Christchurch Tai Chi Workshop
Tai Chi TCA2 & TCE Instructors Workshop
28th October to 30th October 2022
Tai Chi Instructors Workshop? What Is This?
Tai Chi for Health Institute is a bit different to the traditional "learn from the Sifu (Master Teacher) and then teach on after learning it for 5+ years by their side" style which is the general approach and the way I myself was taught the Internal Arts Tai Chi Yang 85.
Tai Chi for Health Institute uses dedicated Master trainers to specifically teach instructors how to teach the stepwise teaching method. Now I'm guessing your next question is going to be Lee, what is a "stepwise teaching method?". Basically, its a method devised by Dr Lam using a 'watch me, follow me, show me" approach. I know I'm being very vague. I promise I'll do a blog all about this later. Suffice to say it's a tried and true method of teaching that gives amazing results.
How it all works is you do self-study on a Tai Chi set for at least 6 months straight. You study every move, learn the principles, and theory behind each of the moves, and how to safely and effectively teach the forms.
You then get to the stage where you are ready to attend a workshop run by a master trainer to learn more about the set, refine your style, and how to teach the stepwise method effectively and safely. It's also a chance to meet and connect with other Instructors allowing you to build up a network of support, referrals, and knowledge. So as you can see there is a fair amount of study involved before you get to the actual workshop.
Since becoming a member of the Tai Chi for Health Institute and receiving my instructor's certificate for Sun Style Tai Chi, which thinking back must be now coming up 2-3 years, this 3-day workshop was in fact the first proper ‘leaving the house' instructor training workshop that I have ever attended. I know crazy right? My first Instructor training review was via zoom, which it wasn’t supposed to be, it was supposed to be an in-person review. However, along came COVID and well, we all had to adapt.
What Sets Were Being Taught In This Workshop?
The 3 day Tai Chi Instructors Workshop was based on the Sun Style, (Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention), and a mixed Sun/Chen Style, (Tai Chi for Energy). Both of these styles are known to reduce stress levels, promote calmness, improve physical balance, and build strength.
And boy, this 3-day Tai Chi workshop run by Smiling Dragon did not disappoint. From 9 am to 5 pm each day, we were getting our "chi" on and going home happily exhausted! It’s safe to say I came away from this weekend with a wealth of knowledge...and a body that feels like it run a marathon...
The months leading up to the workshop was fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and way too much overthinking. Did I know all the moves, am I doing this movement correctly, why can’t I get this part exactly as per instructions! What were the Tai Chi principles again? Why can’t I remember the sequence! The usual mindfarts that accompanies most of us mere mortals no matter how hard we rehearse, practice, and memorize before exams.
The night before attending I had convinced myself that I knew absolutely nothing, and will completely embarrass myself, coz you know everyone else will be an expert at the set and I'll be the only one who will get my left and rights mixed up! Cue my imagination highlighting all the reasons why I suck along with visuals of course. Totally deciding that I had failed the workshop before even attending. As I said, total mindfart going on.
Anywho, feeling like a nervous teenager heading into her first ever school cert exam, ah yes the good old days, I make my way to the venue nervously sculling back my morning coffee and cursing myself for the idea that I could ever teach Tai Chi. Cue the "I should have studied more, I should have read more, I should have made extra coffee, I should have.... well I'm sure you get the gist. Basically The Queen of self-doubt that morning.
Tamara our instructor, less intimidating in person than my mind had tried to conjure up, made us all feel welcomed. As you can imagine each of us had to introduce ourselves and why we were there. This in itself was a very eye-opening experience as each of us had a different reason for teaching and being there, from personal development, working with aged care, rehabilitation, dementia, gym classes and mental health. A lot of us started on this Tai Chi path for personal self-development and stayed to teach it to others.
It just goes to show the benefits that Tai Chi can bring and the different areas it can be taken to was astounding, far from “just oldies in the park exercising”. Tai Chi is powerful yet adaptable enough to suit anyone, anywhere, for any fitness. From the hard-out high-intensity die-hard athlete to the barely moving off the couch exhausted parent, Tai Chi caters for any level.
After introductions Tamara shared with us ways in how not to traumatize your class participants by sharing a few horror stories of Tai Chi gone wrong during classes, I won't lie I am seriously haunted and scarred for life from some of them. And yet also very determined to provide a safe and secure environment for my participants. Trust me when I say I will not be holding any Tai Chi classes in dark rooms, nor in places with totally uneven floors. No Zoom sessions with swords either thanks.
Power Of Warm Ups
Let’s talk about warm-up routines, Tamara certainly did. Highlighting the mechanics of how each move is designed to stretch and move the body really hit home to me how simple yet powerfully effective these moves truly are. Not only did we fully learn each movement and how to do them properly or shall we say more effectively we learned how to adapt these movements for both standing and sitting.
Did you know the warm-ups themselves provide just as much strength, flexibility, and balance training as a dedicated Tai Chi set. Can't manage a full Tai Chi set, just stick with the warm-ups until you can.
Perfection Is So Overrated
Over the three days, we practiced the warmup set, each of us taking a turn to lead the set. Did I get it perfect when it was my turn? Oh god no, I missed out moves, did weird variations, suffered performance trauma and well generally mindfarted my way through the first few. The thing is it wasn’t a big deal, Tamara had built up such a safe atmosphere where we could all be ourselves, warts and all, and just learn at our own pace. Just like the Tai Chi principles itself, work to your comfort zone.
Tweaking The Tai Chi Set
Instead of diving straight into the whole set at once, Tamara broke each form down into easy steps. Along with the power of imagination, each step was connected seamlessly together. What I can only suggest must have been some form of mystical magic Tamara had painlessly and subtly taught us and tweaked us through the whole set without us even losing our minds.
Mystical magic was in fact the ingenious stepwise teaching method I vaguely touched on above. It just so happens Tamara being a master trainer is a pro at it.
We didn't just learn the set we learned how to adapt the set to each individual. It may come as a shock, more specifically to old-school instructors out there, but not all of us are designed the same. We can't all perform the same moves exactly as the Tai Chi artists who created them, nor the Tai Chi Instructors teaching them. I know shocking right, it is a sore point I have with some traditional trainers who don't understand that a short-arsed woman can't move the exact same way as a tall male instructor. (Take a breath Lee, just let it go...).
Anywho my point being we learned how to adapt the moves to suit individuals without compromising the Tai Chi principles. This way more people can enjoy the benefits that Tai Chi has to offer.
No arms? I can still teach you Tai Chi, no legs? I can still teach you Tai Chi. Basically, unless you are unconscious I can still teach you Tai Chi.
At the end of each day yeah, we were all exhausted but man we were excited and pumped.
Friendly banter, lots of laughs, and awe-inspiring stories kept the practice entertaining and engaging the whole way through those 3 days.
Where To Know?
Now pumped up with renewed confidence and new amazing connections made from these 3 days I feel a little more confident to strive out into the unknown and get back to sharing what I have learned from my years of practicing Tai Chi and Qigong. So while I wait for next year's Instructors workshop to roll around again I may just get off my bum and start teaching what I know so far...
Better Balance Everyone