What's It Like to Become a TCC Teacher?

The process of becoming a T'ai Chi Chih teacher helps make our practice stronger, more accurate, and of more benefit to ourselves as well as future students. It's also a process supported by members of the TCC community worldwide, bringing new friends and surprises along the way.

Passing The Test

by SQ, Poinciana, FL

What in the world should we do to prepare to attend a T’ai Chi Chih teacher accreditation course? In my case I live in Florida, and my first teacher, AV, had moved to Costa Rica, so I had no teacher nearby. Yet I wanted to do my utmost to be well prepared to go through the rigorous accreditation process.

 I’m one of those people who didn’t plan on becoming a teacher for a while. But after AV moved and my connection to Zen Buddhism changed, I realized at the end of 2013 that our community would benefit greatly from having a teacher. So I told AV, who was very pleased, and I figured out my next best steps.

 I had practiced for seven years (and daily for the last two) and also had a small group with whom I practiced weekly. That approach gave me grounding from which to work. Looking ahead, I decided to attend A's Santa Barbara retreat in March 2014. When I first inquired, though, the retreat was already booked. Two weeks later PT let me know that there was a cancellation; I could attend and was very excited. I had also talked to an accredited teacher-friend, KG, in southern California about being my second-signature. I didn’t appreciate (initially) that she actually needed to see how well I knew the movements. She decided to attend the same March retreat (bless her).

At the retreat I told A and P that I would take all the feedback I could get because I wanted to register for the accreditation course in May. (Retreats aren’t designed for this purpose.) I received lots of feedback not only from P and A, but from all the teachers attending. That was the upside. The downside was that I realized I had a long way to go, and that I would not be ready for accreditation in May. I also realized that there was really no need to hurry.

 Meanwhile, I convinced K that she was my best choice as a second teacher. She hadn’t previously taught long-distance (via Skype), so she was hesitant but finally consented. We had a wonderful time working together. Beginning in March, we worked together every second week: she gave me specific and insightful feedback. In between lessons I practiced twice a day, in the morning and evening, and studied my reflection in a sliding glass door. Her skill at giving just the right kind and amount of feedback suited me beautifully. I also continued meeting with my weekly group. My practice deepened and became more refined; I was enjoying it more than ever. Instead of attending the May accreditation, I went to a May intensive and received even more feedback. By the end, I believed I would be ready to attend the next accreditation in California in October.

In mid-summer K suggested we Skype weekly; I concurred. She also recommended that I schedule a Skype session with P to receive further input on my progress; that was very helpful. I also realized I could ask my husband, J, for some coaching. He practices T’ai Chi Ch’uan and could see the relationship between our practices; he also understands what the tan t’ien is. I would share the feedback K gave, and J did a wonderful job helping me integrate the changes during the rest of the week. Imagine my surprise when he told me I wasn’t moving from the tan t’ien and that my head should not be turning. We actually had a fun time working together; every evening at 7 p.m., he would ask, “Ready?” and I would change into my practice shoes.

 Three weeks before accreditation, I had a minor meltdown wondering if I would be ready. My Zen training reminded me that these were just thoughts, and I allowed myself to feel my fear and just kept working. With encouraging words from K, A, and J, I moved forward.

 This past week, I became accredited. I’m very excited about being a part of the TCC community and being able to offer my services to my own community here in Florida. My thanks to everyone, including P (our teacher trainer) for all the love and support, and for this wonderful opportunity.

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SQ is a TCC teacher in Poinciana, Florida. Her story is reprinted with permission from the November 2014 issue of The Vital Force journal.

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We're All Healers

"My brother Patrick was terminally ill with multiple myeloma. He needed an outside donor for a stem cell transplant. I was a genetic match. If he could just get well enough for the transplant of my stem cells into his marrow, and survive the procedure, he would be cured.

 "One day during my personal T’ai Chi Chih practice it came to me: the Chi circulating in my body, with a certain vibration in my stem cells, not only was nourishing and healing me with the Vital Force every second of the day, but could also heal somebody else – my brother. I realized in the most profound way, that I could share the Chi, and that I was, in that sense, a healer. I suddenly understood that each of us (whether we recognize it or not) share in this gift of healing.

"I became an accredited TCC teacher in November of 2013 and began teaching classes in January of 2014. The day after I had this realization I was teaching a class. It was the fifth week of teaching my first group of students. In the middle of class two women entered the studio. The first woman used arm braces like the ones I had seen kids use with polio. The second woman appeared physically strong, and although she was nicely dressed and groomed, she had the look of someone who had seen very hard times.

 "I asked how I could help. The woman with the braces wanted to buy a yoga gift certificate for her husband and asked to sit quietly during the rest of the lesson. She found being in our presence during the movements and surrounded by the energy made her feel wonderful and relaxed. She sat on the carpet and meditated for the duration of the class. Afterward she shared how wonderful it was to be in the presence of such beautiful and healing energy and thanked us. As she remained seated on the floor I noticed how thoughtfully she assisted one of the students, who just happened to be using a walker, get into her shoes.

"Once everyone departed we took care of the gift certificate and I asked her about her legs. As a long time yoga teacher I tend to see physical disabilities and injuries as things to be dealt with – and so I can be a little bold in my inquiry. She didn’t seem to mind, explaining that she became disabled in the military, and that usually she is in a wheelchair. Her sister (her companion today) had become her primary caregiver, and was willing and able to provide the extra support she needed for balance, so now, she could spend more time out of the chair and in her arm braces. She said, “I love my sister, she is my angel.”

"She said, “It really doesn’t matter what happened. This is my body now. I accept this completely. I do everything I want to in life except two things; rock climbing and sky diving, and I can live with that. I hike, I ride a motorcycle, I do everything I want to do. I love my life. I’m happy.”

Her sharing about how she felt about her body, her acceptance of her circumstances, and this being her life, were things I really needed to hear. She was not saying she was happy in spite of her circumstances. She was saying, “This is my body. This is my life, and I love my life!” I felt a healing take place in me as I felt the inclusiveness of these ideas: We have one body, we have one life, no rejection, no exclusion. We can have the whole of life in whatever body we have right now." 

First-person story by JR, a certified T'ai Chi Chih teacher in Oxnard, California. Excerpted with permission from the TCC quarterly journal, The Vital Force.

Healthy Aging with TCC

From better balance to a stronger immune system, the benefits of TCC help people of all ages stay healthier. Here, TCC practitioners explain in their own words how this moving meditation has improved their health. To read more stories, consider subscribing to the TCC journal, The Vital Force.

A Miraculous Recovery - TCC Makes Retirement a Time to Enjoy
Raymond Sharp, TCC Teacher, Upper Montclair, NJ

I was an international consulting actuary leading a very stressful and demanding business life, complete with extensive international and US travel….By the time retirement rolled around, I was burned out….Eighteen months ago, things took a turn for the worse. I needed emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder, and then I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which required more surgery. I felt very low, I had little energy, and my general physical condition had become very poor.

Late last year, in hope of recovering my health, I tried TCC again through a class at the local adult learning center. This has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life….The beneficial effects…were immediately obvious….It has now been several months and I’ve noticed, among other things, that my skin tone has improved, my hair is getting thicker, and my sense of smell has increased. But above all, my energy, flexibility, and balance have returned – along with a sense of serenity and joy. I feel better and healthier than I have felt in years. My recovery feels miraculous.

Better Balance for Students of All Ages

"I heard from another rock climber that TCC practice would give me more focus and balance. It was true; I advanced one whole level in climbing skill. I used to feel that my feet were separate from my hands; now they are not. I am with the rock.” – Dennis Zallen, TCC teacher and rock climbing instructor, Albuquerque, NM (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

A Gift Beyond
Marcy Burns, TCC student, Oxnard, CA

A fall in Tanzania, another in Spain, and another in Vietnam. These were not harmless tumbles quickly forgotten; each caused significant injuries. Perhaps they signaled an end to my traveling … but I am leaping ahead. To understand my experience of T’ai Chi Chih, we must look at the pathway to those places.

I had not welcomed retirement….my beloved husband sank into dementia and left this life….Travel saved me during those dark days…That solace would now end; it would be foolhardy to continue to risk injury so far from home…

(Then), I found Lisa Otero's twice-weekly TCC practice. Her exacting but patient teaching served me well. As I learned, I experienced a quickening and a quieting, but I did not yet know all that the practice would bring.

I began to feel restless. Would one more journey be possible? I traveled to ancient villages and monasteries in Turkey where walking often was treacherous. But I did not fall. Emboldened, I signed on for voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific on traditional clipper ships. As we moved with the sea, I did not fall. I traveled to Budapest and on to Transylvanian villages, and still I did not fall. It began to seem like a miracle, and I wondered how it had come about. I wonder no more: The practice of TCC has gifted me in a remarkable way.

The quieting and calming of TCC movements will insure my lifelong practice. Focus and attention, balance and strength are the unexpected and wonderful bonuses. I now stand and move with a steadier strength. I do not fear the rough terrain, broken walkways, and countless stairways that are routine in the off-the-beaten path places to which I travel. TCC has given back to me the adventures of world travel. On my 81st birthday, I will travel to Morocco.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are printed with permission from The Vital Force, the quarterly journal of T’ai Chi Chih. The Blooming the Flower series and Blooming the Spirit are published by the T’ai Chi Chih Association, Albuquerque, NM.

Got #Health?

Scientific research shows TCC improves immune system

The strong relationship between the practice of T’ai Chi Chih and improvements in the immune system have been studied for many years, initially led by Michael Irwin, MD at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). (See list of links to academic research articles lower in this post.)

Dr. Irwin and other medical researchers have found, for example, that shingles immunity is greatly strengthened by regular TCC practice. In one study, people who practiced TCC experienced up to a 50 percent increase in the immune system’s memory T-cells, which are responsible for attacking the virus that causes shingles.

This is groundbreaking research in the meeting of Eastern and Western-based traditions. Dr. Irwin  is the Norman Cousins Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; Director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute; Vice Chair Elect of the UCLA Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine; and a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Justin Stone, who originated T’ai Chi Chih and trained the very first teachers many years ago, always encourages students to try the practice and see for themselves whether there’s any benefit.  From world-class scientific studies to each person’s individual experience, the answer usually is ‘yes.’

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"Every year I would become bedridden for a couple of weeks at a time, six to seven times a year with some type of illness. Since learning TCC, I have only been sick three days in a year and a half. My new calmness and sense of peace has created a new me. TCC is a wonderful tool.” – Catherine Millman, TCC teacher, Chesterfield, MO (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

 

Got #Peace?

"T‘ai Chi Chih has changed my life,” say many people who practice TCC regularly. In fact, was one of the most common statements of gratitude TCC originator Justin Stone (1916-2012) heard from students over many years. Improvements in physical, emotional, and mental health are enjoyed by students of all ages – children, teens, young adults, mid-lifers and seniors. The benefits are often quickly apparent to newcomers, as well as cumulative for those who have practiced TCC for years and decades.

Peace Is One of the Most-Often Cited Benefits of Practicing TCC

"As soon as we began the first stance, I really put my mind in 'focus mode' and I definitely felt the Chi. Wow. When I left class I felt extremely relaxed and completely stress free. It was as if someone completely wiped my slate clean.” – TCC student, Prospect Park, PA

"I’ve loved doing TCC. I came into college very stressed out and this course gave me a place to be calm.” – TCC student, Prospect Park, PA

"I‘ve been noticing some of the effects of TCC: My overall stress level has definitely decreased and my body feels rejuvenated even more than last week.” – TCC student, Prospect Park, PA

"My children students tell me that TCC practice makes them happy and that it takes away their fears.” Judy Hendricks, TCC teacher, Albuquerque, NM (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

"TCC tills the soil so that I can allow writings, experiences, and conversation to take root and show me a softer way to move through life.” – Connie Hyde, TCC teacher (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Spirit: The Spiritual Dimension of T’ai Chi Chih)

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are printed with permission from The Vital Force, the quarterly journal of T’ai Chi Chih. The Blooming the Flower series and Blooming the Spirit are published by the T’ai Chi Chih Association, Albuquerque, NM.

Got Energy?

As winter arrives in much of the U.S., Canada and Europe, days are shorter, temperatures are colder, and opportunities for outdoor exercise are fewer. For some, this time of year is a time of feeling lower energy, less vibrant than in summer when long days of sunshine provide a boost. The antidote? T'ai Chi Chih is credited by most practitioners as a source of greater, reliable energy. Here are real-person stories from the TCC website.

High Energy Is Often a Benefit of Practicing TCC

"TCC has helped me face the challenges of a lifetime. It has given me the courage to change the patterns that have exhausted me, to leave my native hometown in California and move to New Mexico to start making art again (my true love) and to explore new career opportunities.” – Christa Keller, TCC teacher (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

"My TCC practice has reawakened the knowledge that there really is energy inside, and that we can summon it….” – Dan, TCC student (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences, Vol. II)

"I sleep better, I’m more relaxed, I have more energy. Ideas at work flow more clearly and faster. I’m less depressed, friends and coworkers continually compliment me on a ‘glow’ that I have now, and I just feel better about life all around. I’m recommending TCC to everyone in my life!” – Catherine McNair, TCC student, Syracuse, NY (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"In Monterey for the Big Sur Marathon, I finished a full 12 minutes in front of my training partner. In our nine years of running together, he had always outpaced me in races. As all runners know, many factors – physical, mental, and environmental – influence the outcome of any run or race, but this time, in the pre-dawn hours waiting for the (starting) gun to go off, I had time for a complete T’ai Chi Chih practice.” – Kathy Grassel, TCC teacher, Albuquerque, NM (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"In the beginning, it was hard to muster the energy to practice, but I always ended with more energy than I had started with, and so I continued. The benefits that I derived were increased energy and improved mental focus.” – Eddy Perez, TCC student, Newark, CA (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

"The main reason [I continue practicing] is for the benefits it provides me right after doing the (practice): the wakefulness, the alertness, and how ready I am for the day. After these (movements), I am ready to go out and do things and do not need to rely on massive amounts of coffee to get me ready.” – Dan Carpenter, TCC student, Columbia, MD (Reprinted with permission from Blooming the Flower: T’ai Chi Chih Experiences)

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are printed with permission from The Vital Force, the quarterly journal of T’ai Chi Chih. The Blooming the Flower series and Blooming the Spirit are published by the T’ai Chi Chih Association, Albuquerque, NM.

Have you seen TCC's TED Talk?

A T'ai Chi Chih teacher in Albuquerque, NM teaches this moving meditation to high school students. In a TEDx talk, she and students explain the benefits students experience that help make their academic lives more successful and less stressful. View the talk here.

Several academic studies over many years have found that practicing TCC helps lessen stress, relieve depression, improve the body's immunity to illness, increase physical and emotional balance, relieve pain, lower blood pressure, support recovery from heart attacks, and much more.

Help yourself to this growing body of scientific confirmation of what TCC practitioners already experience and know. Here's a partial list of research study results and media reports. The full list can be viewed here.

2013

11/1/13
“T’ai Chih Chih Offers a Range of Benefits Over Time” 
The Daily Journal (Northeast Mississippi)
TCC teachers Ron Richardson, Stephen Thompson, Margaret Baker and their students discuss the many health improvements they’ve experienced as a result of maintaining this easy-to-learn practice.

10/24/13
“T’ai Chih (Chih) for Arthritis Relief” 
Healthline.com 
Academic research increasingly shows that slow, gentle movements like those in T’ai Chi Chih® help relieve pain, stiffness and other symptoms of arthritis. TCC, this author notes, is increasingly popular because it provides similar benefits.

2/25/13

“A TED Talk: The Effects of Ta’i Chih Chih on High School Students” 
TEDx Albuquerque, NM: Innovations in Education
TCC teacher Amy Tyksinski and two students demonstrate this moving meditation while discussing the benefits high school students have experienced as result of the practice.

2012

7/2/12
“Ta’i Chih Chih Class Takes Off at Manalapan Library” 
Asbury (NJ) Park Press
Teacher Dan Pienciak and students explain the many benefits of T’ai Chi Chih.

6/15/12
“Cancer Support Community Thanks Volunteers and Sponsors”
Messenger-Gazette (NJ)
T’ai Chi Chih student receives Spirit of Courage Award honoring her journey with cancer.

1/1/12
“Slow Motion: T’ai Chi Chih Classes Keep You Moving Without Sweating” 
Herald Net (Everett, WA)
Teacher Beth Preston and students describe benefits they’ve received from TCC practice.

2011

10/1/11
“Complementary Use of T’ai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
UCLA research shows that TCC helps lessen depressive symptoms in seniors.

Ongoing
“T’ai Chi Chih – Moving Meditation”
NationalPainFoundation.org
Chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) sufferer describes how TCC helped reduce symptoms.

4/5/11
“The softer side of martial arts”
Metro News, Edmonton, CN
General feature on benefits of practicing T’ai Chi Chi; interview with Kim Grant, editor of The Vital Force (TCC journal)

3/20/11
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Beats Back Depression in Elderly, Study Shows”
ScienceDaily.com
Report on research at UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

3/18/11
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Eases Depression in Elderly”
The New York Times/Well blog

3/18/11
“Good News: T’ai Chi (Chih) Helps Fight Depression Among the Elderly”
TIME magazine

2/8/11
“New Strategies for Preventing Falls”
AARP.org
T’ai Chi Chih helps improve balance, build strength, and develop other qualities that help prevent falls.

2/2011
5 Winter Workouts
Community Health magazine, Midwest U.S. distribution
TCC recommended as good exercise for indoors in winter.

2010

11 & 12/2010
“T’ai Chi Chih: Exercise Without Breaking a Sweat”
AARP Magazine
TCC overview profiles TCC teacher Raymond Reid.

7/30/10
“Time for T’ai Chi (Chih) From Your Chair”
Daily Dose blog, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Research shows that the seated version of TCC provides benefits to people with spinal cord injuries who cannot do the standing version.

7/29/10
“The Physical and Mental Benefits of Seated T’ai Chi Chih”
United Spinal Association Magazine
Research shows that the seated version of TCC provides benefits to people with spinal cord injuries who cannot do the standing version.

6/21/10
“T’ai Chi (Chih) Boosts Efficacy of Antidepressant Therapy in Older Adults”
Medscape Today News/Medscape.com
Adding TCC improves resilience, quality of life, and cognitive function in older adults with major depression.

5/25/10
“Better Your Mind with T’ai Chi Chih”
ABCNews.com
Research shows that practicing TCC can help relieve depression.

 

Gratitude - A practice that leads to joy

"If you want a happy life, be grateful," Justin Stone, founder of T'ai Chi Chih, used to say frequently. This simple practice brings deep and profound results - including, yes, joy.

After Justin died in 2012, an outpouring of gratitude from TCC students and teachers from around the globe followed. As many in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving this week, here's a sample of grateful tributes:

Would that he could have stayed here forever … but that is not the way. Justin’s gift, T’ai Chi Chih, will continue to serve as we continue to practice. Thank you, and blessings on your journey. -- Diana Daffner

The T’ai Chi Chih community will miss Justin very much. There will be many more teachers and students who will continue to practise and teach this life enhancing, loving meditation now and in the future. We owe great thanks to this very special man. Special thoughts are with those closest to him…lots of love to you Justin x -- Tracy Gibbons

Thank you, Justin. Your chi is still in the universe, and we will continue to share you and T’ai Chi Chih with all we meet. What love! -- Terry Slaney

The core of my life has been softened by continued mastering of the gentle movements of the inner discipline called 'T’ai Chi Chih: Joy Thru Movement.' Your legacy to humankind will be passed on by the crowning “jewels of T’ai Chi Chih" – its teachers. Thank you, Justin. With deep respect. -- Rose J. Alvarez-Diosdado

I never planned to be a teacher, but the Universe provides us a path if we chose to follow. After learning and practicing T’ai Chi Chih I began wanting to be of service to others by sharing the peace and joy through movement I have found when doing T’ai Chi Chih. When I went to Teacher Training and met Justin I was moved and inspired by his desire that T’ai Chi Chih not become a business, that it is a gift to humanity. I honor this wish through my volunteer teaching of T’ai Chi Chih, and I am thankful we have been blessed to have had Justin as our Guide and Leader for so many years. May we all continue to honor his gift to humanity through our practices of T’ai Chi Chih. -- May Swanson

I experience a long list of health and personal benefits. T’ai Chi Chih brightens me, my family and those I touch each day. Many thanks to Justin and the teachers of T’ai Chi Chih.

T’ai Chi Chih practice feels like the truth of who we are. It’s a gift that keeps on teaching and giving, and so the gratitude continues. -- Carol Spicer

 

TCC, Mindfulness & Health

Another day, another news report about the benefits of mindfulness. The evidence supporting the health benefits of T'ai Chi Chih and similar practices literally grows by the week. And it's no wonder why - TCC practitioners worldwide have experienced these results.

Read More

New Podcast: What 17 Years of TCC Practice Brings

What motivates someone to practice this moving meditation for so many years? Marie Dotts of Colorado tells what brought her to Tai Chi Chih and the many benefits that keep her going, year after year. Thanks to Peggy Freeh at SimpleDailyPractice.com for this interview. Download or listen to the podcast here.

From the website:

Starting as a teenager, Marie has been on a lifelong journey to answer the questions, “Who and what am I really?” and “How do I flow from that truer center within myself?”  In this interview, she shares how that process has unfolded for her over the years, and how her two current practices support her in her ever deepening journey.

Marie has studied and taught Tai Chi Chih for over 17 years.  Even from the moment she walked into her first class, she recognized Tai Chi Chih as home for her.  That recognition helped carry her through her resistance to the practice, including panic attacks as she started to move energy down into her body.  Tai Chi Chih is not just a practice Marie does now.  She lives the principles every day in all areas of her life. 

Marie is passionate ... finding the support for her lifelong quest to learn how to find what is true in her and flow from that center all the time.