Essentials of Tai Chi and Qigong
David-Dorian Ross is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit and the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program. He has a B.A. in Human Movement Studies from San Francisco State University, has completed graduate course work in Physical Education and Chinese, and is currently developing a project with the head of the Harvard Medical School research department to study the stress-reduction benefits of tai chi (taiji) in the workplace. Trained in China with championship martial arts coaches, Mr. Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive tai chi, winning seven U.S. gold medals, two world bronze medals, and a world silver medal—the highest awards ever given to an American for international tai chi performance. He was the founder and chief instructor of the Honolulu T’ai Chi Academy and a certified continuing educator for the American Council on Exercise. Mr. Ross is the host of the PBS series T’ai Chi: Health and Happiness and the author of five books on health and wellness, including Exercising the Soul: How Tai Ch’i Connects You to Your Authentic Self. Since 2012, he has collaborated with international action film star Jet Li on a mission to introduce tai chi to 100 million new people worldwide by the year 2020. Professor Ross participated in our Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about how to bring your whole life into better balance and harmony through the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong.
01: The Snake and the Crane
David-Dorian Ross recounts the history of tai chi and qigong, which are closely related practices. Then he introduces the Yang family short form of 24 individual movements, which is the most widely performed tai chi routine. He closes with his top ten tips for your personal practice.
02: First Steps in a Journey
Start the first of the qigong exercises, called the Frolic of the Five Animals. You also begin a regular routine of simple tai chi drills. Then learn the first two movements in the 24-movement short form: Opening the Door and Parting the Wild Horse's Mane.
03: Harmony and Balance
Continue with the Frolic of the Five Animals. Then delve into the concept of harmony and balance embodied in the idea of yin and yang, which inspires the philosophy and practice of tai chi. Close with Crane Spreads Wings in the short form routine.
04: The Ultimate Martial Art
Tai chi as a martial art is called tai chi chuan (taijiquan), which can be translated as "the ultimate martial art." Investigate the defense and fighting aspects of tai chi, which deepen your appreciation for the power behind this seemingly gentle art. Then learn Brush Knee and Push in the short form.
05: The Five Families of Tai Chi Practice
Branch out from the Yang style to see how other families of tai chi perform the movement called Single Whip. Mr. Ross also explains the fascinating history of the five families: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao, and Sun. Close with Playing the Pipa in the short form.
06: Qigong and the Five Animal Frolics
Learn the final posture in the qigong series called the Frolic of the Five Animals. Then explore the ancient concept of qi, the life force that underlies the practice of qigong and tai chi. Finally, add Repulse the Monkey to your repertoire of the 24-movement short form.
07: Energy Exercise-A Branch of Chinese Medicine
Deepen your understanding of qi and its role in traditional Chinese medicine, which is radically different from Western medicine. Discover how qigong and tai chi are designed to manipulate qi energy. Close by performing the next movement in the short form: Grasp the Bird's Tail on the left side.
08: The First Pillar of Practice-Forms
Learn how to walk with mindfulness. Then study the first pillar of tai chi practice: forms, which are the choreographed dance-like movements that most people associate with tai chi. For the short form routine, practice Grasp the Bird's Tail on the right side.
09: The Second Pillar-Push Hands for Two
Begin a new qigong series called the Eight Pieces of Brocade. Next, explore the second pillar of tai chi practice: push hands, which involves gentle but challenging sparring with a partner. End with a movement called Single Whip.
10: The Third Pillar-Standing Meditation
Experience the feeling of standing with proper alignment as you explore the third pillar of tai chi: standing meditation. Experiment with a qigong exercise called Standing Like a Tree. Then lose yourself in the next dream-like sequence of the 24 movements: Waving Hands Like Clouds.
11: Benefits to the Heart and Immune System
Delve into clinical studies showing that tai chi excels as a non-pharmaceutical treatment for heart and lung disease, as well as being a valuable adjunct to cancer therapy. In the short form, repeat Single Whip.
12: A Healthy Weight and a Healthy Mind
Continue your study of tai chi and health by looking at its documented benefits for treating obesity and Alzheimer's disease. Then reach the halfway point in your study of the 24-movement short form with a pose called High Pat on Horse.
13: Tai Chi Legends-Stories of the Masters
Marvel at the amazing exploits of classic tai chi masters, including two legendary champions, Zhang San-Feng and Wang Tsung-Yueh, and a historical figure, Yang Lu-Chan, who invented the Yang style. Conclude with another segment of the short form: Stand Up and Kick with Heel.
14: Reading the Tai Chi Classics
Study the oldest and newest chapters in the Tai Chi Classics, watching Mr. Ross demonstrate the principles of proper tai chi technique as he recites the texts. Then learn one of the more martial movements in the 24-part lesson: Boxing Both Ears.
15: A Superior Workout-Use More of Your Muscles
How can the slow dance of tai chi compete with running or weightlifting as a workout? The secret is that tai chi activates many muscles at the same time, burning calories at a high rate. For the short form routine, practice Stand Up and Kick on the other side.
16: Eight Pieces of Brocade and a Better Back
Learn the last movement in the qigong series called the Eight Pieces of Brocade. Then go through the entire routine from the beginning, concentrating on how qigong and tai chi promote correct posture and a better back. Close with Snake Creeps through the Grass from the short form routine.
17: Tai Chi Weapons-When Hands Are Not Empty
As students advance in tai chi, they move from empty hands forms to weapons play, which has the same elegant choreography but with sticks, swords, or spears. Try out this ancient martial art, seeing how even everyday objects can be used for practice. Then master a new movement in the short form: Rooster Stands on One Leg.
18: Using the Mind-Inner Organizing Principles
Focus on tai chi's organizing principles, which underlie everything you have learned in the course. These include the balance of yin and yang; softness overcomes hardness; and use mind, not strength. Close with Snake Creeps through the Grass on the other side.
19: Mental and Physical Flow
Experiencing life with balance and harmony requires that you master flow, which is a traditional principle of tai chi. Look at both mental and physical aspects of flow. Then for the short form, study Rooster Stands on One Leg on the other side.
20: Creating Space for Choices
Imagine what it would be like if you were never entrapped by stress again. Thanks to your study of tai chi and qigong, this blissful state is already in your grasp. For your next segment of the 24-movement routine, perform Fair Lady Works at Shuttles.
21: Flow at Work-When Business Is in Balance
Discover how to integrate the outlook and practice of tai chi into your work life. Study a routine that you can do in your office or cubicle, as it requires only one step in each direction. Then, learn Looking for the Needle at the Bottom of the Sea.
22: Energy Flow in Your Surroundings
Qigong manipulates the flow of qi in your body. Learn how the art of feng shui allows you to harmonize qi energy in your surrounding environment. Also investigate the ancient Chinese five element theory. Close with Opening the Arms Like a Fan in the short form.
23: Taking Practice Deeper
Mr. Ross devotes this entire lesson to the 24-movement short form, showing you how to take your practice to a deeper level by mastering subtleties in the poses and transitions. Go through all the moves you have learned so far.
24: The Evolution of Tai Chi
After warming up with a final qigong exercise, analyze how tai chi is helping millions in the Western world adapt to the challenges of 21st-century life. Then learn the concluding exercises of the short form: Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch; and Closing the Door. See how everything you've learned comes together while performing the entire 24-movement series.