Each different Chanquanshu taiji class is structured around a sequence of taiji movements known as a form. Each form varies in length but the complexity of the movements are fairly consistent regardless of the length of the sequence. The forms are generally named as step forms (for example, the 24 step form, 13 step form etc), although these are the English translations for the Chinese names of the forms it can be confusing to most westerners as the actual physical steps or movements within the form do not precisely equate to the name, although it can still be a good guide to roughly the length of the sequence.
General Class Structure
Each different taiji class begins and ends with a formal Chinese bow as is traditional in China. After the initial bow the class begins with a gentle warm up, the warm up is then followed by performing a taiji form along to music. In some of the longer classes a daoyin form is also performed as an extended warm up. After the taiji form the teacher will either give an explanation and demonstration of a small portion or individual movement out of the sequence for students to practice or teaches them elements such as breathing techniques or structural exercises etc that are required to practice taiji. Then before the end of the class everyone goes through the form again.
Beginners are welcome to attend any of the classes and are not restricted to the designated beginners classes. As mentioned earlier all the taiji forms are as complex as each other, it is only the length of the sequence that varies. Obviously a shorter sequence will be easier to remember, but factors like time and location should prioritise over the length of the sequence. That said we do have beginners classes for a reason.
The beginners classes are set up for people who feel intimidated by joining an established class full of people who all seem to know what they are doing, beginners can suddenly feel about as coordinated as a blizzard as they try to follow the taiji form along with the rest of the class. For a lot of people they just accept that everyone else was the same when they started (including the teacher), but for others it is enough to make them want to never return. So for that reason in the beginners classes we don't go through the form at the beginning of the class and go from the warm up to teaching and practice.
The Taiji form in the beginners classes is the 13 step form, it's a nice short sequence and we try to keep it as simplified as possible for beginners.
Modern 24 Step Taijiquan
In 1956, a group of taijiquan experts organised by the Chinese State Physical Culture and Sports Commission created the Simplified 24 step taijiquan. Taiji in China had entered a modern phase with a greater emphasis on sport and competition while still trying to preserve the traditional. While we practice the modern 24 step form within the Chanquanshu school we always preserve the difference between form and function and slant more towards the traditional martial elements within the movements and leave the competitive elements aside.
37 Step Taijiquan
The 37 step form is also a relatively modern form, although it didn't go through the radical competitive sports overhaul that happened to taiji in the fifties. The 37 step is a simplified version reduced from the traditional 108 step form. It was created in 1938 by Master Cheng Man Ching. This form is more popular in other parts of the world other than China, as Master Cheng moved from his native China to Tiwan and then America after the cultural revolution. Again while we practice and teach this nice form within the Chanquanshu school, we don't stick religiously to Master Cheng's methods and slant more towards the traditional yang style movements.
Traditional Yang Style 108 step long form
This form was created by Yang Ban Hou and Yang Jian Hou, sons of the creator of Yang style Taiji, Yang Luchan, and was later revised by the third generation Master Yang Chengfu (1883-1936) into the form that exists today. The form takes about twenty minutes to perform at a relatively moderate Taiji pace (ie fairly slow), uninterrupted taiji practice for that length of time and at that pace is quite a workout for both body and mind.