Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tai Chi Chuan Without An Instructor?

I found a lost e-mail from a good friend today. I felt terrible that I had not replied yet, and as I wrote the letter back I thought this might be useful to other people:

Hey, DR,
I am interested in learning some tai chi, but do not have access to a teacher and don't know enough to pick a DVD that won't suck or teach me the completely wrong things.

-- My friend then showed a link to some DVD's on Amazon, which didn't look that great. Here's what I wrote back:

I just found this while cleaning up my e-mails. Sorry if I didn't get back sooner, but the holidays were crazy.
Like Aikido, Tai Chi Chuan is so subtle it really takes a teacher. However, here are my suggestions:

1- There is new-age phoney Tai Chi and real Tai Chi. Your main choices are Yang style, which is the most popular style in the world, or Chen style (and possibly Wu).
I practice Yang style, so I will speak to that.
My instructor, Michael Gilman has a free website with lots of info. His site is

2- Anything by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming is authentic, and he is recognized as the best fighting Tai Chi Chuan in America.
Yang's site has short video clips available. Here is the YouTube page for YMAA

3- If you like, another Tai Chi Chuan master, T.Y. Pang lives near me. His form is the exact form I practice, even though Michael is my instructor. I learned from Pang's top students originally. Pang has a very, very good instructional video with explanation, different views and is available for around $45.
Pang does not teach application, which is why I have sought out other instructors to compliment my form work with applications.
Here is Pang's website, which is still under construction at this time.
If you are interested, I can pick up a copy and mail it to you.

There must be some community center or YMCA somewhere in your area that offers a class. If not, there's a job opportunity for me down there.
Whatever you find will probably be geared towards relaxation, meditation etc, rather than fighting Tai Chi Chuan. Consider it an intro to Tai Chi if you can find it, but the resources above will give you a look at where the art can go.

Hope this helps, and I'm sorry I lost the e-mail until now.


Rick said...

Dr. Stephen Hwa at has some DVDs. His version of the Wu style emphasizes internal movement from the very beginning.

Some YouTube footage can be found at:

Sean C. Ledig said...

Hey DR,

Great advice. Please let me add a couple of things.

1. Ken Gullette at has some great internal arts DVD's. Even though I'm a Yang Taiji instructor and I've cross-trained in Chen and Xingyi, let me say that Ken showed me how much I didn't know about internal arts.

2. The letter writer could take some road trips to a city where there is a good taiji school. I don't know exactly where the letter writer lives, but if he has to drive 150 to 200 miles to a good taiji school, it might be a good idea to go even if you can only make the trip once a month. That means he'll have to discipline himself to practice on the remaining 29 days he's home to keep up on his training, but it can be done.

3. If he lives near a college, he should sneak in and hang out at the gym. Colleges tend to bring students from a wide geographic area. Even if there is no formal taiji class, just hang out at the gym. He might be surprised to find someone from another town with experience in taiji off by himself practicing.

I've met some great martial artists that way.

Hope this helps the letter writer.

JAB said...

Re: you #2 comment...
Who is YJM recognized by regarding him being the best Taichi fighter??

Dojo Rat said...


I know you have your issues with Dr. Yang, but for a student in middle-America trying to learn what the full potential of Tai Chi Chuan can be, Dr. Yang offers the most complete invantory of books and video's available.
Of course, nothing can compare to having a really good instructor.

JAB said...

No "issues" I am just curious if that was your quote or someone elses?

Dojo Rat said...

Yes, my comment was directed to the amount of information and training material Yang has available, and that he definately has a "martial" presentation.

Tuce Bregner said...

"If he lives near a college, he should sneak in and hang out at the gym. Colleges tend to bring students from a wide geographic area. Even if there is no formal taiji class, just hang out at the gym."

Why? Is he a molester?

Get Tegner's book and the Smith-Cheng black and red book from the 1960's and learn it out of the book.

Almost anyone you study with will teach you wrong, so don't worry about that. You can learn a great deal on your own.