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 various 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 other's and with generations of teachers following, the Yang style started to diverge in the interpretation and execution of the forms.

Chen Wangting, sometimes called Chen Wang Ting or Zouting, devised the Chen family-style of Tai Chi Chuan in his hometown of Chenjiagou, Henan province which is considered the birthplace of Tai Chi Chuan. His next well-known successor was the 14th generation Chen Changxing (1771–1853), who was the direct teacher of the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan: Yang Luchan. Traditional Chinese  folklore and many lineages also name the semi-mythical figure of Zhang Sanfeng, a Taoist monk, as the progenitor of the art.

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. Grandmaster Wong hails from a very rich tradition of Chinese Kung Fu masters and is a fifth generation grandmaster of the Choy Li Fut system of Kung Fu as well as a grandmaster of Yang Style Tai Chi. He studied with Hu Yuen-Chou, a closed-door student of renowned Grandmaster Yang Cheng-Fu,  grandson of Yang Lu-Chan who is the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi.

Our Chen style follows the teaching of Master David Bao (8th Duan Wei). Born in Henan province in China, Master Bao is a 7th generation descendant of the Shaolin Temple martial arts lineage. He studied under many renowned Wushu and Tai Chi masters such as Wang Erping, China’s national Wushu and Tai Chi team coach and disciple of Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. In 2006 Master Bao 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.

Why do you teach 2 different styles of Tai Chi?

One one the most fascinating and beautiful things in life is to explore or experience one thing from different points of views or perspectives - in our case: Tai Chi. The more perspectives we add, the more complete our understanding of the item at hand becomes.

Since all styles of Tai Chi Chuan derived from the Chen style it offers unique insights into the art and incorporates the most pure and original essence of Tai Chi and its traditional martial arts aspects and philosophical core principles.

Knowing both Chen and Yang style Tai Chi will no doubt lead to an exciting 'cross-pollination' between the styles and a more in-depth understanding of the multifaceted character of Tai Chi Chuan.

No matter which style you initially choose - Chen as well as Yang style Tai Chi so beautifully combine focus, intent and connectedness of body, mind and spirit into a holistic experience that engages and involves all our senses and a seasoned practitioner will go from an experience of  "doing" to one of "being".

What is the main difference between Yang and Chen Style Tai Chi?

The Yang Style is characterized by evenly paced, soft flowing expansive movements which are almost 'zen-like' distilled in their postures and transitions. The martial arts applications are implied much more subtly than for example in the Chen style. The feeling of a gently flowing energy (chi) and a mind/body connection that is focused on/connecting with only the present moment can be experienced throughout the form. The lesser physical requirements of Yang style Tai Chi make it suitable to a wider audience in regards to fitness level as well as age range.

The Chen Style is the oldest and founding style of all other styles of Tai Chi and therefore displays the roots of being a martial art much more prominently. The Chen Style has a high dynamic between slow/soft and fast/hard movements and is characterized by pronounced coiling & spiraling movements (silk reeling) with bursts of explosive releases of energy/power (fa-jin). The feeling of moving energy (chi), of "connecting and sticking" is felt quite strongly and cultivates a unity and harmony of body & mind - be it in the gentlest of wrist spirals or the powerful release of a fist punch.

No matter which style you initially choose to learn - Chen as well as Yang style Tai Chi so beautifully combine focus, intent and connectedness of body, mind and spirit into a holistic experience and you will learn to go from an experience of simple "doing" to one of deeply-felt "being".

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 as well as Chen 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 a Tai Chi Beginner form?

It takes most groups around 6-8 months to learn a Tai Chi Beginner form. At this point in time the students know the moves and transitions - but refining a form in technique and 'feeling' can become one's lifelong passion and endeavor.

Learning progress ultimately 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?

Typically we only start new Beginner classes once or twice a year.

Please refer to our current class offerings .

I cannot find an online weekly class schedule?

We do not keep an online weekly class schedule since we usually close classes to new enrollment once we reach a certain point in the form. This ensures that the initial group of students does not get frustrated having to step back in their form for every new student who joins at a later point in time and also makes sure that new students are not overwhelmed having to catch up with a group that is quite far into a given form.

If you see a class posted this means that you still can join and that it is not too late to catch up with the class in progress. Students who have clear prior and retained Tai Chi experience can usually join at any point in the form. Please email us if you are not sure where you might fit in.

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 will also find our Mailing List Subscription form in the right sidebar on this page.

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 the Yang or Chen Style 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 or Chen 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.

I am a Tai Chi practitioner visiting the Bay Area - can I attend classes during my visit?

Due to the many variations in teaching/execution of the forms depending solely on lineage we unfortunately cannot offer drop-in classes for Tai Chi practitioners who are in the Bay Area for only a short time.

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.

We offer a trial class ($10) for first time students which should be helpful in deciding whether 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.

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. Yang Style Beginner classes don't have any uniform requirement - Chen Style classes have a Tai Chi/Kung Fu pants requirement since stances are generally lower.

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 18 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.

People with more complex health conditions (knee, hip or spine) should inquire with their health practitioner for guidance and advice. An initial private lesson might also be a good option to evaluate if Tai Chi practice is suitable for your specific situation and health history.

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 $120 for a 1 hour private session and $60 for a 30-minute session.

Please email us to inquire about private instruction opportunities.

Where are classes held and how do I get there?

All classes are held at:

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

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

Access

By car: I-80 is just a stone's throw away and in the afternoons/evenings there is usually plenty of free designated parking right in front of the building or the side streets. Public transportation: an AC Transit bus stop is just 1 block away. By bike: if you prefer to ride your bike, bike racks are also right in front.

NEW:
A Ford GoBike Station is just 50 feet away from the studio
(Ninth St @ Parker St) providing easy access from almost anywhere! Find out how it works.

 

How much do classes cost?

Once a week group classes are offered on a fixed monthly tuition plan of $100 which equals 4 or 5 classes a month depending on the 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.

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 pro-rated accordingly for your first month of attendance.

We also offer private instruction at $120/1hr. or $60/30 minutes.  The following cancellation fee applies for private lessons: $35 for cancellations received at least 24 hours prior to scheduled class. For same day cancellations the full private lesson fee ($120) is due.

Do you offer tuition discounts for students?

Unfortunately we do not offer any tuition discounts at this point in time.

Do you offer gift certificates?

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

What forms of payments do you accept?

Tuition payments are accepted in cash, personal check or if you prefer you can pay your tuition online via PayPal, Zelle or Venmo - please inquire with the instructor about details.

What is your payment policy?

*Payment Policy: Tuition payments ($100/month for group classes once a week, $120/hr. for private sessions) are accepted in cash, personal check or if you prefer you can pay your tuition online via PayPal, Zelle or Venmo, an online instant payment service that almost all major banks offer. Please inquire with the instructor for more details. The following cancellation fee applies for private lessons: $35 for cancellations received at least 24 hours prior to scheduled class. For same day cancellations the full private lesson fee ($120) is due.

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.

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 exceeds 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 ($25 credit per class cancelled) . 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 based on the remaining number a classes for that specific month.

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

 

 

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

Classes are closed on the following federal holidays:

Memorial Day: MON 05/25/20
Labor Day: MON 09/07/20
Thanksgiving: THU 11/26/20

Summer Recess: TBA
Winter Recess: TBA