Tai Chi is one of the few martial arts done almost totally alone without a partner. This would seemingly make it ideal for learning and practicing at home. But is it possible to learn Tai Chi on your own?
It is easy to learn the specific movements of Tai Chi without taking an in-person class. However, some of the subtle positional nuances, as well as the flow of the chi energy through the body may be harder to master without direct instruction.
But that’s just a simple overview.
And you can still get a lot of benefits and enjoyment out of practicing Tai Chi at home. But if you ever get a chance to work with a true master of Tai Chi, you’ll be able to take your practice to the next level.
So today, we’ll explore some of the different types of Tai Chi practice (full name Tai Chi Chuan) and what the best way to learn these will be from home.
Let the fun begin.
#HealthNews: A study published in New England Journal of Medicine found that a program of tai chi training resulted in improved postural stability, better walking ability, and reduced falls in a group of people with #Parkinson‘s disease. Full story @ https://t.co/Q5CttbtXFO pic.twitter.com/9gdmjce2bb
— Wickenburg Hospital (@WickHosp) July 27, 2019
What is the best Tai Chi style to learn at home?
The Yang Style short form is the best Tai Chi style to learn at home. It only contains 24 individual movements and can easily be memorized from watching YouTube videos.
It’s a style that’s been codified into a set of steps that one could go through with relative ease.
It’s a series of gracefully flowing circular movements that can be done by anybody, irrespective of age, size, skill level, gender, or race. Tai Chi traditionally has 103 forms, but it has been condensed to 24 for the short form.
It’s not complicated, so it’s ideal for self-study.
These simple postures and movements are like a coordinated, graceful dance. The forms are practiced as a whole, helping with integrating the body-mind-spirit. The practitioner pays attention to their breathing as they execute these effortless movements.
In addition to other benefits of Tai Chi, the Yang style offers a full cardio workout, makes the practitioner more flexible, and is easily practiced alone.
The movements are soft, and like Yoga, the practitioner can go deeper into the postures as flexibility and mastery improve.
— Wise Clown (@itswiseclown) December 4, 2018
Is Tai Chi difficult to learn by yourself?
The Tai Chi movements are very easy to learn alone. The biggest challenges come from the fact that so many of the practitioners on YouTube don’t do the movements exactly the same, and it can be hard to know if you’re actually feeling the chi.
One essential secret to Tai Chi is that you must be flexible. Truth be told, flexibility training is easy. It’s just that you’ll need to make it a daily practice.
You need to be flexible to excel at all martial arts. It’s almost impossible to attain mastery without being flexible. In fact, it’s dangerous. To be flexible, you’ll need to stretch at least twice daily before and after training.
To be really masterful at Tai Chi, you’ll need a lot of training, no doubt.
It’s easy to learn the basics, but there’s a lot to learn. And it’s one of those arts that the more you learn, the more you realize there’s still a lot you don’t know.
But there’s a key component you can’t teach yourself. This facet relates to the Chi. You’ll need to be guided at that point in your learning.
But if you invest a considerable chunk of your time in self-study and practice, you’ll glimpse the fundamentals of Tai Chi in a short time.
But compared to most types of martial arts, I would much rather practice Tai Chi at home alone than most others.
But honestly, don’t practice it inside your home (once you know the movements). Practice barefoot in a park with your toes in the grass feeling the energy of the world around you.
A martial art that’s similar in spirit to Tai Chi is Aikido. It’s also a “gentle” art form. If you’ve ever wondered if you could learn Aikido at home, you’re in luck.
Because that’s exactly what I explored in a recent article of mine, where I offered effective tips to help you learn it on your own.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
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How long does it take to learn Tai Chi practicing alone?
You can learn the basic 24 movements of the Tai Chi short form in as little as a month practicing 20 minutes per day 4 or 5 days per week. But it will take a year to really know the form such that you can practice without actively thinking about the next movement.
But mastery, which involves knowing how to channel the Chi, would take some years. I keep mentioning devotion and consistency because you’ll be teaching yourself.
And that can be a tough call.
Not because Tai Chi (TC) is inherently difficult, but because you’d have to motivate yourself, which can be hard for some people. Naturally, you’ll need to get started by doing in-depth research to get the best resources for self-study. Sure, it will take some time.
But, 12 months is not a long time, if you ask me.
A key challenge you’d probably face is that you may not be able to accurately gauge your progress as you learn at home, seeing as there’s no instructor or sparring partner.
So, you won’t be able to know if you’re really getting the techniques or whether your progress is a figment of your imagination. How can you overcome this?
- Record yourself and compare your performances with the ones in the videos you’re using as learning resources
- Conduct objective appraisals so that you can improve
- Don’t be discouraged or be in a hurry
Kaizen (small daily improvements) is the secret to success in all pursuits.
You can teach yourself Tai Chi, but it may also be worth seeing if there are any groups in your area that practice in local parks as that is far more common than with other types of martial arts.
The other thing that’s different about Tai Chi is that you could easily go through the short form in under 10 minutes, and simply do that twice a day whenever you had a few minutes to spare.
In that sense, you can make a lot of progress in a short time as opposed to going to an hour-long class a couple of times per week.
Don’t forget to take a break from your busy life.
We also take time to do Tai Chi training after work so that both body and mind can have a rest. pic.twitter.com/64AlFjFoOW
— NecoWood_Carmen (@necowood) June 9, 2020
Are YouTube videos the best way to learn Tai Chi at home?
YouTube videos are the best way to learn Tai Chi at home unless you can find an online class where the instructor can also see your movements and provide feedback.
YouTube is full of exceptional Tai Chi videos. There’s hardly anything you want to learn that you won’t find on the platform.
But one problem with the platform is that in a lot of cases, the content producers may not be qualified instructors.
So if you do go the YouTube route, look for videos or channels with a high view count, and no more than 10% thumbs down compared to thumbs up.
Here are my top sources for learning Tai Chi Chuan online (not paid endorsements):
|Platform||Name/Link||Why I Like It||Cost|
|YouTube||Tai Chi School||Tons of lessons and over 3,000 subscribers! My biggest beef is that they don’t just have a video that walks you through the Short Form. But it’s otherwise well worth checking out.||Free|
|Online Course||Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Programs||A large database of classes, exclusive new monthly content, information, and recipes for health, and an online community where you can ask questions or share tips.||Prices range from $11.75 every other month to $59.95 every other month based on the program.|
|YouTube||Master Li Jing Taichi Kungfu||Her channel does have lots of good content, but since it was missing from the channel I mentioned above, I’m linking here directly to her tutorial on the Yang-style Short Form||Free|
|Free Live Online Classes||Tai Chi Foundation||Live streaming classes done via Zoom at specific times at different time-zone locations around the US including both Tai Chi and Qigong classes.||Free, but also donation-based|
In order to master Tai Chi, it’s vital that you’re not just learning in a haphazard manner.
As I mentioned above, many different people on YouTube do the form slightly differently from one another. So unlike a Karate kata, it’s considered OK for different Tai Chi Chuan masters to do the form a little differently from one another.
And the one Tai Chi master I know (who wouldn’t call himself one) does the form differently now than he did 2 years ago. And both ways were excellent.
So all that is to say, don’t jump between many different YouTube channels.
Find one you like where the video and audio are clear and stick with them. That way you’ll learn it a set way and not get confused if someone else does a move slightly differently.
Who is the best online Tai Chi teacher?
I listed him among the options above, but Dr. Paul Lamb is definitely considered one of the greatest Tai Chi instructors.
His Tai Chi for Health Institute (TCHI) is dedicated to helping everyday people improve their overall health and wellness through dedicated Tai Chi practice.
And within that, he has Tai Chi instructional videos in several specific categories from memory, heart, osteoporosis, kids programs, and much more.
You can learn more on his website – https://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/ (not a paid endorsement).
Who is best suited to practice Tai Chi at home?
Since Tai Chi is primarily slow movements, and those movements can be made harder or easier depending on how deep you go into the positions, at-home practice is perfect for older adults. It is a gentle form of exercise and the basic skills, especially of Yang style Tai Chi, are perfect for those with medical conditions or limited flexibility.
But aside from the elderly, those who are drawn to meditation but don’t want the fighting component of most martial arts will also love Tai Chi.
Will practicing Tai Chi at home help with weight loss?
The short answer is that if weight loss is your primary goal, Tai Chi lessons, whether online or in-person, is not the best martial art to choose from.
If you do want to lose weight and are drawn to Tai Chi, look for classes, YouTube videos, or online courses in the Chen style of Tai Chi.
Chen family-style or Chen-style Taijiquan alternates between short powerful bursts and slower movements. While it would not exactly be described as cardio, it can help boost metabolism and help with muscle strength. (source) and (source)
How many forms of Tai Chi are there?
There are many different Tai Chi forms. And even within the same style, you will see a lot of variation from different Tai Chi practitioners.
But generally speaking, there are styles of Tai Chi:
And then at least within the Yang style, there is both the short and long forms. For learning on your own, I do recommend the Yang-style short form. That is the style I practice and I think it is relatively easy to learn the basic forms somewhat easily.
But to really feel it (as opposed to just mimicking the movements), can take years of dedicated practice.
In the preceding paragraphs, we learned about the best style of Tai chi to learn at home.
We found out whether it’s difficult to learn, how long it’d take, whether one could teach oneself how to feel the Chi, and we wrapped things up by considering whether YouTube videos are the best way to learn Tai Chi.
Now go repulse your monkey!
Photo which requires attribution:
Still frame from video Basic Tai Chi for Beginners | The Crane Spreads Wings Mindfulness Meditation by David-Dorian Ross is licensed under CC2.0