When my first Tai Chi teacher, Bruce Frantzis, came back to the US forty years ago to spread the Tai Chi he learned in China, he found out that many basic Tai Chi concepts were not being taught, either because of communications issues or lack of knowledge. Only a fraction of the vast potential of the art was being shared. Bruce set out to teach the Inner Form of Tai Chi and that's what I have studied for the last 15 years.
Instead of endless forms and choreography, we dove into the inner workings that make Tai Chi so powerful for restoring health and unlocking hidden internal energy.
Now, Tai Chi is moving into a new phase of popular understanding in the West.
At Brookline Tai Chi, we are being approached more and more often by insurance companies, federal and state government agencies, and research universities to weigh in on what makes an effective Tai Chi balance training program.
Tai Chi is being brought into a medical context, but I worry that we will just repeat Tai Chi's last emergence onto the Western scene: as a watered-down shell of what it could be.
For that reason, I have sought out another champion of the Inner Form approach to Tai Chi to help me share with you the real Tai Chi Way to Better Balance. Don Ethan Miller has practiced and taught Tai Chi for more than 40 years, won national titles in Tai Chi Push Hands and has, in my opinion, a unique, direct, and profound approach to Tai Chi education.
We're working together on the Tai Chi Way to Better Balance and I wanted to share with you why I think Don's approach to teaching Tai Chi is going to be so useful for your own practice and for when you want to share Tai Chi with the people around you whose balance is failing them.
Simple, Yet Profound
The exercises in the program may seem simple at first. They are accessible to almost any level of physical fitness and balance. In fact, the exercises are precisely layered (more on that below) to allow almost anyone to regain their balance safely and gradually.
But here's the thing. I have seen firsthand, watching Don teach these exercises to people who have done Tai Chi for 5, 10 or even 20 years, that if you, the experienced Tai Chi practitioner, approach the program with an open mind, you will reignite your stale or faltering Tai Chi practice. Seasoned practitioners will find depth in the simplest instructions here and marvel at the layers of information.
If you're anything like me, you'll be jealous of the beginners who take on this program, because they're getting the depth you had to search for years to find, going from teacher to teacher for bits and pieces.
Feel, Then Do
For those of you who are new to Tai Chi, chances are, if you wander into your local YMCA or church Tai Chi class, you'll be thrown into "The Form." With a great teacher, the form will be presented alongside the principles (Inner Form!) that make the movements work. Too often, though, the principles are absent and you're just asked to follow along until you get it.
To us, especially if you have the urgent need to improve your balance, this is the long way around…in the best-case scenario. At worst, you fumble around, get frustrated and quit. No benefit there!
You won't find a forms-based approach here.
Instead, follow this simple rule as you work through the exercises in the program: feel, then do.
There is a practically limitless space to feel into when you open up your inner world with Tai Chi. From the very first exercise, you'll be asked to explore by feel. This is Tai Chi from the inside out. It's all about what you learn to feel. And feeling leads to moving.
After each exercise, you will also feel and reflect on what you've just done.
See, Don is like a master chef. He's crafted a book of recipes for you here. All the ingredients are laid out. The directions are clear. You just need to put them together and then, enjoy the dish. Taste it. Savor it. And be satiated with the wonderful, nurturing meals you are cooking for yourself.
Layers of Progress
As you work through the levels in the program, you'll notice that the skills you build are layered one on top of the next.
First you get comfortable on two legs, with no distractions. But what happens when you only have one leg to stand on? Or you add an arm motion and a head turn? Slowly, you will add layers, and each time, you will understand how the new layer makes you stronger, more stable, and more internally connected in accordance with key Tai Chi principles like Rooting and Central Equilibrium.
As the complexity of the exercises increase, so will your rate of discovery.
We see people burst out of classes all the time. They can't wait to bounce down the street or frolic in the park. It's kind of goofy when you their eyes light up like little kids again!
And that's what I wish for you and hope we can share with the world about the Tai Chi Way to Better Balance.
Later this month, we will be releasing the first DVD and eBook in this program, but you can start working on Tai Chi balance training right now. Click here to learn more.