In understanding how various tai chi practices are classified, one could say tai chi is like dance, with major differences of course. Just as there are many ways to dance, there are many ways to practice tai chi. Like dance, each tai chi routine has a particular beginning, middle and end, flowing from one specific movement to another. Using this analogy, tai chi’s various routines or forms or sets (there seems to be no consistent name used here) are like the waltz compared to the tango compared to the polka compared to break dancing. Just as there are many ways to dance, there are many tai chi routines.
The analogy to dance also stands when tai chi routines are classified. The Five Family Styles of tai chi might be equated to different styles of dance like ballroom, ballet, Latin, etc. Just as Latin Dance encompasses different well-known sequences like the Tango and Rumba, Sun Style Tai Chi encompasses Tai Chi 1, Tai Chi 2 and Sun 73 Tai Chi.
Tai Chi 1 & 2 are shortened, simplified tai chi routines using movements from the traditional Sun 73 Tai chi routine, kind of like little mini-versions of the longer traditional set. Sun 73 Tai Chi comes to us from Master Sun Lu Tang, an undefeated martial arts master who lived around 1861-1931. His family name is Sun (pronounced "soon") so Sun 73 Tai Chi and its offshoots TC1 & TC2 are part of the Sun family lineage of tai chi. Officially Tai Chi 1 is called Tai Chi for Arthritis 1 and Tai Chi 2 is Tai Chi for Arthritis part 2, which expands on TC1 with more complex stepping patterns and movements. Tai Chi 1 & 2 are modern, simplified versions of the traditional Sun 73 Tai Chi routine, one could say. Just as the popular Yang short form is a simpler version of the traditional Yang 108 Tai Chi form.
TC1 & TC2 were created by Paul Lam, MD and a team of tai chi and medical experts in the 1980s to address specific medical issues. The foundation stone used by this now internationally acclaimed Tai Chi for Health Institute, is the traditional Sun 73 Tai Chi routine because it was found to be the best of all tai chi for joint health. The numerous benefits of traditional long forms of tai chi (like Sun 73 and Yang 108) often go unused because it takes a long time to learn these routines. The TCHI team designed TC1 & TC2 to be learned easily and fairly quickly from certified teachers so that more people can receive the healing benefits found in tai chi practice.
Unlike the organic structure of the traditional long form Sun 73 Tai Chi, TC1 & TC2 follow a symmetrical, balanced pattern and stepping sequence. This symmetry of bi-lateral movement ensures that both sides of the body are engaged equally in the same way and it ensures that both hemispheres of the brain are actively engaged creating better mind and body functionality. The symmetrical patterns of TC1 & TC2 also make remembering the sequence much easier than the traditional Sun 73 Tai Chi form, which is not symmetrical, challenging the brain to create new and more complex neural patterns just by how we move through the routine.
TC1 and TC2 are fantastic tai chi routines that really help open joints, strengthen and stretch the core and impart a sense of peace and calm to our sometimes overly stimulated lives. “I don’t have arthritis. What other kind of tai chi do you offer?” I dropped the "arthritis " part of the name from my marketing when I kept hearing "well, what else do you have.“ Funny how that one word made this beautifully artful tai chi routine undesirable to many people who could benefit from it. Personally, I wish I had learned Tai Chi for Arthritis 1 & 2 back in my 20s instead of Yang Style tai chi, which is what I started with.
Yang Short Form is the most popular tai chi currently practiced in the United States. It is a shortened version of the traditional Yang 108 routine from Yang family Style Tai Chi. The first family form to be taught in the US was the Yang Style in the 1960s, thus its proliferation. I have studied and practiced both Yang short form and the traditional Yang 108 long form even though I do not teach them for several reasons. (To learn more about Sun Tai Chi, Master Sun Lu Tang and why Sun is my preferred tai chi practice, read this blog post: )
TC1 & TC2 and wonderful ways to connect with ourselves especially before arthritis sets in so that hopefully with better body awareness, we do not develop these degenerative issues in the future. The medical research on TC1 & TC2 proves that these styles of tai chi are excellent "maintenance exercises" for even healthy joints. The research also demonstrates that for anyone with compromised joints (be it arthritis, ligament/tendon instabilities, cartilage/disc degeneration, osteoporosis, artificial joints) ALL of these conditions show signs of improvement from consistent practice of TC1 & TC2. Personally, I wish I had started learning Sun Style before all the other Tai chi styles I've played with. I firmly believe that if I had started with the simple Sun Style TC1 & TC2, my knee health would be better today than it currently is. (To learn more about research on TC1 & TC2, here’s an article from the Tai Chi for Health Institute website about Tai Chi for Arthritis.)
I'm grateful to have Sun Style tai chi in my personal toolbox of self care. While I know many qigong and tai chi sets, TC1, TC2 and Sun 73 Tai Chi are my go-tos when my joints are unhappy. Not only do they always leave my joints feeling better after practice, these graceful, flowing tai chi sets have taught me how to be gentler with myself in ways more “aggressive” styles of tai chi with larger martial arts movements didn’t and couldn’t teach me. The symmetry of TC1 & 2 helped me heal my brain from concussion. The lightness of being imparted by the Sun 73 Tai Chi set has given me an inner peace and energy connection I did not find as potent in other tai chi styles.
TC1 & TC2 are short, simple sets that are relatively quick to learn. It's easiest to start by learning TC1, which is a complete tai chi routine without the addition of part 2. To “learn tai chi” means that we study each specific movement well enough that we can perform it in sequence on our own from memory. If all we ever do is “follow the leader” in our tai chi practice and we never commit to memorizing the steps for ourselves, then we deny ourselves the full benefits we could be receiving from the practice. When we can remember and practice the routine without the aid of a teacher or video, that's when we really begin to reap more and more benefits AND when we begin to develop a personal relationship with tai chi where the depths of these practices reveal themselves to the individual.
Ways to Learn Tai Chi 1, Tai Chi 2 & Sun 73 Tai Chi
In an effort to make learning tai chi as easy as possible, I currently offer 4 avenues of learning: 1. In person classes (always best). 2. Online courses (Fee based) 3. Free YouTube series. 4. Zoom classes (about to restart at your many requests).
1. In-person classes offer interaction with other people who are interested in this avenue of self care, thus creating a stronger support network. In-person classes also offer the opportunity to ask questions and get detailed feedback on progress. TC1 & TC2 are almost always somewhere in my on-going class schedule (check Events here).
2. Online courses are a wonderful option to learn tai chi step-by-step at one’s own speed. Tai Chi 1 and Tai Chi 2 online courses offer a comprehensive tai chi syllabus, just as if attending in-person classes. In addition to massive video content of Warm Ups, Tai Chi flow, Details of steps and Cool Downs, Online Courses also present the tai chi principles in an integrated fashion, offer printable handouts, questions to take practice into deeper levels of awareness, explanations of movement names and a Badge of Reward to all who complete every step in the course. Each course can be purchased individually and is also included in the Video Membership where EVERY video and EVERY course is available including those yet to come! Pay once for each course or pay $7.99/mo to have access to the entire growing video library. Choose Here.
3. Free YouTube series. Beachside Qigong and Tai Chi has a YouTube channel that houses all our video content because the data is so big! Some of that content is available to the public for free, some is only available on the Video Membership. The first videos I ever made were because tai chi enthusiasts asked me for them to help learn Tai Chi for Arthritis 1. So, that entire old playlist is still available, free to all. It does NOT contain the online course content like printable handouts and explanation of names. The free YouTube content is only the videos. Every detail of the movements is listed in sequence through this playlist beginning with the Warm-Ups, the tai chi flow and then each individual movement so you can learn each step one at a time. This is the same sequence as in a live class. Feel free to share this link with others who may not have access to a qualified tai chi instructor. I receive no benefit from these free videos until more people are practicing tai chi! Here’s the link to the TC1 Playlist.
4. Zoom classes. At the request of tai chi lovers, I will be restarting Zoom classes very soon and offering Sun 73 Tai Chi through this venue. If you’re interested in joining, drop me a note. If you’ve never taken a Zoom class, they are worth considering. I took a Zoom Sun 73 tai chi class from a Master Trainer who was in India that lasted over a year. I enjoyed it more than I ever expected. The class participants actually bonded during those weekly sessions, just like an in-person gathering. I now have tai chi friends in England, New Zealand, North Carolina and India because I was willing to try something new. I was also surprised by how well chi could be experienced and shared by the group through this online portal of connection. Taking a Zoom class taught me about how energy moves through time, space and dimensions in different frequencies. I am the first to admit that I was intimidated by this Zoom technology. I struggled a little setting it all up. But once it was set up and I had used it just a time or two, I found it easy to operate and incredibly valuable as a new line of connecting and communicating with others. After all, technology will only continue and if we don’t learn to adapt to it, we will no longer be able to function in the future, we will become obsolete. Zoom classes are listed on the EVENT page of the website and announced beforehand in the newsletter. Sign up for the chi-newsletter HERE.