FAQ

Please see below for frequently asked questions about our classes. If we missed to answer your specific question please don't hesitate to contact us.

What is Tai Chi Chuan?

Tai Chi Chuan is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its martial arts applications as well as its health benefits. The term "t'ai chi ch'uan" translates as "supreme ultimate fist", "supreme ultimate boxing" and can also be translated as "the supreme or ultimate martial art".

Since Tai Chi Chuan (or Tai Chi in short)  is an internal martial art, great emphasis is placed on developing the spirit, mind and intent to regulate or initiate the flow of "Chi" (life energy) which in turn translate into physical force.

The concept of the 'taiji' or "supreme ultimate" as represented by the Yin/Yang diagram appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy where it symbolizes the fusion of "Yin" and "Yang" into a single ultimate ("Wuji") represented by a circle and therefore symbolizing completeness.

Lao Tzu is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism. He emphasized naturalness, spontaneity, simplicity, detachment from desires, and the principle of "wu wei" - of "effortless action" or "action without action". In Taoist philosophy one always must place one's will and actions in harmony and accordance with the flow of the natural universe.

Tai Chi Chuan can be seen as a constant balancing of yin (receptive, yielding) and yang (active, expanding) - ultimately finding balance and completeness within constant change through "listening and attuning oneself" to the universe.

 

Do you teach all classes yourself or are classes held mainly by senior students?

All classes are taught by Andreas himself with the exception when he is traveling.  This ensures a consistent & dedicated learning experience as well as providing direct access to his unique skill set and knowledge of Tai Chi Chuan.

 

Why are there so many different styles of Tai Chi?

Most modern styles of Tai Chi Chuan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun. The differences between the 5 main styles of Tai Chi range from varying speeds to the very way in which the movements are performed. These variations not only depend on lineage within the five main styles but also on lineage within a certain style - for example the Yang style in itself can have variuous differences in form or stance execution. In the US and England alone, there are over 20 "flavors" of Yang style Tai Chi.

The Yang style traces its origin back the founder, Yang Lu Chan who taught Tai Chi not only his family members but also to his disciples who later went on to establish their own schools. This branching out with the need to differentiate one's own style from the others and with the generations of teachers following, the Yang style started to diverge in the interpretation and execution of the forms.

To give a short answer - there are no superior or inferior styles of Tai Chi nor are there good or bad Tai Chi classes - they are all honest interpretations of the same source material, emphasizing different aspects of the art - be it health, martial arts or spiritual development or ideally all of the above combined.

 

What styles of Tai Chi do you teach?

We are one of the very few schools in the San Francisco Bay Area that offer both Yang and Chen Style Tai Chi classes.

The Yang style we teach is a very pure form of Yang style in the lineage of the Plum Blossom Federation founded by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong.

Our Chen style follows the Shaolin/Wushu influenced style taught by Master David Bao (8th Duan Wei). Being a 7th generation descendant of the Shaolin Temple martial arts lineage Master David Bao studied under many famous Wushu and Tai Chi masters and in 2006 went on to win the World Tai Chi Champion title.

Our styles are true to the origins of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art as well as a spiritual and meditative art form with the aim of integrating and harmonizing body, mind & spirit.

Is Tai Chi a martial art?

The origins of Tai Chi are based in the martial arts. Tai Chi is an internal martial art ("nèijìng" -  meaning internal strength) versus Kung Fu which is considered an external martial art.

Tai Chi as an internal martial art emphasizes awareness of the spirit, mind, Chi ("energy" or "life force") and the use of relaxed leverage through sensitivity and softness rather than relying on muscular tension and physical strength alone.

 

Do you teach martial arts applications?

Our Yang style is very much martial arts based while also emphasizing the meditative, mental and spiritual qualities of the art.

While not all movements have martial art applications learning the art with insights into the martial arts context we believe is the only way to experience its true origins and essence.

 

How does a typical class look like?

Our classes usually start with the "8 Brocade" Qigong warm up set and then continue on to form instruction or review with gentle corrections and stance adjustments tailored to each individual student and experience level. More complex moves are explained and demonstrated in great detail in break out sessions.

At the end of class any new instruction material is integrated into the previously learned sequence and practiced and experienced as a unified, harmonious group which lets the class end on a note of stillness and tranquility and of accomplishment and joy.

 

How long will it take me to learn Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is studied as a series of hand as well as weapon forms - a "form" in Tai Chi is a clearly defined sequence of movements that flow from one to the next.

While some students are content to learning just a single form others commit to learning  a more complete system.

Learning Tai Chi can be compared to learning a language - you can just learn words, then continue on to form sentences and understanding the grammar and finally maybe reading or even writing a novel.

To give a short answer - for the standard ″24 Short Form″ it might take the average Beginner around 6 months to master the basic movements and learn the complete form. It ultimately all depends on the commitment of each individual student and also on how much you are able to practice outside of class.

 

When do new Beginner classes start?

While some of our classes are open for enrollment year-round we also understand that it is sometimes best to start at the very beginning and we offer real new Beginner classes once or twice a year.

We also offer a variety of other form classes year-round that are tailored to Beginner II, Intermediate or Advanced students. Qualified students can join such a class in progress at any time.

The best approach might be to observe or join a class in progress and then see if you feel you can merge right in or would rather prefer to wait and join once a new class begins.

Please refer to our current class offerings or inquire with other questions here.

 

Can I join a class already in progress?

Oftentimes it is very difficult for students to target the exact beginning of a given class in which case they would join a class already in progress and just follow the movements at first and catch up little by little with the help of the instructor and other students in the group.

While we always try to make sure that there is space and time to accommodate new students joining classes in progress who do not have any prior Tai Chi experience, we will only recommended this up to a specific point in a given form where we feel that it is still possible catch up with the initial group.  As an alternative, there is also always the option of taking a few private sessions to facilitate joining a class/form that has already started. If a class has already progressed to more than the first half of a form we recommend in most cases to wait until a new class starts.

We avoid limiting the time frame of a given class/form to a pre-set number of weeks to ensure to have a learning pace that accommodates different skill as well as experience levels and that every student is able to complete the form successfully.

If you have question about the possibility of joining a specific class in progress, please inquire here.

 

How do I know when new classes start?

New classes are always announced on our website. You can also send us a quick email so that we can put you on our mailing list and keep you updated. You can also simply scroll down to the bottom of this page and use the Mailing List subscription form in the footer section of this site.

 

I already have some Tai Chi experience - where do I fit in?

If you already have had some prior experience learning Tai Chi - attending our Beginner class initially might still be a good place to start. This enables you to get a "feel for the style" and see if you can build or expand on what you already know.

I then am also in a better position to recommend an adequate class level and actual class in our curriculum for you since not all of our on-going classes are listed on the website.

Please email us with any question in regards to joining classes in progress.

 

I learned a different style of Tai Chi - is it easy for me to merge into your curriculum?

If you learned a style other than Yang it might be a challenge to merge your knowledge and experience with our curriculum and you most likely would have to start from a blank sheet again.

Even within the Yang style there are distinct differences depending on the exact lineage in regards to form execution. This is why it is important to choose a Tai Chi style or class carefully since once you settle on a specific style it is oftentimes best to stick with it - otherwise you might have to be willing to invest time & effort again in having to re-learn a few things.

That all said - the only way knowing how close or how different the style you learned is from our curriculum can only be gained through participating in an appropriate class for your level of experience.

Please feel free to inquire about joining from another style/class here.

 

I am studying a mainly external martial art somewhere else - what can Tai Chi offer me?

We teach both Yang and Chen Style Tai Chi classes. The Yang style is characterized by evenly paced, soft flowing movements which are almost 'zen-like' distilled in their postures and transitions. The Chen style in comparison alternates slow/fast with soft/hard movements and is characterized by a pronounced coiling, spiraling characteristic (chan si jin), with sporadic explosive releases of power in punches, stomps and kicks.

Learning either style would be very beneficial for a student coming from a mainly external martial art since it would help you to integrate a Yin (soft) component to your mainly Yang (hard) practice - and therefore achieving balance and completeness.

Since Chen Style Tai Chi, more than any other style of Tai Chi, combines internal as well as very pronounced external/physical martial arts aspects it might be initially more accessible to a student coming from a predominantly external martial art.

 

How do I know which school or class is best for me?

Since learning Tai Chi not only happens on a physical level but also an a very personal and spiritual level each and every student must decide on an individual basis which class ″feels″ right and which they could see themselves enjoying and commit themselves to over a longer period of time.

Best might be to observe a class or participate in a class for some time and see if the teaching style, quality and pace of learning and group atmosphere feels right and comfortable to you.

Also decide which aspect of Tai Chi is most important to you - is it improving flexibility, learning martial arts applications, reducing stress or simply getting physical exercise - or all of the above. Financial considerations, the studio setting, and geographical location also have a role to play.

 

Can I observe a class or try out a class?

You are welcome to observe or try out a class. A trial class is $10 (50% off our regular class fee basis). Please call or email us a little ahead of time so that we can let you know the best day/time to stop by.

 

What should I wear to class?

Flat, flexible sole shoes (most athletic shoes work) and loose comfortable clothing (especially pants) that allow you to move freely are recommended. Beginner classes don't have any uniform requirement.

Is there any age limit to start Tai Chi?

Tai Chi can be enjoyed at all age levels though we feel for people younger than 16 it might not be adequate since there is a certain degree of maturity, gravity and life experience required to understand the subtleties and complexities of the art.

I have health or physical problems - is Tai Chi right for me?

In most cases the answer is yes but ultimately it all depends on your specific physical and/or health condition. Generally people who practice Tai Chi experience improved physical health and strength and also improved mental balance and clarity. Medical research studies in recent years also point to a multitude of benefits of practicing Tai Chi – please read more on our Health Benefits page.

It might be advisable to observe a class or join a class in progress for a while to see if the classes can be of benefit to you and your specific physical or health condition. People with more complex or serious health conditions should refer to their health practitioner for guidance and advice.

 

What are the health benefits of Tai Chi?

Regular Tai Chi practice not only can bring a wide range of physical health benefits to the muscular, skeletal and circulatory systems but the gentle flowing movements also serve as a moving meditation that reduces stress and provides a way to cultivate both body, mind and spirit.

Please see our Health Benefits page for more info.

 

Do you teach Qigong?

We teach the “The 8 Brocade” ("baduanjin" also known as the "8 Jewels" or ″8 Brocade″) at the beginning of each class as a warm up set. This Qigong set takes around 15 minutes to complete and is one of the oldest exercise systems in the World.

The 8 Brocade promotes the free circulation of Chi (“Life Energy”) throughout the entire body . Its is easy to learn and requires no special equipment. Performing this Qigong set helps to regulate digestion and metabolism, improves flexibility by stretching and toning all of your muscles, stimulates the lymphatic system therefore helping to detoxify your body, and also helps to develop a calm, focused and still mind.

 

Is there more after the Beginner class?

The Beginner class is literally "just the first chapter in a book".

For continuing student we offer a wide range of hand and weapons forms that systematically build on each other giving students a very effective and strong foundation for their Tai Chi practice. This approach also translates into a rich, rewarding and in-depth experience of this powerful and beautiful centuries-old martial art.

The beauty of learning Tai Chi is that each physical movement and the corresponding mindfulness and intent makes each move "a cosmos" in itself - the longer you practice and study Tai Chi the more the art reveals its hidden treasures and intricacies.

 

Are there instruction opportunities outside of the regular class schedule?

We offer private instruction - be it for catching up after a few missed classes, going deeper into form details or simply responding to a preference or need for private one-on-one instruction.

Making sure to keep our private instruction rate in a range that is is not totally out of reach for most people we offer private instruction at $195 for a 1 hour private session and $50 for a 30-minute session.

Please email us to inquire about private instruction opportunities.

I am a Tai Chi practitioner just visiting the Bay Area - can I still attend a class?

The issue of "visiting students" is a little of a tricky one since in the past we had some people come from very different Tai Chi backgrounds & styles which made integrating them into our core group of students difficult - we had others that fit right in.

While we don't like to outright close the doors to visitors with current Tai Chi experience we like to put in a note that the main focus of instruction in class will need to be dedicated to the core group of our own students. Having this common understanding and assuming that the main motivation of visiting students is to keep their practice fresh and alive while visiting the Bay Area we are making an exception to our general payment policy and offer drop-in classes for a fee of $20 per class. For visiting students staying longer than 3 weeks we kindly ask to adhere to our monthly tuition plan.

Please call or email us a little in advance in advance to inquire about opportunities to join a class in progress for visiting Tai Chi students.

 

Where are classes held and how do I get there?

All classes are held at:

The Berkeley Performing Arts
2560 9th Street, Suite 119
Berkeley, CA 94710
Map/Directions

International Academy of WingChun
1380 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
Map/Directions

How much do classes cost?

Classes are offered on a fixed monthly tuition plan of $90/month. There are no long term commitments. Unfortunately we cannot offer drop-in classes or a per class fee with the exception of your first trial class which we offer at $10 (50% off our regular class fee basis).

If you decide to sign up or join a class after the 1st week of the month your monthly tuition will then be reduced and prorated accordingly for your first month of attendance.

We also offer private instruction at $95 for 60 minutes or $50 for 30 minutes.

Do you offer gift certificates?

Currently gift certificates are only available for private lessons. Please inquire here.

 

What forms of payments do you accept?

Tuition payments are accepted in cash, check or if you prefer you can pay your tuition with your preferred credit card in person or conveniently online via PayPal (a PayPal account is not required).

Please note that a nominal 3% processing fee is added to all credit card payments.

 

What is your payment policy?

*Payment Policy: Tuition payments are accepted in cash, check or if you prefer you can pay your tuition with your preferred credit card in person or online via PayPal (a PayPal account is not required). Please note that a nominal 3% processing fee ($93 Monthly Group Class / $98 One-Hour Private Session) applies to all credit card payments. The cancellation fee for private lessons is $35.

Tuition is payable in advance the first week of the month.To keep the program viable we unfortunately cannot offer a per-class or drop-in fee with the exception of our trial class which we offer at $10 (50% off our regular class fee basis)

Students already paying the full monthly tuition fee can pay a simple drop-in class fee of $20 per class if they would like to attend additional classes in another form that is appropriate for their level. Please ask the instructor for details/approval.

Please understand that the monthly tuition is a fixed fee as in any other martial arts, fitness or health program and cannot be reduced if classes are missed for any reason from the student's side. Tuition payments are paused if the student's absence is more than 4 weeks - please notify the instructor in a timely manner if you anticipate any prolonged absence from class.

Students will receive a credit or reduction in the monthly tuition for classes cancelled by the instructor due to vacation, illness or unforeseen events. Classes are closed on federal holidays - the monthly tuition though is not affected by holidays falling on class days and remains payable in full.

If you decide to sign up or join a class after the 1st week of the month your monthly tuition will be prorated accordingly.

Please email us with questions in regards to our payment policies.

 

 

Are classes held on federal holidays or do you have a summer/winter recess?

Classes are closed on the following federal holidays in 2017:

Martin Luther King Day: MON 01/16/17
Presidents' Day: MON 02/20/17
Memorial Day: MON 05/29/17
Labor Day: MON 09/04/17
Columbus Day: MON 10/09/17
Veterans Day: FRI 11/10/17
Thanksgiving: THU 11/23/17

Summer Recess: TBA
Winter Recess: TBA