STQI Downtown Toronto School
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Explore Shaolin Tai Chi Classes

Student Testimonial by A. L.
Qi Gong and Gentle Kung Fu have been great forms of exercise and stretching, and help me relax during the week. I enjoy learning the forms and appreciate the encouraging and patient nature of the intructors.
Shaolin Tai Chi
Shaolin Tai Chi [少林太极 - Shàolín Tàijí] is the most robust expression of human energy for physical and mental health.
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Shaolin Tai Chi Foundation Class

Shaolin Tai Chi Foundation is about training fundamentals of relaxing, awareness, and qi flow, along with gentle and soft self defence techniques.

It will also help you improve your flexibility, coordination, fitness, energy, and overall health.

A typical class includes warm up drills, stretching, gentle stance training, cloud hands exercises, gentle foundation kicks, and relaxed self-defence application exercises.

The second half of class include drills for relaxed self-defence application and taolu forms.

This class is designed to make you feel your body flow with movement and lightly work on your cardiovascular endurance. The less muscles you use, the more you breathe, and the more relaxed your are, the higher your level.

You will learn and practice the taolu form called Eight Stance Gentle Fist Bābùróuquán 八步柔拳.

Prequisites: None

Shaolin Tai Chi Taolu Forms Class

This class is application-oriented and will include safe sparring drills and techniques, and advanced taolu forms and weaponry.

Some of the sparring exercises including Vertical-Rod (for managing your posture), Sticky Hands (for integrating external forces), and Cloud Hands sparring (for simulated defence against various strikes).

This class also features the art of Qinna (seizing and grappling) as it relates to the Shaolin Tai Chi style.

You will learn and practice more advanced hand forms such as Cloud Hands Fist Yúnquán 云拳, and Gentle Fist Róuquán 柔拳, as well as weapon forms, such as the Gentle Yinshougun Staff.

Note: This class is currently part of the Foundation class, and is planned to separated into its own class for the 2024 T1 Term.

Prequisites: Shaolin Tai Chi Foundation

What is Shaolin Tai Chi?

Shaolin Tai Chi is the practice of breath, qigong, and gentle martial movements to improve overall health.

Often we are not even aware of our breathing! It happens automatically throughout the day, at work or school, and when we're sleeping. If we observe our natural breathing, we find it is not optimal. Thus by practicing controlled and full breaths, and by developing new breathing techniques, we can bring in more oxygen into our bodies and have more energy.

The practice of the breath belongs to the the domain of qigong. When we use qigong in Shaolin Tai Chi, we also bring in the many benefits of relaxation and stress-relief.

By using gentle martial movements, we learn and practice interesting movements that could be used in self-defence (you need to learn how to move quickly but relaxed in order to be effective).

It is the combination of all these components that make Shaolin Tai Chi so compelling, enabling enhanced cirulatory systems and thematic exercises to heal and nourish the body and mind in different ways.

And hence the phrase "Let your breath flow with your body, mind, and spirit!".

The Origin of Shaolin Tai Chi

Shaolin Tai Chi was conceived by Master Dao in 2014. At that time, he wanted to offer Shaolin martial classes that anyone could do, including the elderly and people with mobility issues and even disabilities. He asked his master, Shifu Guo Song, for advice and his master taught him a special form called Shaolin Gentle Fist (Rou Quan).

Shaolin Gentle Fist is an ancient form that is over 500 years old, which means it predates all other Tai Chi styles today.

Chen Style Tai Chi is around 400 years old and widely known to be the oldest form of Tai Chi and predecessor of many other styles such as Yang and Wu. Could it have evolved from Shaolin's Gentle Fist? There are striking resemblences in many of the movements and stances but there is no way to know for certain.

Master Dao opened a new class called Shaolin Gentle Kung Fu which centered the program around the Shaolin Gentle Fist form. It involves many elements, techniques, and philosophies that can be found in other Tai Chi styles. Some examples of commonality are "Cloud Hands", "Silk Reeling", "Yin Yang", "Softness vs Hardness", "Grounding", and "Striking Methods". Eventually this class was renamed to Shaolin Tai Chi to better reflect the nature of the art form and to make it easier to understand.

Tai Chi vs Chi Kung and Qigong

The Wade-Giles phoenetic system was developed in the mid 19th century to help native English people to learn Chinese. The system is has many flaws and did not accurately reflect the pronunciation of Chinese words. As a result, the Pinyin system was created to overcome this and is now the standard.

Many words we now accept in our English vocabulary today are based on the Wade-Giles system. For example, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and Kung Fu. In Pinyin, this should be "Tàijí (太極)", "Qìgōng (氣功)", and "Gōngfu (功夫)".

Upon closer inspection of the Chinese Characters, you would discover that the 'Chi' in Tai Chi is a completely different word and meaning of the 'Chi' in 'Chi Kung'.

As a result of this, many people think they are practicing Qigong when they are doing Tai Chi when in fact they are not. Some styles of Tai Chi include specific breathing so you could say that there is at least basic qigong incorporated.

To further the confusion, many Tai Chi styles we see today involve a group of people (usually elderly) moving slowly together for exercise. This is an adaptation of the martial form called Taiji. It is much more difficult to learn and practice (and to find a proper instructor!) because it requires specific teachings on how to move quickly, spar, and apply many Taiji philosophies.

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