The GRTC Curriculum

The complete Yang-style taijiquan system for health and practice self-defense.

Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is an classical Chinese internal martial art that, when practiced regularly and correctly, reduces stress and helps to improve physical fitness, concentration, and overall health for all ages.  To attain both the health and self-defense beneftis of the art, students at Great River practice the complete system described below, which includes basic exercises, form, two-person work, sparring, and weapons training.  

Students generally progress through the system described below as follows, although exceptions are made for those with prior taijiquan or other martial arts experience:

      1. Beginners Level - Beginners Form
      2. Intermediate Level - Intermediate Form, Structural StrengtheningBeginners Tuishou
      3. Advanced Level - Michuan FormAdvanced TuishouSanshouChinese Swordsmanship
      4. Invitation Only - Neigong, Spear


Form Instruction

Beginners at Great River start their practice by learning a 37-movement short form developed by the Yang style master Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man-ch'ing).  These classes emphasize an understanding body mechanics, and improving balance, concentration, flexibility, and leg strength.  Students are introduced to the eight basic energies (peng, lu, an, ji, kao, zhou, lie, and cai) that are the building blocks for each form posture and application.

Intermediate classes break down study of the form into three areas: polishing (going over the form in minute detail), martial applications (learning to use taijiquan for self-defense), and breathing (developing the meditative and internal-energy aspects of taijiquan).

Students demonstrating sufficient skill and committment will be invited to learn the Yangjia Michuan form, a closely-guarded secret form taught only to Yang family members until after the fall of the Qing dynasty.  The form provides additional techniques and helps the student deepend their understanding of the art.

Class descriptions: Beginners Form, Intermediate Form, Michuan Form


Students perform the 37-movement short form.

Structural Strengthening

Structural Strengthening is a workout designed with the Yang family system of taijiquan in mind.  Though not part of the the Yang style tradition, Structural Strengthening takes the same principles and mechanics and focuses on repetitions of a variety of movements while using the staff or spear as a weight.  We start with stretches and work in numerous movements with varying degrees of intensity, all while emphasizing use of the whole body rather than isolating muscles.  We also add in more intensive martial movements from the Yang family spear tradition.  The result is a stronger, more limber body.  

Center intstructor Matt Rosecan demonstrates proper body mechanics during a spear strengthening exercise.

Push Hands (Tuishou)

Push hands or tuishou in Mandarin is the beginning of two person practice in taijiquan. Its practice develops sensitivity, yielding, neutralizing, and internal strength, using body mechanics developed in the form.  The skills developed in tuishou are essential for properly applying the techniques learned in both the empty-hand and sword forms. Push hands begins with simple, single-hand fixed position exercises and works up to more complex and demanding two-hand moving-step push hands.

Class descriptions: Beginners Tuishou, Advanced Tuishou

Center Director Scott M. Rodell practices tuishou with a senior student.

Sanshou ("Free Hands")

Sanshou training takes the skills learned in push hands (tuishou) and marries them with the martial applications contained in the hand forms.  Students train to remain calm and yielding while facing all types of strikes, kicks, and throws.  Strength training and proper fajin (lit. "releasing energy") technique build endurance as well as self-confidence.  The class focuses on developing practical martial skills in realistic full-contact situations.

Class description: Sanshou


Self-defense applications of the hand forms are practiced and refined during weekly sanshou classes.

Sword & Spear

Jian (straight sword) and chiang (spear) forms are more difficult than hand sets.  As such they are reserved as advanced training for experienced students.  Training with weapons further strengthens the body and helps develop fajin (the ability to release internal energy).  Jian training involves the study and practice of basic cuts, solo forms, two person drills and free sword play. The Taiji qiang is the last and most physically demanding part of any system of taijiquan and is only taught to those with sufficient skill.

Great River is actively involved in reviving Chinese swordsmanship.  Center Director Scott M. Rodell is an internationally recognized expert of Chinese historical swordsmanship and the author of Chinese Swordsmanship - The Yang Family Taiji Jian Tradition. While many contemporary schools of Chinese martial arts practice various sword forms, few practice swordsmanship.  At GRTC, we strive to achieve the complete sword art, moving beyond simple form practice to free swordplay in a manner that is both effective, adheres to the principles of taijiquan, and is historically accurate.

Class descriptions: Chinese Swordsmanship


GRTC students practice free swordplay at a school retreat.


Students who have demonstrated sufficient skill and discipline have the opportunity to study traditional Daoist neigong (internal work) meditation in the Jin Shan Pai (Gold Mountain Tradition).

Class description: Neigong