Water Tiger School of T'ai Chi Ch'uan Patchogue Long Island New York

Laoshi Laurince D. McElroy

Suffolk County, Long Island

New York USA

Frequently Asked Questions

What is T’ai Chi?

There are many different, accepted spellings of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (tai chi chuan, taijiquan, etc.). Pronunciations also differ. T'ai Chi is Wushu (martial art), though the accepted term used in the West is either Kung-fu or Gung-fu. Many believe that the art is a branch of the ancient discipline known as Qigong (also Chi Kung, chi gong, etc.), which utilizes mind, breath, and movement to create a calm, natural flow and balance of energy in the body. Most do not practice T'ai Chi for its martial applications, but rather to explore its health benefits.

The philosophical roots of T'ai Chi Ch'uan (or Grand Ultimate Fist), as well as the principles upon which the movements find their martial applications, can be found in the Taoist texts Tao Te Ching and I Ching. The roots of T'ai Chi can also be pondered through the Yin-Yang symbol.

The origins of T'ai Chi are vague and cause continuous debate. Most agree T'ai Chi came into existence during the thirteenth century AD, and hold a belief that a wandering monk, Ch'ang Sen Feng, created it. Although there seems to be some disagreement about Ch'ang's background as a Taoist with ties to the Shaolin Temple, most do agree that he based the art on his observations of combat between a snake and a crane. However, there has been evidence to suggest of T'ai Chi's existence as early as the seventh century AD; and there are indications and / or beliefs of other influences involved in its conception.

What is the difference between using T’ai Chi Ch’uan and T’ai Chi when referring to the art?

Some propose that T’ai Chi Ch’uan refers to the art martially and T’ai Chi refers to the art as an exercise for health and wellness. We humbly disagree. A person refers to the same art regardless of using T’ai Chi Ch’uan or T’ai Chi. The difference is no more or no less than referring to someone named Robert as Bob. Although we can not be certain of the origins of the idea that they are two different arts, we assume that someone at some point wanted to be sure to draw a line between the teaching T’ai Chi as a martial art and the teaching of T’ai Chi as a health and wellness modality.

What is Qigong?

Qigong (also Chi Kung, chi gong, etc.) translates as energy work. There are many different styles of Qigong and many different approaches to its teaching and practice. Please keep in mind the information contained here is very general in nature. In the simplest of terms T'ai Chi and Qigong are two sides of a coin. T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a martial art that offers the health enthusiast benefits in the cultivation of energy and the creation of a calm, natural flow and balance of the energy in the body. Qigong is an energy-based health exercise that offers the martial artist benefits in deeper cultivation and connection with internal energy.

What’s Qi?

The Chinese, as many other cultures and some religious doctrines, believe everything in the universe has its own field of energy. All one has to do is look to Kirlian photography to see reported evidence of its existence. The Chinese call this energy Qi (also Chi, ch'i). As blood circulates throughout the body, carried by vessels and capillaries, so is Qi circulated throughout the body, carried by a series of twelve major channels (Ching), eight vessels (Mei), and numerous smaller channels (Lou), Through this system, Qi is carried to every organ and to every cell and any stagnation, or block, of this circulation causes illness. If the flow of Qi is completely stopped, the result is death. Two wonderful sources for further exploration of Qi and its circulation are Ted J. Kaptchuk's The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine (Congdon & Weed: Chicago, 1983) and Da Liu's T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Meditation (Schocken Books: New York, 1986).

What are the health benefits?

The meditative aspects of T'ai Chi are rooted within the Taoist belief in natural effort and may be utilized to create harmony of mind, body, and spirit. Its nourishment of inner calm combines with the balance of Yin and Yang to increase your adaptability on both mental and physical planes. It is this meditative aspect of both T'ai Chi and Qigong, or their qualities as mindfulness training, that help you to be better prepared for quick adaptation to various situations. A relaxed mind is a ready mind. It is a mind able to avoid knee-jerk reactions and, instead, react proactively to changing dynamics. Learning to take this pause will help you to step back, look at the bigger picture, and approach challenges from fresh perspectives. You will also find, as you learn how to maintain a calm mind, you will be better able to cope with stress and be better able to deal with change.

As a marital art, T'ai Chi utilizes the concept of four ounces to repel one thousand pounds. This redirection-of-force principle combines with the utilization of available physical strength (Li), the development of inner energy (Qi), and the cultivation of inner strength (Jing), to create what some consider a dynamic and effective self-defense system. This redirection-of-force principle also serves you in day-to-day communication and relationship building. By learning to accept the energy coming at you — in the form of a memo, a conversation with a loved one, a telephone solicitation, etc. — and choosing to flow with it, you will be better able to work with the people around you and not against them.

Practice of T'ai Chi and Qigong has been shown to improve circulation and help maintain a healthy nervous system. Other results reported include, but are not limited to, improvement of balance and coordination, flexibility, muscle tone, and mental alertness. There have been several studies in recent years supporting the arts' claims of health benefits in the areas of stress reduction, digestive disorders, heart disease, arthritis, weakened immune system, etc. It's a simple fact, the healthier you are, the better your day — personal and professional.

Is it for me?

The only way you'll discover the answer to this question is to give it a try. Most programs, including Water Tiger School, welcome visitors, either to simply observe or to actually participate. We always ask you to let us know of your intention, please call or send an email.

What do I need to start?

Your doctor's approval and curiosity are the only prerequisites. Generally speaking, there are no uniforms in T'ai Chi, so there's really no special clothing to be purchased. Loose fitting exercise clothing is recommended, e.g., sweats, t-shirts, etc. Although shoes are prohibited in the Water Tiger studio, footwear in other venues could be acceptable — the lighter the better. Kung-fu or T'ai Chi shoes are not, necessarily, a requirement. Any light athletic shoe should serve.

What’s the meaning of [?

Most know this object as the Yin Yang Symbol. But it is truly known as the T'ai Chi Symbol. This is not because to the art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, but because T'ai Chi translates as Grand Ultimate and the symbol represents the dynamic tension in, and balance throughout, the universe. It is important to note that neither Yin nor Yang is perceived as either positive or negative, good or bad, etc., by Western definitions. Yin (black) is considered passive — all things night, contracting, soft, empty, etc.; Yang (white) is considered active — all things day, expanding, hard, full, etc.

What’s the meaning of Laoshi?

Although the ancient meaning might have been master, the contemporary meaning is simply teacher. Typically in the Chinese Martial Arts, one hears the word sifu in regard to someone who is an instructor. Generally, sifu translates as journeyman. This is, indeed, appropriate for an instructor of the martial arts, as one must study under another to become an instructor. However, your taxicab driver in China has served a journeymanship and, therefore, is also sifu. McElroy Laoshi considers himself a teacher and does not mean to imply any level of mastery in the arts.

Are there belts in T’ai Chi?

As Mr. Miyagi might say, "Only to hold up pants." Most would say that belt-rankings are a Western creation. When such ranking does occur in a Chinese program, sashes are generally used in place of belts. It has been suggested that the origin of the sash in the Chinese arts is rooted in bringing the focus of the breath and movement to the center. Traditionally, ranking in the Chinese arts is an ongoing conversation with one's instructor. In other words, when the teacher determines the student is ready, the instructor will teach the next thing.

Why Water Tiger School of T’ai Chi Ch’uan?

McElroy Laoshi was born in the year of the Water Tiger and received his certification from Black Dragon School of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. The school is named to recognize his birth sign and to honor his lineage.

The Chinese ideogram for tiger is enclosed in the circle.

What’s the meaning of kwoon?

Kwoon or quan simply means training hall or school. The most familiar word is dojo, but such is appropriate only with the Japanese or Korean arts. Kwoon has actually fallen out of general use in the Chinese arts, as most programs simply adapt Western terminology, such as Water Tiger School of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.

What is the meaning of Yang-Style?

The art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is usually divided into various “styles.” Ch’ang Sen Feng, the credited originator of the art, taught what would be called “Ch’ang-style.” His student, Chiang Fa, then taught what would be called “Chiang-style.” So in the simplest of terms, as a new family learned the art, the family gave the art their name. The Water Tiger School lineage links to Medium-frame Yang-style T’ai Chi.

Yang-style, and some if not all other styles, can be split into three subdivisions: Large, Medium, and Small Frame (sometimes: Posture). Large-frame is generally played in higher stances with broader movements and a primary focus on the health benefits of the art. Medium-frame is generally played in moderate stances with moderate movements and a blended focus on both the health benefits and martial use of the art. Small-frame is generally played in low stances with compressed movements and a primary focus on the martial use of the art.

Yang-style originated with Yang Lu-Shann, who learned Chen-style T’ai Chi in the 19th-century from Chen Chang-Shen. There seems to be some disagreement as to who is responsible for what in the Yang T’ai Chi lineage. Water Tiger School research currently indicates that Yang Lu-Shann’s sons Yang Yu and Yang Chien-Hou developed and taught Small-frame and Medium-frame, respectively. Yang Chien-Hou’s son, Yang Chen-fu, developed and taught Large-frame. Yang Chen-fu’s approach tends to be the most popular version of Yang-style in both the West and the East.

It is important to note that there is a hole in the Water Tiger School lineage. In the words of McElroy Laoshi, “I know who my instructor was and I know who his instructor was, but I do not know the rest of the thread between us and Yang Chien-Hou.”

What is a Caine-ism?

McElroy Laoshi started gathering "Shards of Truth" in 1992. The first were simply jotted down quotes and transcribed scenes from the television series Kung-Fu and its newer manifestation, Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues. As such, the name he gave to the collection was Caine-isms. With the publication of The Kung-Fu Book of Wisdom: Sage Advice from the Original TV Series (Herbie J. Pilato. With a Foreword by Ed Spielman. Boston: Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1995), it seemed important to expand the sources for the collection. And so the shards grew beyond Caine and the masters of the Shaolin Temple. There are now over ten volumes; the volumes are now called Temple Stories; and the quotes, stories, parables, proverbs, maxims, koans, etc., come from many sources.

From 1999 through early 2001, McElroy Laoshi discovered a unique way to share some of these Caine-isms with the corporate world. Part of his last training and development experience, with a company called Quester I.T., was to rewrite many of the longer stories to serve within the world of the customer service / call center environment through a blended e-learning product called Merlin-CSR. This meant he moved them from the realm of Caine into the world of Merlin the Wizard. In other words, he Merlinized them.

Individual versions of the longer Caine-isms are part of the Water Tiger curriculum in public, studio, and, when appropriate, corporate classes. Students have told us that they copy these individual stories and share with their colleagues, with their friends, with their families, etc. One student informed McElroy Laoshi in 2003 that she uses the Caine-isms as a tool in tutoring in an English as a Second Language program!

Little bits of wisdom do get around . . .

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