By Nina Roy Certified Master Instructor
Easy Tai Chi was developed by Dr. Keith Jeffery. Dr. Jeffery has many decades of martial arts and Tai Chi experience. He drew on this experience to develop modern, high quality Tai Chi sets specifically designed to meet the needs of a population which has little time to devote to extensive Tai Chi practice and yet provides all the benefits of a more expansive form.
To quote Dr Jeffery’s philosophy:
“Learn a small number of moves thoroughly so you understand what you are doing. Master a short, powerful series of moves to create benefits immediately. Embrace an approach that will fit your busy schedule, which can fill any time period you have, including coffee breaks.”
And thus a new, modern, high quality form of Tai Chi was created specifically suited to modern living: Easy Tai Chi for Busy People.
There are a total of five forms in Easy Tai Chi:
- Infinite Nine which consists of nine moves and uses Yang principles
- Core which also has nine moves includes principles from Chen and Yang, and concentrates on core movement
- Flow which also has nine moves, includes principles from Yang, Chen, Bagua and Hsing-I. It is the most energetic of the three sets
These forms are stand-alone or they flow together seamlessly to produce one longer form. All of the moves in Easy Tai Chi are influenced by Qi Gong, Yang style Tai Chi, Chen style Tai Chi and Wu style Tai Chi.
The other two Easy Tai Chi forms are:
4. Four Minute Fitness, which is a short exercise program designed for small spaces. This form incorporates Qi Gong, Yoga, Meditation and Tai Chi principles as well as a focus on “Power Phrases,” using cognitive behavioural principles to change thoughts from negative to positive. It literally takes just four minutes to
5. Stick form, which provides much enjoyment to the students who have learned it and provides all the benefits of Tai Chi
All of the sets are designed to fit into a small space such as an apartment hallway and they are designed for people with little time to devote to extensive practice.
Easy Tai Chi for Busy People is easy to learn but not simple to master.
To quote Dr Jeffery again:
“I firmly believe that it is better to learn a small number of moves well, rather than many superficially. The essence of Tai Chi can be found in just one move.”
“Easy Tai Chi is devoted to helping thousands of busy people benefit from a little Tai Chi every day. Basic, yet profound movement and breathing, in an easy-to-learn way, that doesn’t necessarily involve constant weekly classes or a regular expense outlay for the year.” (easytaichi.com). DVDs are available to students who are unable to attend classes.
“Easy Tai Chi is perfect for beginners, seniors, working folks, busy people, parents, and people dealing with stress, arthritis, MS, fibromyalgia, COPD, diabetes and other chronic health problems. AND it helps improve your golf and tennis games (any sport, for that matter) as well as improving your dancing, walking, meditating and more.” (easytaichi.com)
So what makes Easy Tai Chi different from the traditional Tai Chi forms we are familiar with?
Firstly, the sets are short. All the moves to a set can easily be taught to a group in 8-14 classes. Once the basic moves are learned, the principles of Easy Tai Chi are applied and perfected:
- breathing techniques – belly breathing, and for the more advanced, breathing into up to 81 different parts of the body
- foot placement and walking
- core movement in almost EVERY posture
- posture: upright broomstick spine or string of pearls
- space and spot holding
- absorbing force
- kwa and
- duende (showmanship) to name a few
All of these techniques contribute to the creation of “Flow within Perfection.”
Much time is devoted to the study of Core Movement within Easy Tai Chi. Initially the spine rotating around a broomstick image is used. Later the image of the spine being as a string of pearls is used to more accurately describe the movement.
This movement of the body rotating around the spine provides a much needed boost to the circulation of the lymph system. After doing one demonstration for a group, I was told that Easy Tai Chi is a “healing” Tai Chi form.
The movements in Easy Tai Chi are played close in front of the body. There are very few instances of an “open” position being used. The Core Rotation comes into play using the “Second Secret” of Yang style Tai Chi: fix the top, fix the bottom, and rotate the middle. In other words, hold the hips and head still and rotate the shoulders; a simple, but vitally important principle that produces Kwa (Qua). Almost all Tai Chi students at any level fail to accomplish this, resulting in little to no core movement.
Easy Tai Chi uses an upright posture, not a bent over one. An upright posture allows the player to control stability and movement. It is harder to push an upright posture around. It is also easier to achieve and maintain balance. And the upright posture allows for the vital circular movement that rotates the core.
Other important concepts are:
Spot holding – holding one’s hand or arm steady in relation to one’s body
Space holding – holding one’s arm or hand steady in relation to the room
Being aware of these two concepts allows the player to micro-manage the placement of the individual parts of the body. An example would be a Crane Beak that stays in relation to the room, while the player moves away or to that position.
Paying attention to spot holding makes the player use the core more. Holding the hands in centre-front and moving the shoulders is different from giving the illusion of core rotation by moving the hands from one side of the body to the other.
Belly Breathing – breathing deep into the bottom of lungs by dropping the diaphragm and extending the stomach muscles outward. A lot of the deep breaths are taken when the core is at the maximum twist. As the student advances, he learns to breathe into many different parts of the body. This breathing can be used to initiate movement, to become more deeply grounded, and to enhance balance.
Walking – Dr Jeffrey explains it best: “We do not “step” into a posture — we always “sink and place.” The depth of the sinking will create the length of stance. Once determined, it is time to gently, quietly, precisely place your heel onto the ground. No rush here. Just place with confidence and control. From there — as you use your supporting leg to transfer weight — feel each pound of your weight flow onto the foot. The foot that was once light (insubstantial) now gradually, gradually, gradually becomes heavy (substantial). Feel every aspect of this transition, making the transition continuous. Feel as if you are squeezing water from under your foot.”
Walking is done heel-to-toe going forward and toe-to-heel going backwards — the way nature intended.
Duende: flair, pizzaz, showmanship. As players become more comfortable, they acquire duende — an element of showmanship and drama, if you will, which gives a more interesting result.
“Every move, every posture in Easy Tai Chi can be done with intent, with skill, and with precision.” (Dr Jeffrey)
Tai Chi has been referred to as “yoga in motion,” a moving meditation. It is a powerful key to relaxation and increased concentration.
- stress reduction
- better focus and concentration
- increased flexibility
- improved strength
- enhanced immune system
- better balance
- improved memory
- improved circulation
- increased coordination
Four Minute Fitness
This is a very short exercise program that can be done in approximately four minutes in a space the size of an elevator. It is an excellent way to start the day, unwind during coffee break, or anytime one needs to decompress.
The set includes five postures with corresponding power phrases and breathing.
The postures with the power phrases are:
- Now is the only time
- All is well
This exercise promotes not only physical movement, but also guides the player into a positive mind state by emphasizing recognition of the positive in one’s life.
The process has proven very effective and popular. Dr. Jeffery has taught Four Minute Fitness to thousands of people in person in three-hour health and wellness motivational seminars. And the best-selling Four-Minute Fitness DVD has also proven to be very popular.
This is the latest form to be added to Easy Tai Chi. This form uses a four-foot stick (many use a regular 1” dowel or a jo staff). All martial weapons are, of course, practised as an extension of the body. It’s duration from start to finish is about three minutes (at a slow to moderate pace). Despite its lack of length, this form incorporates all of the above Easy Tai Chi principles: Core movement, breathing, foot placement, balance, spot holding, and so on.
My senior ladies absolutely love this form and there has been a very positive response whenever it was taught.
Easy Tai Chi is a wonderful opening to the wide world of Tai Chi. For many, who do not have the time or resources to devote to more in-depth study, Easy Tai Chi gives all the benefits of the ancient art of Tai Chi in a modern world setting. For those who are interested, Easy Tai Chi is a wonderful gateway to the further study of all the different forms of Tai Chi out there.
sources: Dr. Keith Jeffery; www.easytaichi.com;
Easy Tai Chi Practitioners forum