to think more in terms of Western medical and bio-mechanical explanations for what you are doing and feeling.
However the definitions do not get in the way of the practice of Tai Chi.
It's a bit like breathing, if you know that you are breathing air and you know what gasses it contains and how they affect the body, that's great. If you don't know, it doesn't matter as long as you keep breathing.
What’s the difference
Basically no difference at all although some people do use the first term to refer to Tai Chi taught for health and exercise and the second to Tai Chi taught as a martial art.
Qigong (or Chi Gung) are exercises, often of ancient origin, that with a few exceptions are taught only for health and not for martial arts purposes. Tai Chi was originally a martial art but is more generally taught nowadays for it's health and exercise benefits. So, the basic answer is that both help each other and will help you become fitter and more at ease with yourself and life in general.
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