If you include transitions, moves that are repeated in different patterns and the many nuances of the set, it’s really more like 450 moves.
It typically takes students 3 to 4 years just to learn these moves.
A more direct route to the healing.
In 2003, I started working in a clinic teaching Tai Chi. Tai Chi has a lot of known health benefits to offer to people. After teaching students the set, Tai Chi begins working on other principles such as energetic flow, relaxation, and body structure using the set as a tool.
But the patients needed a more direct route to the healing benefits of the art.
They didn’t have years to devote to learning choreography.
Finding a Better Way.
I’m not the only one who has tried to address this issue in traditional Tai Chi training. Other teachers have created shorter sets in order to help their students get going more quickly and there are many well known “short” sets including the standard 24 move set.
Unfortunately none of these sets where able to suit my needs. Most of them where still too long and there were even several that did not adhere to the principles of Chinese Medicine and correct energetic flow.
How to build a Tai Chi Set
So I put to work my years of training in all aspects of the art to create a set containing as few moves as possible while meeting the following 2 requirements.
1) Correct Energetic Flow
First and foremost the set had to be consistent with Traditional Chinese Medicine and have a correct energetic flow and progression through the movements.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the basis of such disciplines as QiGong and Acupuncture.
The meridian lines as used in Acupuncture are especially relevant to Tai Chi sets. There is a progression of energy movement through these meridians that is logical from a Chinese medicine perspective.
In a well-planned sequence of Tai Chi forms, energy is moved from the Kidney 1 all through the body and then back out kidney 1. Kidney 1 is located in the middle of the bottom of the foot and is commonly known as the Bubbling Well.
Flowing the energy through the meridians in the proper sequence is like getting an internal massage.
The 108 move progression has this logical energetic sequence in mind and some, though not all, shorter sets also move energy through the body in this logical way. I had to make certain that the flow of energy through the meridians in my set coincided with the correct energy flow of the longer traditional sets.
2) Build a Foundation for Advanced Study.
The set also had to provide a strong foundation for long term study. I wanted to include moves that where found across a wide variety of Tai Chi sets, and build a strong framework so that students could excel in whatever direction their Tai Chi journey took them.
The Clear’s Tai Chi Big 8 Move SetTM
After a lot of work, research and practice I was able to refine my Tai Chi set down to just 8 movements that embody the essence of Tai Chi.
These days, the beginning Tai Chi students who come to my studio start their training by learning the 8 move set.
Next there is a 13 move set that adds in just a few more moves to the original 8. After that, jings or energetic expressions take center stage in the curriculum. Intermediate students learn a 48 move set, but this is not the primary focus of instruction.
If students come already knowing a Tai Chi set, then whenever possible I do not teach them new sets. Instead I get them started on the actual study of Tai Chi and higher-level aspects of the art.