Frequently Asked Questions

How do I learn Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi is practiced as a “form:” a well-defined sequence of movements that flow from one to the next. The Tai Chi form is learned by practicing the movements in class and doing it at home. If you study in weekly classes, it takes about eight months to learn the form. In class, the movements are demonstrated by the instructors and practiced by all. Hands-on adjustments help the students to feel the best alignment for the movements and postures of the form. No special equipment or uniform is required, though flat, cotton-soled shoes are highly recommended.
How do I find a class near me?
The T’ai Chi Foundation (TCF) has teaching locations around the U.S. and in Europe. For help finding TCF instructors near you, check our list of locations.
Why is the TCF form good for me?
The TCF teaches the Yang Style short form of Tai Chi, as developed and taught by Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing and our founder, Patrick Watson, who was a senior student of Professor Cheng. This form is easy to learn, accessible to students at a whole range of levels of physical skill and ability, and enjoyable. Our form is based on principles (softness, relaxation, straightness, centeredness) that are the source of Tai Chi’s health benefits.
How long does it take to learn the Tai Chi form?
It usually takes about 30 to 36 classes to learn the basic movements, and depends on the schedule of each teaching location. The benefits of doing Tai Chi, though, may be felt immediately: even with just the first movements of the form we are beginning to embody the principles of Tai Chi Chuan! The TCF curriculum, however, does not end with the basic movements; you can continue to study Tai Chi at deeper and more subtle levels, becoming even more in touch with its principles.
What are the health benefits of Tai Chi?
Regular practice of Tai Chi brings benefits in body, mind, and spirit. As physical exercise, Tai Chi strengthens the legs and improves balance; posture and flexibility in the joints is improved, and the slow shifting of weight from foot to foot helps the circulation of blood through the body. The quality of relaxation in Tai Chi and the sequence of postures help to regulate the flow of our internal energy, our ch’i, through the whole body, nourishing the health of the internal organs.
Most obvious, we learn to relax, letting go of the extra efforts not needed to stand and move easily.
As we learn to relax physically, we also learn to relax our thoughts and emotions, from the stress of family, relations, and work. Stress-relief is a common Tai Chi benefit that brings many people to this art.
The focus of our awareness at the center of the body helps us to use Tai Chi as a moving meditation, a way to be centered and grounded throughout our day.
What if I have health problems or disabilities?
Properly taught and practiced, Tai Chi can be safely and productively performed by anyone who can stand and walk. The movements and postures of the Tai Chi form are meant to be done at the capacity of each person, adapted to their current condition.
Who are the instructors and what are the costs?
The Tai Chi Foundation is a teaching school; it has taught public classes and trained instructors of Tai Chi since 1976. Our instructors have all been through rigorous training in both the movements of the art and the teaching method of TCF. They are continuing to train and develop their own ability at Tai Chi, and to improve their teaching skills. All TCF instructors teach under the auspices and supervision of the Foundation. Tuition rates are set by each teaching location.
What is the difference between the TCF form of teaching and other methods of teaching tai chi?
The TCF uses team-teaching throughout our classes. This has several advantages: it means that students have at least two teachers to watch/listen to during class. It means that our teachers work together to improve the learning experience. It helps to keep the focus of the class experience on the clarity of passing the art to the students, rather than being an ego trip for any individual teacher. Also, the TCF curriculum focuses on the principles of Tai Chi from the very beginning. The sequence of courses, and the sequence of material within a course, are designed to make it possible for anyone studying with us to proceed at their own pace to whatever level of practice fits their needs and desires.
Is there more after the Beginning Level course?
Tai Chi Chuan can be a lifetime art! The TCF curriculum is a carefully-designed sequence that is designed to help the serious student develop their Tai Chi to a deep level, and possibly into a path of teaching.
The first level, Beginning Level, teaches us the form: we learn how to go through the entire sequence of movements, where the hands go, where the feet go, and the principles (softness, straightness, relaxation) that motivate these movements.
The next level, Fundamentals, refines our awareness of these movements and starts to bring our awareness inside: how do we feel our feet on the ground supporting us in the best way, how do the joints open and close, how can we improve our relaxation through the body.
After this level, we begin to learn Push Hands, a partner-exercise that expands our awareness beyond our sense of ourselves to include another — how are they standing and moving, how is their relaxation/tension, how can we be relaxed and rooted while we deal with force coming towards us.
Coursework at advanced levels helps us to internalize more and more our awareness of Tai Chi as exercise, meditation, and non-aggressive self defense. Tai Chi sword and fencing is also taught.
Other TCF coursework brings Tai Chi benefits outside of the study of the form itself: courses like The Eight Ways of Tai Chi, and Roots and Branches Qi Gong ™ may be taken by those who have not yet learned the form, and are at the same time an invaluable aid to the serious student of Tai Chi.
How do I become an Apprentice teacher?
After studying for several years (how long depends on how you work your way through the curriculum), you may become interested in learning to teach Tai Chi. Speak with your teachers about it; they may propose you for membership in our Apprentice teacher program. This teacher training program is intensive, and is designed as a long-term process of training and a commitment to participation in the TCF.
How do I become certified to teach?

Certification to teach is provided only through our Apprentice program.

How can Tai Chi videos or books help?
Nothing replaces learning Tai Chi in person, body to body. Videos or books can serve as reminders of what we are working on from class, and can also provide fascinating and inspiring additional background to the history, philosophy, and principles of Tai Chi Chuan.